Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pre-Christmas Grab-Bag of Links

Today's post is a grab-bag of links I had every intention of riffing off, but never quite mustered up the wherewithal to get the job done. Still, attention must be paid.

Family and friends know me as a quick mimic, with a tonal range that can catch people off-guard. In my experience, there aren't too many cartoon voices that can't be convincingly aped. Fred Flintstone, however, is entirely beyond my reach. This is a terrific homage to Alan Reed, the man who gave us the incomparable voice of Fred Flintstone.

During a recent malaise, I retreated to the comfort of a series of comic books I'd enjoyed in the late 80s: Andrew Helfer and Kyle Baker's tweaking of that hoary old hero of the pulps and radio, The Shadow. In the mid-80s DC Comics briefly dragged The Shadow of old into contemporary Manhattan, with the help of Howard Chaykin. Chaykin's approach wasn't that far removed from the one he used for American Flagg (it's never been far removed from Flagg, really); he does what he does and it pays the bills. When Helfer took over, though, readers got a young writer keen to take the scene into unexpected territory, and an artist — Bill Sienkewicz — who had the surrealistic flair to pull it off. But when Sienkewicz left and Kyle Baker took over, there was a perfect merging of visual-literary sensibility. Jason T. Miles does a terrific job (with the aid of some snazzy scans) of unpacking Helfer & Baker's deft touch with The Shadow. I would only add that by the series' conclusion Helfer & Baker were probably having too much fun: the final six issues detailed, among other things, the travails of the Shadow's sons as they dragged his corpse through one indignity after another en route to Shangri-La.

I don't quite “get” the veneration that significant writers have for the works of H.P. Lovecraft. His stuff strikes me as ornate and overwrought — he's too busy describing the horror his characters feel to bother dispensing any for the reader (this one, at any rate). I suspect, though, that my distance is more a product of having encountered him late in life, as opposed to in my adolescence (the ideal time to encounter any pulp fiction).

Having said that, I'm usually up for reading meditations on his work. Over at PopMatters, Dennis P. Quinn explores the rich ironies that abound among the personalities and subcultures that have taken (typically occult) religious inspiration from Lovecraft's fiction. Lovecraft the man was an avowed atheist who held all religions in contempt; he considered his Cthulu works, for example, an act of ridicule. Ah, but there are acolytes who beg to differ . . . .

Speaking of Cthulu, earlier this year Erik Davis took a close and careful look at the current “Cute Cthulu” meme and was decidedly not amused. I'll post the link in just a minute, but before I do: here is where I riffed off Davis' treatise on Led Zeppelin IV — the best of the 33 1/3 books I've read. On the strength of that I went ahead and purchased The Visionary State (A), Davis' encyclopedic account (with photographs by Michael Rauner) of the various religious expressions unique to modern California. The Visionary State proved to be breathtaking, so I ordered his latest book, Nomad Codes (A), which I'm looking forward to reading through the holidays.

Alright, on to the link. It is NSFW, thanks to a hentai illustration near the bottom of the piece. This might be regrettable to some people, but the truth is Davis could not get to the root of what makes this “Cute Cthulu” business so insidious without referring to hentai. So there it is, and here is the link (NSFW).


paul bowman said...

With Lovecraft as with Stephen King I have to admit to ignorance — not of the name, of course, but of the writing and pretty much all the wider reference to it. This Cthulu business as cosmology or semiology seems a straight track to the silly on the face of it, but your links were worth the time, still. A little reset on cult & culture from other moderns' angles — good, not least, for making me think again about my own.

Whisky Prajer said...

Serious Cthulu-ites will make anyone's head spin, guaranteed. I'm glad you gave it your consideration.