So, there I was, in my reading chair, with Wolves of the Calla, vol. 5 of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower epic, and all I can do is think, “What the heck happened to Berni Wrightson?”
All books in The Dark Tower series are illustrated, the first and last by Michael Whelan, and one volume each by Phil Hale, Dave McKean, Bernie Wrightson, Ned Dameron and Darell Anderson. Frankly, none of them besides McKean’s do much for me, but then I had no expectations for them either. But when I was a teen, Berni Wrightson was a god! His pen and ink work brought the Graham Ingels E.C. Comics style into the modern world. Swamp Thing. The Frankenstein Portfolio. Killer stuf. But while the other illustrators did solid work even if it didn’t interest me, Wrightson’s illustrations look…I can’t believe I’m going to say this..amateurish. The anatomy is bad, the painting technique is bad, the compositions are bad. If his name wasn’t on the book and the book wasn’t being sold in retail outlets, you’d never convince me that they were his work.
Though this is blowing my mind, it shouldn’t really be enough to keep from starting reading. But I’m feeling a great resistance. That’s not good.
Fortunately, Wolves of the Calla turns out to be the most entertaining of the books so far, even though (or perhaps because) it is King’s admitted rehashing of Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven. Roland that the others come to the aid of a town that suffers from raider s known as the Wolves who, once a generation, steal half of the children in the village. The children are gone for awhile, and then sent back “roont,” that is, brain fried. For reasons that may not matter but which are still never explained, all the offspring in Calla Byn Sturgis are twins. The raiders don’t seem to differentiate between boys and girls, they take one or the other. All that is known is that the children are for the Breakers, whoever they may be. The townspeople have never fought back, though there are always a few that want to. Roland, being a gunslinger and all, is the equivalent of a knight. Once the town agrees to ask him for help, he cannot refuse (only fair since he largely manipulates the proceedings so that they will ask.)
The plot follows the general outline of Kurosawa’s classic, with variations for the new characters involved. But the critical aspect of this volume, the one that has the most impact on the rest of the story, and on my final opinion of it all, is the introduction of Father Donald Callahan, a long-time resident of the Calla..and a major character in King’s novel, Salem’s Lot. And it is that character, not someone with the same name. Late in the book he tells his story, and it’s the story of his confrontation with Barlow, and his loss of faith and the years he traveled afterwards before finding himself in Calla Byn Sturgis. He informs us that vampires are part of this world–which I’m thinking is NOT the one from which Roland originally came, but I’m losing track of all that by this time. There are also a group of people abroad in the multiverse known as the low men who work for the Crimson King.
And did I mention the sneetches? They are little hand grenades that follow whomever they are thrown at. There’s no outrunning them. If they sound a bit familiar, think Harry Potter.
At the end of the battle we know that the Wolves are actually robots. More, they look a lot like Dr. Doom…..seriously.
And as the novel climaxes (well after the big battle,) we are left with Donald Callahan dealing with the paperback copy of Salem’s Lot by Stephen King that has been brought over from Jake’s particular when and where. The sickening feeling that this story has just officially jumped the shark is overwhelming.
Frankly, I don’t want to read vol.6, Song of Susannah, but then I feel I’ve come this far, I might as well finish. It’s a struggle, but I finally decide I need to do this, to review the series if nothing else. And King might just turn this around.
But Song of Susannah is sheer drudgery to get through. Earlier in the series, Susannah, as Detta, had sex with a demon while Eddie was working to bring Jake into Roland’s world. Well, she got preggers, and that constituted one of the main subplots of Wolves of the Calla. This time around, her pregnancy is the entire book, and, of course, it’s not a simple thing. We learned back in vol. 5 that yet another personality had arisen in Susannah, named Mia, who is the “mother” of the child she calls”her chap.” Mia fantasizes eating gourmet banquets to provide sustenance for the chap but as Roland sees when he follows Susannah one night, Susannah is eating live frogs and anything else she can find.
