“Portrait of Death” (1952) by Rudy Palais

Early comic books had close ties with the pulps; they sometimes shared artists, writers, editors, even publishers. Both DC and Marvel started off publishing pulps; Harry Donenfeld’s Spicy magazines ran comic strips like Polly of the Plains, Olga Mesmer, and Sally the Sleuth. Donenfeld switched to producing comic books—and ultimately found Superman more profitable.

Lovecraft had no direct ties to the nascent comic book industry; he died the year before Superman appeared on the newsstands, but several of his associates and contemporaries did. Julius Schwartz, the teenager who acted as Lovecraft’s agent to sell “The Shadow out of Time” and “At the Mountains of Madness” to Astounding ended up at DC Comics. Frank Belknap Long, Jr. and Otto Binder wrote for the comic books, as did Manly Wade Wellman. August Derleth was more of a collector—and famously used his Guggenheim grant to bind his collection of newspaper comic strips—but he made it into the comics anyway when a writer plagiarized his story “The Ormulu Clock” (1950) for a comic (Forbidden Adventures: The History of the American Comics Group 73).

Plagiarism, or at least “borrowing,” was rife in both comics and the pulps; and not even H. P. Lovecraft was immune from it. “Cool Air” had already been discreetly adopted by EC as “Baby…It’s Cold Inside!” in Vault of Horror #17 (1951). In 1952, someone else published an adaptation of “Pickman’s Model”…with a few changes.

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Weird Terror #1 (1952) – Page 18

The writer is unknown; the artist is Rudy Palais, who had been working in comic books since the 1930s. “Pickman’s Model” was first published in Weird Tales in 1927, but had been reprinted a number of times, including in the Best Supernatural Stories of H. P. Lovecraft (1950, World Publishing, Co.) and Famous Fantastic Mysteries (Dec 1951), so it was definitely available.

At seven pages, the adaptation drastically truncates Lovecraft’s story, and the character of Richard Upton Pickman is replaced by the slightly more generic (but still vaguely Lovecraftian) Eric Gilman; the narrator is replaced by female investigative reporter Pat Carter—shades of Lois Lane and Sally the Sleuth. Her journalistic instincts are correct, her courage is undoubted, and Pat Carter is tough enough not to “scream like a silly fool.” Hardboiled though she might be, Carter is not prepared for Eric Gilman’s secret…that he paints from life!

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Weird Terror #1 (1952) – Page 22

Much as with “Pickman’s Other Model (1929)” (2008) by Caitlín R. Kiernan, the writer goes a step further than Lovecraft—capturing actual video evidence for the ghoulish creatures that live beneath the earth. The denouement is stereotypical of horror stories and creature features in comics at the time—the preservation of the status quo, at least nominally; the trust in the “proper authorities” to deal with the unpleasant realities that normal people wouldn’t be equipped to deal with and the desire not to cause mass panic. The preservation of normalcy.

“Portrait of Death” is ultimately an effective adaptation; not the first or the best, although perhaps the first with a female protagonist. It definitely isn’t one of the most gruesome of the pre-Code horror comics ever published, but it gets the job done…and in an intriguing way. Other uncredited Lovecraft adaptations may well still in the yellowing pages of old comics, waiting to be recognized for what they are.

The story was first published in Weird Terror #1 (1952, Allen Hardy Associates), republished in Horrific #8 (1953, Allen Hardy Associates), and slightly reworked and republished in Tales of Voodoo #3 (1968). The reworked version has been reprinted in Weird Worlds #2 (1971) and Terror Tales #6 (1972) from Eerie Publications. It has also been republished as part of Weird Terror volume 1 (2016).

The original story is in the public domain, and may be read in its entirety here.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

“Le Pornomicon” (2005) by Logan Kowalsky

Pornomicon . . . derived from the Greek Word “Porne”, meaning prostitute. But the word on the whole means nothing to me.
—Logan, The Pornomicon 5

RF_Logan_01Le Pornomicon is a 2005 French-language one-shot homoerotic horror comic book created by writer/artist Logan Kowalsky (credited here simply as “Logan”) by H & O Editions; it was translated into English by Class Comics in 2006. While long out of print, it is still available as an ebook from Class Comics’ website.

