Elder Signs is a website dedicated to the Cthulhu Mythos in general and the Book Collector in specific. The Book Collector is a creation of G. W. Thomas, a dark detective who seeks out the arcane books of the Mythos for his employer, the mysterious Telford.

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"Writing the Mythos"

at Innsmouth Free Press

WEIRD SITES: THE HELLFIRE CLUB

MALCOLM M. FERGUSON

Weird Tales Author

C. Hall Thompson: Lost Opportunities

The Ghostbreaker Mythos

Michael May's Adventureblog

"The Door to Infinity"

"The Graveyard Rats"

 

THE FIRST DEEP ONES: BOK AND OTHERS

Hannes Bok's illustration

I came across this Hannes Bok's illustration for H. P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and it got me thinking, "Is this the very first interpretation of a Deep One?" The illustration appeared in Weird Tales, January 1942, eleven years after the story was written and five after HPL's death.

With a little digging I found out that the story had been written at the end of 1931, after a second visit to Newburyport, MA. The tale was submitted by August Derleth, not HPL, and rejected by Farnsworth Wright, not because of its content, but because of its problematic size. It was too long to offer in one issue but too hard to cut into two sections. Derleth would offer it to Dorothy McIlwraith in 1941 and it would appear in an abridged version.

American cover by Gretta

So, Deep Ones in Weird Tales at last. And what does McIlwraith do? She doesn't even put them on the cover. The Gretta cover shows an Arab man grasping at a woman holding a box of jewels. As far as I can tell, it doesn't correspond to any of the stories! But wait, Canada to the rescue! The Canadian edition (usually maligned by collectors) does the cover right with two Deep Ones carrying a guy into the water.

Canadian cover by unknown artist

Just to be accurate, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" did appear in print before 1942. It was published in a booklet (full run 200 copies) with a cover by Frank Utpatel. The image on this booklet is hard to decipher and I don't think it features a deep one. I'm not sure if it had interior art but I suspect not. Artistically, it had no influence.

1936 pamphlet with art by Frank Utpatel

I also wondered if Lovecraft himself had drawn the fish-frogs of Innsmouth, as he had with Cthulhu and the Elder Things, but not that I can find. Clark Ashton Smith might also have done some unpublished doodle or sculpture but I haven't found that either. So as far as I can tell Bok and the unknown Canadian artist share the honor of the first Deep Ones.

So, let's consider these two first images. Bok's Deep Ones look lizard-like, four-legged as opposed to bipedal. The Canadian artist's image is much more what later artists did for the Innsmouthians. Both include a fin on the middle of the head which I don't think caught on. Neither image strikes me as being as influential as the cover art for the Arkham House books. Virgil Finlay's cover for HPL's The Outsider and Others (1939) shows many weird creatures, one or two could be Deep Ones. August Derleth's The Mask of Cthulhu (1958) features a swarm of Deep Ones by Richard Taylor. Even in a run of just over 2000 copies, this image is far more typical of what most artists draw or paint for Deep Ones. I wonder if anyone else did one between 1942 and 1958?

Arkham House covers by Virgil Finlay and Richard Taylor

The answer I think is actually earlier. In 1939 Famous Fantastic Mysteries reprinted A. Merritt's The Moon Pool with illustrations by Virgil Finlay. Finlay's Ponape-dwelling creatures, which no doubt inspired Lovecraft back in 1919, are the original Deep Ones. The popularity of this reprint series may have even nudged Dorothy McIlwraith to buy "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" in the first place, though the name Lovecraft may have been incentive enough. Either way, Finlay's frog-men pretty much set the mold...


There was one other instance where Canadian and US covers varied on a Mythos story. This was for August Derleth's "Trail of Cthulhu" (March 1944) in the US and (July 1944) in Canada. The US cover is by John Giunta and the Canadian one is unknown. Both show Shrewsbury riding on a byakhee, and whether you prefer Giunta colorful and cartoony one or the more realistic looking Canadian cover is a matter of taste. Hey, wait, these are probably the first images of byakhees ever! Just thought of that.

 

 


THE DIARY OF A MAD MAN: GUY DE MAUPASSANT

DR. STYX: FIRST MYTHOS COMIC?

MONSTERS ON MY MIND: HOW TO BECOME A MYTHOS ICON

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK COLLECTOR STORIES

MY CTHULHU STORY PART 1

MY CTHULHU STORY PART 2

ARTISTS OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS

THE FUTURE OF LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR

WRITING THE MYTHOS & OTHER ADVICE

MYTHOS LINKS

 

 

© G. W. Thomas unless Fair Use is intended.