Self-Made Hero has just released in the USA another in its series of graphic adaptations of Lovecraft’s work. This time, I.N.J. Culbard has adapted and illustrated The Shadow Out of Time. I had pre-ordered this at our local purveyor of comics and graphic novels—Vault of Midnight, a veritable wonderland for material of this kind—and happily, it arrived a week early. Culbard was the artist who also created the graphic versions of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and At The Mountains of Madness. The quality and effectiveness of these earlier publications has been maintained in this latest offering.
Purists will note that some miner liberties have been taken with the material, but for the most part the narrative remains true to the original story. What is impressive in Culbard’s rendition of both Dexter and Shadow, is that he has been able to visually convey stories that are intricate and complex. Both involve an exchange or transference of personality and intellect in a protagonist that otherwise appears the same throughout the story. (In Dexter the mental transference involves an evil ancestor; in Shadow it is with an alien scientist.)
Culbard is also able to augment Lovecraft’s essentially cold and conceptual tales with human drama and relationships—he humanizes the work, and in my view at least, improves on the original and completes it. In The Shadow Out of Time, the author draws out the themes of personal loss and the struggle to regain a sense of self and identity--really, control over one's life. Anyone who has experienced, or known someone who has experienced mental health problems will be able to relate to the main character as depicted in Culbard's work.
What makes this particular story so haunting is the lead character’s loss of 5 years of his life to nervous collapse and amnesia—while an alien mind seized his body and used it for its own purposes. Surely this is a transmutation of author’s own nervous breakdown, after which he became terribly isolated and reclusive from 1908 to 1913—what Joshi describes as “a virtual blank in the life of H.P. Lovecraft.”
Self Made Hero in the UK continues to produce very interesting and high quality adaptations of both short stories and novellas by H.P. Lovecraft. To date, I have been able to obtain the following at local bookstores:
The Lovecraft Anthology (volumes 1 and 2)—these contain pictorial treatments of Lovecraft’s better known short stories.
At The Mountains of Madness
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Shadow Out of Time
Hopefully we will see Culbard and his colleagues apply their talents to other items in the Lovecraft canon. I for one would enjoy seeing graphic versions of The Whisperer in Darkness, The Dreams In The Witch-House, and perhaps even The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.
As I remarked in an earlier post, if you are already familiar with the stories for the various adaptations, the graphic renderings will enhance your enjoyment of them. If you are new to Lovecraft’s work, this is an entertaining way to introduce yourself to them. (But read the originals, too!)
While at Vault of Midnight I was persuaded by the store clerk to try out Mike Mignola's B.P.R.D. series, which depict the further adventures of several of Hellboy's colleagues at the Bureau. The issue I have is "Hollow Earth and Other Stories". The Lovecraftian influence is very apparent, (as it was in the Hellboy movies), but the stories are highly creative and just a lot of fun. A sense of humor in the face of Lovecraftian monstrosities is very refreshing.