The first known erotic comic based on Lovecraft’s Mythos was “Tales of the Leather Nun’s Grandmother” in the underground comix Tales from the Leather Nun (1973, Last Gasp), and ever since there has been a steady addition to the oeuvre of erotic Mythos comic books and graphic novels. For the most part, however, these works are typically created for a heterosexual audience, with women as the primary focus of all sex acts and male-on-female (or, increasingly, tentacle-on-female) pairings making up the majority of all sex acts. A rather smaller cross-section of such works dip into LGBTQ relationships or focus extensively on non-heterosexual intercourse.

One of the first of these was John Blackburn’s Coley series (1989-1999), which featured the bisexual Coley Cochran, who occasionally encountered the servants or descendants of the Old Ones; Noé and Barreiro’s El Convent Infernal (The Convent of Hell, 1996) includes several lesbian scenes, as well as a sexually-explicit copy of the Necronomicon and a notorious tentacle sex scene. The latter work might well have been part of Logan’s inspiration for Le Pornomicon, focusing as it does on the eponymous tome and penetrative sex featuring penis-headed tentacles.

In this respect, readers may suspect an influence from Japanese hentai on one or both works, and there’s probably some truth to that. However, given the focus on size, penetration, and masculinity in Le Pornomicon, the tentacle works well to foster the visual rhetoric of the story when it makes an appearance, taking things from the cartoonishly oversized to beyond anything humanly possible.

The visual grammer permitted by the tentacle is extremely useful to the pornographer. With no restriction on length, it permits penetration without blocking the view. It can also be used as a form of restraint, permiting multiple penetration, sexualised bondage and east of access. Best of all for the tentacle as a pornographic device, while it may often look suspiciously like a penis, to the extent of possessing a foreskin or glans, or even ejaculating upon climax, it is not a sexual organ by definition.
The Erotic Anime Movie Guide 58

It perhaps needs to be said that there is not a single homoerotic aesthetic; the gamut of LGBTQ+ works encompasses a vast range of body types, relationships, preferences, etc. Le Pornomicon tends toward burly, over-muscled, often hairy subjects; the genitals are cartoonishly oversized and the holes are elastic, the relationships are almost entirely purely sexual with no romantic bonds, blushing nervousness, consideration of feelings, etc. While some folks might reductively say “Well, it’s porn,” not all porn is like that. Not even all homoerotic Mythos fiction; “Herbert West in Love” (2012) by Molly Tanzer and “Herburt East: Refuckinator” (2012) by Lula Lisbon both exhibit very different aesthetics, despite both focusing on the homoerotic potential of “Herbert West–Reanimator.”

Part of the reason Logan focuses so slightly on the human relationships is because the main character of the book is not human, but the eponymous Pornomicon and its associated Mythos. The story is set across two time periods, two brief encounters united by the presence of the Pornomicon, and in this way it is reminiscent of the Loc-Nar in the animated film Heavy Metal (1981). Like that object, the presence of the Pornomicon is associated with mental and physical corruption, introducing elements of body horror and the monstrously alien as the humans are possessed, transformed, and eventually subsumed by inhuman carnality. In the universe of the Pornomicon, Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth are inherently sexual beings, but unlike in the works of Lovecraft or other writers who focus on these entities having sexual relations with human beings to spawn progeny, there is no focus on reproduction. Cthulhu does not impregnate these burly male characters, they become a part of him.

Which could be read as a form of homosexual panic, or a reflection of the implicit bias against sexuality in slasher films where couples who sneak off for a bit of illicit fun receive a brutal comeuppance as they are macheted to death—although it seems likely that neither of these was consciously intended. Rather, Logan offers a pornographic horror comic with no happy ending, the encounters with the Pornomicon are by their nature lustful and end badly for those who tamper with the Great Old Ones, but that would probably be true for anyone of any gender or sexuality. The unbiased nature of Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth in taking all victims equally only appears to be biased because the story focuses exclusively on homosexual men.

