G. W. Thomas
The combination of anthropomorphics (funny animals) and the Cthulhu Mythos does not at first seem a likely or even desirable cross-pollination. The comic book work of Simon Barber quickly shows how wrong this prejudice can be. Using an idiosyncratic style which is original and humorous, Simon shows a world where the Great Old Ones have pleasantly integrated themselves into the lives of funny animals. Barber's background and style are quite un-American, un-Disney, which isn't surprising since he is English. "I was born in the somewhat decaying Industrial city of Sheffield, Yorkshire, at a time when the Beatles were fairly new in the charts. My earliest memories are of climbing through great Cyclopean structures, and tracing the lines of cities long dead. Actually, this is true. On the hilltops in the late 1960's and through the 1970's were still to be found great concrete remains of WW2 defences, and on the way to my favorite hill was the carefully laid out streets and a few crumbling walls of a major housing development that had been started in about 1939, and got overtaken by events. It was a strong impression at the time."
While traditional comics have had little effect on Barber, HPL came earlier on. "I've been reading the original H.P. Lovecraft works since I was 10 or 12 years old. More recently, I've come to prefer the English interpretations as done by Brian Lumley -- purists will probably call me a Heretic, but I like a good Ripping Yarn at times."
Barber's first artworks appeared in 1985. These comics were entirely geared towards his main Historical series, a late Musketeers series, "Occitanians". (Occitania is the SE 20% of France, a place Barber likes to visit for mountaineering holidays.) His first Mythos works appeared around 1991, as a part of my "Toho Academy" scenarios. He explains, "Imagine a plot line where all the Japanese Monster films, James Bond films and H.P. Lovecraft tales are real -- and folk get along with it, uncomplainingly."
This melting pot world comes alive with Barber's style of characters, making the Toho Academy comics weird, fun reading which appeals as greatly to funny animal fans as it does Lovecraftians. "Funny Animals are what I do. I'm not prejudiced, mind you, I draw Anime humans, but they're just one species amongst dozens, with no special place in the scenarios. I like reversing the usual techniques -- instead of having a major monster terrorising the population, it's far more likely to be hunted down and exploited by legions of over-keen Anime characters."
Barber makes no apologizes for bending the Mythos to his own needs. "I really can't see the sense in the 'Eldritch beings are going to return and wipe out all carbon-based Life' scenarios. Given that said Elder Things have had 4 billion years to do whatever they wished with the planet, there's FAR more potential to enjoy rather than erase 4 billion sentient life-forms. Did anyone ever claim the Great Old Ones were Stupid? (Apart from their flute-players, of course . . .)"
"As an artist -- I want to tell the stories that I have available. I don't see myself as a Horror artist, particularly. If you want to see where I'm arriving from, take one of the more extreme Japanese monster Anime films, such as "Legend Of The Overfiend." I really don't like it, in many aspects. It puts over a wholly negative view of Tentacled Beings with enough dimensions to make any mathematician jealous. In my series, the mortals LIKE the idea of beings from exotic regions of spacetime -- either they're rampant Xenophiles, or the classic scene of Japanese folk being ravished by an excessive number of tentacles is a legal fiction."
Simon works in the traditional pen and ink, but has discovered computers like many artists. "Recently, I've been exploring a lot of computer-generated graphics, which draw the complexities of Elder Things better than I could on paper. Folk might want to look at The Anthropomorphic Image Archives of the Velan Central Library with special reference to the later Elder and Kazuko series, to see just what I mean. . . ." No matter which medium Simon chooses, the strangeness continues.
We are proud to present four pieces of Simon's art in this issue of Nightscapes. (Please press your browser's back button to return to the nonfiction section.)
Simon's work can also be seen at The Anthropomorphic Image Archives of the Velan Central Library.
Created: August 17, 1999; Updated: August 9, 20044