The subplots by this time are whizzing about like the Santa Monica Freeway just before rush hour. It is more effort than I am willing to put out to track them. But all of Song of Susannah takes place in various alternate worlds. Susannah and Mia are struggling for control as the time for birth approaches; Roland and Eddie are looking for the “real” Stephen King, whom they think might just be the creator of all worlds; and Father Callahan and Jake are working to find Susannah and save her.
I struggle, I push forward. I fight to maintain interest as we meet Stephen King and he is given the great job of finsihing his Dark Tower series, which is boxed up in the cellar. I swallow my groans as new elements and characters are added that seem to have no purpose (and ultimately, I’ll be proven right.) Although I no doubt missed a lot of the references, the tying in of many (all?) of King’s other fiction feels like I’ve been sold a ticket to see a bad roadside attraction out in the Arizona Desert. I strive NOT to skim, find myself doing it and force myself to go back and re-read the passage. When Stephen King gets killed by a drunk driver while out on an afternoon walk, I shake my head. I know the accident in our world was a life-changing event. I hate that it happened. I don’t want to read anymore about it, anymore than Stephen King would want to re-read a story of a tragedy from my life for the umpteenth time.
I start vol. 7, The Dark Tower, knowing that I really don’t care. I could walk away right at that moment and never once think about what I might have missed. This feeling will grow: I will feel it even more strongly 100 pages from the end of the book.
By this time the rambling, self-indulgent threads are so spread out, the pop culture references so prominent, and the reason behind it all so mind-numbingly vague that I look forward not to finishing the book, but to having been long finished with it, to be six or eight months down the road. I find myself wanting to mow the lawn instead of reading. I find myself starting other books, then forcing myself to put them down. I am so close. I’ve put in all this time. I must go on.
More characters are added, more new lands to journey through appear. If they are from other King novels, I don’t know or care enough to find out. I kind of resent having to have a concordance at hand to read even an acknowledged classic. The Crumson King is now apparently awaiting Roland at the tower.Mia and Susannah’s child, a were spider, is following the ka-tet as they prepare for one last battle, the one to take down the Breakers, who are mentally breaking the beams that hold together all realities. And how could I forget to mention that, due to a convoluted seriesof events, the child’s father turns out to be the Crimson King AND Roland! Jake is killed saving Stephen King. Eddie dies at the end of the battle with the Breakers. Susannah continues with Roland until she is finally sent home. Roland defeats the Crimsn King and prepares to enter the Tower.
And here”s where things get really confusing. Susannah ends up in yet another alternate New York (the Beams have been saved, you see.) There she is befriended by an Eddie that doesn’t know her but feels that he does. His younger brother, Jake, is also there. All one big happy family.
King (author King, not the one in the book) tries to dissuade us from following Roland into the Tower After 3900 pages, after all the tedium and bullshit that I’ve been through to get here, I’m going all the way.
Roland climbs the steps of the Tower. Each level is a chapter of his lie and he has some time to reflect on the things that have happened to him the things he has done. At the top, he finds a door, which he opens. At that moment he realizes that he has found the tower and climbed it and opened it countless times before. Fight though he might, he is pulled forward to begin his journey all over again. The difference this time is an object from that long-ago last battle of Gilead. There is just the slightest chance that this go ’round will lead him to redemption.
And you know what I liked the ending. In his afterword, King doesn’t seem to think readers are going to be happy with it, even expresses his own dissatisfaction with where it all ended up. But I agree with his insistence that it is the right ending. It’s the story leading up to the ending that fails here.
As the first sentence of the first book repeats, the ending is marred somewhat by the questions that spring to mind. Have Eddie, Susannah/Detta/Odetta and Jake always been the companions in Roland’s previous trips? Are they likewise mired in the wheel of ka? If so that happy ending in New York is meaningless, and the universe is suddenly far crueler than ever before. But if they aren’t perennially Roland’s companions, then each turn through fate is different, which I suppose supports the chance of redemption but kind of emasculates the power of the ending. And all those poor people along his way, the various incidental characters, almost all of whom lead wretched lives at best, what about them? If this recurrent journey is of Roland’s making, if it is somehow his punishment or penance, are all those others inextricably bound to him?