Logan also takes visual inspiration from Mythos-related works. In particular, the background of page 10 is annotated “Apres Mike Mignola” and directly references the visual imagery in the Hellboy: Seed of Destruction (1994) series.

Above, left: Mike Mignola, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #3.
Above, right: Logan, The Pornomicon.

Sometime after the publication of Le Pornomicon, Logan began a series of illustrations titled The Pornomicon Legacy, but so far there is no indication of another volume forthcoming.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

“Medusa’s Curse” (1995) by Sakura Mizuki (桜 水樹氏)

While many of H. P. Lovecraft’s tales have been adapted to the form of comics, and no few have been translated into other languages, it is comparatively rarer to see translations and adaptions of the revisions and ghostwriting stories into languages other than English. One of the very few such treatments is an adaptation of “Medusa’s Coil” (1939) by Zealia Bishop & H. P. Lovecraft entitled 「メデューサの呪い」(“Medusa’s Curse”) by 桜 水樹氏 (Sakura Mizuki), published in 妖神降臨―真ク・リトル・リトル神話コミック (1995), a collection of adaptations of comparatively lesser-known Mythos fiction by Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, and others. “Medusa’s Curse” is the final story in the volume, and begins with a preface:

The writers who during Lovecraft’s lifetime asked him to edit their stories are called ‘Lovecraft school’. Among this group the female author Z. Bishop left a most impressive work. Medusa’s Coil can be compared with Bishop’s other story “The Curse of Yig” which combines snake phobia and Native American folk tale. Due to its fine details, Medusa’s Coil is a special work that evokes mythological fear. Especially the outbreaking catastrophe at the story’s climax and the last unexpected twist take the reader into another dimension and leave him there.

Besides these two stories, Bishop also wrote the excellent story “The Mound” about the underground kingdom of K’n-yan and its cosmic terror. It is expected that this story will also be turned into a manga at one point.
—trans. Dr. Dierk Günther

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The adaptation removes the original Southern plantation setting, moving the story into a contemporary American South full of late 80s/early 90s styles. This transition also removes many of the objectionable elements from the original, as there are now no slaves (or people of color) in the story, no references to Africa, and the final revelations are focused much more on the cosmic horror of Marceline Bedard.

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“Marceline Bedard”

Sakura’s art style throughout is very subdued, realistic, with the slightly effeminate bishonen look to the younger male characters Denis and Marsh. It effectively communicates the quasi-love triangle set-up of the original story, the interplay between Denis, his friend Marsh, and Marceline as wife and nude model for the painting. For most of the story, the action is purely on that psychological level, no hint of the supernatural.

While there are liberties taken with truncating the story to fit in the space, overall this is a very faithful adaptation, with lines of dialogue borrowed directly from the story (sometimes in abbreviated form). The art tells more of the story than the dialogue, as a good graphic adaptation always does; little details like the ligature marks of the blood on the floor where the body was dragged, the shape of the handle and blade of the sword taken from a tulwar…and, of course, the painting itself, which attempts to express the inexpressible.

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Sound of heart beating
Shocked sound
Hissing sound of snake
Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh
Sound of gunshot

One of the things the story adds is a literal emphasis on the serpentine aspect of Marceline Bedard and her hair which is lacking in the original story. Lovecraft and Bishop used the term “Medusa” metaphorically, the hair as an alien thing, perhaps closer to the strange tentacles of C. L. Moore’s “Shambleau” (1934) than to the monster of Greek myth. This becomes more obvious after her death, when the story goes from a bloody lover’s triangle to overt supernatural horror.

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Sound of car door, fire, screeching tires.

Note here how the narrator is in a panic, and the framework of the panels reflects that. No longer are they square and even, now everything is skewed and at Dutch angles, reflecting action and movement that the reader doesn’t see, but which happens in the gutters. It is a very effective way to show the disordered, chaotic state of mind, and is used to great effect on these pages. The very regularity and normality of the opening of the story makes it all the more jarring when the horror finally appears on the page.

