10th Jan2019

Book Review: ‘Lovecraft’ by I.N.J. Culbard

by Phil Wheat

Written by I.N.J. Culbard  | Art by I.N.J. Culbard | Based on the stories by H.P. Lovecraft | Published by SelfMadeHero

lovecraft-culbard-cover

Graphic novel-come-book Lovecraft gathers together four of I.N.J. Culbard’s adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s tales of horror – The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow out of Time -  into one hefty 520 page tome, published by SelfMadeHero. And whilst all four of these stories have been made available in separate volumes, Lovecraft collects Culbard’s quartet of terror into one lavish hardcover for the first time.

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath features the search for a fabled city of the gods; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward sees authorities baffled by the escape of a dangerous inmate from a Rhode Island asylum; At the Mountains of Madness, undoubtedly Lovercraft’s most famous tale, takes us to the frozen wasteland of Antarctica where polar explorers unearth secrets that reveal a past almost beyond comprehension—and a future too terrible to imagine; and finally The Shadow out of Time which sees a university professor, who awakens from a five-year reverie, attempt to regain his lost memory.

I.N.J. Culbard has expertly adapted four works by the 20thCentury’s master of the macabre, whose influence has been felt across pop culture – be it books, movies, music or comics. Lovecraft’s tautly told tales have been translated in beautifully drawn narratives by Culbard, who captures the murky, demonic, and distinctly Lovecraftian world of the original stories to perfection. It’s surprising just how eeriely accurate Culbard’s translastions of Lovecraft spooky scriblings is – he manages to take the written word and turn it into imagery which both, I’m sure, captures what Lovecraft was thinking as well as capture the wild imagery Lovecraft’s words conjure up in the minds of readers!

Of course as an adpatation of H.P. Lovecraft, this graphic novel is not your typical “graphic novel” – this heft tome is more like a coffee table art book that also happens to tell stories. The artwork is stunning, from pared down panels to out-there imagery, Culbard has seemingly had a field day translating this into more visual storytelling… and – dare I say it – its the imagery which makes these often heavy-going Lovercraft tales easier to digest. It also helps that these stories are not EXACT adaptations, instead Culbard keeps to the spirit of the story in question, whilst taking some liberties with the prose to fit a visual medium. And what visuals!

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Culbard’s artwork reminds me of the art in Herge’s classic Tintin stories and the work of Mike Mignola – especially his Hellboy art. In fact Culbard’s art makes very similar use of light and shadow and Mignola’s, with pages of Lovecraft filled with heavy blacks suggesting something lurking in the shadows or hiding the truth from each stories protagonist. It’s interesting to note the what you DON’T see in the pages of Culbard’s art is just as powerful as what you do see – he makes just as good a use of the readers imagination as Lovecraft ever did.

A superb adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s legendary work, Lovecraft is at once a brilliant example of the work of I.N.J. Culbard AND a brilliant introduction to the world of H.P. Lovecraft, sans the more heavy-going nature of his prose. Making this something of an essential purchase.

Lovecraft is out now in hardback from SelfMadeHero, priced £24.99 (RRP)

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