Saturday, June 29, 2013

Some Recommended Graphics

Over the past couple of years, I.N.J. Culbard has produce two very fine graphic novels based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and At the Mountains of Madness.  The adaptations take some creative liberties with the material, but to be fair, this is due in part to the form: graphic depictions must rely on dialogue and imagery to carry the story, rather than straight text.  For the most part, the original stories are very recognizable in graphic form, which is more than can be said for film versions.

Some may find Culbard’s version of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward a challenge to read.  (I had to read it twice to appreciate some of the details, but the effort was worthwhile.)  This is because the original story is complex and multi-leveled.  It moves back and forth between the late 1600s to the early 20th century, laying down an historical back story that ominously intrudes on the present.  There is necromancy, vampirism, conspiracy, and stolen identities—something for everyone—as well as the hint of a world shattering conjuring of forces “outside the spheres”. 

The monstrosities that appear in the book are presented with a light touch—the horror is relatively subtle—and the focus is on relationships and characterization.  Much is left to the imagination, and transitions between scenes are skillfully handled by the artist.  This is basically the tragic story of a young man’s naïve dabbling in forbidden matters, and the dire consequences that follow.  “I did it for the sake of knowledge—now, for the sake of all life and Nature, you must help me thrust it back into the dark.”

At the Mountains of Madness is an earlier publication, (2010) and so was a little more difficult to find.  I ordered my copy through our local Vault of Midnight store.  (Fellow Michiganders and others should check out .)   This one is also very well done, and quite a bit more gruesome in some of the frames than the first book.  Both the original tale and the graphic novel tell an old fashioned adventure story, but with elements of science fiction thrown in. 

Readers will be reminded of The Thing From Another World, (1951), and especially its 1982 remake, The Thing.  Those movies were based on the novella Who Goes There, by John W. Campbell, which was published in 1938.  This was two years after H.P. Lovecraft published At the Mountains of Madness.  There are some similarities between the two stories, but the source of the horror and its implications is very different in each case.

An expedition to Antarctica finds much more than anticipated—a terrifying discovery about the history of the earth and its inhabitants. The survivors hope to keep this a secret from a blissfully ignorant humanity, and work to prevent any further exploration of the mysterious southern continent.  They may or may not be successful. 

Both of Culbard’s adaptations use the device of ending the story almost exactly where it begins, enhancing the overall power of the tale.  The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and At the Mountains of Madness are published by SelfMadeHero, (

Several years ago, the folks at Boom! Studios had Chuck BB illustrate Lovecraft’s prose poem, Nyarlathotep, (2008).  This is not a graphic novel.  Instead, Lovecraft’s apocalyptic nightmare is depicted in 11 drawings that capture the anxiety and terror of his vision.  In language reminiscent of Old Testament prophetic writings, the author describes the arrival of Nyarlathotep, who “came out of Egypt”.  He is a kind of anti-Christ who has come to uncreate the world we know so that the “gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods” can follow.  The artwork complements the text nicely and is not a distraction.   

Boom! Studios also carries several anthologies of stories inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as a graphic novel series.  I have not had a chance to try out any of these yet, but they look very interesting, (

Finally, I am looking forward to a live theatrical production of The Intergalactic Nemesis tomorrow afternoon.  You may have already heard of this stage play based on a radio drama of the same name.  I am just starting book one of the graphic novel series that has been released as a companion to the show.  It looks like a lot of retro fun.

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