All reference to Marceline as being mixed-race is gone, Sophonisba’s speech is gone, and with them all explicit references to Cthulhu and the Mythos. The story is certainly simpler for it, both from a narrative perspective and visually, while sacrificing none of the inherent power of the story. The tension builds nicely until the first bloody climax, and then the real horror begins… The final revelation now is less Marceline’s identity than the fact that the house had supposedly burnt down five or six years previously. Ending it in that way makes it more of a ghost story, similar to some of the tales in Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1904).

Translations and adaptations are tricky, especially when going back and forth between different media and languages. How much did Sakura deliberately jettison from the starting text, which was probably a Japanese translation rather than the original English? There are obvious efforts to remain faithful to the general events and specific wording of the story, even as it is updated to a contemporary setting (as are most of the other adaptations in the manga anthology), lines of dialogue from the English original come through in recognizable form when translated back into English, which can be a remarkable achievement in itself.

「メデューサの呪い」(“Medusa’s Curse”) by 桜 水樹氏 (Sakura Mizuki), published in 妖神降臨―真ク・リトル・リトル神話コミック (1995); I have not been able to find any reprints or translations.

With thanks and assistance to Dr. Dierk Günther of Tokushima University for assistance and translation of the Japanese original.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

Vidas Ilustres Presenta: Lovecraft, el hombre que revivió ritos espantosos (1972) by Editorial Novaro

The works of H. P. Lovecraft were first translated into Spanish (Castilian) and published in book form in the 1950s, no doubt some individual magazine appearances preceded those publications. But readers in Mexico in the 1970s could enjoy El color que cayó del cielo (1957 or 1964, Ediciones Minotauro), Obras escogidas (1966, Ediciones Acervo), En las montañas de la locura (1968, Eidtorial Seix Barral), El caso de Charles Dexter Ward (1971, Barral Editores), and Viajes al otro mundo (1971, Alianza Editorial)…and in September of 1972 in Mexico, eager young readers could snap up Vidas Illustres #292, thirty-two color pages dedicated to H. P. Lovecraft.

The date is significant; the first English-language biographical comic of H. P. Lovecraft was Kuchar’s “H.P.L.” in Arcade #3 (1975), and the first full-length biography, L. Sprague de Camp’s Lovecraft: A Biography (1975), were both published three years later. While Charlton Comics had published a very brief piece on Lovecraft in Baron Weirdwulf’s Haunted Library #61 (1971), that was only about a third of a page at the back of the book. Yet based on the details in the panels, the makers of this comic book (neither writer or artist is credited) obviously knew their Lovecraft. From the very first page:

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This is a very fair snapshot of Lovecraft’s life, as readers of imported Arkham House titles (or the cheaper paperback reprints) would have had in 1972, right down to signing off as “Luveh-Kerapf” (“Luveh-Keraph”). Nor were the writers/artists unwilling to show their influences:

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This issue would have been on the stands next to Mexican horror comics like Tradicions y Leyendas de la Colonia, El Monje Loco (issue #52 of which contains an uncredited adaptation of “The Colour Out of Space”), Las Momias de Guanajuato, and Mini Terror. These were infinitely more lurid and creepy than nearly anything on the newsstands in the English-speaking world in the early 1970s, with the possible exception of Warren publications like Eerie and Creepy. Mexico had no Comics Code Authority, but the Comisión Calificadora de Publicaciones y Revistas Ilustradas had limited resources with which to censor comics.

In production quality, the paper and printing are cheap and shoddy by today’s standards—but by 1970s standards, this wasn’t half bad, definitely on the lower end of the scale of professional publication but far from embarrassing to be seen next to second-tier horror comics like Charlton’s Haunted or Gold Key’s Doctor Spektor. Some of the panel layouts in particular show an awareness and willingness to experiment. This triptych layout for example:

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Not the height of comic art in the 1970s by any means, especially the bizarre anatomy of the critter in that lower right-hand panel, and the backgrounds are perfunctory at best, but the framework is more than just a four-by-four grid. Someone was definitely trying to invoke something, no matter the limitations of their skills or the medium.

