Young Lovecraft Vol. 1

Written by Jose Oliver
Art by Bartolo Torres
104 pages, black and white
Published by Kettledrummer Books and Diabolo Ediciones S.L.

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for young and cute characters running into the ancient gods of H.P. Lovecraft’s creation. There’s something funny about kids encountering Cthulhu or Yog-Sothoth, in all their hideous glory. That’s why I absolutely could not pass up Young Lovecraft, because it felt almost like someone had created a comic strip with me especially in mind.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft wasn’t always an older man writing about the ancient ones and humanity’s horrifying, madness-inducing encounters with them. As it turns out, he was also a kid who got picked on at school by bullies and was also afraid of girls. Fortunately, Howie even at this young and tender age understood quite a few things about the dark arts, like summoning monsters and casting spells. Unfortunately for Howie, he understands quite a few things about the dark arts, but one of those was not to just steer clear of them entirely.

Young Lovecraft is a collection of a comic strip by Jose Oliver and Bartolo Torres, and as such, it follows a lot of the familiar story structures. When Oliver introduces a new story idea, it generally sticks around for six strips (or a multiple thereof), often with new iterations on the same joke. It’s not a bad thing, but it is the one weakness of reading a strip in a collected format versus a day-to-day experience. Fortunately, Oliver’s got a nice sense of humor that comes across well in Young Lovecraft; from his dealing with the tough guy at school who wants to steal Howie’s lunch, to a trip to Poe’s grave that turns into a massive party, each story has its own unique spin that comes from using Howie as a main character. So sure, there are typical jokes about girls and creepy car rides, but it would be hard to put a generic character instead of Howie Lovecraft into these.

Oliver also comes up with fun twists for the Sunday strips, like how Lovecraft would rework classics of literature. From Treasure Island to Dracula, things never go quite the way that you’d expect them to. Considering that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies made it onto the best-sellers lists, I think there’s a lot of potential in an entire book of just Lovecraft-reworked classics.

Torres’s art for Young Lovecraft is a simple, open look. Most of the characters don’t have noses, and their eyes are just big round circles. For Young Lovecraft, it’s a good match because it makes them look cute and adorable, which serves as a contrast for ghouls ripping off people’s hands, or a monstrous serpentine beasts being used as transport. A lot of the panels in the strip do lack backgrounds, though; sometimes it gets a little too simple looking. Still, at the end of the day, it’s a cute strip.

Young Lovecraft is an entertaining strip, and being translated from Spanish to English hasn’t hurt its readability at all. It might not be anything revolutionary, but it’s fun and a nice way to spend an afternoon. I’d say that it’s doing a good job based on that alone. If you also think kids and tentacle monsters from other dimensions belong in the same comic strip, I suspect you’ll feel the same way.

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