H. P. Lovecraft’s “Reanimator” Reanimated!

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Terry Pavlet’s awesome cover to Caliber Comics’ new edition of “Reanimator”!

Along with the Sherlock Holmes projects mentioned in my last post, Caliber Comics is publishing a new edition of the Re-Animator anthology I edited in 1991. To help spread the news, I’m sharing a brief interview about this new edition that will be appearing soon in Caliber’s promotional e-magazine Caliber Rounds:

Cal: This new Re-Animator anthology reunites you with H. P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West series after nearly twenty-five years. Why did you think it was time for a new edition?

Steve: The suggestion actually came from Matthew T. Carpenter in a review he posted on Amazon for the second volume of Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft. It just sounded like a good idea to me, but I also can’t deny that I wanted another crack at the anthology to make it better this time.

Cal: Is it correct that the original anthology, which was published by Malibu Graphics, is the first mass market paperback dedicated to the West stories?

Steve: As far as I know it is. You can find the Herbert West series in lots of places today, but that wasn’t so in 1990. That’s one reason why I pitched the anthology to Malibu after Christopher Jones and I finished adapting the film Re-Animator for them, and it turned into my first publication to be available in major chain stores like Barnes & Noble.

Cal: You wore a lot of hats on that anthology. You edited it, designed the interior layout, and wrote the introduction.

Steve: I did have some editorial help from Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, although I don’t know if he’ll want me to admit this, considering how the anthology turned out. After I edited the six stories in the Herbert West series, Joshi was kind enough to read through them and give me some comments and advice.

 Cal: So what do you think is wrong with the original anthology?

Steve: Me. That’s what was wrong. It’s one of my earliest book designs and it shows. For example, the page layouts are too crowded. I can forgive that under the circumstances, but the introduction reads like a term paper, plus I didn’t know much about Lovecraft at the time, so it isn’t a very informative piece for anyone even mildly familiar with the West series or its author. I do have to say that the interior artwork by Mikael Oskarsson is outstanding, but Malibu gets the credit for hiring him.

Cal: So this new edition features a new introduction and layout?

Steve: Oh, yes. New and better. I promise!

Cal: What else does it have?

Steve: Thanks to Gary Reed, there are new interior illustrations plus a new cover, all by Terry Pavlet. I’ve been wanting to adapt the Herbert West series into a radio mini-series for a while, so I’m including my script for the first story, “From the Dark.” There is also an original Herbert West story that I wrote for this anthology, and, thanks to Joshi and the folks at the Lovecraft Estate, we are including Lovecraft’s landmark thesis Supernatural Horror in Literature.

Cal: How did you enjoy creating your own Herbert West story after editing Lovecraft’s stories and adapting the film Re-Animator?

dr frank image

Victor Frankenstein, played by the incredible Peter Cushing, gets a new lease on life in London as Dr. Franck, thanks to his loyal assistant Dr. Hans Kleve, played by Cary-Grant-clone Francis Matthews, in Hammer Studio’s 1958 film “The Revenge of Frankenstein.” This intriguing plot, never developed further in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, inspired my original Herbert West story, “The Empty House on Harley Street.”

 

Steve: It was different, but it was fun. I tried to stick to the same two thousand word count Lovecraft was limited to when he wrote his stories for Home Brew, but I went over a little bit. I also tried to emulate the over-the-top pulp flavor in the original stories, but I didn’t try to emulate Lovecraft’s florid style. Since my story features a totally different narrator, I didn’t see the point. My story was also influenced by Hammer Studio’s 1958 film The Revenge of Frankenstein, which I argue is the best installment in their Frankenstein series. I thought it would be neat to give West an assistant more in tune with his thinking, like Frankenstein gets with Hans Kleve. I also wanted to put my own spin on the movie’s ending, where Kleve transplants Frankenstein’s brain into a new body and then follows the doctor to London, where Frankenstein sets up a new practice as Dr. Franck. Hammer never developed this storyline further in any of its later Frankenstein films, which always disappointed me, so I relieved some of my frustration with this Herbert West story.

An Excerpt from the NEW Herbert West Story:

“The Empty House on Harley Street”

All of London is enthralled with Dr. Herbert.

Every day patients line up to be cured of their ails and specialists in all branches of medicine consult with him. Prominent spiritualists confer with him as well while the grieving come to ask about lost loved ones. A few folks have even claimed that Herbert resuscitated someone recently dead once or twice.

“Reanimating the dead? Preposterous!”

Haunted House imageIt sounds ludicrous, of course, but rumors can be good for business so long as they do not take on a life of their own, and as Herbert’s associate and spokesman I am always vigilant not to discourage the validity while pruning the voracity of such gossip.

Dr. Herbert may become a greater phenomenon than Franz Mesmer. Many have indisputably benefited from seeing him, but I make sure no one knows anything about him. It is critical – essential — that Herbert remain a blank canvas so people can make what they want of him. He never talks about himself or his past. His credentials are his knowledge and successes. Herbert has detractors and doubters, as great doctors and great conjure-men must, but so far no admonition or accusation can be heard over his accolades.

This grand old city has never seen anything like Dr. Herbert and odds are it never will again. I hope so, anyway, for reasons that may be good or awful.

 

 

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