What if H.P. Lovecraft wrote the Fantastic Four?

Illustration for article titled What if H.P. Lovecraft wrote the Fantastic Four?

If they weren't outfitted in brightly colored spandex, the Fantastic Four might come off as creepy: a man who can slither and snake his stretchable body parts, a woman who can appear out of nowhere, a fellow who can summon fire with a thought, and a pile of living rocks. Comedian Mike Sterling applies a Lovecraftian filter to the Marvel heroes, imagining the horrors of someone wandering through the Richards household without knowing their secrets.


Sterling was playing around with superhero/Lovecraft mashups when he devised The Phantasmagorical Four, a series of H.P. Lovecraft-flavored scenes. Here's a peek at what he came up with for Reed Richards:

What could I call it? A sense? A "feeling," like the sort one would have when another person is peering intently at you, and you know for certain that you are being so rudely stared at even without directly confirming it yourself. This, however, was not the weight of another's intense observation I felt upon me. This was the feeling that something was behind me, not approaching me, but passing by, twisting and serpentine, splitting through the air with haste. I saw nothing of what it was, frozen briefly by the sensation, staring blankly at a crowded row of books only a foot or two away. I heard nothing, save for what sounded for all the world like the hard cover of a book briefly scraping along a high and distant shelf.

Just as suddenly as the feeling had come upon me, it was gone; and, the spell broken, I spun around to try to determine what had just occurred unseen behind my back while I had vainly looked for a ladder that wasn't there. Professor Richards was still seated in his chair, as if he'd never left it, and it creaked again lightly now as he once more leaned forward over his desk. It was not to study his papers, I saw to my surprise, but rather to read the book of Egyptology, the very one that had been sitting on the shelf moments before. I thought perhaps it was simply a twin of the volume, maybe one that Richards had stored in a desk drawer and removed unheard, but a quick glance upward revealed that the book that was once there, was no longer.


Sterling also has brief scenes with the other members of the Fantastic Four. Maybe he'll decide to expand them into a complete story—but will he find a more fearsome revelation than that of the Thing himself?

The Arkham House of Ideas [Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin via Tor]

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I find it amazing how Lovecraft is considered a master but if I went and wrote a story like he did and tried to publish it, people would laugh in my face. There is almost no personal character development and growth in his works, and he tells instead of shows pretty much all of the time. I guess that was cool in the 20s.