The Call of Cthulhu
Background Summary: “Call of Cthulhu” is one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most well known works of literature. The short story has been adapted into film, board games, as well as becoming a part of internet culture.
Overview: To pay homage to Lovecraft, and to offer something different in sharing his work, an illustrated hardback adaption of his short story is needed.
Drivers: To share the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and to hone my skills at print layout.
Audience: Lovecraft and horror fans alike are a focus, but also other designers as well.
Tone: Dread and madness
Message: The book should be as ominous in appearance as it is in written word.
Visuals: Bleak, dreadful, madness educing
Details: 8×10 hardback book, at least 25 pages long. Detail shots of the finished book will be needed. Derivative works are possible, ranging from posters to a landing page.
Targeted Message: Staring into the absurdly alien can wear at the vary notion of sanity.
Approximately 8×10 hardback book, about 25 pages
Word Count: approx. 11,000
- 11,000 words printed from blurb.com
- cover design
- Statue with glyphs
- 5 illustrations
- Cthulhu idol
- At R’lyeh
- The ship
- Print: $20
- Shipping: $6
- Illustrations: $200
I drew inspiration for this project from a children’s book, several magazines, two novels, three graphic novels, several soft back books, and of course some dark illustrations I came across on Google. Unfortunately I don’t want to violate any copyright laws out there, so I won’t be taking pictures of anything specific.
Concepts & Sketches
As I began to create my first concepts and sketches, there were several things I hadn’t originally considered.
First, I knew that I wanted to create my book layout at a large than average size. In this case, I was looking at 8×10. However As I continued to work on my comps, I realized early on that I wanted to work in a 6×9 format. I found a book in my collection that matched this dimension, and I felt that it “felt in my hands” nicer than another book I had at 8×10. I also wanted the size of the book to be somewhat substantial. With “The Call of Cthulhu being slightly over 11,000 words, I knew that it would be “that long”. However once I laid out my book in a preliminary 6×9 size, I would get about 50 pages. Strangely enough, that is the same size as the 6×9 I already own.
Second, how to handle my credits page. A few novels I looked at outlined the credits page in a traditional format. I’ve seen this format across many books. However I found it to be boring and stiff looking. I gained some insight into how graphic novels handled their credits page. Basically doing the same thing, I wanted to add some visual stimuli to my book layout. However I was torn between being more traditional, and taking a risk and trying something new with a book layout. It’s my hope that if I ever work with an author who wishes a more traditional approach, they will feel confident my abilities to create a “lesser” credits page.
Third, the headers in my book, as well as titles, and other important non-story subheadings should be unique. I ultimately decided on using what I call an “occult” like typeface. I believe that the essence of “The Call of Cthulhu” lends itself well to a typeface that reflects this essence.
I knew from the beginning I wanted to use charcoal for my illustrations. I find it to be an easy or at least a forgivable medium to work in. It also has the ability to really set a dark mood, which is perfect for a Lovecraft work. However I was skeptical about the cover. I wasn’t entirely sold on how I could use charcoal for my cover in a effective way. Below is my quick, proof of concept, as I tried to develop my cover.
In the end, I didn’t care for the charcoal cover. It didn’t grab me in the way I wanted. So I began to think about what the medium could be. For inspiration I turned back to The Call of Cthulhu. In it, I was inspired by the bas-relief that was described throughout the story. I felt if I could create a sculpture, photograph, and edit it to resemble a photo that could have been taken in the 1920s, I could be onto something. So I looked into how I might be able to create sculpture on a budget. Originally I had considered getting a block of clay. They go for about $13 for a five pound block. I never really did any sort of sculpture before. I wasn’t sure how pliable, forgiving, and after the project was over, what would I do with it? I certainly wouldn’t want it to dry and wither away. So my solution was a vague memory I had of people who made their own playdough. I was off to my local Target store, where I bought a bag of flour and a can of salt.
From the results you see below, I felt that I was onto something. I took the colored picture first, and after some editing in my phone, I got the look I was looking for! I shot a few images with my Canon 60D with my tethered setup. From there I imported the images into Photoshop and began working with the image to get the right look I wanted.
Below you can see how the cover progressed. I feel that it has the 1920s vibe I was headed for, and it also looks ancient.
After I developed my cover, I began to work on the illustrations. I picked iconic points throughout the story that I wanted to illustrate. The credits and contents pages was an area that I wanted to make visual. From a standard book design standpoint, it was rare to find books where this section was anything more than just blocks of text. I wanted to show that I could make this two page spread more interesting. I struggled briefly with keeping with traditional credits/contents page, or take a risk and do something different. I really enjoy how these two pages turned out.
Next you can see what I did for the chapter pages. Each section of the book has their own page sized illustration. Again they are loosely based on what is happening in that section of the story.
Here you can see how I laid out the pages throughout the book. I wanted to bring attention to the cultists’ chanting and translations. I also created a new Cthulhu illustration to pair with Lovecraft’s bio.
This book is currently being printed. The final results will be displayed when the book arrives.