Thursday, April 02, 2020

KUTLUL #11 is out


Don't believe everything you read, but the new issue of Kutlul is out! Wild and trashy underground comics from the Rotterdam-Berlin axis. Only 5 Eypo + postage. Send a message to info@joosthalbertsma.nl to order.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sweetwater communism


Holland's battle with the sea imagined under a communist flag. The revolutionary year 1913 will have to be repeated forever.


Friday, February 28, 2020

Tropes versus Lovecraft - Part 4: A Pale Blue Dot

I’ve named this fourth trope (Part 1, 2, 3) of lovecraftian iconography „A Pale Blue Dot“, referencing the title of the famous book by Carl Sagan, as it draws heavily on the sense of isolation and fragility evoked by the image of planet Earth seen from space.
The internal mechanism of this trope is actually very similar to „Under the Surface“(UTS) and „Eye of the Beholder“(EOTB) in that scale, knowledge and perception are crucial factors in it. Obviously, when it comes to the scale difference between humans and the otherworldly entities in the images, here they it is pushed more or less to the limit. We don’t actually see any single human beings but of course we don’t need to, since Earth after all encompasses not only one or a group of individuals, but all of them. While we definitely know what situation humanity is in here, it’s not quite clear wether it itself remains ignorant of the threat (as in UTS) or is aware of it (as in EOTB). Even if it is, it will probably not be able to perceive it as clearly as we can in from our outer space vantage point.

To summarize, this trope and the two before it use very much the same elements to convey the basic lovecraftian philosophical worldview: human existence is threatened by outside cosmic forces next to which they are completely insignificant and which they can only perceive or understand to a very limited degree. Conceptually I think the ones where humans/humanity is not about to be eaten or willfully destroyed are more in line with this outlook because that undermines the entities’ indifference towards us.

I'll start off with one of my own drawings. It’s the cover for a HPL themed comic collection I put out for the CthulhuCon Portland in 2015. At the time I thought that it was a fairly original idea. Only afterwards I noticed other older versions of the same motif, and I 'm seeing newer ones popping up on a regular basis ever since.
 











Like with the other tropes, I'm not saying any of these are swipes (although some may very well be), I do however wonder if it shouldn’t be our goal not to replicate the same ideas again and again until they’ve lost all impact.
On the other hand I find it interesting how a quasi-religious iconography has emerged for Lovecraft’s (or Derleth’s if you will) Mythos, with all its spiritual/philosophical underpinnings. But that’s a topic for another day.

Here's another example of how a trope can become so overused that its ironic version is inevitable.



And a few fun bonus ones.





Final bonus! This is the final scene of the first Men In Black movie... seem familiar?





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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tropes versus Lovecraft - Part 3: The Eye of the Beholder

Here’s the third, long-awaited (as in "almost nobody will ever read this") trope of lovecraftian iconography (Part 1, Part 2), one that I have come across time and again. 


Virgil Finlay

I call it „The Eye of the Beholder“ (obviously not very original, but I couldn't think of anything better) and the Virgil Finlay illustration above is basically a subtler proto-version of the trope, while this great one by John Coulthart is more like the real deal:


John Coulthart

As with „Under the Surface“(UTS) the trope is not so much an interpretation of a specific scene from a given Mythos-story as it is an archetypical representation of the philosophical outlook typical to a Lovecraft story. In UTS, the pitiful ignoramuses above have no inkling of the real nature of their situation, the viewer is let in on the secret so to say, and can see the true horror of what lies underneath.
By contrast, here we are put into the situation of the puny figures in the foreground and are thus forced to identify with them, since like them we mostly do not see what it is that is staring at them (or us). Because we can see only its gigantic eye, a body part that is normally rather small in our view, we are forced to extrapolate the size of the being that is looking at us here. This has an effect similar to a Lovecraft’s strategy of producing horror in his readers: Don’t show the monster - just give the audience enough info to set off their own imagination. Lovecraft himself does this in „The Shunned House“,  but instead of an eye the protagonist digs out a massive elbow in the basement of a haunted house, which, to be honest, always felt more comical than horrific to me. 
Another aspect that makes this trope effective is that a giant eye causes a twofold psychological reaction of both a visceral feeling of uncomfortable closeness and, perhaps more importantly, a recognition of sentience. I wonder wether the ending of „The Shunned House“ would have had more punch if there had been a giant eye which opened and glared at the narrator from out of that hole in the ground...

So here are some more examples. I've definitely seen others, but overall this one seems to be less common than „Under the Surface“.









Again, this post is not meant to critique any specific artist or piece of art. I don’t know most of the creators’ names but perhaps given the context of this post it’s perhaps not in their interest to be credited here anyhow. If any artist would like to be credited (or if they want their artwork removed) please let me know and I shall do so.


Saturday, February 01, 2020

Table Manners


Another sketch in white ink on black paper. (Sketchbook #76) It's somewhat based on the trope of unequal love in 16th century genre painting. But since i am so wonderfully non-judgmental, without its satircal approach. No financial gain was involved for this odd couple. He's a gentle soul, a romantic in an avantgardist's clothing, she is an atavism: part woman, part cat, lots of fur. 

Thursday, January 02, 2020

The Twin Paradox, page 3-11 redone


Happily working on a new story, 'The Twin Paradox'. Left: old version, right: new version. Had to redraw this page for better pacing. Which isn't so hard/boring to do, once the decision is made. Usually, many details get improved while i am at it.
So the last panel was left out, but after this page two extra pages will be thrown in. This is from chapter 3 while i am already in chapter 5, but often i feel like re-editing older parts. The sketching phase is quite short for the sake of spontaneity, so i am willing to run the extra mile in a later phase of the process.