While nominally Vidas Illustres #272 begins as a bio-comic of Lovecraft, by page eight it morphs into a very brief adaptation of “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” presented as a quasi-biographical story of Lovecraft himself! This is actually pretty fair for such an abbreviated epic, with the most notable odd discrepancy being the mix of clothing styles—the protagonist’s top-hat recalls the 1800s rather than the 1900s, although I suspect it owes something to The Haunted Palace (1963), a period horror film nominally adapting Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name but really borrowing from Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”—the second figure in the third panel of the first page bears a distinct likeness to Haunted Palace star Vincent Price.

Some things did get lost in translation, or at least a little jumbled. The swastika-shaped signs are reduced to a single out-of-context panel that probably confused a lot of readers in a post-World War II Mexico. In one panel, “Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn” is transliterated as “¡Ia, Ia, Cthulu tfañg!” These are features more than flaws, writer and artist trying to cram as much into the thirty-two page comic as they could.

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There is something really poignant about the last pages, where fact and fiction combine and you get this version of Lovecraft reflecting back on his life and saying:

El horror de mi vida solitria y extravagante adquirió entonces un sentido: yo no soy de este mundo.

The horror of my lonely and extravagant life then acquired meaning: I am not of this world.

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As an individual work, Vidas Ilustres #292 might be seen by many as a curiosity—but it should be seen as exemplary of a distinct mode of Spanish-language graphic works involving Lovecraft and his Mythos. Artists from Latin America such as Alberto Breccia (Los Mitos de Cthulhu), his son Enrique Breccia (Lovecraft), and Horacio Lalia (Les Cauchemars de Lovecraft) have crafted superb adaptations and original stories based on Lovecraft’s work, as have Spanish artists such as Joan Boix (Grandes de la Macabro) and master painter Esteban Maroto (Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu). Several of these works have been translated into English, but most can only be read in their original Spanish or in other languages.

References to the Mythos in Spanish comics has ranged from the erotic, such as Ignacio Noé and Ricardo Barreiro’s The Convent of Hell, to the lighthearted and comic such as José Oliver and Bart Torres’ El Joven LovecraftLovecraft continues to be an influence on Spanish-language comics to this day through the ongoing comics anthology Cthulhu from Diabolo Ediciones, including the special issue Lovecraft, un homenaje en 15 Historietas.

I could go on; the field is vast, and the influence of Lovecraft and his mythos runs deep. As far as I am aware, this issue was never reprinted in any form. If you are interested in reading the long out-of-print Vidas Illustres #292 yourself, the issue has been scanned and uploaded to the Internet Archive, where it can be read for free.

My thanks and appreciation to Silvia Moreno-Garcia whose article “Mexican Horror Comics” in the Weird Fiction Review #10 provided some of the background and inspiration for this piece.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

 

Innsmouth (2019) by Megan James

I grew up reading the works of H. P. Lovecraft. I loved every fish monster, evil cult and doomed protagonist, frankly finding his affected writing style and weird creatures intrinsically hilarious because of how corny it all was.
—Megan James, Foreword to Innsmouth (2019)

H. P. Lovecraft, and to a degree his compatriot Mythos creators Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, and Robert Bloch, have seen their life and works adapted to the medium of comic books and graphics novels since the 1950s. These range from fairly straight adaptations a la Alberto Breccia, Richard Corben, John Coulthart, I. N. J. Culbard, Gou Tanabe, and Ben Templesmith (to name a few) to original re-imaginings of the Mythos such as Alan Moore & Jacen Burrow’s Providence, Matt Howard’s Con and C’Thulhu, Mike Vosberg’s Lori Lovecraft, and dozens of other offerings in a number of languages.

Megan James is in good company.

The tone of the story is reminiscent of nothing else than a particular scene in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens:

Sister Mary Loquacious has been a devout Satanist since birth. She went to Sabbat School as a child and won black stars for handwriting and liver. When she was told to join the Chattering Order she went obediently, having a natural talent in that direction and, in any case, knowing that she would be among friends. (27)

The point being that at a certain point in the life of a church, the mundanity sort of grinds out the divine nature of the proceedings. Or, as is the case in Megan James’ Innsmouth, the end times when Cthulhu is summoned can’t be held on a Thursday because they’ve already got the potluck scheduled.

