I recently interviewed a whole bunch of people for a piece about SelfMadeHero’s new Lovecraft Anthology. The resulting article for the Judge Dredd Megazine included quotes from writer INJ Culbard, which came from the below interview. I’m grateful to Ian for his permission to publish the interview in full here on the SelfMadeHero blog:
Which story are you adapting? Who’s writing it?
‘The Dunwich Horror’ with Rob Davis on writing duties. I wanted to do this one because, as well as being one of my favorite stories, it meant I could return to Professor Armitage who had a brief cameo in my At the Mountains of Madness adaptation.
Lovecraft’s writing was as often about what he didn’t ‘show’/describe as what he did. How difficult is it to realise the ‘Lovecraftian’ approach in a visual medium like comics?
Thus far, the entities I’ve had to draw have not been devoid of description. The Elder Things in At the Mountains of Madness for example got a detailed description in an autopsy scene. There are others entities that Lovecraft has written about that completely defy description, others that are way beyond human comprehension but that could be in some instances carte blanche for an artist to interpret as they see fit. I find it can also be effective to not show the big picture, which is how Lovecraft often plays his hand – just as you think you’ve seen the big picture there’s more horror to be had in the revelation that that’s not all of it, that was just the creature’s little finger. The actual creature is way bigger and way scarier.
Are you a fan of Lovecraft? Why do you think his work has endured?
Very much a fan of Lovecraft. Started with the roleplaying game ‘Call of Cthulhu’ when I was a boy and then that led me on to reading his stories at the local library and then because Lovecraft shared his vision with other wonderful writers that led on to Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and many others. And this generosity of vision is part of the reason why I think his work has endured. Consequently he has a very impressive and influential fan base. Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola, Gillermo Del Toro, Clive Barker, John Carpenter, Jorge Luis Borges and of course Stephen King to name but a few. Its clearly something in the water. ‘Lovecraftian’ is a horror sub-genre now. Everyday life is just the tip of a very big and very scary iceberg that floats in dark waters. We are small and we are insignificant against the terrors of the cosmos.
SelfMadeHero is a small publisher that seems to be making big noises; it seems to have generated both critical and commercial success. Why do you think this is (and in the midst of a recession too)?
I think there’s generally a shift in attitude towards graphic novels. Graphic novels are gradually being recognized for their literary merit and being referred to on late night review shows simply as “books”. But this, I think, is just the beginning.
Can you see Lovecraft’s influence in any of your other comics work?
I read Lovecraft at a very impressionable age. It undoubtably lurks somewhere, directly or indirectly, in a lot of the stuff I do.
Would you like to adapt more Lovecraft? Any particular stories and why those ones?
Absolutely. I’m adapting another of Lovecraft’s novels for SelfMadeHero; The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. There are also whispers that I’ll be writing a story for Rob Davis to draw for Vol 3 of the Lovecraft Anthology – the old switcheroo as Rob’s not just a brilliant writer but a brilliant artist too. Plus it’s an opportunity for me to exact my revenge on him for putting me through the wringer on ‘Dunwich Horror’.
What general challenges are there when it comes to drawing horror comics? Can comics scare?
Sure. I’ve read comics that have scared me. Many a Swamp Thing used to be quite frightening. But what scares the individual is such a subjective thing. What scares one reader might just as easily make another reader laugh… but I wouldn’t sit too closely to that reader.
Matt Badham is a freelance writer living and working in Manchester. His writing has appeared in the Big Issue in the North, the Judge Dredd Megazine, 2000AD, Tripwire and Comics International. He has also provided online content for both the Forbidden Planet International blogand downthetubes.
Plus he’s sold a few comic scripts, although only two have been published so far (in 2000 AD and Commando Picture Library).
The Lovecraft Anthology – Volume 1 is available to buy from the SelfMadeHero online store and many, many excellent independent comics and bookshops nationwide. INJ Culbard’s solo Lovecraft adaptation, At the Mountains of Madness is available to buy now. It was recently nominated for an Eagle Award for “Best Original GN of 2010”