Collect Call of Cthulhu, Part 1: John McKiernan’s squatting horror

In the last post I asked for people to send in their Cthulhu renderings (2D, 3D, real world, virtual, whatever) and design thoughts and I’d post ’em. There’s still plenty of time if you want to participate. In fact, I can’t think of any good reason for this to end. I might as well keep posting dread things until His Squamous Festulence rises and drowns the world in madness and blood. A wag on Facebook designated this initiative the “Collect Call of Cthulhu”, and I’m going to run with that.

I was originally thinking about putting them all in one big post, but I’ve decided to give each piece its own post. That’s mostly because each one reflects a different approach to the same material and I want the creators’ ideas to have a little space to breathe. A strong second reason is for me to riff a little on the associations each one brings up for me. I’m going to post them in the order they come in.

John McKiernan - Cthulhu21The first Thing to filter down from the dark spaces between the stars is this Cthulhu idol by John R. McKiernan. Here’s what he had to say about it:

A few years ago I made a statue of Great Cthulhu. I agree that he shouldn’t have frowny threatening monster eyes. Spiders or sharks seem a better choice for inhuman menace. An interesting observation. Though I think the piece turned out rather well, I have never been able to get a completely satisfactory picture of Him. He doesn’t, it appears, want to be photographed…

Now, this is not some kind of review site where I have to maintain a pretence of objectivity. So I won’t–I’m just going to flat-out gush. I love this thing. I think of it as the Toad God Mob Boss from Beyond. It’s squatting, but in a way that makes you really want it to not ever get up. I love that the tentacles are poorly defined and you can’t tell how many fingers it has (but definitely not the right number). John may be the first artist I’ve seen who has managed to make tiny wings really work. They don’t look cutesy at all. More like the little white flower in the lapel of the gangster’s suit–they might be cute, if they weren’t attached to That, but the juxtaposition itself is horrible.

My favorite thing about it, though, is that it looks old. I get to spend a lot of time in museums looking at old stuff, and this could have been left out in the rain for a million years. Pretty astonishing given that it was conjured from papier mache and foamcore.

The whole effect of the piece immediately put me in mind of this line from Small But Vicious Dog:*

Slaai communicate in enigmas and koans through their crystal balls (with ESP and clairaudience as standard), and can easily overwhelm your tiny monkey brain with mind blasting telepathic insights into their ancient cosmic frog perspective (save vs. death, fail = dead, pass = terror for 1d6 turns).

Allow me to repeat: mind blasting telepathic insights into their ancient cosmic frog perspective. That’s the vibe I get off John’s Cthulhu idol, in spades.

John McKiernan - mummified spriteWould you like to see more awesome stuff/lose some more sanity? Get over to John’s gallery and be inspired. It will make you want to run out for some plastic skeletons and fake heads and start building stuff like the mummified sprite specimen shown above.

Next time: “He probably needs to be not only terrifying but also reality distorting.”

– – – – – – – – – –

* SBVD is a rules hack to make old-school D&D play more like old-school Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying. That may sound obscure, but it’s a cracking read, and I laughed until I hurt over the random disease generator. SBVD is free here. Also a very funny post on it here.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Collect Call of Cthulhu, Lovecraft. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Collect Call of Cthulhu, Part 1: John McKiernan’s squatting horror

  1. Jaime Buelta says:

    I love how it looks crude and eroded, but still sinister and menacing (without being obvious) And it has certain slimy touch that looks great.

  2. Mike Taylor says:

    It turns out that John McKiernan who sculpted this is the father of Erin McKiernan, who’s cropped up on SV-POW! a couple of times, most notably when we quoted her excellent tweet, “If publishing in #openaccess journals costs me my career, then this is not the career I want. Period.”

    Small world, huh?

  3. Nathan Myers says:

    I will join you in gushing. Posture trumps details, and a little bit of tentacularity goes a long way. Lovecraft’s overarching requirement, as I recall, was crudeness. There’s no reason why a Cthulhu carven by degenerate, intoxicated, maddened idolators should much resemble Chtulhu in the flesh, except, as it were, in spirit. The latter probably varies nauseatingly from one second to the next, anyhow. We can explain the crude resemblance to tetrapods as It contemptuously parodying the observer.

    That said, were I to essay to improve on this, I might make the hands and feet look wronger. As our exalted host observed in reference to a much inferior rendering: thumbs? I like to imagine that It’s not so committed to constant magnitude and direction of gravitation as we are.

    It’s hard to do in sculpture, but body parts not actually connected to the body help to suggest extradimensionality. I would probably do that with the wings, which after all cannot really be wings at all. Eyes in non-traditional places are always a crowd-pleaser. (Shoggoths forming and dissolving eyes at random locations, continuously, was a brilliant stroke.) I haven’t seen renditions as a colony of sluglike things clinging to one another — which would not be so different from us, really, except by relative scale — although it must have been done in other mythoses.

  4. Matt Wedel says:

    Lovecraft’s overarching requirement, as I recall, was crudeness. There’s no reason why a Cthulhu carven by degenerate, intoxicated, maddened idolators should much resemble Chtulhu in the flesh, except, as it were, in spirit.

    Yes, that would be quite a trick: to suggest through the content of the idol that Cthulhu is horrible, and through the technical execution of the piece that the sculptor was quite mad. Like layers of awfulness. I wonder if it can be done convincingly. Artists, I think the glove has just been thrown down.

    It’s hard to do in sculpture, but body parts not actually connected to the body help to suggest extradimensionality.

    You are going to like the next entry this series, I suspect.

  5. Nathan Myers says:

    That’s supposed to be “mythoi”, apparently.

  6. Bruno Kopte says:

    Oh, it’s a shame I only saw this now. That idol is better than I ever imagined it so, so paleolithic, antediluvian, so…before us.

    And it reminds me of the Watchers, always a plus:
    http://nightland.website/nightart.html

  7. Matt Wedel says:

    Yes, for all of the excellent Lovecraftiana I’ve gotten to feature on this blog, this one may still be my favorite. It’s unnerving. I think I would not sleep easily with this in the same room with me, certainly not if it was genuine.

    That Watcher link is mind-blowing. I knew nothing about them. Thanks for broadening my universe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s