The Cthulhu Mythos in the pulps


The Nameless City: First published in The Wolverine, November 1921. Reprinted in Weird Tales, November 1928. Illustration by Joseph Doolin.

This would have been “The Cthulhu Mythos in Weird Tales” if some of HP Lovecraft’s more substantial stories hadn’t been published elsewhere. To prevent sprawl I’ve limited the list to Lovecraft’s own stories even though the Mythos takes in the work of contemporaries such as Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, Zealia Bishop, August Derleth and others. I like seeing the first appearance in print of familiar tales, and I like seeing their accompanying illustrations even if the drawings are inferior pieces, which they often were for the first decade of Weird Tales. These are the short-story equivalent of first editions, and in the case of The Call of Cthulhu you get to see the first printing anywhere of that mysterious name.


The Hound: Weird Tales, February 1924. Illustration by William Fred Heitman.

This issue is also notable for a story by Burton Peter Thom which shares a title with a Mythos-derived song by Metallica, The Thing That Should Not Be.


The Festival: Weird Tales, January 1925. Illustration by Andrew Brosnatch.


The Colour Out of Space: Amazing Stories, September 1927. Illustration by JM de Aragon.

Lovecraft didn’t think that Weird Tales would appreciate this one even though it’s more horror than science fiction so he sent it to Amazing Stories instead.



The Call of Cthulhu: Weird Tales, February 1928. Illustration by Hugh Rankin.

It’s doubtful that Rankin, Senf and co. would have been up to the task of depicting Great Cthulhu or the non-Euclidean nightmare of R’lyeh, but this hardly excuses editor Farnsworth Wright’s decision to give the cover to Elliott O’Donnell’s ridiculous ghost table.

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Howard’s creatures


One of the tasks this week has been sketching out a member of the Great Race of Yith, the consciousness-hopping alien scholars whose exploits are detailed in HP Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time. Their appearance isn’t at all mysterious: Lovecraft describes them in some detail (and sketched them in his notes above) and they were illustrated by Howard V. Brown for their first publication in Astounding Stories in June 1936. But I’ve only ever drawn any of Lovecraft’s creatures when there’s been a good reason (or a commission) so this was the first time I’d had to think seriously about how I wanted to depict a Yithian.


The results will be posted here in due course but in the meantime here’s a couple more of Lovecraft’s own sketches of his creations. The Cthulhu sketch is one of two showing the statue from the story. The most interesting detail for me is the multiple eyes which aren’t described in the text.


The Great Race of Yith have always struck me as somewhat improbable even if you take into account alien evolutionary paths. Similar creatures populate the early science fiction magazines (Frank R. Paul painted many of them), and this is one place where I feel slightly let down by Lovecraft’s imagination. In the recent batch of drawings I’ve also been depicting one of the Mi-go and some of the Elder Things from At the Mountains of Madness. The latter are at the opposite end of the scale to the Great Race, sufficiently alien without seeming absurd.

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