Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
This blog was inspired by a couple of discussions I had last week and the publishing of Afterlife with Archie #6. Now it has been said that Archie Comics are the gateway drug to hardcore comic consumption. I skipped that phase and went right to the hard stuff, 2000 AD; Judge Dread, and Aliens: Colonial Marines. I have never read or owned an Archie Comic, not even that one where the titular redhead goes Mano Y Mano with the Punisher. But I am defiantly going to get this one.
Afterlife with Archie was only vaguely on my radar. It has the regular Riverdale cast in an alternate universe where Jughead is patient zero of a zombie outbreak. Knowing very little about it, I just assumed it was a Marvel Zombies rip off and let it go at that. Well apparently in issue six, Sabrina the Teen Age Witch marries the Great and Dreadful Cthulhu. WHAT? Now you have my attention.
So there has been a lot of buzz about Lovecraft stories being made into comics and Cthulhu inspired comics recently. And there is a valid argument that just like trying to turn them in to movies, HPL’s writings don’t directly translate well into comic books. Lovecraft’s stories are all about the words, and any medium that puts pictures over words dilutes his work. Now I have read some good comics based on Lovecraft, but there is some merit to this argument. On the other hand it could also be said that Lovecraft inspired comics have the potential of being awesome.
Now before we get to individual comic books let’s talk about Comic books biggest mythos reference: Arkham Asylum. When I was in my early twenties I knew more about Lovecraft than comics, and I saw Arkham Asylum: A Serious Place for a Serious Earth, by Grant Morrison, on a spinner rack at my local bookstore. I was excited I thought I found a Lovecraft comic and was disappointed when I leafed through the pages and found out it was only a Bat Man comic.
For those of you who might be unaware Arkham Asylum is the mental hospital where all the Bat Man loonies get confined to. But it has its origins in a 1931 short story by Robert E Howard (active Cthulhu Mythos writing circle member and creator of Conan the Barbarian), short story The Black Stone. In it he has a poet named Justin Godfrey go crazy form otherworldly dreams and get locked up in Arkham Asylum. He named the institution after his friend Lovecraft’s primary setting Arkham Massachusetts.
There is a legend that as a young man Bat Man creator Bob Cane shared a train ride with HP Lovecraft and asked the grand master all kinds of questions. Lovecraft was in an uncharacteristically good mood and indulged the young comic book writer. Cane chose the name Arkham Asylum in honor of that day. This is almost certainly a tall tale. The Asylum first appeared in 1972, and debuted in a story by Denny O’Neill. By this time Bob Crane had very little to do with the story line in the Bat Man comics.
Hellboy: Is Hellboy Mythos related? Hell(boy) yes! Look at the open title sequence of the movie. It quotes De Vermis Mysteries (Robert E. Howard’s version of the mystical book of black magic the Necronomicon). Though never appearing in any of the original mythos stories the Ordtu Jahad fits in perfectly with the rest of Cthulhu’s pantheon. Look at the Sammeal with their tentacles over their mouth they look just like Mr. C. except not as tall and don’t have batwings.
Super powerful entities not just The Ogdu Jahad, but also Heacate, and King Void, fit well into the Mythos. So do mad wizards like, Rasputin. There is a short story in the collection of Hellboy tales Odder Jobs where the deep ones release Liz Sherman because they can see the power in fellow fishman Abraham Sapient. Another story where Hellboy drives pass Arkham and admits to himself that he thought the town was fictitious. Sure the stories maybe sprinkled with folkloric monsters like vampires, windgos and the Fae, but in there heart they are pure mythos.
The Doom that Came to Gotham. Written by Hellboy’s Mike Mingonlia, this is a three issue Otherworld title, where 1920’s Batman goes up against a mixture of the Bat’s rouge gallery and Lovecraft’s nightmares. The title comes from Lovecraft’s Doom that Came to Sarnath. I am so glad that I am not the only person in the world who thought that Ra’s Al Ghul was based on Abdul Alhazarad.
To best of my knowledge the DtCtG has never been reprinted or combined into a graphic novel. I was lucky I got issues #2 and #3 for about seven bucks a piece, a decade ago but now a days I have seen them going for about forty a pop on line. So you may have to dig in to the back rooms of comic books stores and your wallet to get these treasures.