“Well, the Elder Gods clearly didn’t give the events committee proper notice.”
Innsmouth, issue #1

What we get in five issues is a re-imagining of Innsmouth where intermarriage with fish people is just accepted and maybe working toward the end times is not a major priority for most of them. But like certain outbreaks of Millenialism and Milleniarianism, a few folks are actually looking forward to (or actively trying to cause) the project of waking Cthulhu up in more than a theoretical Sunady-go-to-meeting sense. Which is a problem if you kind of like the world as it is, thank you very much.

The cast and crew assembled by the combination of slapstick and well-meaning anti-cult activities is not coincidental. The team that is assembled includes a female Innsmouth acolyte (Abigail), a female Muslim (Fatima Alhazred, descendant of that Alhazred), and a pair of homosexual African-American reanimators (Drs. Edward Herbert & Jason West). This well-rounded cast is a deliberate effort on James’ part:

While much of the book is inspired by Lovecraft, James said she did take a few of his common outdated themes and views on certain issues such as race and switch them up.

“I wanted to address that in how I’m treating these characters, updating that for 2016,” she said. “Kind of giving voice to some of the characters he shafted along the way.”

For example, in the author’s 1924 short story, “The Hound” he introduces the Necronomicon, which according to James is a book of evil which Lovecraft linked to Arabic heritage.

“That’s not really cool,” she said. “I have a character Fatima she’s Muslim and studies the Necronomicon and it’s part of her family heritage…kind of reclaiming the stuff that he’s messed up.”

—Amy David, Local Comic Book Artist Megan James Mixes Humor and Evil in Upcoming Book, Innsmouth (28 July 2016)

It’s worth pointing out, none of this feels forced. Having Abdul Alhazred’s descendant majoring in eldritch anthropology at Miskatonic University is a key plot point, especially since the Innsmouthian’s Pocket Necronomicon is only about 20% complete; she and Abigail score a couple of gags playing off of each other’s alienation to the culture at large. Each of the characters has their role to play and is a character in their own right, not a walking two-dimensional stereotype.

James expands on this in her foreword a bit:

Of course, Lovecraft stresses fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, as I realized more and more as I grew older, his unknowns included not only fungus planets and brain-snatching flesh spiders, but also anyone who did not fit the mold of a white, straight, educated, Anglo-Saxon. […] I wanted to pay homage to all the things I love about the Mythos, but I also wanted to reinterpret the more troubling aspects and have some fun along the way.
—Megan James, Foreword to Innsmouth (2019)

This is in many ways the meat of the book, and the issue that every contemporary writer and artist has to consider when working with Lovecraft and the Mythos today. There are things that Lovecraft wrote in the 1920s and 30s which passed for publication then, but would not and should not today. It is a good thing that new artists approaching the work are willing and able to engage with this aspect of his writing, to grapple with how best to approach the material and update it to fit the syntax of today.

With any luck…there will be more:

This is just the beginning of Randolph, Fatima and Abigail’s story. Ideally, by the end of Innsmouth, I’ll have crafted a story that Lovecraft would have detested…but truly, I have no interest in playing by his rules just because I’m in his sandbox.
—Megan James, Foreword to Innsmouth (2019)

H. P. Lovecraft is long dead, and cannot render judgment—but in the here and now, what matters is not what Lovecraft would have thought, but what the readers and audience think. Megan James has put together a fun, adventurous story with a group of likable (if not always competent) characters whose hearts are in the right place. Readers looking for seriously nihilistic cosmic horror would be better off looking elsewhere, but for those who can take enjoyment in something more light-hearted, it’s a good book.

Innsmouth ran for five issues from 2016 to 2018, published by Sink/Swim Press and available at the store on her website. The collected trade paperback edition, published by ComicMix in July 2019, is also available on Amazon.com.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

 

“The Elder Sister-like One, Vol. 1” (2016) by Pochi Iida (飯田ぽち。)

My days with her were everything to me.
—Pochi Iida ( ぽち小屋。), The Elder Sister-like One, Vol. 1

Ane Naru Mono / The Sister of the Woods with a Thousand Young / The Demon Who Became My Sister (姉なるもの), translated and published in the United States as The Elder Sister-like One is an ecchi manga written and drawn by female writer/artist Pochi Iida (ぽち小屋。), translated into English by Sheldon Drzka with lettering by Phil Christie. Th story follows the day-by-day life of Yuu, an adolescent orphan who inadvertently summons Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, and makes a pact with her…to become his big sister. The goddess takes a (mostly) human form and calls herself Chiyo, and strives to honor her obligation.

