Today, March 15th, is the 75th anniversary of the death of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, one of the true fathers of horror fiction. It’s no secret that Lovecraft’s eerie tales have influenced horror writers across the board for decades, and we constantly see his themes cropping all over the comics world.
Lovecraft’s is responsible for many invaluable aspects of contemporary horror from the Cthulhu mythos to the Necronomicon to the genre of cosmic horror itself. It’s safe to say that without him, horror would not be what it is today. The sheer volume of comics out there that still address themes introduced by Lovecraft allow him to live on after death. In honor of his death day, we’ve put together a list of some of the best Lovecraftian comics around. Read on for the skinny…
Lovecraft is a god among horror fans, and his short stories are second to none. If Edgar Allan Poe is responsible for modern psychological horror, Lovecraft is equally responsible for fiction dealing with the fear of the unknown. Lovecraft had an unrelenting passion for the ocean, and what lies deep down in the darkest chambers of the sea. His terrifying concepts of realms beyond our own have borne an entire culture and a dedicated fan base that carries on to this day. Stephen King once called Lovecraft, “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale”, which alone a testament of his legacy.
If you have not had the distinct pleasure of reading some of his short fiction, I urge you to do so today. Here, you can check out a massive, free, online collection of his work. I suggest starting with something nice and short like The Stranger.
Now on to the comics. I doubt there are any comic creators who were not influenced by Lovecraft at some point or another, and the fact that so many publishers still put out comic adaptations of his work shows how timeless his stories are.
Not only is this Alan Moore’s latest work, but it’s an extremely chilling reconstruction of Lovecraft’s mythology. Moore dives right into Lovecraft’s classic stories and combines them with the present day Cthulhu cults (yes, they really exist), detective fiction, and a lot of rape. Moore is able to put a fresh spin on the classic tales and shine a new light on them by examining their effect on contemporary society. The first arc of the story, The Courtyard is incredible, and it just gets weirder from there on out. If you can handle gang banging and sea creature rape, you’ll be flying high with Neonomicon.
Recently, IDW has been pushing out comic adaptations of Lovecraft’s works, and the first (of hopefully many) was a stellar success. Lansdale and company did a great job of using Lovecraftian themes and adapting it for a modern comic audience. Not to mention, the backup story, The Hound, illustrated by the one and only Menton3, is an incredible mini-series that compliments Lansdale’s adaptation nicely.
Mignola has said many, many times that his entire Hellboy and BPRD canon is indebted to Howard Phillips. The first Hellboy story, Seed of Destruction, is actually dedicated to Lovecraft, and it becomes pretty evident right away where Mignola drew is inspiration. Mignola turns hell itself a realm beyond, from which all sorts of horrible creatures are born unto our world. The film adaptation, made by del Torro (another huge Lovecraft fan) also brings in themes of cosmic horror. Those who have been skipping out on Hellboy are sorely missing out.
Really drawing on Lovecraft’s convention of scholars discovering the terrific, BOOM’s Fall of the Cthulhu series follows the story of a college kid and his investigations of the unknown. If you are looking for straight up Lovecraft in comic form, this is your safest bet. If you like the first volume and are craving more, not to worry because there are five others!
You may have trouble finding this gem, but if you can land yourself a copy on ebay or on amazon, do it! Found within the pages of Tharg’s Terror Tales, from 2000AD, this one pits together Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, H.P. Lovecraft and Charles Fort. The reason this one stands out is because it works in equal parts as an ode to Lovecraft and to classic horror comics. The black and white artwork is beautiful on the inside, so don’t be fooled by the tacky cover. While I don’t want to give too much away, just think of Houdini entering a deep dark void to another world with Lovecraft as his guide.
A couple years back, Image Comics paid tribute to Lovecraft with their series, The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft. It examines H.P. as an author and as a man dealing with supernatural powers of his own. Many people see Lovecraft as a prophet of sorts; a man who was able to see both the distant past and the distant future. The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft functions as a sort of alternate history , showing the life of Lovecraft and examining how he was able to develop such weird tales. The writing style is elegant and fluid, and it’s a blast to read.
Yep, this one pits together Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft, the two most infamous names in horror history. How awesome is that? In this story the two word smiths combine forces in order to solve one the stranger paranormal attempts to take over the world. This book creates caricatures of the two literary giants, but it’s quite a lot of fun if you are able to step back and relax.
Moore clearly has a clear adoration for Lovecraft, and in the Black Dossier, he specifically addresses The Great Old Ones. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a masterful work that re-imagines classics of literature, and combines them into one freaky world.
While there are not really any overt references to Lovecraft tales in the actual plot of Locke & Key, it’s pretty clear that Joe Hill is a fan of H.P. Given that his dad has probably forced him to read cosmic horror since he was just a little baby, it’s not really a surprise. Locke & Key is one of the best currently running horror comics, and it owes a lot to Lovecraftian fiction.
While most people probably don’t grasp the Lovecraft influence on first read, it becomes pretty evident the second time through where Moore draws some of his ideas from. The theme of apathy and indifference toward the world in Watchmen is something Lovecraft brought on long before Moore, with his ghastly Cthulhu creatures who gazed upon our world with a complete lack of interest or care. The final few chapters of Watchmen are quite haunting, and the fact that Moore brings in an Eldritch Abomination to save the world, is a clear display of Moore’s thanks to Lovecraft.
Comic creators just love doing short adaptations of H.P.’s works. Another one from BOOM! Studios that lets creators run wild, and spill their love for Lovecraft on the page. While some stories are executed better than others, it is a great introduction to his body of works.
If you want to know more about the Lovecraft’s life, check out this amazing documentary. The doc features big names in horror such as Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and more.
While you are getting ready for bed tonight, just take a moment to think about Lovecraft, and the ghastly creatures from the abyss that may be lurking in the darkness. I hope I have inspired some of you to get out there and read some Lovecraft. And always remember, Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.