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Graphic comics of H.P. Lovecraft enough to give you nightmares

  • McClatchy Newspapers
  • Published Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, at 8:24 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, March 14, 2013, at 4:18 p.m.

Don’t read either volume of the “The Lovecraft Anthology” before going to bed. You may never want to turn out the light.

Two new graphic collections, edited by Dan Lockwood, are enough to give nightmares to any imaginative reader.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is best remembered for his short stories and novellas, heavy with nameless terrors, evil curses that travel down human bloodlines, and multi-eyeballed slime-coated, aliens with tentacles from other worlds — not necessarily outer space.

Born in New England, in 1890, he read avidly. Besides his interest in astronomy, he enjoyed fiction including Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre short stories. He became a very active correspondent with many writers including Robert E. Howard, best known as the creator of “Conan the Barbarian,” and science fiction authors Henry Kuttner and Fritz Lieber. Many of these writers encouraged him to try writing fiction. Most of Lovecraft’s writings were published in the late 1920s and 30s in magazines, such as “Weird Tales.”

Lovecraft’s stories entered the bloodstream of science fiction and horror early in the development of the genre. Elements still turn up in contemporary fiction. For example, Lovecraft’s fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts has a Sanatorium which turns up in the “Batman” comics as the gloomy “Arkham Asylum” home to many criminals.

Lockwood’s adaptation of Lovecraft’s stories into graphic comics has trimmed to readability Lovecraft’s original archaic writing style. Each story is illustrated by a different artist, from an almost cut-paper style by Shane Ivan Oakley to the lushly-rich green water color style illustrations by Matt Timson.

The classic Gothic horror stories are riddled with nightmares of secret caverns or ancient cities built by non-human hands. In the first story, the classic “Call of Cthulhu,” a statue of a god with dangling tentacles leads to many bloody deaths. In “The Festival” a man returns to his ancestral village in New England and meets his ‘elders’ — who slither rather than walk. After reading “The Color Out of Space,” you’ll never want to drink the water from the reservoir in Arkham, Mass.

These graphic novels may be as far as most readers might want to go in Lovecraft’s world, but many of his stories are now out of copyright protection and available for free on the Internet.

“The Lovecraft Anthology: A Graphic Collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s Short Stories, Vol. 1 and 2,” edited by Dan Lockwood; Self Made Hero press, London, through Abrams Books ($19.95)

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