Graphic Classics #4: H.P. Lovecraft. The fourth in a series by Eureka Press this anthology has the most awesome cover ever. EVER! There I said it. Check it out, it is pure awesomeness. Unfortunately this is where I developed my belief that pure Lvoecraft doesn’t translate well into graphic novels. Not that it is bad. It is incredibly faithful and lovingly rendered. It just Lovecraft is meant to be enjoyed because of the visions his words create in your mind.
But again let me repeat myself this is not bad. And if you want actual Lovecraft stories in a comic book medium this is the one to get. The black and white art does not take away from the eeriness but adds to it. The art is done with respect like one would see in an illustrated works of Poe or Alexander Dumas. The second printing has seventy-five extra pages including a version of The Shadow out of Time.
The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraaft: What this title does is take mild-mannered Howie and make his a hard case noir hero. It’s been done before with sword wielding Lovecraft in the movie Neconomicon, or the brilliant Fred Ward as PI Howard “Philip” Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell. Or HP’s hard drinking cameo in a Supernatural episode (To the best of my knowledge Lovecraft was a teetotaler). Great premise but it doesn’t quite work for me, I just don’t see Lovecraft as a bad ass.
But if your version of the Old Man form Providence doesn’t exclude him from being a lover and a fighter, then you might really enjoy this tale. It is kind of like if Lovecraft was a character created by Robert E Howard. About a year ago there was a lot of buzz when Ron Howard was slated to make this into a movie but I haven’t heard much since he bought the rights.
Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World. The world of Warren Ellis’ brilliant comic Planetary is based on the concept of what if everything that happened in books in our world happened for real in the Planetary World. So you get Sherlock Holmes and Dracula as characters as well as expys of Doc Savage, James Bond and Fu Man Chu. So it makes sense that the Cthulhu Mythos would show up eventually.
In The City of Judgment story, Rhode Island is attacked by a giant squid sea-good and his humanoid flying fish minions. Planetary, a team of of treasure hunting urban anthropologist, led by Elijah “It’s a strange world out there let’s keep it that way” Snow and the anti-hero-superheroes The Authority show up to save the day. Now Elijah and the Authority’s Jenny Spark where born in 1900 and don’t age, so off course at least one of them would have met Lovecraft in the past. If TSAoHPL has the old man turned into a noir hero. P/A:RtW written by iconoclast Ellis shows Lovecraft in a light that emphases his ugly fault of racism. Snow is shocked, when Lovecraft finds the sea create eggs, and his ignorance and racism makes him believe they are “negro eggs.”
Locke and Key: No essay on mythos comics can be complete without mentioning Locke in Key. Fans of HP often talk about something called Lovecraft country. This is the dark and mysterious often threatening area of coastal New England. Locke and Key is set right in Lovecraft country in a town called Lovecraft. The books tone and air are very Lovecraftian.
In 2011 there was a pilot for a Locke and key series shot. It would have included hottie Kensia Solo as the demonic imp Dodge. But it fell through. Though a movie version was announced during last San Diego Comi-con.
Yuggoth Cultures: Allan more is a self-proclaimed wizard as well as the mind that brought us the Watchmen, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, he also brought us this little fun comic. Yugotth is off course according to Lovecraft the alien name for Pluto and is the home of his creatures the Mi-Go. Insect like space flyers who steal human brains.
Mixed in with his stories is one that I find very interesting and in the prose comment parts he explain it is inspired by a true story. It is well known that Lovecraft never met his father until he was an adult, and that his sire was commit to an intuition. Moore claims that Lovecraft’s father was locked up in a mental hospital the night of his son’s conception. Dear old dad was basically a traveling salesman who was driven mad by syphilis, he contracted on the road. Mr. and Mrs. Lovecraft finally got a chance to catch up and met in a hotel. That night papa wanders down to the hotel lobby and complains the foreigners on the staff were being rude to him and, oh by the way could you get that demon off his wife. The authorities were called and the elder Lovecraft was committed.
I haven’t been able to find enough evidence for me to say if this is a true story about Lovecraft’s father commitment or not. But in the comic book part Moor takes it even farther and says that it was all true the and that the demon was Lovecraft’s real father. It ends with HP looking out the window instead of seeing the regular normal landscape he sees a vista to hell.
There are of course more Cthulhu related comic books out there but I only chose the ones that I was familiar with. And who knows with the success of After Life with Archie maybe there will be even more.