“In this hauntingly illustrated adaptation of two of H. P. Lovecraft’s most famous stories from the Cthulhu Mythos, illustrator Dave Shephard captivates readers with stories of supernatural monsters so powerful that humanity is deemed irrelevant. The Call of Cthulhu and Dagon introduce the Great Old Ones, powerful deities who reside outside the normal dimensions of space-time, with physical forms that are impossible for the human mind to fathom. This handsome thread-bound edition presents these stories in rich and colorful detail, making it an accessible and entertaining gateway to Lovecraft’s world. Makes a perfect gift for fans of Lovecraft, his work, and the HBO series Lovecraft Country.”
[Text from the publisher’s website; see also the backcover]
>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<
This graphic novel offers the adaptation of two stories by H. P. Lovecraft. The first one is “Dagon”. Written in July 1917, it is one of his first stories and it is also the first time that he mentions the Cthulhu Mythos. It was first published in issue #11 of The Vagrant in November 1919 and again in Weird Tales vol. 2 #3 in October 1923. It is a short story (about two thousands and two hundreds words) and the graphic adaptation (by Pete Katz) is also quite short (sixteen pages). A man is writing down the incredible experience he endured at sea: captured by pirates he escapes on a small boat and, after drifting for days, he wakes up to find himself stranded on land, no sea in sight. It was full of decaying dead fishes like if it was the bottom of the ocean. He waits a couple of days for the mud to dry and then decide to walk toward an elevation in the horizon. He climbs it and finds a cyclopean monolith covered with drawings and hieroglyphs that evokes a marine world. It seems to be the focus of the cult of some aquatic deity. Then, from a pool of dark water at the bottom of the monolith, rise a giant sea monster that bows to the monolith! The man goes mad and run. Somehow, he finds his way back to his boat and to the sea. He wakes up in a San Francisco hospital. He tries to make sense of what he has seen, learn about the legend of Dagon, the sea-god. Now he is afraid and fear the monsters will come for him. He put down on paper the account of his ordeal and jump out a window…
The second story is “The Call of Cthulhu”. It was written in the summer of 1926 and first published in the February 1928 issue of Weird Tales (vol. 11, #2). It is a more sizeable story (nearly twelve thousands words) that comprise much of the graphic novel (one hundred and twenty pages). It is the most significant story related to the cult of Cthulhu. This adaptation takes many short cuts but, like the original, still recounts three different stories linked by one main narrative. Prof. Angell, a specialist of Semitic language, helps a young sculptor who has strange dreams during which he produces weird artwork with inscriptions in an unknown language. This leads him to investigate the cult of Cthulhu but he dies in a mysterious incident a year later (this story was told as “The Horror in Clay” in the original novella). His nephew, Mr. Thurston, inherits of his belongings, including a mysterious statuette representing an octopus-like creature with wings and many papers mentioning Cthulhu and R’lyeh, as well as various strange events all occurring in March 1925, and a letter from an inspector Legrasse from New Orleans (this is the main narrative). He meet with Mr. Legrasse (in the original chapter “The Tale of Inspector Legrasse”) who recounts a raid the police made in the swampland south of New Orleans that busted a voodoo-like cult. His investigation revealed that its was more than that: similar cults were found among the eskimos and the sailor Castro tells him about Cthulhu, the great priest of the Great Old Ones who came from the stars and are now sleeping under the sea in the ancient city of R’lyeh waiting to be awaken. Then Thurston finds by chance in the newspaper the story of the sole survivor of a yacht found in possession of a strange idol (that’s the original chapter “The Madness from the Sea”). He travels first to New Zealand and then to Oslo to locate this sailor. Unfortunately, the man died in a mysterious incident but he left behind a journal recounting his ordeal. In March 1925, after being attacked by pirates, they arrive at an uncharted island that looks like it just came up from the bottom of the sea. There they find strange ruins, from which a sea monster come out and attack them. They use the ship’s cannon to neutralise it and escape. Thurston concludes that Cthulhu had awaken but was put back to sleep. He fears the day it might awaken again but also fears that he might now be a targeted man. Indeed, not long after, he narrowly escapes death… this time.
This adaptation is quite disappointing and the art rather basic. It’s not really worth reading. The stories of Lovecraft have received many adaptations, some better than others. I recommend you avoid average works like this one and read instead the adaptations from artists like Culbard or Gou Tanabe (which I have already commented in the past). Those are much more interesting — particularly the mangas by Tanabe which are real masterpieces.
H.P. Lovecraft’s The call of Cthulhu and Dagon : a graphic novel, by Dave Shephard. San Diego: Canterbury Classics, March 2021. 144 pages, 7.5 x 10 in., $US 19.99 / $C 26.99, ISBN 978-1-64517-707-4. For teenage readership (12+).
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