Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Year's Best Begins - Best Comeback goes to H. P. Lovecraft

As 2016 hurls to a close, I am starting my year's Best-Of-List. This will be piecemeal. This list will be sporadic, in both postings and lengths of posts. But, dammit, this list will be worthwhile and full of hypnotizing rabbit holes that one can explore. And I'm starting with H.P. Lovecraft.

Best Comeback for a Writer of Questionable World View:
H. P. Lovecraft

Cover of issue five. Art by Jacen Burrows.
The amount of proliferating tributes to Howard Phillips Lovecraft is seemingly infinite, from Lovecraft E-zine podcasts, comic books including Alan Moore’s reexamination, Providence, and Herald, not to mention the Cthulhu-themed (I kid you not) issue of Afterlife with Archie, the animated children's film, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, to mythos references on Scooby Doo’s Mystery Incorporated, including a monster who was clearly Cthulhu, to debate over the author's xenophobia and racism to plentiful other pop culture references, H.P. Lovecraft was back, and everywhere than ever.

The last contribution in for 2016 appears to be Victor LaValle’s praised novella The Ballad of Black Tom from Tor. It's a response to Lovecraft's most overtly racist story "The Horror at Red Hook" and features a black protagonist hustling in Harlem in 1924. Ballad is at the top of my reading list for 2017.

Granted, the resurgence of interest in Lovecraft has been building for well near a decade now, and has had high and lows. This year, though, interest is clearly higher than ever. The first rumblings were heard in comic-book retail around 1999. At least, I first started noticing plush Cthulhu dolls appearing on retailers' shelves then.

Director Shawn R. Owens' 2003 documentary, The Eldritch Influence: The Life, Vision, and Phenomenon of H.P. Lovecraft, while featuring amateurish camera work and bridging segments with actors portraying Lovecraft's characters in awkward-at-best portrayals, did cement this renewal of interest. The film also included articulate bits from Brian Lumley and Neil Gaiman, among others. But the piece felt part biography, part fanboy highights, and part loose ride through the author's works with no real linear or logical course.

Frank H. Woodward's 2008 doc, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, while clearly borrowing the motif of portentous quotations from the author and discomfitig music, was superior. Fear offered insights in a slicker, prettier package, a clearer, lucid arc covering Lovecraft's life and influences, with glorious and frequent artwork, a more coherent focus, and an examination of Lovecraft's less-than-admirable qualities that is now all the rage. Illuminating interview subjects included the likes of the descendent master of weird fiction, Caitlin R. Kiernan,  as well as Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell (again), and directors John Carpenter and Guillermo del Toro, Neil Gaiman (again) and director Stuart Goron (again).

I hit Alan Moore’s Providence pretty hard. Each issue features two-thirds comic book and one-third prose. In a lesser writer's hands, the prose wouldn't soar. But with Mr. Moore, he demonstrates the subtle differences between graphic novels and the written word, fortifying the journal entries of a Commonplace Book with the protagonist's observations and emotional state that may not have been readily apparent in the comic-book panels. Between Jacen Burrows' intricately (and beautifully) detailed artwork and Moore’s thoroughly and lovingly performed research and the infusion of a queer hero into the mythos, I was wooed. I'm on the home stretch of Avatar Press' 12-issue series - issue 10 - and still quite in love with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment