[12 June 2007]
No one’s name is more synonymous with horror fiction than H.P. Lovecraft. In fact, to even say such a thing has almost become a cliché unto itself. While certainly other writers such as Poe, Shelley and Stoker are also famous writers of early horror, Lovecraft himself has perhaps the most influence on the genre today. Anyone from King to Barker owes a debt to Lovecraft, and this collection does a wonderful job of showing just exactly what makes his work so influential.
Much like Graphic Classic’s other collections, this is a series of Lovecraft’s fiction adapted into short black and white comics. If any author deserves the black and white treatment when adapted into a visual medium, it is Lovecraft, as the coloring allows the eeriness and mood to seep through the pages to the reader. Some of the interpretations contained within this volume are so perfect visually with the use of shading to create an atmosphere that is pure horror. The interpretations themselves range from straight-ahead comic book adaptations to illustrated prose. Both work well.
Probably the most famous of Lovecraft’s stories to be adapted in this book is Herbert West: Re-Animator. Made even more famous with the now cult classic 1980’s horror film, it is perhaps unlike most of his other work. Lovecraft was always famous for his use of the Necronomicon and Cthulu in his stories. In fact, when I think of Lovecraft stories, I am more likely to think of some supernatural monster than raising the dead. This collection shows his range within the horror genre. There is one story that turns one of Lovecraft’s tales into a stage play which goes more into the realm of silliness than macabre, however it is unique and gives the reader a small break from gothic horror.
All of the tales are set more in the period that surrounded Lovecraft rather than adapting them to modern day or other periods. This allows the writers and artists to show Lovecraft’s work as he intended rather than drastically altering his vision. These are portals into Lovecraft’s work and adaptations, not re-imaginings. Sometimes re-imagining a piece of work is the best thing to do, whether because it would not work in today’s context or the original was flawed. The purpose of these stories however is to showcase Lovecraft’s storytelling, and thus while certainly any writer and artist will want to add their own to something, they keep it still within the confines of Lovecraft’s world.
There are always good and bad things about collections. In this case, everything here is enjoyable. Some are definitely better than others, but there is nothing here that will have you throwing a book against the wall. As well, while this offers a lot for the Lovecraft fan, you don’t necessarily have to be one to enjoy the stories contained therein. Each writer and artist brings something to the table and makes the stories a bit of their own all the while retaining that Lovecraft sensibility.
Whether you are a Lovecraft collector or someone who wants to get into Lovecraft, this is certainly a good place to start. Many movies have been made of his work, and not all are good. This collection allows readers to “see” Lovecraft’s works, but with the less likelihood that you will wonder why you just spend five bucks to rent a crappy movie.