Archive for the 'H.P. Lovecraft' Category



The Lovecraft Files: Upcoming Interviews with Byron Craft and Tom Sullivan

Sullivan Cthulhu 1977

A few months ago I wrote about The Cry of Cthulhu, a movie based on H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos that, very unfortunately, never got made. The film’s screenplay was uniquely weird and true to the source, unlike every other movie based on Lovecraft’s work up to that point, and a number of future special effects icons were involved in the project. The blurb above is from Starlog #15 (August, 1978) and features concept art by Tom Sullivan, who went on to do ground-breaking special effects for The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead 2, among other notable accomplishments.

I’m excited to announce that I had the chance to interview both Byron Craft, who wrote The Cry of Cthulhu screenplay (and its recent novelization, The Alchemist’s Notebook), and Tom Sullivan about the almost famous film and their past and current projects. Byron’s interview will run this Thursday, October 23, and my interview with Tom will run on the following Thursday, October 30. Be there!

Spectral Cthulhu T-Shirt Crafted from Wall of Lovecraft’s Famous Text

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Zoom out and behold Cthulhu, perched on the dark seas of infinity, an icon of cosmic terror. Zoom in and read the iconic short story. Not too shabby.

The shirt is new from Litographs, a company that specializes in the art-out-of-text technique and offers some indelible designs, most of them subtle and poetic enough to impress the most discerning literature worshiper. The epiphanic A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man print, for instance, won’t make any sense unless you’ve read the book. (A quibble: James Joyce—the beloved artist-hero and champion of Ireland—is listed under British Lit!) And Poems by T.S. Eliot won’t give you a little chill unless you recall the immortal words of J. Alfred Prufrock—“I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

If t-shirts aren’t your thing, all of the designs are available as posters and tote bags as well, and here’s something else that caught my attention: Litographs is

committed to promoting literacy all over the world — to make a direct impact, we proudly partner with the International Book Bank to send one new, high-quality book to a community in need for each product we sell.

That’s not too shabby, either.

From now until next Tuesday, July 22, you can get $5 off the Call of Cthulhu t-shirt—and anything else you want to pick up—by using the code 2WARPS2NEPTUNE in the discounts field.

Artist and animator Benjy Brooke designed the Cthulhu print. Check out more of his work here.

Gervasio Gallardo’s H.P. Lovecraft Cover Art (Ballantine, 1970 – 1973)

Gallardo Kadath 1970

Gallardo Sarnath 1971

Gallardo Fungi 1971

Gallardo Spawn 1971

Gallardo Survivor 1971

Gallardo Mythos 1972

Gallardo Imaginary 1973

Spanish-born illustrator Gervasio Gallardo did a number of striking covers for the highly influential Ballantine Adult Fantasy series (1969 – 1974), edited by writer and fantasy literature historian Lin Carter. All of the Lovecraft volumes are featured above—I threw in Imaginary Worlds, the last volume of Carter’s non-fiction “look behind” trilogy exploring the origins of the fantasy genre. Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos is the second volume, and Tolkien: A Look Behind ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is the first.

Bob Pepper was another notable illustrator for the same series.

The Lovecraft Movie That Never Was: The Cry of Cthulhu

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The article is from Starlog #24 (July, 1979). The “lost” Lovecraft movie reportedly secured a $7 million budget, received the blessings of Arkham House (Lovecraft’s longtime publisher and champion), and was slated to “showcase several new techniques applied to stop-motion animation.” What makes it so much more interesting is the special effects talent lined up for the project.

Ernie Farino, hired as special effects supervisor and animator, got his start on Galaxy of Terror the following year, where he met James Cameron, who hired him as special effects coordinator on The Terminator. Farino also worked as an animator on Saturday the 14th, The Thing, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and Dreamscape.

Lyle Conway, character designer and model builder, went on to do creature design and effects for The Dark Crystal, The Blob (1988), and Deep Rising.

Craig Reardon, special make-up effects, worked on The Goonies (he created Sloth!), Poltergeist, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Dreamscape, and The Gate, to name a few.

The concept art you see in the Starlog article is by Tom Sullivan, best known for designing and animating The Book of the Dead in The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead II. Sullivan also did many beautiful illustrations for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu role-playing game.

The Cry of Cthulhu was supposed to be something of a sequel to Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time. I don’t know specifically why the project fell apart, but I imagine it was a combination of money and studio cowardice. Based on an earlier blurb in Starlog #6 from 1977 (below), the film was initially a low-budget affair to be shot entirely in Michigan.

UPDATE (10/24/14): I interviewed Byron Craft (a.k.a. David Hurd), screenwriter and co-producer of The Cry of Cthulhu, here. I also interviewed Tom Sullivan here.