And then there’s those pesky Beams. If the quest for the Tower was to save the Beams, are they broken again when Roland starts over again? Does time not progress at all, meaning that the world ends and begins again when Roland enters the tower no matter what else happens? Or is a new alternate reality created, an alternate reality of all the alternate realities, but one whose Beams are still broken? I know this is fiction, but these kinds of questions should come up, if at all, a long time after you finish reading, not as you are perusing the final pages.
Throughout the book we’ve been told that time runs differently “over there.” Roland has been searching for the Tower for a thousand years. The ruins of the cities are said to be thousands of years old, despite the fact it’s not all that hard to find a working lamp or loudspeaker. Does time reset as Roland re-starts his journey? Or does time continue to pass? During his first round-trip, was the world younger?
I’m glad it’s done. I’m not glad I didn’t enjoy the trip. Did this journey really need seven (and now eight!) books to tell? The Harry Potter series the nearest equivalent, had more story in any one of its last four volumes than the last four volumes of The Dark Tower combined. Other serial novels, like The Lord of the Rings feel complete and finished, and if they drag here and there, that can be said of all stories if one reads closely enough. But I haven’t read any that overstay their welcome like The Dark Tower. In fact, I wouldn’t have finished them in the first place.
I don’t say this is true, but the appearance is of someone, whether it be King or an editor, unwilling to lop off large chunks from the work of the world’s bestselling author.
Roland Deschain is an intersting character as is the world he lives in, at least as it is originally sketched in the first three books. But the final outcome doesn’t motivate to read the eighth book, or to read the various comic book series, or to have any interest in a film version. I’ll probably even sell my set of The Dark Tower. I can assure you, I won’t be reading it again.
Assuming I’ve counted correctly–and with all the amended and alternate and additional pages I’ve juggled throughout this run, there’s no guarantee–today’s page is the 200th page of Lovecraft is Missing. Wow. That’s almost ten regular newsrack comics…in five years. And we have a long way to go yet.
So, CONTEST TIME! And for first prize I have a a brand new copy of S. T. Joshi’s first novel, featuring HPL and the other macabre writers who influenced him (Machen, Blackwood, etc.) as they join together to deal with The Assaults of Chaos. I’ll look around here for second and third prizes as well.
The question is, what contest? I’ve had several in which there was minimal participation. Trying something different, howzabout we award the book for the best first page of one of Win’s stories? You come up with the title and opening paragraph of a pulp story Win might have written for Weird Tales. Keep in mind his background: son of a pig farmer in a small Oklahoma panhandle town in the 1920s. It should be in a Lovecraftian vein, but not an imitation of HPL; Win is his own fellow. But, like Robert E. Howard down in Cross Plains, Texas, he’s a fellow traveler.
I’ll accept entries until November 8. I’ll be the final judge, of course. Win doesn’t write in Lovecraft’s style, but let your voice be your own. I’ll print the best three in the blog. Now, get writing. Send entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put LIM Contest in the subject line so I won’t miss it.
I wonder if I’d known how long this would take back when I started out, would I have gone ahead? I like to think I would have, but I can tell you I thought I’d be at this for six months or so and then on to other projects.
I’m also wondering what the heck I was thinking when I started the new sequence I’m working on. You won’t see it for another month, but let’s just say I got all experimental with the storytelling….and keeping it straight and clear is proving to be quite the challenge. I think it’s going to work, but you all will be the final judges on that score.
Have a good weekend.
I enjoy spending time in a Stephen King book. Even when the story isn’t top notch (say, The Tommyknockers, or Insomnia,) I still feel as if I’m in the company of a good friend. That’s part of his success, I’m sure, and I don.t make the mistake of thinking that he and I would necessarily BE friends. The artist isn’t the art. When he’s firing on all cylinders –The Green Mile, Thinner, Dolores Claiborne, The Stand–he is a magician. The only King novel I ever just gave up on was Desperation, though I’ve sometimes felt like I was slogging through mud with others
A guy with a slightly lower opinion over at Ain’t It Cool News refers to King as “The Man Who Likes to Type.” There’s a lot of truth in that. King is in love with the sound of his own voice, and why wouldn’t he be, having sold more books than anybody ever. What editor is going to do anything much more than correct continuity or point out inconsistencies, or an occasional repetition. “Mr. King, this whole section is just too wordy!”
