You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Saturday, July 23, 2011


At the Mountains of Madness: A Graphic NovelAt the Mountains of Madness: A Graphic Novel by H.P. Lovecraft
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

H.P. Lovecraft wrote, or more accurately, overwrote At the Mountains of Madness in 1936. (That "overwrote" in the preceding sentence already has me on the bad side of avid Lovecraftians.) I read the original years ago when I did most of my Lovecraft reading, and it was never one of my favorites, crucial as it may be to the Cthulhu mythos. Since the Guillermo del Toro film has been canceled, this graphic novel seemed like a good way to revisit the material.

The drawings emphasize that this is a 1930's adventure story. Brave explorer/scientists, as a child one of my favorite hybrids in literature and movies, go to explore the further reaches of Antartica. There they discover the remains of "The Old Ones," those intergalactic drifters who settled on earth millions of years ago, inadvertently set in motion  terrestrial life, and then  had some sort of internal battles and disappeared into the depths of the sea. I don't remember all the details.

I.N.J Culbard's pages are in saturated colors, varying from arctic blue, to the dark browns of the explorers' camps, to the unearthly jade green that dominates the city they discover. That city, as described by Lovecraft and pictured here, never seems particularly well designed for the squid-like creatures who lived there. Why did squids want skyscrapers? One Lovecraftian trademark, not too well served here, is to announce the manifestation of an "indescribable horror" and proceed to describe it for one or two pages. Lovecraft's descriptions attain pulpy grandeur, but the glimpses of a giant amoeba with a bunch of eyes we get here is a letdown.

Self Made Hero, the publisher of this version, has a series of Lovecraft anthologies planned. One volume is out, and with the diversity of artists invovled it promises to give more outrageous visions of Lovecraft's cosmic terrors.

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