Monday, 27 January 2014

Richard Corben

Den & Rip In Time (Fantagor Press)
Art by Richard Corben
(from 'A Cerebus Preview' in Cerebus #146, May 1991)
I remember when Richard Corben appeared on the comics scene in the early l970's. It was a remarkable time. The undergrounds were just beginning to make an impact outside of California. A big article on them in Playboy (December I970) seemed to legitimize them enough for wider distribution. Wide enough to include Reid's Books & Magazines at the comer of King & Ontario streets in Kitchener. Fanzines were also having something of a renaissance. I was subscribing to RBCC and got to see a fair number of the "prozines" (as they were called) at Capt. George's Memory Lane store in Toronto. At the intersection of fanzines. undergrounds and the mainstream interesting things were taking place; Witzend, Berni Wrightson's Badtime Stories, Kenneth Smith's Phanmsmagaria, Phase magazine. It was the beginning of this-thing-we're-all-in-that-no-name-seems-to-stick-to: ground level, alternative, independent.

And at the center of all that, we have Richard Corben self-publishing (yay!) Fantagor number one in 1970. There really wasn't a tangible marketplace at the time and it would be a few years before he self-published again, but I do remember that first issue and what an odd-ball thing it was. I always felt a little funny putting my Corben books in with my undergrounds. He didn't seem to fit there any more than he did in the overgrounds. Or the fanzines. He was a unique stylist who defied catergorization. He did things with light and shadow no one else did. He drew women with enormous breasts: bigger breasts than anyone else. Later when I started getting laid I found out that he got them right, too. Only Corben could do enormous breasts that looked like the real magilla.

I remember the first time I read Corben's Rowlf; one of the most beautifully rendered (both writing and drawing) black and white stories I have ever seen in my life. When I spoke with Mr. Corben to get info for this introduction he reminded me that Rowlf first appeared in a FANZINE for God's sake (Rudi Franke's Voice of Comicdom). You never knew what Corben was going to do next. A story done in wash would be followed a month later by one on duo-tone artboard would be followed by an airbrush job (more airbrushes were sold to Corben "wannabe's" than any other group in the 1970's I'd reckon). Then full colour airbrushing. He was disowned by the underground fans as "too slick, too commercial" and disowned by the Marvel and DC fans as "too undergroundy".
Cage, Banner, Haunt Of Horror (Marvel Comics)
Art by Richard Corben
Having weathered several publishers over the years (including JimWarren, the Mother of All Scumbag publishers who, according to Mr. Corben's best information, became an illicit arms dealer after getting out of the comics business. No big surprise. He had the personality for it.) Richard Corben is now a confirmed self-publisher; including ten issues of Den, the Jeremy Brood graphic album with Jan Strnad, the Son of Mutant World series, Rip in Time. He even self-published his own 90 minute live-action video The Dark Planet. He keeps most of his work in print and available from Corben Studios...

But the really big news is that Mr. Corben's newest title, Horror in the Dark, is starting in June and it's going to be a monthly. That's right! Corben Studios charges into the Nightmare World of the Thirty-Day Deadline (Welcome!) You could hear the mighty flexing of creative muscle even over a long-distance phone-line. It's a limited series which will run at least six issues with reprinted back-up stories of Mr. Corben's earlier work (issue one features the eight-page "Lame Lem Love" which I’ve never seen) as well as work by Strnad, Jones, Raul Domingo and others.

They're also reprinting Den in a l00 page full colour book that will retail for $14.95.

Final thoughts from one of the comics medium's indisputably truly Great's?

"I hope everyone buys it."

Amen, Mr. Corben, sir.
Hellboy (Dark Horse Comics)
Art by Richard Corben
Richard Corben is the comic book artist who first became known for his comics featured in Heavy Metal magazine in the 1970s - Bloodstar, Mutant World and Den. Since then he has worked on various titles for Marvel and DC Comics and in 2009 he won "Best Finite/Limited Series" Eisner Award, for Hellboy: The Crooked Man and in 2011 he won "Best Single Issue/One-Shot" Eisner Award, for Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil. He was inducted in to the The Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2012.


David Birdsong said...

ROWLF is highly recommended. The artwork is outstanding and the story is one of Corben's best, not as over the top as some of his later stuff. It's fun and creepy and those enormous breasts are there too.

Anonymous said...

Corben is awesome. I've got a friend who hates his work- which is amazing to me. "Yeah Punisher: The End was pretty good, but the art fuckin' SUCKED..."

Nice guy, but still. Philistine.

-Wesley Smith