Monday, September 19, 2016


Skull (#5), published in August 1972, could also very easily have been titled, “Special Lovecraft Issue”, as every story is either a Lovecraft adaptation or derivative of his work. The cover title is cleverly rendered in the shape of bones. The “Last Gasp” logo (Last Gasp Eco-Funnies had published Skull since issue #2) is still there and is accompanied by another, new logo. It is clearly meant to be a parody of a union stamp, as it shows a fist encircled by the phrase “Underground Cartoon Workers”. The cover artwork is by Spain Rodriguez and portrays a scene that is evidently meant to be some kind of ritual chamber inhabited by a gaggle of unholy, debauched denizens, and titled, fittingly enough, “Satan’s Slaves”.

The issue begins with a re-working of Lovecraft’s “The Rats In the Walls”. Written and drawn by Richard Corben (signing his name “Gore”, perhaps in homage to E.C.’s “Ghastly” Graham Ingles?), this version is grislier, and ultimately more horrifying (and better) than the version seen in Creepy just a few years before.

Next up is “The Hand of Kaä”, introduced by and starring a Skull version of “above ground” Charlton Comics’ Dr. Graves, named Wilfred Kreel, Seeker of the Strange. Kreel states: “In my many journeys into the strange, macabre and at times, fascinating, world of the unknown, the case of James Wormwood remains one of the most profoundly disturbing of my career”. The title page shows the one named Wormwood peering with amazement into a copy of The Necronomicon while a giant, corpse-like hand hovers menacingly over his … skull. Drawn by Spain, “The Hand of Kaä” is an over-the-top story of the supernatural that could only have appeared in a title such as this.

The next offering is a two-page spread of Lovecraft’s poem, “To A Dreamer”, drawn by Charles Dallas and Kim Deitch. Originally a part of the series of verse known as “The Ancient Track” in the 1963 Arkham House, Collected Poems (Fungi From Yuggoth & Other Poems in the Ballantine paperback version from 1971), “Dreamer” makes for an ethereally effective interlude between the more gruesome tales.

The last entry is entitled, “The Shadow From the Abyss” and is an illustrated version of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Out of Time” by Larry Todd, who collaborated for a time with the infamous underground comix legend Vaughn Bodé. Once again, using only a few word balloons, Todd succeeds in inducing the narrative style of Lovecraft in combination with his own dark and evocative artwork. A fitting finale to the Lovecraft cycle brought to life in Skull comics.

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