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Visions of monstrosity: Lovecraft, adaptation and the comics arts

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In the last five years, the number of graphic adaptations of Lovecraft’s fiction has grown at a rapidly increasing rate. The comics publisher Self Made Hero has been especially busy, producing six volumes since 2010: At the Mountains of Madness (2010), The Lovecraft Anthology I (2011), The Lovecraft Anthology: Volume II (2012), The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (2012), The Shadow Out of Time (2013), and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2014). Though most of these volumes cover individual tales, The Lovecraft Anthology takes on a more ambitious range of tales, including, among others, “The Call of Cthulhu,” “Dagon,” “The Colour out of Space,” “Pickman’s Model,” “He,” and “The Hound.” Although these volumes help increase Lovecraft’s ever-growing popularity, they also provide an opportunity to bring critical attention to the ways comics can shed light on our understanding of adaptation, of Lovecraft’s fiction, and, perhaps, even of the weird itself.
In this paper, I will draw on selections from The Lovecraft Anthology to suggest that comics is intrinsically suited to conveying Lovecraft’s distinctive and influential visions. I will begin, however, with a brief discussion of Lovecraft’s personal interest in the visual arts and the ways he drew on them to enhance his descriptions of weird places and weird events. Next, I will discuss how adaptation theory can help scholars understand the inevitable practical and stylistic challenges, particularly in film, that occur when transforming Lovecraft’s ornate fictional work into other media. Following that, I will turn to examples from The Lovecraft Anthology to suggest that comics may not only be better suited to adaptation but that they can also underscore the broader connections between word and image so important to Lovecraft. Indeed, certain properties of comics, such as aforementioned interplay of words and images, not to mention the potential for readers to become completely immersed in the text, endow this medium with the power to engage readers in complex ways, perhaps even challenging conventional notions of reading itself. Given Lovecraft’s own personal interest in the visual arts, not to mention his fascination with illustrated tales, graphic adaptations seem an appropriate way to help contemporary readers focus attention on the dynamic relationship between word and image and can even help them develop a better understanding of the weird.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-488
JournalJournal of the Fantastic in the Arts
Volume26
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

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