Best Comics In October Part 1: Nao of Brown, Lovecraft, and Mars Attacks
It was less than seven months ago that Dan Lockwood put together the definitive collection of Lovecraft stories adapted to comic form. It was an amazing anthology that I fell head over heels in love with. My one complaint was that it had basically focused on the most mainstream, if we can call them that, Lovecraft stories. I mean, if you've read any Lovecraft you've read Call of Cthulhu. Well, that complaint no longer holds water as various writers bring some of the best weird literature B-Sides to life.
First on the list is From Beyond, lovingly rendered with absolutely insane artwork by Nicols Fructus and written/adapted by David Camus, grandson of the legendary Albert Camus. It's not really one of Lovecraft's best works, just another vague reference to Tesla-esque figures opening the doors to hell dimensions with impossible technologies, but Camus and Fructus turn it into a well-paced and utterly horrifying story. Imagine for one moment that we were in fact surrounded by an invisible world of demons and parasites, as if we could literally see all the viruses and bacteria in the world. The only thing saving us is that they can't see us either. That's the world that From Beyond forces you to face, and once seen it cannot be unseen.
Another lesser-known gem is The Temple, here adapted by Chris Lackey with art by Adrian Salmon. It's one of Lovecraft's few works of satire, in which overly-stereotypical, ruthless German submariners discover an undersea temple that drives them mad. The sniggering tone mocking the German military is lost, replaced with a more claustrophobic sense of madness that gives the story new light.
My own personal favorite Lovecraft story, The Picture in the House, makes an appearance... to my disappointment unfortunately. Benjamin Dickson fails to really bring out the encroaching horror of our narrator as he realizes that the old man he's taken shelter with against a storm has become a cannibal, and Mick McMahon's art is far too tame when rendering the illustration of the human meat market in Pigafetta's 1958 account of the Congo region. For a story that continues to scare the crap out of me, the comic version is almost G-rated it's so watered-down.
Also, the ending is stupid, but that's Lovecraft's fault, not Dickson's.
Picture in the House aside, it's still an unbelievable set of some of the minor Lovecraft stories. They're brief meshings of weird words and art, and Lockwood continues to do the best job possible in helping to bring a tragically unread hero of horror to more mainstream audiences.
In 1962 Topps released a trading card set called Mars Attacks that has continued to influence and interest people 50 years later. Now you can read about the whole history of the set, as well as see every single card and read the episodic story of the Martian invasion in this fantastic collection.
If you're like me, you're only real experience with Mars Attacks was the rather dismal Tim Burton film. What Burton lost was the true pulp fiction brilliance of the original series. Buxom, half-naked women cringe in terror from giant insects and the slightly ridiculous but still sinister Martians. The card backs manage to tell so much with so few words. My favorite is a young girl orphaned in the attack that happily offers a Martian her ice cream. What happens next isn't told or shown, but the imagination runs wild.
The book contains 55 cards of the original run, as well as the pretty spot on and in some ways even gorier 1994 revival. It's a true gem of American pop culture history that should be a centerpiece on any true geek's coffee table.