In strange eons still to come, when the world is a colder, harsher place, and people freely meet in dark woods under the wan light of midnight moons to brazenly cavort around vast pyres and worship forgotten gods in archaic tongues, He shall arise from his watery tomb deep within the heart of the subterranean city of R’lyeh, yawn, possibly rub that annoying sleep-grit from the lids of his many, many, many eyes, and then proceed to unfurl one long, scaly, bloated octopus-like tentacle out over the face of the earth, and then the other seven, snuffing out the sun, the moon, and all the vast multitude of stars in the heavens above, plunging the world into an epoch of Eternal Darkness and Meaningless Suffering the likes of which the average human mind will not be able to withstand.
Filled with unassailable dread yet?
Well, you should be, because the He in question ihappens to be none other than Cthulhu, Scourge of Humanity, Dread Usher-in of the Apocalypse, Great Spawn of Gaping Chaos Itself, and you can bet that he’ll be pretty hungry once he finally wakes up from the very long nap that He’s currently taking (for that is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange eons, even death may die).
But, until then, Cthulhu can (thankfully) primarily be found hanging out in the pages of Boom! Studios latest offering, the prestige format one-shot “Cthulhu Tales,” which ships to comics shops today. And Cthulu can be found paling around with such comic book luminaries and Hollywood hotshots as Keith Giffen (“Lobo,” “52,” “Hero Squared“), John Rogers (DC’s “Blue Beetle,” screenwriter of the upcoming “Transformers: The Movie”), Andrew Cosby (Creator of the Sci-Fi Network’s upcoming “Eureka” TV show, writer of Dark Horse Comics’ “Damn Nation“), former CBR columnist and “Zombie Tales” contributor Johanna Stokes, and “War of the Worlds: Second Wave” scribe Michael Alan Nelson.
CBR News caught up with the “Cthulhu Tales” crew to chat a little bit about, among other things, the book’s creative genesis, the literary styling’s of one Howard Phillip Lovecraft, and the Big C himself (also, we thought it might be a smart idea to get on good terms with mankind’s potential New Management…just in case).
And Ross Richie stopped by briefly as well, since he’s Boom! Studios’ President and Publisher. But Ross couldn’t stay very long, since he’s Boom! Studios’ President and Publisher.
CBR News: “Cthulhu Tales” is sort of a follow-up/spin-off to Boom!’s very successful “Zombie Tales” line of books, correct. So, Ross, how’d you come up with the idea of following zombies with Chtulhu?
Ross Richie: Well, it’s pretty simple: Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Andrew Cosby, John Rogers, Johanna Stokes, and Michael Alan Nelson all pitched me on doing “Cthulu” as our next anthology book after “Zombie Tales.” So, with the unanimous praise behind their work, it was a no-brainer to unleash them on a new topic. Unfortunately, due to his recent DC exclusive contract, Mark wasn’t able to contribute a Cthulhu tale, but all Boom!’s other “usual suspects” are well represented.
And, actually, Cthulhu isn’t the new anything – but rather, the Great Old Ones!
CBR News: So then why Cthulhu, guys? I mean as opposed to any of the other Great Old Ones, like Hzioulquoigmnzhah, Baoht Z’uqqa-Mogg or even, say, X’chll’at-aa?
John Rogers: X’chll’at-aa has a bitch of an agent, and no way are we going to spend that much time nailing down ancillary and derived rights.
As for Cthulhu: there are weird moments when a certain fictional construct seems to rear its (ugly) head from Idea Space. One probably doesn’t want to consider for any length of time why Cthulhu is nibbling at everybody’s hippocampus at the moment, but if it has some sort of relevance to a diverse bunch of writers, that’s probably indicative that, at the very least, it’s worth exploring the relevance of it to the rest of society.
Michael Alan Nelson: Cthulhu is the name that people are most familiar with, so it was the obvious choice. But I think we all came up with the idea at the same time since we were all talking about new “Tales” ideas. And we’re all big fans of horror and so Cthulhu came out as the frontrunner.
Johanna Stokes: Well, when Cthulhu asks you to do something, you do it. That simple. I think Cthulhu first took the idea for his “Tales” book to “Buy The Book” Comics.
Ever heard of them?
Case in point.
Keith Giffen: Me, I just like working with Ross. It’s that simple.
As far as independent/creative owned comic book publishers go, Ross and Boom! are head and shoulders above the rest. Boom!’s the best game in town, and things like the “Zombie Tales” and “Cthulhu Tales” one-shots give me an opportunity to play around with certain concepts and storytelling techniques that I otherwise might never get the chance to.
Andrew Cosby: H.P. Lovecraft’s writing had a very big influence on me when I was younger. So Cthulhu just seemed like a natural choice after all those zombies.
See, to me, Lovecraft’s work is so unique and original because in it most of the conflicts remain unresolved, the “big” secrets unrevealed, and the heroes of his stories almost always die in the end (the bad guys win!).
CBR News: Any other Lovecraft devotees in the bunch?