And that brings us to The Dark Tower, vols. 1-7. I’ve had them on my shelf for years, buying each one as they came out, promising to read the whole series once the final book was published, if ever. Most of you probably know the history, but for those that don’t, King has been working on The Dark Tower Saga for over 30 years now. Many years passed between the publication of the first four volumes; the last three all burst forth within a year in 2004, in the aftermath of his car accident. Since that time, he’s added an eighth book and produced or overseen any number of prequels, sequels, in the middle-quels and what not. Not wanting to make this review my life’s work, I’m just sticking with the first seven novels as originally presented.
King has declared The Dark Tower to be his magnum opus, literally, “the great work.” It is indeed the longest, largest and of the grandest scale of his books. But don’t confuse magnum opus with masterpiece. An author can determine the former about his work; the latter is decided by the audience. One’s magnum opus is not directly equivalent to one’s finest, most enduring work.
Before we go on, I will let you know that there are SPOILERS ahead. I can’t review an almost 4,000 page story without getting into some of the salient details.
So, we begin with volume 1, The Gunslinger (Donald Grant, 1982). Even after the 2003 revisions that brought it more into line with the rest of the saga, it is still by far the work of a young man. His imagination is afire, and through the clumsy story progression, King pulls us forward with his vision of an alternate world, one that is decaying, dying, bleak, populated a strange mix of technology and landscape from our own history. Remnants of Amoco refineries exist alongside shabby western towns out of Sergio Leone movies. Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is the Clint Eastwood of this world, and we will learn little more of what he looks like until late in the series when we find he looks like Stephen King. Or not. Me, I’m sticking with the Eastwood model. At any rate, whatever the past of this world, it has now “moved on.”
Roland is traveling through this bleak, arid West, trailing his nemesis, the Man in Black. A stop in a gritty frontier town underscores the resemblance to our west, but adds a few details that set it apart: “Hey Jude” is an ancient ballad in Roland’s world; cattle and other animals are severely mutated from some unnamed exposure to radiation; paper is as rare to this world as gold is to ours; and the Man in Black can reanimate corpses and the folks around the table don’t even blink an eye.
Roland finds a young boy, recently deceased in our world, whom he includes in his travels, but when the time comes that Roland must choose between saving Jake and catching the Man in Black, Roland let’s Jake tumble into a dark void. The Man in Black, also known as Walter O’Dim, is both the key and the obstacle to Roland’s quest to reach the Dark Tower, said tower being Roland’s obsessive goal. In a conversation that lasts ten years, Walter reads Roland’s future with tarot cards.
There’s a lot packed into these few pages, and the basic foundations of this world are established. But what seems mysterious at the beginning of the long march turns out to be merely vague by journey’s end. Why is paper so rare, and why is it important that we, the readers, know this? If it’s just a gimmick to set the worlds apart, then too much is made of it. There’s no real reason that some kind of writing medium couldn’t be produced in Roland’s world, despite the fact that the ancient technology littered about is beyond the comprehension of the world’s inhabitants. They can, after all, make guns and bullets.
Roland has a history with Walter, aka the Man in Black, whom we will also come to know as Marten Broadcloak, Randall Flag, Richard Fannin, and kinda-maybe-sorta John Farson. In all these guises, Walter is Roland’s primary nemesis. Except that in the end, he isn’t. Despite seducing Roland’s mother, inciting the rebellion that ruined the world, and his unexplained desire to constantly thwart Roland, Walter is only a diversion. But we won’t find this out for another 3,000 or so pages.
Vaguest of all is the Dark Tower and the part it plays in Roland’s life. Even now, having completed the series, I am not clear on the why of Roland’s quest. The meaning of the tower is mysterious and menacing in this first book, but though much information will be added, the Dark Tower’s meaning and place seems to shift, and even occupy multiple (vague) purposes at the same time, until it comes to be the center of all things. Or not. But more on that in later volumes.
