T-shirts by Skull Print

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I’m very pleased to announce that I’ve partnered with T-shirt printers Skull Print to make shirts available featuring my artwork. See this standalone page for details. Skull Print are a small business based in the UK who specialise in music-related merchandise. Joe Banks pointed me in their direction when he was wondering if I’d considered doing a shirt design based on the cover of his Hawkwind book, Days of the Underground. To thank Joe for this, the first shirt is an adaptation of his cover design, which is followed by a very old piece of cover art for the Zones album by Hawkwind. Skull Print cater to a substantial Hawkwind fanbase so it makes sense to make this one available. And since we’re now in the horror month, I’ve added a couple of recent Lovecraft-related designs which have been tailored specially for this purpose.

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A design based on my cover for Lovecraft’s Monsters, an excellent story collection edited by Ellen Datlow.

I should emphasise that these aren’t the only shirt designs available. Skull Print operate on a print-on-demand basis so in theory any artwork of mine may be printed as a shirt if someone makes a request for one. (With a couple of exceptions; a few designs are subject to copyright restrictions.) The advantage that Skull Print have over other services such as CafePress is that I don’t have to spend time uploading the artwork to a website then creating a special sales page for it. Anyone who wants a shirt can now send me a request for one then I send the artwork to Skull Press and they’ll take care of everything else.

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I’ll be setting up a few more designs with PayPal buttons when I have a spare moment. Some designs have been surprisingly persistent sellers at CafePress, such as my ideogrammatic portrait of James Joyce which is often ordered in the run-up to Bloomsday. A few years ago a shirt bearing this design was ordered by one “M. Atwood” of Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’ve been hoping ever since that the M. Atwood who everyone knows as a writer might turn up somewhere dressed in this item. If anyone sees a photo like this then please let me know!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hawkwind: Days of the Underground
The Chronicle of the Cursed Sleeve
Rock shirts
Void City

Révélations Posthumes by Rivière and Andreas

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Le livre est arrivé. Révélations Posthumes, written by François Rivière and illustrated by Andreas (Martens), turned out to be better than I expected: 58 pages of very sharp black-and-white illustration on coated paper, and in the hardcover album format which has long been my favourite mode of presentation for comic books. The quality of the printing has made me realise that the reprint of RHB in The Cosmical Horror of HP Lovecraft (see this post) had blacked in many of the fine lines of Andreas’s scraperboard drawings, resulting in darker panels with diminished detail. Here you see the story as it was drawn, and—more importantly—with all of its pages present. The reprint of La Femme de Cire du Musée Spitzner (The Spitzner Museum’s Wax Woman) fared much better in Escape magazine.

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Auteur et artiste.

The other three stories in this collection are all new to me. Amnésie concerns the strange disappearance of Agatha Christie in December 1926, an event which has been the source of much unresolved speculation (Monsieur Rivière is apparently a great Christie enthusiast); La Visitation d’Amiens recounts a meeting in 1899 between the young Raymond Roussel when he was posted to Amiens during his military service, and the aging Jules Verne, whose fantastic inventions would influence Roussel’s 1914 novel, Locus Solus; Le Crime de la Mosquée is set in Rochefort-sur-Mer in 1936, and concerns a young Englishman, Alfred J. Nobbs, visiting the home of the late Pierre Loti, another writer whose works inspired Raymond Roussel. Writers dominate this book, which no doubt explains the choice of typewritten captions.

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The introduction by Pierre-Jean Rémy suggests that all the stories are combinations of fact and fiction, but the Lovecraft and Robert H. Barlow story seems to be based in full on Barlow’s biography, while the Spitzner Museum story concerns a Belgian painter, Pol Delmotte, who doesn’t appear to exist at all outside these pages. (“Delmotte” is very probably based on Paul Delvaux but the events of the story would have prevented him being named as such. Thanks to Paul R. for the comments noting this.) Whatever the case—and it’s impossible for me to really tell when my French is so poor—the artwork is superb. The very similar look of the Barlow and Spitzner stories, all elongated panels and the occasional half-toned photograph, had led me to expect a similar form for the other stories but Andreas varies his layouts from story to story. Amnésie adds a black background to the pages, while La Visitation d’Amiens removes most of the panel borders to create a series of floating vignettes, Art Nouveau flourishes and other decoration. Le Crime de la Mosquée differs from the rest by filling each page with a landscape-ratio composition, a rare thing in comics. The backgrounds of the last few pages present a series of architectural interiors whose meticulous rendering rivals the engravers of the 19th century for veracity and detail. The book as a whole shows Andreas to be a master of the scraperboard technique but this volume also seems to comprise the totality of his work in the medium. His later books contain a great quantity of exceptional art but the pen-and-ink style he uses is often sketchier and more stylised, inevitably so given the pressures of comic-book production. I’m tempted to hope that Titan might one day produce a English translation of this book but they’d be more likely to do the Rork saga or the rest of the Cromwell Stone series first, and there are many volumes of those. Révélations Posthumes has at least been reprinted several times since 1980 so it’s easy to find.

