Seven Seas Of R’lyeh

I walked down the aisle, as casual as a person being watched could. How long had it been? 3 maybe 4 aisles. His eyes burning into the back of my head. I reached for the tome. I’d spent my last few pounds buying an intolerable hog dog from a portable vendor, trying to hide the urgency of my mission from my pursuer. It hadn’t worked. I swiftly placed the book in my jacket and began exiting. Had I done it? Was the stalker just a physical manifestation of my paranoia? I could see the door. I had done it. That’s what I thought until a strong, authoritative hand grabbed my shoulder and asked me to come to the security office. Well, I thought to myself, that’s the last time I try to steal a book from Waterstones.

I arrived late to the Cthulhu mythos party, and hadn’t even brought a bottle of wine! But I haven’t looked back since. I love everything from the 1920s setting to the themes of mind-shattering paranoia. H.P. Lovecraft had been sold to me by a different medium – board games! I love Eldritch Horror and Elder Sign and that’s why I decided I must read some Lovecraft immediately.

After a small amount of research I found the best item to start with was “The Call Of Cthulhu”, a short story with only 32 pages. Now I love short stories and this has become one of my favourites. It’s based on the diary of an ill-fated professor and his grand nephew, who’s the narrator of the tale. He finds out as much as he can about the ancient one Cthulhu and the place he slumbers, the corpse city of R’lyeh. I won’t spoil anything but it’s a great nighttime read!

Second up was “The Dunwich Horror”. I purchased the Penguin publication edition, which had a collection of other Lovecraft stories included. This tale is of the long forgotten hamlet of Dunwich and its rather backwards inhabitants. There are many old families based in this region, with even older secrets. It introduces another of the ancient ones with their own macabre way of forcing their will upon Dunwich. This story is amazing but the other stories included match up to it incredibly well.

Classic horror fans should really give these books a go! The language is challenging at times but it’s worth persevering with. I highly recommend both.

If you’re a fan of Cthulhu already, what stories would you recommend to our readers?

Don’t Bother Mate

Batman is hands down my favourite superhero, possibly my favourite character in fiction, and I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in thinking that. Most people that have met me know that. I once drunkenly gave my very patient girlfriend what can only be described as a 45 minute lecture on why Batman is so brilliant. Lucky girl.

It all started when I was very young, watching Batman the Animated Series (I still hear Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill when reading the comics). I was so taken with the show, that for a piece of early classwork that I recently dug out from around age 7 I basically state that I prefer the Dark Knight to my parents. Priorities. Then for a while I must have become more interested in something else, being a fickle child (I think it was Power Rangers), until about 10 years ago when I started getting into the comics and films in a big way.

I remember soon after Batman Begins came out, making the character credible in the cinema again, standing in line to see one of my favourite bands. The lead singer was hanging around outside chatting to people he knew behind us, including us along too, and he had just bought a book with a photo of Bale’s Batman on the front. He pointed out that Batman doesn’t really need to do anything because he looks so badass, then held up the photo in front of his own face and said “Don’t bother mate.”

I think the main appeal of the character comes from the distinction between Bats and his superhero counterparts, in that Bruce Wayne is ostensibly just a man, and yet he fights crime and often super-powered villains just as well as any big blue boy scout, Amazonian princess or power ring wielding arsehole. This is captured well in one of my favourite moments in Grant Morrison’s huge run in the comics following the events of ‘Batman R.I.P.’. He gets a priority call from the Justice League (leading up to the series ‘Final Crisis’), despite having just been buried alive, nearly drowned and forced to rely on a back-up personality he prepared in advance just in case he was mentally compromised. Just before heading out to an even worse fate, he tells the readers that ‘I’ve worked so hard to gain their respect, they sometimes forget I’m flesh and blood’.

That’s the crux of it, being mortal somehow makes being Batman an attainable thing, even though it absolutely isn’t. People (yes, I am people) like to think that if they had preposterous wealth, took a gap year or two to train to be a ninja, replaced sleep with working out and read a f**kload of Sherlock Holmes that they could be Batman. The same can’t be said about Superman, even though the characters are equally fictitious. This is of course ridiculous, but it does make the character more appealing. You would also have to be a lunatic to dress like a bat and want to be a vigilante every night and day.

DC comics have clearly realised that Batman is their main money maker. The Nolan films were hugely successful (even if the third one was a bit of a mess), and they certainly seem keen to get a new iteration on the big screen as soon as possible. It certainly helps that the main Batman title from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo is f*****g great every month, and tends to outsell most other titles on the stands. There seems to be a lot more going on this year too, being the 75th anniversary of the character’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 way back in 1939 (just a year after Superman). That’s a hell of a long legacy for any character.

So there are some reasons why I love Batman. To the extent that I got a tattoo of the symbol 2 years ago, and have yet to regret that decision at all. Maybe someday I will stop enjoying the comics so much, and I’ll look at it and think ‘what a moron’. But I hope not, because that would be boring.

Also, the animated series completely holds up on rewatching. It is f*****g brilliant.

Adam