First published in a collected edition format back in July of 2010, the graphic novel ‘The Strange Adventures Of H.P. Lovecraft’ was written by Mac Carter with artwork by Tony Salmons.  The collected edition contained all four comics that were originally published between April 2009 and November 2009.

DLS Synopsis:
Despite all the imagination and originality clearly showcased within Lovecraft’s work, the publishers simply weren’t particularly interested in the stories.  Even ‘Weird Tales’ were finding his work just that bit too strange for their pulpy publication.

Nevertheless, Howard Phillips Lovecraft persisted with his tales of perverse malformations from the cosmic eons and great old gods from the deepest caverns of land, sea and space.  From his aunt’s home in Providence in the state of Rhode Island, Lovecraft would continue to sit at his typewriter and create his terrifying stories, which he knew would struggle to sell.

Although his life wasn’t without its distractions.  Lovecraft had been getting on particularly well with a pretty, young librarian who worked at the local library.  However, although Sylvia St. Claire had taken somewhat of a shine to the timid and genteel author, the advancements of Grayson Chesser had ultimately won her over.  Nevertheless, there was something about Lovecraft that made her heart yearn.  Made her stop and ponder.

Of course Grayson wasn’t going to have this weasely author fellow hanging around his girl.  So he put Lovecraft straight once and for all.  Steered him away with a few blunt words.

The rejection was crushing.  And to rub salt in the wounds, that very same day, Lovecraft is mugged and beaten by two sailors, down at Providence’s bustling dock.

The beating, mugging and loss of the girl he loves hits Lovecraft hard.  That night, he dreams vividly about the two sailors being butchered by some ungodly beast.  The very next day, the local rags are full of the news about the sailor’s slaughter.  Lovecraft is understandably shocked by the news.  How could his dream materialise into reality?  As far as he can surmise, there can only be two possible explanations.  Either the whole murderous incident is an uncanny coincidence, or his inevitable descent into his cursed familial madness has begun.  The only other explanation for the slaughter would be far too nightmarish to even contemplate…

DLS Review:
H.P. Lovecraft’s life is quite a tragic story.  His difficult upbringing and the problems with his family put weighty baggage on his shoulders.  His lengthy separation and eventual divorce from his wife Sonia Greene also hung heavy on him, not to mention the financial difficulties and subsequent health problems he suffered.  And of course, the lack of acceptance for his work caused him to constantly question the stubborn integrity he had for his craft.

That was the real life of Lovecraft.  Of course, there was the other side.  His writing.  His dark and twisted imagination that spawned a vast mythos of nightmarish visions that are still finding life in speculative horror fiction to this very day.

Inter-weaving the two together - splicing the fiction with reality if you will – would undoubtedly create a weird and grotesquely tragic tale.  And that, in essence, is exactly what writer Mac Carter has done with his graphic novel.  Here we see Lovecraft’s life, warped and disfigured by the impregnation of the nightmarish visions from his writing career.  The inclusion of which are loosely inter-woven through a short prologue involving Abdul Alhazred and his masterpiece of madness – the Necronomicon.

What’s perhaps most intriguing about the story though is its relative simplicity (well on the surface at least).  In its bare bones, the graphic novel tells the story of Lovecraft’s failed attempt at courtship with Sylvia St. Claire and the overspill of the horrors from his nightmares into the real world.  However, if we peel back the layers a little, there’s a far more substantial and intriguing story underneath.  Here we see Lovecraft’s struggle with his artistic integrity and his supposed ‘success’ as an author.  We have questions of slipping sanity and the implementation of horror from mind to pen and then on to its next corruptive destination.

There’s a great deal of self-depravation and intense soul-searching woven through the tale, with a good half of the text given over to his internal monologue and diary-like entries – many of which are Lovecraft’s own words taken from his journals and the like.  This splicing of reality with fiction adds another wonderful degree of authenticity to the story, which compliments the whole ‘life of Lovecraft’ premise behind it.

Of course at the story’s heart is a tragically failed love story.  It’s cold and callous and portrayed with the eye of one who knows the suffering of losing out on love.  Indeed, there’s a vast amount of bitterness and inner-turmoil spilt across these pages; all of which are portrayed with an incredible grasp for the very essence of the smothering hurt and pain that is suffered.

However, where the real strength of the tale rests is with the grotesque visions of horror that are presented when the nightmares infiltrate the supposed real world.  Madness inducing chaos reaches across the page in mind-boggling and elaborate forms of flesh, bone and horror.  Indeed, at times the maelstrom of horrific lunacy can swallow you up. The imagery of teeth and skulls and infants falling send your eyes darting around the vast confusion of warped flesh and beings.  It’s all so utterly perverse and freakishly horrific.  And of course, it’s all so wonderfully Lovecraft.

Tony Salmons’ artwork is certainly sketchy, but accomplished enough where it needs to be to portray the full degree of horror or thrusting of action when it’s required.  Unusual uses of perspective play a big role in the disorientation of the reader.  It’s a small device which the artist utilises fairly regularly for illustrating the creeping questions of madness that underline much of the story.

One thing’s for sure, there’s a great deal to like in the graphic novel, especially for those already very fond and very familiar with Lovecraft and his work.  Admittedly the pacing is a tad too loose in places.  Similarly the story’s direction often feeling somewhat lost in the gloom.  But overall it comes out fighting with a damn intriguing, compelling and entertaining story with enough layers to coerce you into digging that little bit deeper.

The compilation volume runs for a total of 184 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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