The Arkham House of Ideas.

§ October 15th, 2012 § Filed under fantastic four § 19 Comments

So the other day I was goofing around on the Twitter, as one tends to do there, and decided, in the wake of the announcement of the forthcoming Superior Spider-Man title, decided to adjectivize some typical Marvel titles myself by way of classic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft:

I think that was probably the best one, though I came up with a couple of others which were okay, I guess. I do have a fondness for The Ichorous Hulk, I must admit. (Also, my name is briefly changed to “Mike Ghostling” because it’s a Twitter Halloween thing. What can I tell you.)

As I was thinking about this diversion over the next day or so, I realized that I quit before getting around to the Fantastic Four, which could only be “The Phantasmagorical Four,” so obvious a name that I’m certain I’m stealing it from some read-but-now-unremembered comic. But it also got me to thinking that one of the elements associated with Lovecraft’s horror stories is that the very thing that is horrible is hidden, or indescribable, or otherwise obscured from full understanding or comprehension.

Anyway, this is what I cooked up:

Professor Richards leaned forward at his desk, studying intently the papers laid out before him. After a few minutes of this quiet contemplation, he sat up, his wooden chair creaking at the movement. He looked over his shoulder at me, as if just now remembering that he had an assistant, one that had been waiting patiently for the good professor to finally turn his attentions to him. “My apologies,” Richards said, though his tone did not sound apologetic at all. “I am currently attempting to unwrap a particular historical puzzle, and have need of my volume of Egyptology.”

I inferred from this statement that he intended for me to fetch this book for him. Though I have spent little time in Richards’ personal study, I had no trouble spotting it amongst the many shelves burdened with books of science and history, both well-studied and obscure. It was a thick tome, discolored by age and resting on a shelf just barely out of my reach. I turned away from the professor to find the stepping stool or ladder that he must have somewhere nearby to facilitate the retrieval of books stored at such an inconvenient height. However, oddly enough I found none immediately evident, but my curiosity regarding this discovery was interrupted by….

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.

I tried to form the words, to ask the professor how he had done it, but as I was even drawing the breath to speak, Richards turned away from his studies only long enough for a terse “That will be all.” I found my need to question wither away, replaced by a relief at having reason to depart.

Yeah, I know, not enough ten dollar words to truly emulate Mr. Lovecraft, but you get the idea. I also had an idea for Johnny Storm, the Human Torch:

As I approached the door of Master Storm’s room, I felt the chill of the house alleviate somewhat, which I naturally attributed to a roaring fireplace or a radiator. I rapped my knuckles on the wooden door, and even that brief contact related the warmth of the room beyond. A cheerful welcome was called out to me by young Jonathan, bidding me to enter, so I grasped the door’s handle…and found it hot to the touch. Not so heated as to cause injury, but certainly enough to take notice at how unusually hot it was. Irrationally, I feared for Storm’s life, though I had heard his voice, unafflicted by fear or pain, only seconds before. I quickly twisted the handle and pushed open the door, expecting…gouts of flame, perhaps?

Inside, however, was not a raging conflagration; there was simply Master Storm, reclining on his sofa, obviously in no distress as all. I cast my gaze about the room, seeing no radiator, finding the fireplace unlit and unstoked, apparently for quite some time. Even the lamps were dimmed and barely provided enough illumination for the space in which I found myself. I found no source for the warmth I could still feel beating against me, except from the devilish grin upon Storm’s countenance, taking untoward amusement in my bafflement.

I didn’t really come up with a scenario for Susan Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman, beyond perhaps she’d be invisible all the time, a ghostly presence always near Professor Richards, leaving some clues to her existence for visitors to pick up on, but never enough to really pin anything down. Or maybe she’d be visible on occasion:

I’d turned away only for a moment, but when I turned back, there was Mrs. Richards, who had seemingly materialized out of nothingness as far as I was concerned. Even with my back to the professor, the one entry to the study was still within my eyesight, and I am of absolute certainty no one had entered.

And of course, there’s Ben Grimm…the Thing. The most inhuman-seeming of the quartet, with his monstrous appearance but, it should be noted, containing a giant heart inside. But since I’m low-rent Lovecrafting it up in here, let’s focus on the monster part. Of course, no one would ever get a clear look at him…he obviously would be kept under wraps by Richards in his family home, hidden away in a cellar or something, only let out when need arises. And the poor bastards that had to face the unknowable terror of the Thing…well, imagine a gibbering Paste Pot Pete, driven into madness having come face-to-face with Richards’ most horrifying secret weapon:

“The rocks that moved…the cracking…that rumbling laugh…those eyes, those piercing, soulless blue eyes blazing from the crevices…!”


“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons
It’s clobberin’ time.”

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