Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cthulhu Tales - The whisper of madness

The graphic novel Cthulhu Tales - The Whisper of Madness was inspired by Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. I have read some of Lovecraft's works and I tend to like works that were inspired by him or in a similar style to his more than I do his works. For example, I much prefer Robert E. Howard's works, which were influenced by Lovecraft (they wrote letters to one another), than Lovecrafts works. There is a lot I like about Lovecraftian type horror, I wouldn't want to experience it but I do like it in stories.

Personally I feel that the graphic medium is not the best medium for Lovecraftian horror, the written word is. Images maybe well done but it just not as good as my imagination is. Point of view also matters a lot, for these types of stories a first person point of view would likely elicit the most emotion in the readers.

The Cthulhu mythos, basically that our world and our role in it is an illusion and that we are living in a fragile bubble, unaware of what lies behind what we can sense and filled with things that we are unable to comprehend even if we could sense them is pretty damn interesting. That we are tiny little insignificant specks to other things, as far below them as ants are to us. The idea that there are beings so very different from us, is not very hard to believe. Just look at some of the things here on Earth such as insects or bacteria that can live in places that humans could not and are radically different from us. That we are tiny, insignificant specks to some things that exist, not really that hard to believe, considering the size of the universe. The Milky Way Galaxy alone is too big to really understand/comprehend (it's one thing to say there are 200-400 billion stars in the galaxy, but that's just a number, and such a big number that it's basically meaningless). Our entire solar system is tiny in compared to a great deal of things in the universe.

One story involves a blind guy, or supposedly blind - it isn't clear whether he is blind in the traditional sense or not, who is able to see the cosmic horrors that are around us that no one else can see. I find this idea to be pretty interesting. Humans are limited, we can only sense so much with our senses, even amongst the creatures on Earth, there are ones that can sense things we are unable to. It is not impossible that a person can sense things that most people can't afterall something like 10% of the population can hear sound frequencies at levels above and below those that the other 90% can not. If a person did have a sense that is significantly different from the majority of people, how would the person explain it to people and why would they believe him? A person who was born blind only knows that sight exists because people tell him it exists, in this type scenario, the majority of humanity is the blind person and the one who has the ability is not believed simply because no one (or such a small percentage that it might as well be no one) else has the ability. The story doesn't really explore that aspect, it instead has the guy kill several of the cosmic horrors that are disguised as normal people and transfer the ability to another person. Exploring the aspect of seeing cosmic horrors everywhere and not being believed is more interesting to me than what is presented.

There is a possibly that humanity will find a cosmic horror that is currently out of our reach/understanding. We rely on our senses in learning about the universe, with the aid of technology to extend our senses. It is possible that someone will discover a different way of viewing the universe, possibly in a way currently not even thought about. As new instrumentation/technology is created, discoveries made and new information is introduced, our views on the universe and even on ourselves change. Though personally I'd find it funny if a "great old one" was sleeping at the bottom of the ocean and we just never noticed/were not able to detect it with current methods (there is that mysterious bloop sound, an ultra-low frequency underwater sound detected by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration several times during the summer of 1997. That has an audio profile of a living creature but there is no known animal that could have produced the sound which would have to be several times the size of the largest known animal on Earth to create it).

Another story in the book that interested me somewhat is the story titled "How to get ahead in the occult". This only interested me in so far that I can easily see someone attempting black magic, i.e. the summoning of a being and allowing their roommate to be used as a sacrifice in exchange for a ruling position in the future, even though for most everyone will not enjoy that future. Power is power and there are people who would happily serve an alien creature pretty much dooming mankind in the process, in exchange for the power to rule over others.

Overall the stories in the book were not really that great in and of themselves. The above mentioned two, were interesting to me for secondary reasons. One story in this book stands out above the rest and that is "Alimentary, My Dear Cthulhu". This one is interesting in that the cosmic horrors are known to everyone and have been living amongst people forever. In addition to that it also has a Sherlock Holmes type character, a dead great old one, the birth of a new great old one, and the last few panels break the fourth wall. This story would have been better had it been longer and more detailed, but of the stories in the book it is probably the best.

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