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Robot 666 | A Weird and Scratching Beauty: The Art of John Coulthart and Call of Cthulhu

Lovecraft is a hard act to follow, and an even harder one to adapt. “Oh you mean HP Lovecraft, the guy who came up with Cthulhu and all those cute little plush toys.” Yeah, the guy who launched a thousand little cottage industries pumping out VOTE FOR CTHULHU: THE STARS ARE RIGHT bumper stickers and Mythos Hunting Guides and all that stuff. Yeah, him. I do wonder if he’d be tickled or appalled at his legacy and all the eldritch dust-catchers and t-shirts and radio plays.

Well, he’d probably like the radio plays. He’d probably have even approved of the silent film adaptation of THE CALL OF CTHULHU, arguably his single most famous piece of fiction, certainly the one that’s lodged most deeply in the collective consciousness, for good or for ill. The film adaptation ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0478988/ for the IMDB page, and it’s streaming on Netflix) gets a solid recommendation from me, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m pretty hard to please as this stuff goes. Not because I think Lovecraft’s every word is sacred and perfect. I don’t. My relationship with HPL’s work is problematic, mostly in terms of the execution. I like characters. I like it when characters drive the plot. HPL couldn’t be bothered with that by and large, except when it was an incessant curiosity on the part of the players that made the eldritch secrets of the plot unfurl to their almost unerringly messy conclusions.

So I find HPL’s conceptual work rightly celebrated even if I find his prose nigh-unimpenetrable at times. Which is why I’m often attracted to adaptations of his work, where creators have a desire to stick to the template that HPL laid out, and often there’s some sense of respect for the source material, but it’s filtered through a different sense of aesthetics. HPL-inspired stuff that stars HPL himself? Not so much. Though there was that beautifully-illustrated LOVECRAFT OGN with art by Enrique Breccia that was so wonderful that I simply didn’t care about the story. Though I suppose there’s an interesting vein to mine when talking about Lovecraft as fictional construct rather than historical figure, but that’s for someone else to do.

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