The Lovecraft Anthology
For the past few months, I have been playing a role-playing game with a group of friends (including fellow Aeither writers Joe, Kyle and Kendric) known as the Trail of Cthulhu. For those unfamiliar with it, Trail is a pen and paper game (similar to Dungeons and Dragons) in which players create characters and attempt to deal with the nefarious, unfathomable evils originally introduced by H.P. Lovecraft and expanded since that author’s death. Madness and violent death are just a step away in a Lovecraft universe so the experience of the game is both as creepy and intriguing as any Lovecraft fan might expect. Since our group has not been able to meet due to time constraints lately, I was jonesing for Lovecraft a bit and decided to take a look at The Lovecraft Anthology for my review this week. Given the creepiness and the dense writing style, Lovecraft is not necessarily an easy author to read and I’ve read maybe half of the most popular Lovecraft stories so I am bringing a mix of knowledge and inexperience to this set of stories that have been adapted to graphic novel form. The Lovecraft Anthology is comprised of two volumes edited by Dan Lockwood with an assortment of writers and illustrators including: Jamie Delano, Benjamin Dickson, Chad Fifer, Dwight L. Macpherson, Matt Timson, Steve Pugh, Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Ian Edginton, D’Israeli and David Hartman (among many others).
The Lovecraft Anthology is, as you might expect, a collection of stories by H.P. Lovecraft that have been collected in a graphic novel format. Each story has an established adapter and an illustrator with only a few repeats among the various stories. Some of the stories are just a few pages while others are significantly longer. Volume 1 includes The Call of Cthulhu, The Hunter of the Dark, The Dunwich Horror, The Colour Out of Space, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Rats in the Walls and Dagon. Volume 2 includes Pickman’s Model, The Temple, From Beyond, He, The Hound, The Nameless City, The Picture in the House, The Festival and The Statement of Randolph Carter. The styles in artwork vary significantly from story to story, making reading both volumes a rather interesting experience.
If you wish to maintain your sanity and not creep yourself out, I’d recommend reading these stories a few at a time. I of course did not do this and read them all in one sitting. Lovecraft tends to get a different reception depending on who you talk to. Hardcore horror fans who enjoy gore and unrelenting terror are unlikely to be much impressed by Lovecraft’s stories. Lovecraft relies heavily on creeping dread, fear of unfathomable darkness and the darker sides of human nature. The trick of reading Lovecraft is that his writing is dense and sometimes downright dull even when the story he’s telling is a compelling (if horrifying) one. The greatest thing about this anthology is the way that it makes Lovecraft so much more accessible. Instead of having to fight through Lovecraft’s dry writing style, the adaptations and illustrations bring the full creepiness of his stories to vivid life. While I don’t always like graphic novel adaptations in the sense that writing styles can get lost or overwhelmed, in this case it makes the stories so much more readable. Many of the artists and particularly Matt Timson and Alice Duke match the tone of the adaptations with gorgeously disturbing panels that up the creep factor tenfold.
If you ever wanted a horror story that will slowly raise the hairs on the back of your neck and make you wary of the darkness, The Lovecraft Anthology is an excellent adaptation of a master of horror. The graphic novel adaptations diminish the worst parts of Lovecraft like his dry writing style and tendency towards suspension of disbelief breaking racism and accelerate the forbidding nature of the stories themselves. Highly recommend it for other Lovecraft fans or anyone who’s been turned off by the denseness of the novel form of the Lovecraft universe.