Paste Magazine has just kindly run a list of “Tentacles & Madness: 10 Comics That Continue H.P. Lovecraft’s Horror Legacy,” detailing some of the best representations of Lovecraftian horror in the graphic arts – or at least, those graphic arts that are a bit more narrative-focused than, for instance, H.R. Giger, the master of Lovecraftian body horror kitsch. And there’s no doubt that Lovecraft’s influence is (almost) as extensive in horror and dark fiction comics as it is horror literature in general.

As always, with lists of this kind, there are going to be some arguments over what should or shouldn’t be in, but I’ve no quarrel with Number One on the list – Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. He may not be the most pedantically literal follower of Lovecraft’s legacy, but Mike Mignola has captured its spirit like few others in comic form – and two Guillermo del Toro films devoted to Hellboy himself, arguably better representation than Great Cthulhu has ever had, ought to be proof enough. And Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s 2014 Eisner Award-winning aquatic romp The Wake is a shoo-in for Number Two on the list. There’s certainly no lack of ambition or range in this huge miniseries, as well as striking graphic art and some great covers.

To chip in with some others that I think should be on the list but aren’t, meanwhile, how about Mike Mignola’s sublime mash-up of Lovecraft and Batman in The Doom That Came to Gotham? Fine, that would have meant two Mignola entries on the list, but in this context, surely worth it. Then there’s the still-ongoing and utterly mind-blowing web comic Lovecraft is Missing, which serves up a vast cast of characters including Old Man Howard himself, and a contorted multi-stranded plotline that most avid followers, including moi, are still trying to unravel. If it ever gets published in volume form, it’s likely to trample all competition underfoot with its mighty pseudopods.

There is one special caveat I’d add to this list, though. Non-genre specialists may not be aware, but there’s a movement afoot right now to replace H.P Lovecraft as the trophy figure for the World Fantasy Awards, on the not unreasonable grounds that writers like Octavia Butler might object to receiving an award in the shape of a portrait bust of a notorious racist, something that Paste Magazine alludes to in the introduction to its Top Ten list. And yet … Alan Moore’s Neonomicon, Number Three on the list, includes – to coin a term – graphic representations of inter-species rape, in the context of a narrative where a female victim is repeatedly raped by her piscine captor, but then bonds with him, has consensual sex with him, and eventually decides to bear his child to term. And if Lovecraft’s rather indirect allusions to racial issues in his actual public work are enough to brand him a racist, then should Moore’s direct and somewhat positive portrayal of rape in Neonomicon be enough to brand him a rape apologist? Fine, the child is Deep One spawn who, the story implies, will bring ruin on the world and exterminate all human vermin, with a neat narrative closure that casts Lovecraft’s trademark chants into an entirely new and more sexually aware context, but is that enough to excuse positive portrayal of rape? All just because it’s Alan Moore? Or do I smell a fishy whiff of double standards? As Grant Morrison remarked elsewhere, “we know Alan Moore isn’t a misogynist but fuck, he’s obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!” Graphics fans and Lovecraft lovers everywhere, you decide.


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