Voiced by Rob Zombie
An extra-dimensional being of indeterminable age or origins, Great Ichthultu is the most powerful entity among Its kind, a cabal of alien monstrosities known in our universe as The Old Ones. Not content to dwell in Its own dimension, the creature has sought to establish a presence in our universe, either by the accumulation of worshippers or through direct conquest. In Its time, Ichthultu was worshipped thousands of years ago on the planet Thanagar—where it traded knowledge in exchange for sacrifice—and attempted an occupation of ancient Earth, but It was defeated by King Poseidon, who closed the passage between our reality and Its own.
Incredibly powerful and ancient, Great Ichthultu never forgave that slight, and continued to find another way to breach the barrier between dimensions. However, Its ambitions were recently broken when Hawkgirl, a Thanagarian all too familiar with the legends of Ichthultu’s horrors, gave the entity a lobotomy using her electrified mace. Now blind and idiotic, Great Ichthultu writhes unceasingly in Its own universe, surrounded by the lesser entities that formerly served as Its armies.It should be remembered that Ichthultu is neither technically god nor alien, as It is something so alien to humanity that we do not have the appropriate words with which to describe It. Although no longer a threat to our plane of existence, the eldritch tales surrounding this malevolent entity will be told for millennia to come.
Dwayne McDuffie on Ichthultu: “Ichthulhu was absolutely a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft and to the old Marvel Comics’ The Defenders. [Also], Bruce Timm is a Rob Zombie fan, so I wouldn’t be surprised if casting him as Ichthultu was his idea. It was appropriate casting (courtesy of ToyFare Magazine).”
Cthulhu Image #1 | Cthulhu Image #2 | Screen Grabs of The Old Ones
There had been aeons when other Things ruled the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them […] were still to be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity.
[...That] time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and reveling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.
H.P. Lovecraft, from The Call of Cthulhu
"Speak to me, Child of Thanagar…I gave your people everything. Why did you forsake me?”
"Forsake—we threw you out! The price for your favors was too high.”
An exchange between Ichthultu and Hawkgirl from "The Terror Beyond"
While DC Comics fans may have been perplexed over the use of Ichthultu—a seemingly original villain not based on any classic DC Comics’ character—diehard H.P. Lovecraft fans immediately recognized the creature’s similarity to Cthulhu, one of Lovecraft’s most famous creations. Still, Its inclusion into the Justice League series was not an arbitrary homage, as Bruce Timm and the creative team have been slipping Lovecraft references into their work for quite some time.
Allusions to Lovecraft’s work—a set of stories collectively referred to as “The Cthulhu Mythos"; most of which written by Lovecraft himself, others by different authors seeking to add to the collection’s tapestry—have been an ongoing constant since the days of Batman: The Animated Series. The Egyptian zombie goddess Thoth Khepera from the Batman episode "Avatar," Karkull from the Superman episode "Hand of Fate," the Gug-influenced Krypto from the Superman episode "Bizarro’s World," the alien beast from the Superman episode "Unity," The Imperium, Felix Faust (who bears more than a passing resemblance to the description of Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep)…even the zombie Solomon Grundy and the (debatably) Shoggoth-like influences that can be found in Clayface—all of these things (and potentially more) can be traced back in some way to the Mythos. This should come as no surprise, however, as it is no big secret that Bruce Timm is a Lovecraft fan, as this Timm-drawn caricature can attest (Lovecraft is the one seated, and he is flanked by writers Edgar Allan Poe and Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian).
(Those who would deride this use here as decadence on the part of the creative team should consider that direct adaptations of Lovecraft's stories and Lovecraft-influenced tales have been utilized in comics for decades. In fact, the Silver Age Felix Faust kept a copy of the Necronomicon, Lovecraft’s all-purpose magickal tome and plot device, for use in his Justice League of America stories.)
As was the case with Karkull from "The Hand of Fate," "The Terror Beyond’s" Ichthultu is primarily a tribute to Cthulhu, but where Karkull was merely described as a demon, Ichthultu is instead established to be more as Lovecraft’s original pantheon of creatures were—utilizing the attributes of gods and aliens, but being primarily neither, as these entities were imagined as being totally alien and indescribable in terms of humanity’s experience (in theory, we have no language to fully describe these creatures). To them, we are insignificant beings limited to three dimensions; a tiny race inhabiting a speck in the grand, chaotic, incomprehensible vastness that the universe actually is. Of course, all this could not be delivered in the limits of a forty-minute episode, but some of it was alluded to.
In general terms, Ichthultu was physically designed to resemble Cthulhu’s head—with the octopi-like features, the facial feelers, and the eyes teeming with alien intelligence—but the alien beast resembles Its literary forebear in other ways, such as the fact that It is not bound by a fixed shape. As with Cthulhu Itself, the squid-like head is a constant, but portions of It can expand or contract at will depending on what is needed from moment to moment (in "The Terror Beyond," tentacles and eyestalks were extended from Its body to get a closer look at the trespassers).
The Lovecraft influences don’t stop with Great Ichthultu, however, as the lesser creatures that constituted Its armies—called “The Old Ones” in "The Terror Beyond"—all possessed physical traits that linked them thematically the author’s creations. The tentacles, the eyestalks, the reptilian and marine influences—all of these things are constants that appear again and again in the Cthulhu Mythos’ monsters. In particular, the use of attributes from aquatic creatures is a sly nod to Lovecraft’s famous hatred of fish (some reports reveal him to have been allergic), as the majority of his creatures possessed some sort of fish-like characteristic (the most famous being The Deep Ones from The Shadow Over Innsmouth). Finally, some of the creatures from the episode were lifted directly from his fiction—the creature with the vertical mouth that fought Solomon Grundy was a Gug, from The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath; two of the background creatures fighting Superman and Wonder Woman were Dagon (or possibly a Deep One) and Great Cthulhu Itself, from Dagon and The Call of Cthulhu, respectively; the creature that Grundy fought in Ichthultu’s brain could possibly be either a Shoggoth (from At the Mountains of Madness) or a Servitor of the Outer Gods (from August Derleth’s The Lurker at the Threshold), and the headless creatures possessing mouths on their hands were Y’golonacs, from Ramsey Campbell’s Cold Print.It is unknown whether or not Hawkgirl’s blow to Ichthultu’s brain resulted in the entity’s death, but it is unlikely, as The Old Ones (in the Cthulhu Mythos) cannot die because they do not live in the conventional sense; they do not exist in the same way that humanity does. It is possible that Hawkgirl killed It, but I’d prefer to think that Ichthultu still lives, but in a lobotomized, brain-damaged state. In this fashion, Ichthultu can offer one more homage to Lovecraft’s fiction: as Azathoth; the blind, idiotic entity that dwells in Its dimension, surrounded by the lesser Old Ones, and writhes incessantly, “amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes" (Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath).
Images courtesy of The World's Finest, Cole Miller, Uncle Bear, The Bruce Timm Gallery, and Toon Zone. Cthulhu and related Cthulhu Mythos materials courtesy of the estate of H.P. Lovecraft or their respective creators.
Back to Main Page