FIRST DEEP ONES: BOK AND OTHERS
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.
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
cover by Gretta
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.
cover by unknown artist
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.
pamphlet with art by Frank Utpatel
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have done some unpublished doodle or sculpture but I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.
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?
House covers by Virgil Finlay and Richard Taylor
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...
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.