Lovecraft Week! Review: ‘Howard Lovecraft and the…’

While H. P. Lovecraft’s stories are generally filed on the horrific side of the library, there’s no doubt that his writing is accessible to almost any age group. Unpleasant events in his stories generally happen behind a screen of cleverly structured sentences, spawning great unease in a timeless and highly atmospheric manner, and leaving enough to the imagination to scare the bejesus out of any reader. While most of his stories are not graphic in the modern horror sense, they are frequently about abominations squirming their way into humanity’s corner of the universe. This means that there are always lots of monsters in his work. And kids love monsters.

Bruce Brown takes advantage of this by creating two visually stunning graphic novels that follow the (we can only assume) fictional adventures of a young ‘Howard Lovecraft’. In ‘the Frozen Kingdom’, he innocently reads out forbidden passages from his asylum-bound father’s copy of the Necronomicon, promptly getting him flung into the ice-spelled lands of a Kingdom where the Elder Gods hold sway and deadly conspiracies abound. Howard must summon all his courage and daring to survive his journey there.

In the direct sequel, ‘Howard and the Undersea Kingdom’, (co-written this time with Dwight L. MacPherson), our young hero’s troubles only increase. Unpleasant beings from beyond are hunting him and his notorious book, and now his beloved mother is also in great danger. Luckily Howard’s knack for making strange alliances continues here too, introducing a fabulous policeman character who provides some much-needed heavy firepower. There’s also a cat which can more than hold its own against an oozing shoggoth or two, and plenty more insider references for old school fans to enjoy.

However, you don’t need to be a Lovecraft buff to get quickly drawn in by these stories. Although substantial liberties are taken with what’s known of H P Lovecraft’s life, this is a beautifully illustrated and often very funny introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos and its gruesome gallery of monsters. The dialogue is hilarious, and the increasingly terrifying situations are played with a tongue firmly in cheek, especially when Howard acquires his new best friend, ‘Spot’, who is an utterly charming and thoroughly unlikely side-kick. The powerful artwork also keeps the mood strange but wholly accessible.

In fact the illustrations, rendered in both novels by Renzo Podesta, are truly gorgeous. A lush approach to line and colour breathes sweeping life into the endless frozen wastelands and deep green undersea landscapes, as well as giving a vast scope to the towering eldritch abominations. The monsters look appropriately sinister, yet some are strangely appealing (Spot!). Happily there’s no skimping on the tentacles, or on the potential horror of the situations. This is adult horror gentled through a child’s eyes, playing on Howard’s joyful wonder and feeling more like a coming of age quest, or a decent 1980s teenage-orientated film with a very large budget. While there are somedark moments, there certainly aren’t any decapitated heads in here, but it doesn’t hide the bleak, shadowy nature of the dangerous dimensions where Howard winds up.

Bruce Brown’s graphic novels are a brilliant introduction to H P Lovecraft and certainly are suitable for ‘all ages’. You’ll laugh, you’ll groan, and you’ll cheer, and then quickly check the back of your sofa for shoggoths. A gorgeously presented collection, these two books really aren’t enough. Luckily, it seems likely that there’s another sequel on the way!

Highly recommended.

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Also related:

You Know, For Squids…

Lovecraft Week on the Haunted Eyeball:

Review: ‘Future Lovecraft’ anthology by Innsmouth Press

1980s cartoons & Lovecraft: The Real Ghosbusters ‘The Collect Call of Cathulhu’

Bite sized Lovecraft stories by James Pratt

Lovecraft Week themed week ends tomorrow, but horror and H P Lovecraft especially will always be a recurring subject here on the Haunted Eyeball!

Y’Know, for Squids….*

Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom by Bruce Brown

Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom by Bruce Brown

It’s H P Lovecraft’s deathday today (how morbid) and it seems like a pity not to end the day with a look at his legacy. Yes, you guessed it. Children’s books. This is definitely going on the Christmas list. The artwork looks pretty sweet, too. Hard to believe that this is a real thing. Fantastic! Certainly better than that nasty ‘Go the f**k to sleep’ book released ‘for adults’ last year. Sheesh.

Here’s a brief description: Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom:

Howard Lovecraft’s family has been imprisoned on a far-flung alien planet, and Spot”s hopelessly captured, slowly becoming a mindless Fishman. Accompanied by his insane father, a pistol-packing constable, and his hungry cat, they must face the all-powerful ruler of the Outer Gods, a vengeful ancient enemy, an army of deadly monsters, and a lethal world called Yuggoth to save the day. All Howard has to do is surrender his father’s Book. But that would mean certain doom for all of mankind!

It’s had to resist that kind of scenario. If anyone has read it, please leave a comment below and tell the Eyeball if this is worth shelling out a few squids for.

* Hudsucker Proxy! Quote (with apologies to the Coens…is it nerdy I’m explaining it, or worse that you don’t get it, eh?)

Review: 5 Stories That Bite – A Collection of Vampire Tales by James Pratt

5 Stories That Bite - A Collection of Vampire Tales
5 Stories That Bite – A Collection of Vampire Tales by James Pratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

James Pratt brings us another irresistible blend of horror and humour with a dash of sour poignancy in this tasty collection. Concentrating on vampires this time, the payoffs are still too good to spoil, so apologies if the summaries below come across a tad cryptically.

Horton Hits a Ho

No, no blatant misogyny here, although things get a bit messy for our titular hero. Horton is a scum-sucker with a heart – or at least some goddamn principles. Oh, and he’d rather you didn’t think of that Dr Seuss character if it’s all the same. He’s a down and dirty, rough and tough sortta guy, and this was a great introduction to a murky character living merrily in the underworld’s underbelly. Darkly funny.

What’s new, Rudy Rue?

Ever wondered what happened to that bunch of teenage kids who hung out in a VW Camper van, solving mysteries with their over-sized talking dog? Well, read this and you might just find out. Another brutal update of our collective childhood memories that goes beyond simple homage. A little sad, and impeccably warped. Great stuff.

Incident at the 24-7

A bloody stranger wanders into the lacklustre evening of two shop workers at the 24-7. Then something else comes in. ‘Clerks’ was never like this. It turns out that routine can be a killer, and killers are sometimes routine. Enjoy.

He Never Liked Mirrors

There are more varieties of vampire these days than species of beetle, including the weird ones that ‘sparkle’ in sunlight. So what does ‘Vlad’, the original Impaler, make of them? As we follow his progress at a party, his world-weariness wars with inner indignation. Isn’t it time we remembered who the baddest vamp really is? And what did he really make of Gary Oldman’s movie performance?

When Horton Met Dracula

Say hi to Horton once again. When his poker buddies badger him about having met Dracula three times, Horton finally spills the bloody beans and reveals a strange connection to the ancient evil.

These won’t take long to get through (more’s the pity) but the Five Stories in this collection are definitely worth a nibble, and after one taste you’ll certainly be hooked. Recommended.

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