Shiny Shelf

The Lovecraft Anthology Volume 1

By Mark Clapham on 03 June 2011

Following on from INJ Culbard’s excellent graphic adaptation of Lovecraft’s ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, SelfMadeHero return to Lovecraft’s work with a selection of seven of his most famous tales, adapted by an excellent line-up of creators.

The stories adapted in this first volume (a second is promised) are those which laid the groundwork for Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, the continuity/sub-genre of cosmic horror that is Lovecraft’s main legacy to fiction and pop culture. So, there are plenty of lost cities, terrifying ancient tomes and revelations that drive men mad.

Lovecraft’s prose style was florid to say the least, and that’s preserved in the adaptations, all of which include first-person narration to varying degrees. Ian Edginton’s script for ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ and editor Dan Lockwood’s for ‘Dagon’ both go to an absolute extreme of including no dialogue whatsoever and sticking to pure narration with illustrations.

This probably works best with ‘Dagon’, as it’s a fairly short story (at least in adapted form), and Alice Duke’s paintings give this nautical horror a dream-like, detached feel.

‘Call’ is more authoritative in its approach, as the story maps out a lot of the fictional space the mythos stories through an investigation undertaken by the narrator. D’Israeli provides the art, an artist whose line I always really like but whose storytelling I sometimes find slightly alienating, especially in black and white where my attention can easily become unfocussed. In sticking to fairly rigid panels and a bold but mostly naturalistic colour scheme, he delivers a lovely looking and vivid take on the story, with some truly stunning panels as the story reaches wilder shores.

One of the more lightly narrated stories is ‘The Dunwich Horror’, scripted by Rob Davis (himself an artist) and drawn by INJ Culbard. With a (semi) human and fairly lucid threat for most of the story, and a major confrontation at the end, this is one of the more action-packed stories in the book, and Davis and Culbard bring that out with some vivid characters and great pacing. Culbard’s art is always super-clear and expressive, and as with ‘Mountains’ he demonstrates that horror can work in comics with sharp, cartoony art as well if not better than with lashing of detailed gore and murky paint effects.

One of the strengths of the anthology is the variety of art-styles used. Shane Ivan Oakley, who illustrates ‘The Haunter in the Dark’ has a pared down style even compared to the clean lines of Culbard and D’Israeli, and his angular blocks of light and shade work very well with a story where the lead character’s senses become increasingly warped and disturbed.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Leigh Gallagher, who illustrates John Reppion and Leah Moore’s adaptation of ‘The Shadows of Innsmouth’. Gallagher, artist on the excellent restoration-era zombie epic ‘Defoe’ in ‘2000AD’ is a more conventional horror artist with a knack for monstrous creatures and horrible details, and he goes to town on ‘Shadows’ – the ‘Innsmouth stare’ will linger in your mind for a while after reading.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this excellent anthology, which can double as a treat for Lovecraft fans, who get to see their favourites superbly adapted, and a primer for newcomers who can get a feel for HP’s morbid work with this accessible and highly readable volume. Lockwood and his collaborators do the original stories justice, and this is both a smart adaptation and an effective collection of chilling tales. I eagerly await Volume 2.

And on that note, I’m just off to fake-up an eldritch statue with the words “DO M.R. JAMES NEXT” in ancient Babylonian inscribed on the base, and drop it round at SelfMadeHero’s offices.

You can buy the ‘Lovecraft Anthology’ from Amazon.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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