Comix review: H.P. Lovecraft and Mercyful Fate illustrated
(…) These ancient places are dreaming gorgeously and over-flowing with wonder and terror and escapes from the commonplace, and yet there’s not a living soul to understand or profit by them.
In the last couple of months I have received two new comic books: Kim Holm’s adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s Pickman’s Model and Mark Rudolph’s tribute to King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, Satan is Alive. In the spirit of the blogosphere in which I am an infrequent visitor (apologies, but starving the blog has been necessary for offline survival), I will offer brief reviews of each – I am sure connoisseurs will find much to like about both.
First off is Pickman’s Model, a project of Norwegian graphic artist Kim Holm. The version received is a 110-page pocket size with limited space on each page; nevertheless, Holm finds room for both two-page spreads and various experiments alongside the basic four-panel sequence. The style is black and white in two modes, alternating between clear and controlled monologue panels and more chaotic, expressive flashback scenes.
As a huge fan of Lovecraft I was a bit anxious to read it, both in terms of the original story’s monologue-driven narrative and because of the amount of crappy adaptations out there. But this is good… on par with H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society and other consummate fan productions. Holm has retained the basic frame of the original, but supplies several beautiful area shots and flashbacks held in a much more aggressive and twisted style. Pickman is nasty, especially towards the end, and the unveiling of the latest painting an awesome piece of illustration.
Holm has previously done drawings at metal concerts and the Inferno metal festival in Oslo, and there is something in the attention to faces and scenes which makes this book as alive as live drawings. This comes highly recommended to fans as well as newcomers to mythos literature. It can be read digitally at Freecomics free of charge and purchased from Indyplanet.com for 10$.
The next piece of pop culture art is a collaborative tribute to Danish metal legends Mercyful Fate, Satan is Alive. I actually helped this project on Kickstarter, as I have been a King Diamond-fan for 25 years now. The designer and editor Mark Rudolph is obviously a fan as well, and he has assembled an impressive crew of illustrators and commentators in the book itself to praise the universe King has created from the early 1980s.
As with Pickman’s Model, this book is pocket-size and about 120 pages. It is held in black and white (could it be any other way?) and generally offers two types of illustration: the comic strip and the poster, with a couple of short stories thrown in. Coupled with forewords by Fenriz, Scott Carlson and Trevor Strnad, afterword by Philip Anselmo, and interview snippets collected by Chris Dick, this is as good as it gets.
All illustrators focus on one song or theme, which makes it thematically consistent, yet the style varies wildly: from realism to expressive chaos and from manga and superhero to more simple and personal. Kim Holm actually provides two splendid sequences on the lovecraftian songs “The Mad Arab” and “Kutulu”, and his contributions are among the best. Nevertheless, the visual style of Kind Diamond is used throughout, and the unapologetic satanic stance of the early Mercyful Fate dominates later inventions. As I have used both in academic research on Satanism, it is good to be reminded just how blasphemous *and* fun this actually is. In essence, Rudolph’s book captures the theatrical evil and dark humor found in Mercyful Fate, and I wholeheartedly recommend picking up copies for yourself as well as all your metal friends at Mark Rudolph’s website for 20$.