“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. – H.P. Lovecraft
Lovecraft’s work suffers from the same idea it was created by, what was once unknown is now known to all. His most famous creation Cthulu is now so common in the media that it’d be hard to find someone connected to the horror genre who doesn’t have an idea of what he looks like. Even modern printings of Lovecraft’s prose tend to include illustrations of his monsters in an almost defeatist way, giving up on the hope that the reader might be unaware of the common representations.
This is why when you tell one of his stories you need to spin it in a new way, which is what Lyndon White and Andrew Perry are attempting to do in their new graphic novel Reanimator: Incorporated. Based on the short story Herbert West Reanimator about the owner of a special serum that allows the human body to be brought back to life and the unfortunate consequences thereof.
It’s important to note that the team behind the graphic novel do not consider their work to be a strict retelling of the classic story. Instead they weave in elements from Lovecraft’s other work as well as other elements from more contemporary science fiction and horror. They go so far as to describe it as “Reanimator meets From Beyond, with a splash of Dante’s Inferno, a dab of King’s Pet Sematary… And then some…”which leaves a lot of room to incorporate new ideas.
Reanimator: Incorporated begins in its own style. Starting in medias res, choosing instead to open with the main character West or “at least his grandson” in the words of the creators “being woken by a nightmare of a situation eerily similar to that of Poe’s story The Tell-Tale Heart. The character of Dan Cain in the as written by Lovecraft is stated to be ‘exceptionally tolerant of West’s pursuits’ this is in stark contrast to the graphic novel, which shows Cain to be at least part of the driving force of the main characters ambitions. This is a refreshing twist that changes the context of the events, it is no longer the hubris of one man that causes the events that unravel, but instead each man pushing the other closer to oblivion.
In the original text West is described as “a small, slender, spectacled youth with delicate features, yellow hair, pale blue eyes and a soft voice”. The character does not even need to be addressed by his name in the graphic novel to see that this is unmistakably the man that Lovecraft described. The use of fine outlines and muted colours makes the scenes glow when the story telling requires it. For instance, in the panel here the street lights are well defined showing a rigidity in their form yet the deep orangey yellow glows against the dull red of the ironwork. You can also see the use of foreshadowing in this image where the reflections in the puddle are not that of reality but instead warning of times to come.
The background eschews the traditional block colouring that might be featured in a major release like the X-Men and instead lightly dapples colours creating a much more unsettling atmosphere. The lightest shades create the illusion of stars in deep space, the cosmic in Lovecraft’s cosmic horror.
The illustrator manages to capture the emotions of the characters too, capturing the full range needed to tell the story. West looks like a man that’s stressed, depressed and is aware that he is likely meddling with things that should be left un-meddled with. His design reminds me a lot of that of Hellblazer’s John Constantine. Which is fitting given that they occupy a similar space. They are both dealing with occult manners, both harboring resentment to those around them and both dealing with horrors that might only be described as eldritch. But in contrast to Constantine who is largely depicted as a much darker figure fitting in with nature of the evil around him the design of West is much lighter, offset from the dark of the things he creates.
Re-Animator: Incorporated is a definite must read for fans of the genre, it’ll take you on twists that you’ll never expect regardless of how familiar you are with the story. The first chapter offers so much for the reader to enjoy, little details that could be missed and new ideas being added by people that clearly have a deep appreciation for the subject.
Words: Jacob McCrone
The Reanimator: Incorporated Kickstarter Campaign is running now.