“Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft”
If my news about the new Reanimator anthology thrilled you — and, quite frankly, why wouldn’t it? — then you’re going to break into your happy dance when you find out more about Caliber Comics releasing all nine issues of Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft in new individual graphic novels! And to help get your toes tapping, I’m posting this sneak peek of a brief interview with me that will be appearing soon in Caliber’s promotional e-magazine Caliber Rounds:
Cal: You’ve had a long association with the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
Steve: Around twenty-five years.
Cal: Beginning with Re-Animator?
Steve: Yes. Christopher Jones and I adapted the 1985 cult film for Malibu Graphics, and I edited the original pulp stories into an anthology for Malibu, which I believe is the first mass-market paperback of the series.
Cal: But then you adapted other Lovecraft stories for Malibu and then Caliber.
Steve: Lovecraft and I might have parted ways after the West anthology if Malibu hadn’t suggested I adapt some of his other stories, but that was around 1991, and the question of who held the copyright on Lovecraft’s work was problematic. Fortunately, Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi was able to provide us with a list of stories that were irrefutably in the public domain, and Octavio Cariello and I adapted “The Lurking Fear,” “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” “The Tomb,” and “The Alchemist.” The series sold pretty well, but Malibu didn’t want to continue it, so I asked Gary Reed at Caliber if he’d be interested in publishing more Lovecraft adaptations.
Cal: Whose idea was it to have a different artist work on each of your adaptations for Caliber?
Steve: That was Gary’s suggestion. We knew Octavio had other commitments and wouldn’t be able to follow the series to Caliber. By replacing him with more than one artist, we could emphasize that this really is an anthology, plus I could match an artist’s strengths with the particular story we were adapting. I should mention that one more difference between the adaptations I wrote for Malibu and Caliber is all but one of the Caliber adaptations features a linking character, the Crawling Chaos himself, Nyarlathotep.
Cal: Why did you do that?
Steve: In spite of all the advantages using different artists offered, I felt the Caliber adaptations needed something to give them a sense of unity. Plus, I didn’t intentionally avoid injecting the Lovecraft Mythos into the Malibu adaptations, it just happened based on the four stories we adapted.
Cal: You certainly found an impressive list of artists to follow Octavio.
Steve: Oh, yeah, we got lucky there.
Cal: How did you find them?
Steve: Again, luck. Or serendipity. Octavio lives in Brazil, but he told me his brother, Sergio, was in America studying at The Joe Kubert School. I met Aldin Baroza while I was sitting at the Caliber table at ChicagoCon one year. I already knew Rob Davis from the MoKan Comic Festival in Overland Park, where we were both often guests, and I had wanted to work with him for a long time. Christopher Jones and I had already worked on Re-Animator, but we’ve been friends most of our lives and try to work together whenever possible. And Gary was kind enough to ask Wayne Reid. I have to agree, all of them are impressive artists.
Cal: You said you matched an artist’s strength with the story you were adapting. Can you give an example?
Steve: Well, take “Music of Erich Zann.” This was one of Lovecraft’s personal favorites. I think he ranked it second after “The Colour out of Space.” It was even featured in Dashiell Hammett’s 1931 anthology Creeps by Night. Now, I always want to write a good script, but, because of all this, I wanted to do “Erich Zann” proud, and when I saw Aldin’s samples at ChicagoCon, I knew I’d found the artist for this adaptation. Aldin’s the total package as a comics artist and letterer, plus he is comfortable working in virtually any genre, so I might have gotten a little carried away because I wrote probably my most difficult script for “Erich Zann.” Besides the tricky layouts and eccentric characterizations, the setting switches from America to France to the Holocaust to a glimpse of a Lovecraftian other-dimension, and the mood changes from light humor to mystery to grand pathos to cosmological horror, but Aldin gave me everything I asked for and more. That said, I couldn’t have found a better artist for “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” than Wayne Reid. I’ve never met him, but I’ve been familiar with his work for years. Wayne’s style is more traditional and appears to be simpler than someone like Aldin, but it is so lush, and his storytelling is so sound, and, of course, he excels in historical genres, everything I was looking for in an artist for “Arthur Jermyn.” More than that, though, when I decided to adapt “Arthur Jermyn” I was worried it might come off as a Masterpiece Theatre retread of “Lurking Fear.” The stories have similarities, but they are also very different, and I knew Wayne would give this multi-generational tragedy its own unique look while bringing its eerie British settings to life. You really do feel like you’re there!
Cal: Would you say adapting Lovecraft is harder than other writers because of the way he wrote his stories?
Steve: I’ve read where some people who have adapted Lovecraft’s stories into comics or other media like movies will say that, but I don’t find Lovecraft to be any more difficult to adapt than Bram Stoker or any other writer. One difficulty is that Lovecraft isn’t big on dialogue, and comics is a medium whose readers tend to prefer balloons over captions, but all you have to do is write your own dialogue. That’s a simple fix. Another difficulty is that Lovecraft often implies his horrors rather than describes them, which can be very effective in a short story, but you can do that in comics, too. Just look at Christopher Jones’s work on “Statement of Randolph Carter.” Maybe the biggest difficulty is that Lovecraft hunts for big game. He wants his readers to feel how small and insignificant we are in comparison to a cosmos that is often indifferent and sometimes hostile to humanity. I don’t mind hunting for big game, either, and if we missed the mark in these adaptations, it wasn’t from want of trying.
Cal: Any plans to do more adaptations?
Steve: I’d love to! I finished a graphic novel script for “The Call of Cthulhu,” and I adapted “The Doom That Came to Sarnath” several years ago. All I need are artists to draw them. I would also love to adapt The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, “The Colour Out of Space,” and “The Thing on the Doorstep.”