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Continue reading “Révélations Posthumes by Rivière and Andreas”

Andreas, HPL and RHB

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Mention of Robert H. Barlow last week reminded me of a comic strip which is an unusual addition to the world of Lovecraft-related art. RHB, written by François Rivière and illustrated by Andreas (Martens), was published in a French magazine, À Suivre, in 1978. I discovered the story when it was reprinted in The Cosmical Horror of HP Lovecraft (1991), an Italian volume that was the first substantial collection in book form of Lovecraftian comic strips and illustrations. Andreas and Rivière’s strip is a short biographical sketch of Robert H. Barlow’s equally short life which focuses on his connections to HP Lovecraft but doesn’t attempt any spurious fictionalisation. A few of the pages were posted at Deep Cuts in June of this year, together with a translation of the French text. The post there notes something that hadn’t occurred to me before, that Rivière would have taken most of his information about Barlow from L. Sprague de Camp’s Lovecraft biography. The post also made me realise that the Cosmical Horror reprint is missing its last two pages, so after 30 years I finally discover that the panel sequence showing a falling cat (seen earlier being dropped from a height by the young Barlow) has a happy conclusion that also ends the strip itself.

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The Spitzner Museum’s Wax Woman.

Andreas has been a favourite comic artist of mine for many years, thanks in part to strips like RHB with its combination of unorthodox page layouts, scraperboard drawings (scratchboard, if you’re American) and the occasional use of enlarged half-toned photos. The scraperboard technique can be a laborious one for a comic artist, especially when applied in a photo-realist manner, which may explain why Andreas has used a more stylised pen-and-ink rendering for many of his own books, the drawings of which often resemble the engraving-like illustrations of Franklin Booth. The only other Andreas strip I’ve seen to date that uses scraperboard is The Spitzner Museum’s Wax Woman, another collaboration with Rivière which relates the ill-fated encounters of a Belgian painter with the woman of the title. The story received its first English printing in issue 17 of Escape magazine in 1989, and its appearance there made Andreas an artist to look out for in the future. The museum tale and the Barlow story were collected with several similar pieces in a book collection, Révélations Posthumes, in 1980. I’d really like to see this even though my French is très pauvre:

Avec ce livre, vous découvrirez d’étonnantes révélations posthumes concernant la vie fulgurante d’un ami et confident de Lovecraft, l’étrange aventure survenue en 1926, à Hastings, à un orphelin et une mystérieuse Thérèse Neele. La rencontre d’un soldat nommé Raymond Roussel et de Jules Vernes, à Amiens. Les origines du talent morbide d’un peintre belge fasciné par les figures de cire du Musée Spitzner. L’avatar maléfique joué à un malheureux jeune Anglais par Pierre Loti en sa maison de Rochefort-sur-Mer.

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Rork.

Révélations Posthumes seems to have been a one-off for Andreas. His subsequent, self-written books are more commercial fare, being a succession of weird adventure stories which follow the exploits of eccentric characters such as Cromwell Stone (an occult detective), the ageless, enigmatic Rork (a white-haired magus and occult detective), Capricorne (an astrologer and occult detective), and so on. As with Philippe Druillet, Lovecraft is never far away: the first episode of Cromwell Stone opens with an epigraph from HPL’s Supernatural Horror in Literature, while elsewhere inexplicable leviathan entities lurk in parallel dimensions, and architectural anomalies abound. The Rork series is especially enjoyable, like Doctor Strange without the superhero histrionics, featuring wildly audacious storylines such as Le Cimetière de cathédrales (1988), in which a graveyard for cathedrals is discovered in the Amazonian jungle.