Starlog 1977

(Images via archive.org and Propnomicon)

Warpo’s Legends of Cthulhu Action Figures Transcend Trite Retro Fad

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The problem with today’s obsession over all things ‘retro’ is that it’s a cultural dead end. Middle-aged geeks continue to fawn over and “repop” variations of the painted plastics they first unwrapped 30 plus years ago, but who’s going to make amazing new stuff for their kids to enjoy with the same kind of passion?

Enter Warpo Toys, a Chicago-based indie that launched its first Kickstarter last week. While the company’s owners—Bryan Katzel, Eric Lefeber, and Tommy Baldwin—are themselves toy collectors and diehard fans of ’70s and ’80s pop culture, they’re “not interested in remaking or reissuing old toys or licenses.” They aim instead “to create brand new product and tell brand new stories that haven’t been told before.” Thank the Great Old Ones!

So, while the Legends of Cthulhu line is billed as retro and marketed to adults (it had to be both to get off the ground), it’s far too beautiful, literate, and original to be lumped in with the tired mash-ups and retreads on display at every con and geek-nerd-retro-comics-superhero site from coast to coast. For starters, it’s the first time anyone’s had the balls to base a toy line on H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Second, the design and execution are as brilliant as the idea itself—no small feat. And third, the narrative is just the sort of thing precocious youngsters would rally around: it’s dark, it’s supernatural; it’s full of monsters, adventure, and mystery. Actually, it’s an open-ended universe, and just the sort of thing lasting franchises are made of.

Not surprisingly, Warpo’s initial Kickstarter goal of $65,000 was funded in a matter of days. As we speak, the company is just a few hundred dollars away from its second stretch goal of $90,000. Do check out the details (specs, concept art, prototypes, biographies, business philosophy) and the incredible amount of work and love the guys have already put into their potential game changer. Legends of Cthulhu will be the first Kickstarter I back. It’s just a matter of how much I can afford to pledge.

Oh, two more things. Eddy Mosqueda, who worked as a sculptor on the original TMNT and MOTU lines, is on the Warpo team; and the legendary Ken Kelly painted the front and back of the blister cards. Dear every major and start-up toy company today: this is how it’s done. Bow down to the cult of creativity, or face the shrieking and immemorial lunacy of cosmic irrelevance—not to mention bankruptcy.

Tales of Fantasy by Larry Todd (Troubador Press, 1975) (Part One)

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I’ve briefly talked about Tales of Fantasy before. It’s one of the formative books of my youth, and I was very fortunate to find a copy in good condition. I asked Malcolm Whyte, founder and longtime director of Troubador Press, whose idea it was and how the project came together, and here’s what he said:

Tales of Fantasy was my idea. I wanted to round out a trilogy—a fantasy trilogy—that started with Monster Gallery (1973) and included Science Fiction Anthology (1974). All three books were then marketed as a set: if someone had one of the books, he must have the other two. I was also interested in having some of the underground cartoonists illustrate Troubador books. I knew of Larry Todd’s interest in science fiction from the underground comix he wrote for and especially his wonderful Dr. Atomic character, and signed him up for Tales of Fantasy.

As we were discussing which tales to include in the book, I was astounded by Larry’s depth of knowledge of great fantasy authors and realized that he had to write the book as well as illustrate it. Tales of Fantasy has more text than most of the other Troubador coloring albums.

Larry is a sweet, engaging, literate, post-hippy eccentric… Last I knew he was one of the few of a dying breed of hand-done sign painters.

Troubador’s `fantasy trilogy’ marks a high point not only in coloring books (fine art coloring albums, actually), but in the kind of intelligent entertainment publishers and culture creators once offered young people. Todd’s descriptions of the various tales are exciting and comprehensive, and his art is as enthralling today as it was then.

Fantasy became a genre proper when the young people of the 1960s embraced and popularized The Lord of the Rings. In fact, there’s an important passage about Tolkien’s influence in Theodore Roszak’s definitive analysis of the `youth opposition’, The Making of a Counter Culture (1969):

The hippy, real or as imagined, now seems to stand as one of the few images toward which the very young can grow without having to give up the childish sense of enchantment and playfulness, perhaps because the hippy keeps one foot in his childhood. Hippies who may be pushing thirty wear buttons that read “Frodo Lives” and decorate their pads with maps of Middle Earth (which happens to be the name of one of London’s current rock clubs). Is it any wonder that the best and brightest youngsters at Berkeley High School… are already coming to class barefoot, with flowers in their hair, and ringing with cowbells?

The allure of fantasy literature was (and still is, to many) that it offers a vision of “the days when the world was uncrowded and unregulated and ‘natural’ man flourished.” Emulating Middle Earth and its intrepid adventurers—even channeling the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft—was a form of protest against the crass industrial establishment, which Roczak called the ‘technocracy’.

Most of the territory geeks claim today was inherited from literate post-hippies like Larry Todd, thanks in part to literate, daring publishers like Malcolm Whyte.


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