Reading Pile: Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu HC
I don't really know how many more adaptations of the Call of Cthulhu I really need, but at this point for me they're more about the artist highlight than the story itself. So here we are with an incredibly well done reprint that IDW did in 2018 of the kinda 'lost' adaptation work by the amazing Esteban Maroto. There's an intro by José Villarrubia as well as a prologue and a preface from Maroto that detail the long path in reprinting these works. I particularly love that after the initial venture that was going to publish them went bankrupt around the mid '80s, these were then published in the back pages of a children's comics anthology called Capitán Trueno. I mean hey, EC comics was putting out all sort of creepy stuff in the golden age, I just think it's great that 80's kids in Spain got a triple dose of cosmic and existential horror.
But I digress.
So the highlight for me here is the Maroto artwork and it does not disappoint.
The collection features three stories: "The Nameless City", "The Festival", and "The Call of Cthulhu." And the thing is, while I don't think I've actually read either "The Nameless City" or "The Festival", I feel like I have because they're very familiar. Or that could be the fact that after a while all these Lovecraft pieces just blur together, what with the lost cyclopean cities and abandoned towns and creepy inhabitants and whatnot. Either way, Maroto breaths a ton of life into these stories with his beautiful ornate linework, incredibly strong compositions and layouts, flowing figure work, and his ability to infuse a distinct sense of dread.
Seriously, his work is just oozing with tone and atmosphere.
"The Nameless City" gives you that Lovecraft standard 'explorer goes into tombs only to find ancient horrors are still there, whoopsydoodle' story. "The Festival" gives you some of that good gothic horror that focuses on the usual 'dude who visits an old town and, oh no, everyone is weird and worships horrible things, whoopsydoodle' story.
I've read enough Lovecraft and adaptations of his work that while I can appreciate what a lot of it does I also feel like I don't need to necessarily revisit too much of it. But when the art just looks this damn good it makes it so much easier to absorb the stories.
Finally we have "The Call of Cthulhu", and boy howdy is this like the 50th time I've read some iteration of this story? Probably. The big difference here is that Maroto decides to veer away from the usual representation of Cthulhu and I don't really know how to feel about it.
On one hand it's kinda nice to get something different, and it's certainly an engaging insectoid amorphous blob creature. The funny thing is of all the Lovecraft entities, Cthulhu is kinda the one Lovecraft himself specifically took the time to draw, so I don't feel like you have to go down the route of reimagining that old octopus dragon too much.
It feels more like an Azathoth than a Cthulhu, is all I'm saying. I guess I'm being nitpicky, but after seeing all the other horribly beautiful artwork in the book I guess I was hoping to see Maroto's disgustingly ornate version of the traditional Cthulhu. That's on me for forming that hope, and considering this is all a book about despair and cosmic dread I should have known better than to hope.
IDW did a great job with this edition, going for an oversized format and really great paper quality to highlight the artwork. The original retail was $19.99 for 80 pages of fairly dense storytelling and beautiful artwork. I don't think you have to hunt too hard for a copy, and it looks like you should be able to order it directly off of IDW's website if you can't track a copy through your local comic store.