Keith Giffen: I don’t know if I’d say that I’m an H.P. Lovecraft fan, but I have read everything that the man’s ever written. So, if that qualifies me as a fan of his work, well, then, yeah, I guess you could say that I’m an H.P. Lovecraft fan.
Johanna Stokes: I think the first stories I read in the Cthulhu Mythos were by modern day writers paying homage to Lovecraft. Later, I delved into [Lovecraft’s] works themselves and found them to be all sorts of wrong – in a good way. I quickly learned that I couldn’t read them right before I went to bed, or else my nightmares would be filled with tentacles.
Ross Richie: Come on, who doesn’t like a little tentacle in their comic books?
CBR News: Since you’ve now all contributed tales that add to and expand on the Cthulhu Mythos invented by Lovecraft (and further “fleshed out” by a — to say the least — very eclectic host of other writers over the years), what are your particular favorite Cthulhu tales?
Michael Alan Nelson: “The Dunwich Horror.” I just love the idea of some twisted outcast raising some foul creature that ravages the countryside. Plus, the Necronomicon is mentioned in the story and I’ve always found that fascinating. It’s quite a feat to create something that develops its own mythos almost independent of its original creation. Ask ten people about the Necronomicon and most who have heard about it probably won’t know it’s an H.P. Lovecraft creation.
John Rogers: “The Colour Out of Space.”
Johanna Stokes: “The Cats of Ulthar,” Although there’s some debate as to if this falls within the Cthulhu Mythos or not, since it was written six years before “The Call of Cthulhu.”
“There was in this singular caravan a little boy with no father or mother, but only a tiny black kitten to cherish. The plague had not been kind to him, yet had left him this small furry thing to mitigate his sorrow; and when one is very young, one can find great relief in the lively antics of a black kitten. So the boy whom the dark people called Menes smiled more often than he wept as he sat playing with his graceful kitten on the steps of an oddly painted wagon.”
Woe to the folk who do not know how a gypsy boy’s love for a very small thing can turn into a rage the size of the gods themselves…
CBR News: Um, okay… Let’s shift gears a little here then, why don’t we, and talk about the stories in the actual book itself – what have you guys cooked up?
Andrew Cosby: Well, the story that I wrote is called “Bane,” illustrated by Lee Carter, and if you’re a fan of the Mythos, then I think you’re probably gonna dig it. It’s really creepy… (But that’s all I’ll say.)
Johanna Stokes: My story is about a scorned woman made vulnerable by misery to the dark resonance of Cthulhu. She attempts to use the Old One to exact her revenge or bring about an upset in the balance of power in her unhappy home, unaware that no mortal is capable of treading there without being driven mad.
Michael Alan Nelson: My tale, “The Beach,” is about a reasonable man who makes an unreasonable choice when faced with an unreasonable situation.
Simply put, the main character of my story has been haunted by the stirrings of something evil and though he’s tried to deny the existence of such things, such things cannot be ignored. Therefore he must make a decision. It’s a pretty gruesome decision, but one he feels is justified.
Keith Giffen: I just wanted to see if I could capture the lurking dread of an H.P. Lovecraft story in a Dog Seus-like cadence. “Green Eggs and Ham” it is not, trust me, but I’d say that what my tale is is appropriately twisted. It’s called, “The Oddly Amorous Phineas Flynn and the Troublesome Trouble He Got Himself In.”
Plus it’s illustrated by my “I Luv Halloween” collaborator Benjamin Roman, so you know that, at the least, it’s going to look pretty cool.
John Rogers: The one I wrote for the volume is actually a take on August Derleth’s expansion of the Mythos. You know the play, “The King Is Yellow?” Well, some people really would lie to see it performed. Andy Kuhn provides the art.
CBR News: And if “Cthulhu Tales” proves as popular as Boom!’s “Zombie Tales” books have been, will there be future volumes to follow in the same vein? (Only a slight pun intended there.)
Michael Alan Nelson: We’ve all talked to Ross about future “Tales,” involving subjects other than Zombies or Cthulhu, but it’s too soon to say just what any of those “other subjects” might be just at this moment. Stay tuned, though.
Johanna Stokes: Ditto. Definitely expect to see more “Tales” books from Boom! in the future, which we’re all very excited about. But I don’t think I can talk about any of them just yet. With beautiful covers from the illustrious Dave Johnson, though, you’ll know them when you see them on the stands.
Andrew Cosby: Don’t think you can get me to talk about what’s to come either, but I will say that no true horror fan should pass up “Cthulhu Tales” when it hits the stands. Trust me.
Keith Giffen: I’m interested in seeing how the book is received myself. I would hope that Lovecraft fans and the horror community give it a shot, since it’s certainly geared towards them. But I think that almost any comic fan should get a kick out of it.
To be honest, though, I don’t even know who I’m going to be in the book with – I never know with these “Tales” books!
But that’s what I like about the “Tales” books, not just as a contributor, but as an actual fan: they’re one of the few comics out there that I can pick up and read and know that I’m going to enjoy all the stories in them, and I mean as a pure fan. And there’s not too many other comics out there at the moment that I can say that about. So, to me, that’s the fun of getting to work on them.