Five years passed before volume 2, The Drawing of the Three (Grant, 1987.) King’s style and imagination have matured greatly, and the length of the book has doubled. Fulfilling Walter’s prophecy, Roland wanders along a bleak shore, finding doorways into various different whens in our world, and kidnapping (drawing) the people destined by ka to be his partners in his quest. Eddie Dean is a young junkie from 1987 New York; Odetta Holmes, a black double amputee from 1964 who has a split personality, one a rich black Civil Rights Activist, the other a nasty, streetwise piece of hate named Detta Walker. These stories are separate but related, feeling more like two short novellas stitched together. The third story takes Roland to 1977 where much is made about Jack Mort, a psychopath who seeks to maim rather than kill his victims. We find out he is responsible for both the accident that caused Odetta to lose her legs AND the head trauma that brought Detta to the fore; Mort will also be involved in the actions that bring about Jake’s death in the next volume. But once Mort is mort, we’re done with him. The idea of coincidence is is laid on thick, hinting at some kind of connection between all things but never achieving much more thanthat.
That these three personalities clash is obvious. Eddie is going through withdrawal, Odetta is leaping back and forth between personalities, and neither are happy about being kidnapped into a dark, barren world where doorways rise up out of the sand along a vast coastline. Giant lobster creatures rise from the sea each night –lobstrosities!– and prey on the group. In fact, early in the story, the gunslinger himself loses two fingers from his right hand to a lobstorsity, and fights an infection for the rest of the book. Roland survives only when Eddie grabs some keflex and packets of aspirin from 1987. Roland hears it as astin; he also hears tuna fish as tooterfish. He never learns to say them correctly. What is amusing the first time becomes annoyingly cute after awhile.
The Wastelands (Grant, 1991) is volume 3. Jake is having a bit of trouble in his own 1964 because he, uh, died once before and then was dropped into an abyss by Roland. This conflicts him, to say the least. He is drawn to a rose growing in a vacant lot, and to a used book store run by one Calvin Tower. He also has a near run in with a younger (and possibly alternate) Eddie. Most of all, he feels pushed forward towards a door that will lead him….where?
Well, Roland, Eddie and Susannh (the combined Odetta/Detta) have made their way to a circleof stone in the forest. Eddie has been obssesively carving a key. In order to use this, the demon of the clearing needs to be distracted, and Susannah is on deck. Detta comes forward to take on the monster, with enough gusto to trap the monster inside her —that’s in a sexual way, not some silly mysticism, God forbid. This is going to have major consequences later on.
Jake avoids a third death at the hands of Jack Mort (driven, dare I say, by Walter O’Dim), heads to the local haunted house, evades a monster made of the houses timber and tumbles through a door and into the clearing. He becomes part of the group and they head on.
If that’s not enough for a single story, we also have the first indication that some of the super technology created by the Old Ones is still operational. First, in the form of a gigantic cyborg bear, guadrdian on one end of the Beam. I should say of the Bear/Turtle Beam. There are eight beams in all, all of which intersect at the Dark Tower. Some of them have been broken, though what exactly they are remains unclear. Suffice to say, the clouds travel along those paths, and Roland and co. follow the clouds.
The city of Lud is more oe less New York after an atomic attack, though there is at least one WW2 fighter plane on the ground, and a Nazi one at that. Adventures ensue. Conveniently some of the lights and loudspeakers that are thousands of years old still work.
Eventually–and trust me, I am leaving a lot out–the ka-tet, the one out of many, makes their way through the city to a sentient but psychotic monorail who loves riddles. Eddie is the great riddle master here, though riddling is an ancient tradition in Roland’s world. The correct answer gets them on the train in time to escape the destruction of the city (and its still working computer terminals.) But the fun is only beginning.
Blaine has planned a suicide run. He has also planned to take his passengers with him, but his love of riddles moves him to one concession. If they can stump him before he gets to the end of the run, he’ll let them go.
To the anger of many fans, the book ends with the riddle game just begun. Since the next book in the series didn’t come out until 1997, I’d say they were justified.
