• H.P. Lovecraft's "Call of Cthulhu" as Graphic Novel

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    I often like to browse at Dark Delicacies, a horror-themed bookstore in Burbank, to find interesting and unusual books that just don't show up at other stores. Sue and Del Howison just moved their store to a larger location and have done a wonderful job of displaying their collection of small press horror and related items.

    A graphic novel adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's most famous story "Call of Cthulhu" caught my eye one Sunday. Actually, several books caught my eye but I could only afford one book and the artwork in this graphic novel looked intriguing.

    After getting it home, I got settled in my reading spot and started in. And, man, am I glad I bought this book. Swiss artist Michael Zigerlig's artwork and layout is superb. Plus, he does an excellent job of trimming away at some of Lovecraft's over-written prose to lay out the bones of this weird tale.

    I think one of the best aspects of Lovecraft's writing is his sense of mood. Weird and uncanny are accurate descriptions of the scenes in most of Lovecraft's works and none more so than in Call of Cthulhu. In Zigerlig's hallucinatory, spidery drawings (all in high-contrast black and white) the sense of dread and loss of reason so present in the story are beautifully captured. Scenes like the police discover of the Cthulhu cult in a swampy forest outside of New Orleans are truly weird in Zigerlig's drawings. And I particularly like the rhythm he establishes by using large and smaller boxes of drawings. Sometimes the box vanishes entirely and the entire page is used to great effect. This adds to the feeling that structure/reason is breaking down very much like it does in the story.

    These illustrations are certainly the work of someone who knows Lovecraft and his works through and through. The attention to detail, especially in period clothing and furniture detail is marvelous. And, of course, his use of contrast and shadow is masterful. In Zigerlig's artwork the play of light and dark itself could tell the story.

    I just loved this adaptation. It counts as one of my favorite versions of the story, right next to the excellent amateur film adaptation of "Call of Cthulhu" done in an Art Deco style and released on DVD a few years ago. Definitely pop it onto your Netflicks cue.

    If had any criticisms of Zigerlig's "Call of Cthulhu" it would be that he uses dialog boxes perhaps too much. In an effort to retain some of Lovecraft's writing, he can crowd a scene with dialog or description that would work better if he completely relied on the visual. Still, it's a tough job working your way through Lovecraft's prose and Zigerlig has done a very good job overall.

    I highly recommend this graphic novel. As it is we are in a renaissance of graphic novel art both by major and minor publishers. I commend Transfuzion Publishing and in particular, Gary Reed, for putting this book together so well and for selling it cheap ($9.99).

    PS there's an intro by H.R. Giger, but it's middling and inconsequential. It will sell copies, but he probably spent 5 mintues writing it. Skip it and go right to the story.