Lovecraft and Heroic Mythology

I’ve noticed two intriguing trends over the last few years.  First is the superhero tale.  Of course the big story there is Marvel, every summer since the first Ironman movies the studio has dominated the cinema scene.  Star Wars and DC comics are coming on, however, with episode 7 in 2015 and the promise of spin-offs coming soon thereafter and the Batman movies followed by Man of Steel and its sequel due out next summer.  There are also mythological and fantasy heroes – the Titans, Immortals, Conan, Hercules, and so forth.

Second is the tendency toward Lovecraft’s views of the universe in dramas.  Lovecraft, if you are unfamiliar with the name, was perhaps the father of modern horror.  His stories stories revolved around another world filled with supernatural beings and ancient gods that were older than anything man had ever seen.  It’s a neat universe to work from, and since he never really defined the extent of the universe, the nature of all its denizens, or even a backstory it has been used consistently since he developed his “Lovecraft Circle”, a group of writers who used each other’s ideas and borrowed heavily from Lovecraft.  Robert Howard was probably the most famous of the group and he based his Conan stories on Lovecraft’s ideas.  Many of the sword and sorcery novels take their cues from a similar starting point.  As mentioned above horror writers have based many of their ideas off of his premises, Stephen King among many others.

More recently, however, Lovecraft’s ideas have went beyond strictly horror into more mainstream shows such as Charmed, Buffy, Angel, Supernatural, and various vampire shows and movies.  It’s also been done more elegantly and interestingly than ever before.

Both Lovecraft’s Otherworld and Heroic Mythology seem to be very popular at the moment, they have a variety of applications, and have attracted some great actors.  But wouldn’t it be great to combine the two concepts?  To get the best of heroes – Superman, Captain America, and so forth – and combine them with the wonderful horror of Lovecraft’s otherworld.

The Japanese have their own otherworld, filled with all nature of monsters and godlike creatures.  It isn’t quite what Lovecraft saw, but it is remarkably dark and similar to his vision.  The Japanese also have their own heroes from their legends and mythology.  Take for instance Yamato.  Born into the imperial house, his stories involved the supernatural as well as battles with human villains.  He also had a sidekick, a giant monk named Benkei who is famous in his own right.

And the Japanese have a medium that lends itself to both the heroic and the otherworld – anime.  With anime, the stories could be cheaply made and the creativity involved in showing it would never be limited by money.  I personally would love to see a series or group of movies that explored anything like what Lovecraft dreamed up all those decades ago.

About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well;
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8 Responses to Lovecraft and Heroic Mythology

  1. Loki says:

    Good post! Isn’t this merging already being done, though? If maybe not to the extent you’d wish, but … Hellboy surely fits the bill? And possibly Hellblazer/Constantine, at least whenever crossing over with the broader DCU. Plus most of the major Marvel/DC heroes with magic as part of their origin, like Doctor Strange, Doctor Fate, the Spectre, etc, they surely fit some of this bill? And I’d be hard-pressed to say that your example Buffy (and its spin-off Angel) doesn’t merge the superhero with the world of ancient horrors behind every corner.

    • Cian Beirdd says:

      I can’t argue with your thoughts, Del Toro lists Lovecraft as one of his major influences with all of his films. You are right, though, I don’t want the occasional as in Hellboy I or the various magicians, or even what you find in ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’. Have you heard of ‘Urotsukidoji’? It’s got a great deal of unnecessary sexual content but the world it explores is fascinating. I would love to see more of that.

      • Loki says:

        Ah, no, anime and manga is a huge pop cultural blind spot for me, so I’m afraid I have not. :\

        I’d say the Hellboy comics’ bubbling to the surface of supernatural horrors is anything but occasional, though, even without being able to compare to Urotsukidoji. It’s usually the driving force of each story. Though in the movies, I’d agree it is a bit more occasional and less omnipresent.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        And I’ve focused on the movies. A Lovecraft theme in every story? I hope that comes out in a third movie.

      • Loki says:

        Lovecraftian theme in every story might be pushing it a good bit too far. But a lurking otherworld that bubbles to the surface in (usually) violent and/or disturbing ways, yes, more or less every story. Might be a bit more fairy tale-flavoured in most than the term Lovecraftian would indicate, though, hence my hesitation.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        Ah. Well, good to know either way.

      • Loki says:

        Highly recommended, by the way. I’ve only read about a third of them as of yet (I might have mentioned my ridiculous reading stack), but they’re incredibly immersive. About half the volumes (as far as I’ve gotten) are longer, on-going stories following up from the first volume’s initial arc, and about half are collections of shorter stories set before the first volume. Oddly, considering my usual preference for long, sprawling narratives, these smaller stories, usually inspired by a specific fairy tale or piece of folklore, are perhaps even better than the longer ones, and really paint a picture of a world where there are ancient spirits and demons dwelling everywhere, just out of sight.

        Too bad a third movie is looking so unlikely. šŸ˜¦ I think I read somewhere that the profitability for the first two was predominately on the home video / DVD market, not the box office, and as those are in decline in the age of streaming, they’re having trouble getting funding.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        I was wondering why I hadn’t heard much about the progress on Hellboy III

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