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The fantasies of Andreas, like those of François Schuiten, might be more familiar to Anglophone readers if his works had been translated more often (or, in the case of RHB, translated at all). Dark Horse ran English versions of stories by Andreas and Schuiten in their Cheval Noir anthology series in the 1990s, and also published English reprints of the Rork and Cromwell Stone books but, as with the translated editions of Schuiten, these are now hard to find. More recently, Titan Books has published a new English edition of the first Cromwell Stone book but I’ve not seen any indication that they’ll be following this with more of the same. (I’ve also not seen the book itself so can’t vouch for the quality of the translation. Titan’s recent Druillet reprints have been riddled with textual errors. Beware.) Rather than wait for translations that might never arrive, the better option would be to improve my French reading skills. Writing this post has prompted me to order a secondhand copy of Révélations Posthumes. I’m looking forward to seeing what else it contains.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles
The art of François Schuiten
The art of Andreas Martens

Howard/Seward

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Frank Belknap Long and HP Lovecraft, New York, 1931. Photo by WB Talman.

Two friends—HP Lovecraft and Frank Belknap Long—visit the Egyptian antiquities in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1920s:

Tom Collins (for The Twilight Zone Magazine): I seem to recall a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art that you two made together.

Frank Belknap Long: You mean the time we visited the Egyptian tomb? Well, the Metropolitan apparently still has it. This was way back in the 1920s. The tomb was on the main floor in the Hall of Egyptian Antiquities, and we both went inside to the inner burial chamber. Howard was fascinated by the somberness of the whole thing. He put his hand against the corrugated stone wall, just casually, and the next day he developed a pronounced but not too serious inflammation. There was no great pain involved, and the swelling went down in two or three days. But it seems as if some malign, supernatural influence still lingered in the burial chamber—The Curse of the Pharaohs—as if they resented the fact that Howard had entered this tomb and touched the wall. Perhaps they had singled him out because of his stories and feared he was getting too close to the Ancient Mysteries.

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William Burroughs, New York, 1953. Photo by Allen Ginsberg.

Two friends—William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg—visit the Egyptian antiquities in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1950s:

Allen Ginsberg: We went uptown to look at Mayan Codices at Museum of Natural History & Metropolitan Museum of Art to view Carlo Crivelli’s green-hued Christ-face with crown of thorns stuck symmetric in his skull — here Egyptian wing William Burroughs with a brother Sphinx, Fall 1953 Manhattan.

When I last wrote about the parallels between Lovecraft and Burroughs in a post from 2014 I wasn’t aware of Lovecraft and Long’s visit to the same museum exhibits that Burroughs and Ginsberg visited some 30 years later. I did, however, use the same photos which are posted here, a curious coincidence when Long wasn’t mentioned in the earlier post. This minor revelation is a result of reading the features in back issues of The Twilight Zone Magazine, one of which is an interview with an 81-year-old Frank Belknap Long. The coincidence is a trivial thing but it adds to the small number of connections between the two writers.

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A Cthulhu Sphinx from The Call of Cthulhu, 1988.

Lovecraft and Burroughs were both living in New York City at the time of their excursions, and both touched on Egyptian mythology in their writings, so their having viewed the same museum exhibits seems inevitable rather than surprising. A more tangible connection between the pair is alluded to in Ginsberg’s photograph note when he mentions the Mayan codices. A few years before the museum visit, Burroughs had been studying the Mayan language and the Mexican codices in Mexico City under the tutelage of Robert H. Barlow, the former literary executor of HP Lovecraft. Burroughs’ studies subsequently fueled the references to Mayan mythology that turn up repeatedly in his fiction, and he was still at Mexico City College in 1951 when Barlow killed himself with a barbiturate overdose, afraid that his homosexuality was about to be exposed by one of his students. Burroughs mentioned the suicide in a letter to Ginsberg. The connections don’t end there, however. After Barlow’s death the rights to Lovecraft’s writings passed, somewhat controversially, to August Derleth and Donald Wandrei at Arkham House, and in another curious coincidence Derleth happened to be one of the complainants against a literary journal, Big Table, in 1959, when the magazine ran Ten Episodes from Naked Lunch, and was subsequently prosecuted for sending obscene material through the US mail. Derleth and Arkham House are both mentioned in the court papers.

