Unearthed: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty And The Beast

Trevor Markwart writes for Bleeding Cool (after a long journey actually getting here, sorry Trevor)…

Unearthed: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty and the Beast
Art from H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty And The Beast

Long lost and previously unknown, H.P. Lovecraft's commissioned adaptation of the most famous fairy tale comes into the light in a limited comic book series adaptation. This is the exclusive story on Bleeding Cool.

It started with a text on a darkly overcast afternoon from Sam, an old friend of mine and a pop culture historian (great job if you can get it). He was deep into research for a book on the last years of H.P. Lovecraft. He had been granted access to the archives of a certain university in New England, whose name rhymes with town, and their enormous collection of thousands of original Lovecraft documents. That first text cryptically read: LOVECRAFT HAD A BEAST!

Unearthed: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty And The Beast
1915 – Lovecraft's official United Amateur Press Association photograph

 

Naturally I was baffled. I remembered where Sam was, and thought about H.P. Lovecraft and remembered that he had a few cats. What had Sam found? Some letter of correspondence about Lovecraft's cats? Why would he text me on that? It took a few more texts and an email and an excited phone call to really learn what a treasure he had uncovered.

Unearthed: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty and the Beast

It seems that a box of previously unknown Lovecraft documents had been left to the university by an obscure alumni, and had yet to be documented. Through a lack of oversight, Sam had access to it before anybody else. The bulk of it were more letters of correspondence to add to the tens of thousands that Lovecraft wrote in his lifetime. However, there was a collection of writing notes which captured his attention. At first he didn't know what to make of them — they had familiar Lovecraftian tropes including references to the Great Race of Yith and the Necronomicon with the action taking place at familiar locations like Miskatonic University and rural Lovecraft country — but were not for any known work. He took photographs of them all before he had left that day and was studying them in his hotel room when he sent me his excited text.

Unearthed: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty And The Beast
Saul Mishkin, publishing mogul. Period newspaper cartoon.

Sam went on to explain that in dire economic straights circa 1934, Lovecraft was surprised to be commissioned by major New York publisher Saul Mishkin to write a novel. The mainstream publishing mogul had read all of Lovecraft's work as a guilty pleasure, and had developed the idea of him putting his inimitable style and talent towards adapting one of the oldest and most popular fairy tales into a novel-length modern "weird tales" version. And a "saucy" one at that — one with appeal to adults, which the original version was written for, before it was rewritten for children. That fairy tale was Beauty and the Beast.

Unearthed: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty And The Beast
Lovecraft with 1875 Illustration with 1919 Lovecraft Photo

Though he was sickened by the prospect and resistant, the sum he was offered (in the depths of the Great Depression) was equal to what he'd made in his entire life writing for pulp magazines. Based on the discovered notes, it was over-stuffed with cosmic horror and an anti-happily ever after ending And, remarkably, he created Omorphia, the only female lead in the Lovecraft mythos! He wrote it in earnest before being paid, while not telling any of the wide circle of correspondents he kept, and mailed in his manuscript expecting the worst.

He got the worst. Saul Mishkin, the publisher who adored his work, had died while the manuscript was in the mail, and his wife took control of the company. She had it returned, complete with warning letters from both her lawyers and spiritualist advisors — who vowed to see to it that Lovecraft would be either jailed or committed to an institution for creating such madness. It was never published and Lovecraft, very sensitive to criticism and one who seldom resubmitted rejected stories elsewhere, must have buried or burned the manuscript. Sam believes it is lost to the abyss.

By coincidence, I had recently been reading the work of Lovecraft's friend, August Derleth, and was aware that after Lovecraft passed, he would take partially finished stories and fragments and create new works from them, co-crediting Lovecraft. In fact, expanding on the Lovecraft universe was always encouraged by Lovecraft himself. I had an epiphany. Inspired by recreations like Peter Jackson's famous KING KONG 1933 spider pit sequence, I would use the notes as the basis for a 4 issue limited comic book series I would write and draw and call it: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty and the Beast.

Unearthed: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty and the Beast
Professor Morgan has a horrible dream his first night at the Beast's mansion.
Unearthed: H.P. Lovecraft's Beauty And The Beast
Omorphia (Beauty) discovers a mysterious link to her past in her first archeological dig at Miskatonic University.

I hope you'll have a look at the Kickstarter for it, and use it to imagine what was lost. As a special incentive to Bleeding Cool readers, I will UPGRADE any printed copy purchase to include your name in the inside back cover.. This is not available on the Kickstarter campaign. You must message me on Kickstarter with the special code: Bleeding Cool.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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