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Richard Corben

15 giugno 2008

The Queen, Den and Catherine Wells

Heavy Metal Magazine cover by Corben featuring three of his Neverwhere characters: The Queen, Den and Catherine Wells

Richard Corben (born October 1, 1940) is an American comic book artist best known for his illustrated fantasy stories in Heavy Metal (HM) magazine.

Neverwhere, 1978. This is the first Den comics collection, cover art by Richard Corben


He was born on a farm in Anderson, Missouri, and went on to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Kansas City Art Institute, in 1965.

After a short stint as a professional animator, Corben started doing underground comics in 1970, when he started illustrating horror comics for Warren Publishing.

In 1975, when Moebius, Druillet, and Dionnet started publishing Métal Hurlant in France, Corben started submitting stories to them. He continued his work for the franchise in America, where the magazine was called Heavy Metal. In 1976 he adopted a short Robert E. Howard story in what is possibly the first graphic novel, Bloodstar.

Eerie '86 cover by Corben featuring a scene from his story "Change... Into Something Comfortable"

Eerie ’86 cover by Corben featuring a scene from his story “Change… Into Something Comfortable”

Among the stories drawn for Heavy Metal was one of his most famous, Den, a fantasy series about the adventures of a young underweight nerd who travels to the other world of Neverwhere, a universe taking inspirational nods from Robert E. Howard‘s Cimmeria, Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s Barsoom andH. P. Lovecraft‘s horror dimensions. There, the boy becomes an enormously endowed (and always naked) muscleman who has erotic adventures in a world of outrageous dangers, hideous monsters and buxom naked women who lustfully throw themselves at him. This story was adapted in a highly abridged form in the animated film, Heavy Metal, where Den was voiced by John Candy.

Due to the sexual nature of Corben’s art, he is often accused of being pornographic, a description he himself disagrees with. As an example, Corben was interviewed by HM editor Brad Balfour in 1981 (vol V, issues 3-5, June – August), but was very dissatisfied with the interview. He felt it portrayed him as a repressed homosexual and a “petty, childish, borderline psychotic oaf”. He wrote a letter in retort, which was published in September 1981 (vol V, issue 6).

Wrack & Roll, 1986 U.S. paperback, cover art by Richard Corben

Wrack & Roll, 1986 U.S. paperback, cover art by Richard Corben

His work in comics have won him some recognition, including the Shazam Award for Outstanding New Talent in1971, and a Shazam Award for Superior Achievement by an Individual in 1973. He also received a C.I.N.E. Golden Eagle and President of Japan Cultural Society trophy in 1968 for his short film Neverwhere

Corben did the cover of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell, Jim Steinman‘s, Bad for Good. and a movie poster (based on a drawing by Neal Adams) for the Brian De Palma film Phantom of the Paradise.

Ever the independent, Corben would work with rocker, Rob Zombie, and Steve Niles in 2005 on a project for IDW Publishing called Bigfoot. The graphic series ran for three issues and demonstrates the artist’s evolution. The story chronicles a young boy who witnesses the brutal slaughter of his parents by the enigmatic title character and his return to the forest for revenge when he becomes older.

In 2007, Corben did a two issue run on Marvel Comics‘ surreal demon biker, Ghost Rider. At Marvel‘s MAX imprint he has produced Haunt of Horror,mini-series adapting classic works of horror to comics, with the first mini-series based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe[1] and the upcoming one will be on H.P. Lovecraft’s.[2]

Quotes about Corben

Corben’s work has affected a generation of illustrators and graphic novelist, both in the United States and in Europe. Here are some quotes about his work:

Will Eisner, from the introduction to The Odd World of Richard Corben:

Corben’s work is singular in its humanity. He works with towering technical skill… …the wonderous thing of it all is that underneath all that technical tour-de-force is the sound of a beating heart.

Robert Crumb in R. Crumb: Conversations:

Corben’s stuff was great. He put stuff into his comix that the overground press wouldn’t print.

Frank Miller in The Comics Journal:

I feel like I was particularly impressed by Richard Corben’s work. But in general I would not say the underground made that big of an impression except for Corben… His science-ficiton stories, those almost primitive black and white comics he did back then. I was very struck by the visceral punch they had, by the unusual artistic point of view. And also by the unabashed exaggeration. It’s as if you wanted a woman to have big breast, you drew it. There was something just so joyously excessive and erotic about his stuff, that I just ate it up.

Film director Guillermo del Toro:

The artist I most want to aspire to is Richard Corben. His style is visual and it tells the story just as you see it… …my favorite is Corben. I love everything he does, I love his stuff …he’s an amazing artist.

Artist Moebius:

Richard Corben, stands among us like an extraterrestrial peak. He has sat in his throne for a long time, above the moving and multi-coloured field of world comics, like an effigy of the leader, a strange monolith, a sublime visitor, a solitary enigma.

Bloodstar cover by Corben. Possibly the first graphic novel


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