I.N.J. Culbard adapts and illustrates four of H.P. Lovecraft’s longer and better-known works: “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” and “The Shadow Out of Time.” The artwork is extraordinary, especially Culbard’s renderings of various creatures whose descriptions Lovecraft left intentionally vague, and fulfills the purpose of cutting through Lovecraft’s sometimes dense and baroque prose to make the stories flow more smoothly. He does an excellent job adapting the stories, sometimes making slight alterations to their structure that work to increase their narrative power.
Revisiting these stories, I found myself struck by a few things. I had never really realized before, for instance, that “Dream-Quest” is kind of a “Lovecraft’s greatest hits” compilation, featuring not just recurring characters like Randolph Carter and Richard Pickman, but also making use of places and creatures that had only appeared in his poems and fragments before, all brought together into a single narrative. One could say “Dream Quest” is to Lovecraft’s work like the Dark Tower series is to Stephen King’s. I also noticed for the first time how similar the climaxes are in both “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow Out of Time.” In “Mountains,” the deadly shoggoths that destroyed the Elder Things and their ancient city in Antarctica are discovered to still be alive and a threat to the protagonists. In “Shadow,” the deadly flying polyps that destroyed the Great Race of Yith and their ancient city in Perth, Australia are discovered to still be alive and a threat to the protagonists. The stories were written only three or four years apart, and I prefer to think of these similarities as the solidification of a theme that interested Lovecraft rather than lazy plotting. My final observation is that as much as I love Roger Corman’s 1963 film THE HAUNTED PALACE, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” is very cinematic and deserves a more faithful film adaptation.
This collection of Culbard’s previously and separately published Lovecraft adaptations is a must for fans of graphic novels and H.P. Lovecraft alike. (I now find myself interested in reading Culbert’s adaptation of Chambers’ THE KING IN YELLOW as well.) One caveat, though: the hardcover is extremely heavy and quite thick, making it difficult to carry with you. You may find it easier to read at home in your favorite chair than to take it with you on a train or an airplane. But then, that’s probably the best way to read Lovecraft’s chilling tales anyway.