Wizard and Glass (Grant 1997) takes an abrupt detour, though it does wrap up the riddle game. The ka-tet makes it through, though there is some question as to whether they are still in the world they started in or an alternate one. Fans of The Stand will recognize the slightly altered landscape, and will possibly be amused by it, not realizing what it actually portends. Not long after that, the ka-tet arrives at an Emerald City from another famous alternate world. Be very afraid.
As a break, Roland tells the story of his youth, of his first love, of his two great friends, and of the beginning of the war that would end the world as he knew it. It’s an entertaining but ultimately slight story as far as I’m concerned. Roland still remains an unknowable figure; his friends, Cuthbert and Alain, are more likeable, and his lover, Susan Delgado brings a little light into what has thus far been a pretty dreary world. Several characters are introduced here that will have some impact on later doings, and we see that oil is at the heart of the last great war, but what should be an interlude is distended and bloated into an entire novel. Susan is burned at the stake, more old myths are told, Conoco trucks are blown up.
In the end, a magic glass reveals to Eddie, Susannah and Jake that Roland killed his mother after she had an affair with Marten Broadcloak, aka The Man in Black, aka Walter O’Dim, and so on. Being Roland’s friend, it seems, is rough on your own life.
Although progress toward the Tower has been made, the whys and wherefores are no more clear than when we started. The beams intersect at the tower, but what the tower is beyond some large antenna is scrupulously avoided. Alternate world theories begin to filter in until there is such a flood of them that I never again knew where I was, except in the Key World, which we won’t get to for quite a while yet. (And for those that can’t wait, the Key World is NOT our world, though you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart.)
So, here I am, well past the half-way point in this epic, and I’m asking myself the same question you are currently asking yourself about this review: does this really need to be this long?
Next week: Part 2
Not a dang thing new this week. Some weeks are like that, though the seeds have been planted for some good things to come.
Have a god weekend (right after you vote at Top Web Comics!)
This last Tuesday, Oct. 1st, marked the beginning of Lovecraft is Missing‘s SIXTH year on the web. I don’t know what the average life of a strip is, but I’m pretty proud of having stuck to it this long (and, yes, I’m going to stick to it until the end.) And in a week or two, I’ll be putting up the (gasp!) 200th page.
I figure about two more years to finish it all up, which is still daunting. But we are over the hill and things are starting to come together, though you might not think so yet.
No Lovecraftian news this week. In fact, if you want to stay up on the latest Lovecraft news, you need to be reading the Lovecraft eZine, or at least like their FB page. I don’t know how Mike Davis keeps tabs on all that stuff, but he does. Aside from being handy and entertaining, II don’t feel so bad about going off trail with my posts. I’ve really done that since the beginning, but tried to keep up with Lovecraft news. But Mike has the beat, so I bow to him, and I’ll pass on stuff I find of particular interest.
Nothing else of great interest at the moment. I finished Kings The Dark Tower series and hope to have a review up this next Wednesday.
Have a good weekend.
Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug. Over the long haul, it probably does work out to 50/50, but that doesn’t prelude long continuous runs in one camp or the other. I’m in my third week of bugdom, re: LIM. The page I posted this afternoon–which you won’t see for another month or so, has taken more time to complete than any other page of this entire run. I wish I could say it was something really fantastic, but at its best it was never going to be more than another page in the story. I’m not a perfectionist by a long shot, but I do have SOME standards, and this page just wasn’t reaching the lowest bar. I completely rewrote and redrew it three times, plus panel and dialog adjustments beyond counting, and finally got to a place where I could let it go and move on. But it cost me two weeks of time. I’ll be able to use some of the discarded panels here and there in the future, but all in all, it was a total drudge. If I didn’t need it to bridge the gap between the previous page and the next page, I’d dump it completely:-). But that’s the way it goes. All I can do now is look forward to being the windshield soon.
Yet another new Lovecraftian comic (new to me, that is) has raised its wiggly head, and I’m talking about The Cats of Ulthar, by Ben Granoff.
