Comics Creepshow 6: Cthulhu Madness
COMICS CREEPSHOW VOLUME SIX: CTHULHU MADNESS
In his classic story, “Call of the Cthulhu”, (you know, the one that inspired a genre of horror, a Metallica song, one of the bad guys from “Swamp Thing Two” and page after page of pretentious discussion on message boards) H.P. Lovecraft described the titular old god as having an “awful squid-head with writhing feelers” and thus a terrible curse was born. If only Lovecraft could have caught a glimpse of comic book store shelves in the twenty-first century, with hundreds of black covered books, with red eyed octopus men, reaching out to snare maybe one or two readers, he might have left out a few more details about his “almost” indescribable ancient monster. I mean, enough with the red eyed octopi already.
I am sorry for the rant, but after six volumes of Comics Creepshow, I have finally gotten around to one of the negative aspects of modern horror comics: having an octopus man show up in the story and expecting the reader to feel as if they have been connected to some classic form of literature.
I will give you the perfect example. In the fourth and most recent issue of CTHULU TALES, an anthology series put out by BOOM! Studios, we start out with a full page picture of a man with an octopus head, dressed up in a brown suit, jotting down notes on a pad, saying to his patient, “Tell me about your mother.” The patient is Professor Binder, who in a vain effort to come up with a new mathematical theorem, started to analyze the symbols found in the back of the Necronomicon. This, of course, is similar to the narrative structure of a Lovecraft story, where the narrator’s quest for more knowledge or understanding can lead him or her down a dark path. In a short story, this dark path can lead to a terrifying assault on the reader’s imagination. In a comic book, the dark path can lead to the Fulton Fish Market.
In a set up very similar to the classic Roddy Roddy Piper blockbuster “They Live”, and many other Cthulhu comic short stories, whenever Binder looks at another person, he sees a monster instead. Binder starts to suspect that what he is seeing is a side effect of working with such advanced mathematical theory, yet he continues to work on his equations. He falls further and further into madness, seeing what looks like the villain from the second “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie all around him.
Imagine if every single vampire story you either read or saw ended with the punch line “Vampires are real” ,and the main character was surrounded by a bunch of pale, fanged people. How many werewolf stories would you read or watch, if every single one of them ended with someone growing fur, when the moon was full? That is what the majority of Cthulu stories in comics are. The story with Binder In CTHULU TALES, called The Pi Of The Beholder, has a nice twist thrown in by veteran comics scribe, Mark Waid. The Tweest is so good, it makes up for the “been there, done that” feel of the first half of the story. This is what comic stories with Cthulhu need in the long run - a twist that isn’t “guess what, man sized calamari are all around us waiting to take over”.
Or how about this: Have that be the be beginning of the story, and then spend the rest of the comic showing what their actual attack on humanity would be like. For a dark god that was old long before man was born, it is time for the story of the Chthulu to evolve.