Adaptation and translation always carry with them layers of interpretation and reinterpretation, and the original syntax is often lost or re-envisioned, refitted to the appropriate cultural context. So Pochi’s take on the Cthulhu Mythos in this manga is definitely in the tradition of the supernatural/monstrous girlfriend trope of manga like Monster Musume (モンスター娘のいる日常) or Oh My Goddess! (ああっ女神さまっ), and the re-casting H. P. Lovecraft’s dark fertility goddess as a buxom young woman recalls works like the manga Fight! Iczer One (戦え!!イクサー1 ), the visual novel Demonbane (デモンベイン), and the light novel Nyaruko: Crawling With LoveHaiyore! Nyaruko-san (這いよれ! ニャル子さん) and their various incarnations as anime, manga, video games, etc.

What largely sets Pochi’s work apart from others is the bittersweet undercurrent that runs throughout the work. Told as a series of chapters (“First Night,” “Second Night,” etc.) the attitude of the first volume is one of discovery, as Chiyo adapts to the human world and strives to be a good big sister to the lonely Yuu, who is sometimes frightened by the glimpses of her inhumanity…and yet is so desperately happy to no longer be alone. Yet from the very start, we know that this happiness is to be somewhat fleeting. From the very first page, the reader is told that this co-occupation is only temporary. In the beginning, the seeds of the end are sown.

The bitter reminder is offset by the sweetness, however, and most of volume one is very light, and full of fanservice. Chiyo is buxom, and when she remembers to wear clothes tends to wear things that emphasize her breasts or curves, and Yuu is often faced with unexpectedly close circumstances (such as Chiyo hiding Yuu’s head under her skirt, giving him a point-blank view of her panties). Such fanservice is almost slapstick compared to the hints of a darker world which he story gives the reader as it progresses, but the balance and pacing are such that the themes blend together very satisfyingly. Readers will likely warm up to Chiyo and Yuu’s relationship as their attraction and understanding grows. All the more precious with the knowledge that summer must one day end.

It is worth mentioning that the story is published simultaneously in two separate “continuities.” The ecchi form above has plenty of exposed skin, but never any full frontal nudity or actual sexual contact—the attraction between Chiyo and Yuu is teased and developed along the lines of an eromanga where a teenaged boy might develop a crush on his kindly big sister. The hentai form released from the circle Pochi-Goya (ぽち小屋。) follows the same basic storyline but is sexually explicit, with Chiyo’s tentacles getting into all sorts of places and her relationship with Yuu being much more intimate (although censored in accordance with Japanese laws regarding depictions of genitalia, etc.) The dual release is a relatively mature approach to publishing: save the sex for the readers that are interested in it.

The actual Mythos elements are fairly light in the first volume. Chiyo is by and large the only blatant supernatural element, though at one point it is made clear that other monsters do exist in the world. There is no mention of the various tomes, Lovecraft country, other Mythos entities, etc. The question might be reasonably asked then: why use the Mythos at all?

The value may be that Lovecraft’s artificial mythology is explicitly inhuman, with only peripheral connections and parallels to traditional Buddhism, Shinto, and Christianity. If Chiyo was a succubus from a Judaeo-Christian Hell, or a traditional Japanese goddess or monster, the reader would have different expectations of behavior or interactions with humans, which would probably have to be explained away. Being Shub-Niggurath frees the character from those conceptual constraints or hurdles, allowing the emphasis is on personal development rather than world development, so that the story remains very focused on its two main characters.

Elder Sister-like One was first serialized in Dengeki G’s Comic in 2016, volume 1 and volume 2 have been translated and released in English in 2018 by Yen Press in both print and electronic format. Hentai volumes are released individually in Japanese by Pochi-Goya.


Bobby Derie is the author of Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014)