Last week I told you about a new Lovecraftian comic, Lovely Lovecraft, by Sara Bardi. Sara was kind enough to write a little blog post about herself and her comic, which I present to you below. But please note how similar this young lady’s experience is to most of ours. Fifteen seems about the right age to get hooked on Lovecraft, regardless of nationality or gender, and somehow we chosen always manage to stumble across a putative copy of the Necronomicon. Perhaps there IS something in the stars…..
I’m an Italian art student and I work as freelance illustrator and conceptual artist for books and games. I graduated with top marks at my hometown high school of arts and now I’m attending Entertainment Design and Animation classes at Nemo NT in Florence, Tuscany.
I published my first novel in 2008 and came back to the awesome industry of publishing this year with the ambitious project of “Last Face of the Moon” a fantasy novel set in Ancient Egypt that will be available in English in less than a year. If you’re curious, you can already check the Italian version here.
I speak Italian, some English and a bit of French; my favorite directors are Tim Burton and Guillelmo Del Toro; visual artists that have inspired me most are Keith Thompson, Mike Mignola and Shinichi Hiromoto.
Of course, my favorite author is Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
I read my first HPL tale at primary school (it was “The Outsider”, and the final twist deeply impressed me!) but my love for his writings actually exploded when I was 15 years old. High school had been a very strange period of my life, there was a sort of trend for occult among my peers ,and I and other classmates were part of a crappy wiccan coven. My interest was basically academic, since I’ve always liked to use esoteric stuff as inspiration for my stories. During my “occult researches” I found a PDF copy of the Necronomicon (actually a resource for roleplay, composed of extracts written by HPL and ritual formulas created by fans) and it sounded far more interesting than all the true essays of ceremonial magic I’d read up to that moment. At the beginning, I did even believe in its authenticity, because everything sounded extremely cool, ancient and complex. When I found out the truth on Wikipedia, I had to admit Lovectaft was a goddamn genius.
Lovely Lovecraft is a webcomic based on the life and tales of H.P Lovecraft. It is intended to appeal both to fans and to “uninitiated” and, despite the silly title, it is not a parody but a tribute. It re-imagines the world-famous Cthulhu Mythos (and the Dreamlands Cycle) under a new light, mixing cartoonish character design with dark thematics.
The plot, in few words:
Howard is a 12 year old boy who has just moved to the ancient town of Arkham along with his mother. His normal yet solitary life is turned upside down when, snooping in the attic of the old house once owned by a mysterious antiquarian named Randolph Carter, he finds a damaged copy of the Necronomicon.
After reading aloud some of the formulas, Howard’s mind opens to a new comprehension of reality and gains a dark knowledge sufficient to drive anyone mad … except him.
Helped by a mistakenly summoned Night Gaunt, Howard begins his journey through the mysteries of Arkham, where the terrible Outer Gods have been trapped and forced to live an human-like existence.
Used to waiting for aeons in the darkest regions of space, most of them take their new condition lightly , except for the eager and hyperactive Nyarlathotep, who desperately wants to break free of the curse.
The story will feature characters like Richard Pickman, Herbert West, Henry Armitage and all Lovecraftian terrible deities: Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath, Yog-Sothoth, Cthulhu, Dagon and more.
Bummer. I totally forgot to write my post for the day. Not that there’s much to relate this week, but still.
