Halloween 2017 Post-A-Day, Day 19:
H. P. Lovecraft’s Haunt of Horror #3
Corben does Lovecraft, and I couldn’t be happier.
"Arthur Jermyn”, “The Well”, “The Window”
Adapted by Richard Corben
Letters – Jeff Eckleberry
Editor – Daniel Ketchum
Editor-in-Chief – Joe Quesada
I’ve loved Richard Corben’s stories ever since I first saw the Heavy Metal motion picture. Corben’s Den character was front and center of the movie. It was quite a while later that actually saw Corben’s pencils on anything, but his style is immediately recognizable. I remember loving them even though I was not in a place where I could readily collect him.
At least until Marvel started putting out Corben’s two limited series called “H.P. Lovecraft’s Haunt of Horror” and “Edgar Allen Poe’s Haunt of Horror”. These I gobbled up as soon as they came out and immersed myself in his highly detailed style.
What I loved most about these books were not only were they adaptations of the work in question, but also contained the works in their original form. A sort of a “have your cake and eat it too” type of arrangement. Sadly, that leaves off long form works by Lovecraft such as his better stories, but it does bring in lesser known works and short poetry that Corben gives new twists and angles on.
For these three tales, we start with the longest and most straightforward, Arthur Jermyn. I have to confess that Arthur Jermyn is one of my favorite tales with one of the BEST twist endings. If you don’t know the story, feel free to jump over HERE to get it straight from HPL, or a version on youtube that does itjustice, and then come back to see what Corben does with it…
We shall begin with a meeting of scholars at the house of one petitioning to join their ranks. Sit back as Corben takes us through his version of these events.
Arthur has been denied entry but is desperately entreating the members again, after having procured an artifact that proves the wildest claims of an adventurous ancestor of his has made about a certain secluded tribe. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s let Arthur have the floor.
We turn now to the journey of Sir Wade Jermyn, on expedition to deepest Africa, where he is met with misfortune and potential ruin.
When his retainers abandon him, Wade soldiers on alone. Thus, he is the only one to share in the discovery of a hidden city.
Yet it is not abandoned, but instead populated with great hairless ape-creatures who take Wade prisoner.
They spare him, leaving him alive to study them and their savage, animal-like customs. These are not men, but intelligent apes unlike any species yet encountered.
Eventually, Wade escapes and continues journeying, taking a wife somewhere along his travels.
But the rigors of his expedition had taken its toll on him and he spent his remaining years avoiding people while caring for his wife and son.
This account concludes Arthur’s presentation, but one of his audience members remains unconvinced, testing Arthur’s patience…
…and bringing up a very strange vein of madness that appears to follow his family tree. A strain of madness and bloodlust that centers around the genocidal actions of his own grandfather, who murdered everyone in Arthur’s family before being killed himself.
This so enrages Arthur that he acts in accordance with those bestial impulses that are his by birthright, apparently.
His actions are so despicable that Arthur is now desperate to prove his worth. He opens the box just received, sight unseen, of a genuine body of one of his great ancestor’s lost tribe of white apes…
…and in the hideous moment, the truth of Arthur’s heritage stands revealed.
For his great-great-great-grandmother was no daughter of a Portuguese trader. No. She was the very goddess of that tribe of hairless apes, and the source of his bloodline’s shame.
Crestfallen, Arthur immolates himself on his manor’s front driveway.
What do I think of this? It is derivative of the original work, but still conveys the horror and story adequately. The prose has so much history to it, such that it is a steady dripping of information about the peculiar aspects of Arthur’s queer genealogy. A proper event-by-event retelling in graphic form would run book length and likely not scare or shock half as much.
Next up is a mere slip of verse barely fourteen lines long and out of it comes a much more intriguing interpretation. I haven’t seen this one in print or online, so I will print the page of verse out also.
We begin at a neighbor’s shack as they watch the queer goings on at the Atwoods.
Eb, a workman for their neighbor Seth, runs past them screaming “Won’t get me!” and then letting off a horrible din. Will takes a second neighbor over to see if foul play has occurred. Sure enough it has.
They find Seth, the owner of the land, dead in his cabin and his niece missing. Note that Corben uses the word niece and woman interchangeably here, and I think that is to make sure the audience understands the backwoods nature of this setting.
Something about all these strange goings on bugs Will until he can’t stand it any longer. Even after Eb is caught and locked up for murder, Will has to take one more look over the mystery goings on at Seth’s property. Starting with the well he dug and then covered over.
Will sets it back proper and makes a discovery while doing so.
Something “beyond” the depth of the well, with handholds going down. Befuddled, Will searches the shack once more…
The tale is told of the digging of the well, and what they found once they reached a certain level. (Note the side panel)
That night Elmira hears strange sounds coming from the well. Sounds that she finds impossible to ignore…a call that she must answer. Seth doesn’t roust from sleep.
The next morning finds Elmira missing and the two men at odds over what happened to her.
And with that, the two men set out to wait through the night. They don’t have to wait long.
Just as they are about to drag the stumbling naked girl up to the cabin…
…she is reeled back into the well by some unseen enemy.
And with that Eb runs off, frightened out of his wits. Seth lays down this history and then slashes his own wrists. But things aren’t over…Because Will has reopened the well.
And again Corben takes an existing story and knows exactly how much to keep and how much to add. I love this volume so much. It respects the source material (I did not have copies of either of these last two works) and it is still an original take on them.
Two down and one last bit to go. This time is another short poem called The Window.
In Corben’s version, we find the owner returning to the family home after a twenty-five-year absence. He has one fond remembrance and that is of a certain window that was boarded up when he was a small boy.
He hears odd sounds in the night emanating from behind that wall and wonders if it is bad plumbing or something far worse. Those sounds make him recall something about the loss of his parents and this place.
So, he brings in workmen the next day to remove the bricks. What happens when they do startles them all.
The workman’s pickax is pulled from his hands and hurled into the space beyond the wall, beyond the frame of that bricked up window. At this, the narrator takes leave of his senses…
…and with a few steps, takes leave of this Earth as well.
And again, I feel better for having Corben do a version of this story as well.
These Haunts of Horror anthologies are easy to find. They are awesome takes on classic tales. Even if you feel that you know tons about Poe or even Lovecraft, you should still check them out. His take on these stories is not to be missed.