Lovecraft: The Graphic Novel
Originally for Raw, New Things #12, 5/2/2004
|What if Lovecraft
had gotten a hold of the Necronomicon, and drew inspiration from it? Well, if
were going to play with hypotheticals, what if I built a catapult and attacked Mars
with it? It turns out these two questions have about the same amount of relevance to
Lovecrafts life as viewed through the Lovecraft graphic novel. Just when it
looked like the comics industry might actually be getting itself together on the Lovecraft
frontweve had a couple of fairly acceptable Lovecraft pastiches in the last
couple of yearssomething as insufferably ignorant and artless as Lovecraft comes
Lovecraft is a Vertigo publication, currently in hardcover. Vertigos current publication scheme means that it will definitely be some eighteen months before this atrocity is out in a less expensive paperback, and I can only say that you should buy it only if youre desperate completist.
Why oh why are comic writers so obsessed with Lovecrafts sex life? Grant Morrison, and now this Hans Rodionoff keep hammering on about Lovecrafts supposed fear of women and Lovecrafts monsters being vaginal symbols. When the did it become acceptable to believe the secondary source more than the primary? Can anyone who has read the Monarch notes on Lovecraft confirm these as a likely source of Kings inaccurate statements in Danse Macabre?
Im all for a little creative licence when putting hyptheticals into peoples lives. Unfortunately, Hans Rodinoff does it the grace and subtlety of a rhinoceros in the mating season. The story seems to come from the shake-n-bake theory of writing; put a bunch of elements from Lovecrafts life in a bag, shake vigorously, and reassemble with whatever glue seems to work with the narrative. If nothing else, this book has given me a great appreciation for the deft work of Tim Powers, who very neatly insinuates his fictional reality into the lives of his real protagonists, rather than hammering it in, forcing reality to bend to accommodate the needs of the preconceived story. And even this would have been forgivable if the story had been remotely interesting. Which it isnt. The great insult to Lovecrafts life is the pure mayhem done to the documented dates of Lovecrafts life. My God, the dates.
The primary action of Lovecraft takes the protagonist from age five to his separation from Sonia Lovecraft, which happened, according to the text in 1925 (or 1926, for those of us who know anything about the real Lovecraft). There is passing reference, during the period in which Lovecraft lived in New York of his correspondence with Robert Howard, which didnt start until 1930. An early scene involves Lovecraft meeting his publisher Edwin Baird in New York before he even meets Sonia, and correcting Bairds pronunciation of Cthulhu as "Shuthoolhoo". The graphic novel ends with Lovecrafts return to Providence in "1925" (rather than 1926, as happened in reality) and "Call of Cthulhu" was not published until Lovecraft had returned to Providence. Lovecraft reads a copy of "Dreams of the Witch House" to the Kalem club, although the story wasnt written until some seven years later. Dunwich Horror" is referred to, although it isnt written until 1928.
Sonia Lovecraft uses the expression "Blessed Savior" an unusual expression for a Russian Jew. She is shown meeting Sarah Lovecraft, who died in May 1921, fully two months before Rhienhart Kleiner introduced H.P.L. to his future wife at a NAPA convention.
So skip it. This entire graphic novel is a putrescent mess in the same vein as the utterly forgettable Shadows Bend, for people whose conception of Lovecraft is in no way based in the reality of the mans life. If it werent so expensive, Id send the author of the H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia in utter disgust. Even more depressing, this graphic novel made the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatchs entertainment section on February 17th, in which the reviewer holds Lovecraft up as a fine example of what graphic novels can accomplish. Please, please, please, Mr. Joshi, find a way to have Lovecraft: A Life brought back into print. The world desperately needs to understand that Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an unusual man whose creativity was so extraordinarily marvelous that to say he took his ideas from some sort of parallel reality is a prosaic disservice to him.