A week or so back I posted some pics of Marblehead, the inspiration for Lovecraft’s Kingsport (“The Festival,” “The Terrible Old Man”). There wasn’t a lot of response to it, which is fine, and I’m going to post a similar one of Gloucester and Rockport (the inspirations for Innsmouth) this week or next regardless, but I wanted to say something here about Lovecraft’s work that I think gets lost amidst the tentacles and alien words. Far more important to me than Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth is Lovecraft’s sense of place. Even in what some might call his lesser stories (pick your own,) the world in which the story takes place is always so carefully and vividly crafted. The isolation, the textures of peeling paint and decaying wood, the heaviness of the atmosphere….even when Lovecraft doesn’t provide lots of details, I can the places as clearly as if I’m only a step away from actually being there. The Witch House is very real to me, as are the streets and back alleys of Innsmouth and Boston’s North End. The reality is usually disappointing, though I can see glimmers of what Lovecraft was trying to communicate. From the lost islands to the forgotten rural roads of Vermont, to Leng and beyond, far too little attention is given to this aspect of HPL’s work. That’s because, I think, you can’t market it like you can a tentacled beasty. Although the current ubiquity of Cthulhu in media and merchandise certainly keeps the rest of the Old Gentleman’s work alive, there are a lot of people who ONLY know Lovecraft because of that great and terrible name. They’ve never read the original story, much less any of the stories outside the Mythos. It’s a shame. Lovecraft’s New England is as much a myth as the pulp’s Old West, and likely serves the same purpose: preserving fading traditions through the use of mild hyperbole. No question that Lovecraft amplifies (and simplifies) the attitudes and feelings of Old New England, but that’s the New England I long to visit.
Please vote for LIM at Top Web Comics. You can vote once a day, every day. All I get out of it (besides some satisfaction) is that more people become aware of the comic.
Have a good weekend.
Another one of the great things about doing a webcomic without the need to make money from it is that I can be totally committed to the idea of Lovecraftian comics without worrying about losing sales. Though the strips are successful on their own, I’ve been happy to plump for Francois Launet’s The Unspeakable Vault of Doom, José Oliver and Bart Torres’ El Joven Lovecraft and Jason Thompson’s various works, as well as printed comics. Now I want to add to that list with Sara Bardi’s Lovely Lovecraft. (And by the way, this is an international group. UVOD is from France, El Joven Lovecraft from Spain, and Lovely Lovecraft from Italy. Jason and I represent the U.S., plus LIM is now available in Portuguese. We’re taking over the world!)
She’s got the first seven pages of her opus up on Deviant Art –we need to get her onto her own comic site ASAP, even though it’s fun to see her other work–and it’s great to see another high-quality, totally original take on HPL and his work. No one is going to confuse any of the strips I’ve mentioned with LIM or one another. Maybe we need to form our own little Lovecraft comics hub!
Though it’s still in the future, her synopsis for the story arc reveals that it will deal with HPL as a child. Interesting that so many people want to explore the mythos through the young Lovecaft’s eyes. El Joven Lovecraft uses an almost Calvin & Hobbes approach, while Howard Lovecraft & the Frozen Kingdom tends to concentrate on the Dream World stories. But variety is the spice of life.
Of course, I’m in love with her color. I don’t know if you would say we have a similar approach or not, but I don’t see anyone else using the bright saturated colors for a horror story like Sara and I are doing. Works for me.
So enjoy this new addition to your reading list.
Many thanks to reader Don Simpson for calling this strip to my attention.
It’s been a very Lovecraftian week.
Ancient life forms found in the sediment of an antarctic subglacial lake! Sure, they are microbes….but have you ever seen an enlarged picture of one of those suckers? Who’s to say they don’t have Sea-Monkey technology that allows them to expand when exposed to the atmosphere?
I think there’s likely an unknown Lovecraft tale hidden in here as well, that is, in the world’s largest cave, Son Doong, in Viet Nam. It was only discovered in 1991, and explored in 2009. Shades of Pellucidar! Yet it’s creepy enough that there just might be a sister city to Leng (which, I know, is a plateau, but let’s not split hairs.)
And for the kiddies, going live this very day, The Littlest Lovecraft, a series of children’s adaptations of the stories.
It’s interseting how many versions there are of a little boy Lovecraft; it may be on its way to becoming it’s own sub-genre. In addition to the above, there’s El Joven Lovecraft, a Spanish strip (with an English version available as an option) by José Oliver and Bart Torres, and Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, a fun graphic novel by Bruce Brown and Dwight L. MacPherson.Any others I should know of?
In just two short week, Lovecraft is Missing will celebrate it’s fifth anniversary! Can you believe it? I sure can’t. And a week or two after that, another milestone….which I’ll tell you about closer to time. But let’s say I feel another contest coming on…
Please vote for LIM at Top Web Comics. At least we’re back in the top 100!
Have a good weekend.