I’ve never seen any indication that Burroughs was aware of these connections but if he was I doubt he would have paid them much attention, he always seemed rather blasé about his intersections with popular culture. He did think well enough of Lovecraft (or at least the version of Lovecraft’s fiction as presented by the Simon Necronomicon) to invoke “Kutulu” along with the Great God Pan and the usual complement of Mayan deities in Cities of the Red Night. Years later I remember seeing something in a newspaper about him retiring to Lawrence, Kansas, where he was described as passing the time “reading HP Lovecraft”. (I wish I could give a reference for this but I don’t recall the source.) If so then I like to think he might have given Creation Books’ Starry Wisdom collection more than a passing glance when it turned up at his door.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Taking Tiger Mountain
The Big Fix!
Paging Doctor Benway
Birth of a Zimbu
Seward/Howard
Interzone: A William Burroughs Mix
Sine Fiction
The Ticket That Exploded: An Ongoing Opera
Burroughs: The Movie revisited
Zimbu Xolotl Time
Ah Pook Is Here
Jarek Piotrowski’s Soft Machine
Looking for the Wild Boys
Wroblewski covers Burroughs
Mugwump jism
Brion Gysin’s walk, 1966
Burroughs in Paris
William Burroughs interviews
Soft machines
Burroughs: The Movie
William S Burroughs: A Man Within
The Final Academy
William Burroughs book covers
Towers Open Fire

Man is the Animal: A Coil Zine

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Death is centrifugal / Solar and logical / Decadent and symmetrical / Angels are mathematical / Angels are bestial / Man is the animal —Fire Of The Mind by Coil

In the post this week from Temporal Boundary Press, issue 1 of Man is the Animal: A Coil Zine. A timely publication, given the persistent and increasing interest in Coil, and one whose essays are all of a quality belied by the “zine” label which usually suggests something more fannish and trivial. This is a pleasing object even before you look inside, a perfect-bound A5 booklet with full-colour printing throughout, and a cover painting by Val Denham, an artist with Coil associations that reach back through the Some Bizzare period to art for Marc Almond and Throbbing Gristle. Denham also contributes one of the written pieces, Jhonn is Unbalanced, a touching memoir of Geoff Rushton/John (Jhonn) Balance. Among the other entries is a piece by Benjamin Noys, a writer whose previous studies have included an examination of the connections between my own art for the Reverbstorm comic series and the weird fiction of HP Lovecraft. Noys takes a similar approach here, finding reflections of Coil obsessions in the symbolism of alchemical magic and the weird fiction of Arthur Machen.

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Epigraph from Outside the Circles of Time by Kenneth Grant.

The weird fiction of HP Lovecraft was a Coil obsession, and Lovecraft receives the most attention in a great piece by Andy Sharp which takes its cue from the appearance in Titan Arch of lines from the epigraph for Outside the Circles of Time, an occult study by magus and scholar Kenneth Grant. The latter was another Lovecraft obsessive—no doubt one of the first, given his age—whose books are littered with references to both Lovecraft and Machen. I spotted the Coil/Grant connection many years ago (although quite some time after Love’s Secret Domain was released), and acknowledged the link in two pages in The Haunter of the Dark, one of which reprints Grant’s epigraph, while the other is a picture with the title In Spaces Between, a line from Titan Arch which is also a reference to the Necronomicon extract in The Dunwich Horror: “The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen.” Sharp does more than merely acknowledge this web of connections, he delves into Grant’s dense treatise in search of further correspondences. I’ve not read Grant’s book for many years but this essay makes me think I ought to look at it again. By coincidence (or is it? etc), both Love’s Secret Domain and Outside the Circles of Time have been reissued this year, the Grant book by Starfire Publishing.

Contents:
The Vision and the Voice: Esoteric Dimensions of Coil’s Vocals by Hayes Hampton
A Hauntology of Coil by Sean Oscar
Are You Loathsome Tonight?: Coil’s Transformations by Benjamin Noys
The Horseman Betrays His Steed by Cormac Pentecost
The Spaces Between: Outside the Circles of Time and Love’s Secret Domain by Andy Sharp
Jhonn is Unbalanced by Val Denham

Previously on { feuilleton }
Dreaming Out of Space: Kenneth Grant on HP Lovecraft
Peter Christopherson Photography & The Art of John Balance Collected
The White People by Arthur Machen
Val Denham album covers
Kenneth Grant, 1924–2011
Peter Christopherson, 1955–2010
The Angelic Conversation