In February of 1928, HP Lovecraft penned a tale that was published in a pulp magazine called Weird Tales. This short story was titled The Call of Cthulhu, and it dropped into the well spring of literary consciousness, creating seemingly infinite ripples that continue to permeate the wake of popular culture. In addition, there have been many noteworthy comic books that were influenced by The Call of Cthulhu’s title character, but none were as underrated as the comic book, Savage Henry.
In 1987, Matt Howarth penciled, inked, and wrote a story that melded his passion for illustration and obscure electronic music with elements from the Lovecraftian Mythos. The result was Savage Henry, a comic book that takes place in the mythical world of Bugtown, in which the inhabitants are transients from many different worlds who encounter real life musicians on a regular basis. Even the town itself is a sentient being with magical properties, enabling it to travel to parallel dimensions. Savage Henry is the guitarist for a Bugtown band called The Bulldaggers (a name that is apparently derived from a very derogatory term, according to Urban Dictionary). The band is an eclectic collection of otherworldly beings. This week’s profile is dedicated to the Bulldagger’s synthesizer player, Lord C’thulu, who is a unique variation of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu.
Though classic interpretations of the creature have it looking like a dragon with an octopus for a head, Howarth’s take on Cthulhu is substantially different. His version of the entity wears an Armani suit, chomps on a Cuban cigar, and looks like the by-product of a massive sinus infection.
Aliases: Tulu, Clulu, Clooloo, Cthulu, C’thulhu, Cighulu, Cathulu, Kathulu, Kutulu, Kthulhu, Q’thulu, Ktulu, Kthulhut, Kulhu, Kutunluu, Cuitiliú, Thu Thu
Name: Lord C’thulu
Powers: Limited shape-shifting abilities (although, he always looks like a giant booger with tentacles), Immortality, Draws additional energy from the star of Aldebaran
Most memorable quote: “She is a young goddess….immature in Ka and still prey to her fluid generated lusts. I am an Elder God. I have always been. I am complete.”
Affiliations: Elder gods, The Great Ones, and The Bulldaggers, whose membership included the following lineup upon Lord C’thulu’s arrival:
1. Henry aka Savage Henry: Guitars
2. Professor Ed’s Computer Max: Mix engineer
3. Poker Eyes: Former Bass player
4. One of Caroline’s clones: Keyboards and alien wind-woods
5. Hiroshima, Rogue Nuclear Earth Mother: Bass
6. Boche, The Druid: Synthesizers
7. Stanley, The Parisian Majick Rock (looks like a clam shell): Bookings
8-9. Ron Post and Roger B: Inter-dimensional scoundrels (not in the band’s official line-up)
10. The Unseen Girl (invisible): Cassette vocal FX
Origin: Lord C’Thulu was sleeping peacefully in the depths of the Pacific Ocean in his home in the underwater city of R’lyeh. Until 1977, when he was awakened by the ominous music of The Bulldaggers. They were playing a music fest that can best be described as an inter-dimensional Lollapalooza. While performing their hit song, Beef Injection, Savage Henry ripped a brutal guitar solo, using his dental fillings as a fret slide. The ensuing musical mêlée penetrated the submerged monolith in which Lord C’thulu was sleeping. Once awakened, he followed the source of the disturbance, which led him to the stage were The Bulldaggers’ were playing. The elder god was still grumpy from being awakened, but he was totally digging the tunes. So, C’thulu challenged Boche the Druid to a synthesizer duel, and he gladly accepted. Because both beings had enmeshed their mystical essence with the notes that were emitted from the patch chords, the crowd was hit with an explosive onslaught of fatal telekinetic vibes. Half of those in attendance were killed instantly. After the show, they asked C’thulu if he would like to join the band. He agreed, and he’s been in the band ever since.
Allies: Since spending most of your existence in absolute seclusion has a huge impact on your social life, Lord C’Thulu doesn’t have a large circle of friends. So, he mostly just chills with The Bulldaggers, and other than their ex-bassist Hiroshima, they’ve all been pretty solid allies.
Antagonists: The Bulldaggers’ bassist, Hiroshima, left the band in 1982. After her self imposed exile, she began a relentless campaign of murder that extinguished the lives of many innocent beings. With each death, the souls of the vanquished increased her innate metaphysical properties, and by 1987, she was a full-blown goddess. Intent on destroying Lord C’thulu, she sought out to eliminate the man whose annihilation would equate to an unfathomable amount of ascendancy. The confrontation between Henry and Hiroshima culminated after he had just claimed victory over an enormous host of dark beings known as Gurumukas. Subsequently, he saw Hiroshima, and greeted her politely. She responded by delivering the worst sucker punch in the universe‘s history. Using her ability of self-detonation, she exploded into a mushroom cloud that killed him instantly, while simultaneously consuming an extensive portion of Bugtown in the process. With Henry and many of the town’s inhabitants dead, their life-force became an energy that fueled Hiroshima’s bloodlust. Mad with power, she was ready to face-off with the Elder God known as Lord C’thulu. Using a mud-Gollum of her own creation, she located her prey and demanded a fatal showdown. Lord C’thulu accepted by stating, “I don’t run when faced with infants.” The ensuing fray caused unspeakable collateral damage, and the battle concluded with a spectacular and abrupt destruction that can only be expected from gods. Many died, ashes fell, and only one figure remained amidst the aftermath (I won’t reveal the winner here, pick up Savage Henry #4 or e-mail at email@example.com for the outcome and a bonus picture of the slaying).
The market may have been flooded with indie comics in the 80s, but comics like this are rare for any time period. Howarth’s dialogue ranges from playful slang to dark poetry delivered with extremely rich monologues. His illustrations are intentionally cartoonish and well complemented by his effective use of stippling and crosshatching. Matt Howarth is truly a master of his craft, and it shows with each stroke of his pen. Savage Henry spanned thirty issues from 1987 to 1994, and they were all published under the labels of Vortex Comics and Rip-Off Press. Matt Howarth has published a wealth of comic books, graphic novels, and web-comics throughout his career, and I strongly recommend picking up some of his his work. If you don’t have any luck finding any of his books at your local comic shop, don’t worry. Howarth has a comprehensive list of his publications for sale (including, all thirty issues of Savage Henry) at his official online store, Bugtown Mall.
Musicians and bands that made authorized appearances throughout the Savage Henry series: Andrew Weiss, The Residents, Hawkwind, Moby, Ash Ra Tempel, Klaus Schulze, Nash the Slash, Foetus, Yello, Wire, Steve Roach, Richard Pinhas, Ron Geesin, David Borden, Conrad Schnitzler
Other comic books inspired by HP Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu: Cthulhu Tales (interview with Mark Waid and Steve Niles about Cthulhu Tales), The Fall of Cthulhu, The Misadventures of Hello Cthulhu (web comic), The call of Cthulhu grapic novel (read an entire comic adaptation of Lovecraft’s short story for free!), HP Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu graphic novel (Unpublished/ preview 1, preview 2)
Additional Links: Neil Giaman’s short story, I Cthulhu, Call of Cthulhu (official site for the video game with additional info about the Cthulhu mythos), Complete works of HP Lovecraft (read all of his stories for free!)