Richard Corben’s influence on the comic medium, particularly in the realms of horror and science fiction, can not be understated. Corben’s distinct style, either in color or black and white, inspired many of the generation of artists that came of age during the late 70s and 80s, discovering his artwork through comic magazines such as Creepy, Eerie, and Heavy Metal. His unmistakable illustrations of tortured souls, physically perfect barbarians, and grotesque creatures continue to delight fans through many of the projects that the artist continues to produce.
Horror News Network: Your horror anthology Shadows on the Grave was recently collected in a hard cover edition and certainly appeals to fans of your Poe and Lovecraft adaptations. Why do Poe and Lovecraft serve as two of your greatest inspirations and is it difficult to adapt their work?
Richard Corben: It is obvious that Poe and Lovecraft are my greatest inspirations. They both deal primarily with the most basic of all human considerations, fear. And as Lovecraft said: “The oldest emotion is fear. The oldest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” And, I’m kind of a timid guy anyway. As far as adaptations of these great masters, they’ve all been done a million times, sometimes well, sometimes crappy. In my adaptations, I normally don’t try to do a straight “faithful” version. I try to find just a phrase or idea that might help me come up with something original.
HNN: Many fans were introduced to your work through Creepy and Eerie magazine. What memories do you have from working on those classic horror tales and is there one that your particularly enjoyed illustrating?
Corben: When I reached the age where I really wanted to do something professional with my comics, the days of the classic “EC horror comics” were long past. Then Warren started publishing Creepy and I found my goal. I’m afraid they didn’t just welcome me with open arms. My effort to join the Creepy collaborators is a long and convoluted story itself. During that time I also found the fan comics and the underground comics which I took to with enthusiasm. But with the help of Bill DuBay who was Warren’s editor, I finally started getting assignments. Looking back, I really loved those times and the work I did then. As you can probably guess, doing the Poe adaptations were my favorites.
HNN: In recent years, you have worked with Mike Mignola on a number of fan-favorite Hellboy stories. Hellboy is certainly a character that is up your alley in terms of the strong barbarian types, but what was it like working with Mignola on the stories?
Corben: I was working for Marvel when the opportunity to work with Mike just happened one day. It took me about 2 seconds to decide and accept. I feel Mignola is one of the top writer/artists working in comics. I knew I could learn a lot from his great talent and it was a great pleasure drawing his stories. They consisted of an action synopsis rather than a complete script. He would add the final text after I had completed the art.
HNN: Aside from Creepy and Eerie, many people discovered your art through Heavy Metal. You recently began work on a 15 part story entitled Murky World. Do you prefer working in this episodic style and what can we expect from the series?
Corben: There are many reasons I wanted to return to Heavy Metal: The freedom to write, draw, and color all the pages myself with the help of my colorist. Also, there is a greater freedom with the subject matter because there is less concern about nudity and sexual content at HM. Finally, the pressure to complete a large number of pages with a tight deadline is not an an issue.
The story of Murky World is Tugat’s self-realization, which I suppose is not all that original, but I hope to add a lot of original elements in my own style, such as transvestite wizards, zombie warriors, slave traders, gladiatorial battles in an arena, kidnapping schemes, a giant cyclops, and even more gigantic spiders. Plus, hopefully, some unexpected twists of plot.
HNN: Any future projects that you are working on or thinking about?
Corben: Funny you should ask. There tentative plans here to restart my old Fantagor Press publishing with some limited comic editions. We are also at work on reprinting some older works if we can manage it.
Hellboy: The Complete Short Stories Volume 1 will be released on June 26.
Richard Corben’s Shadows on the Grave and Creepy Presents: Richard Corben hardcover collections and the current issue of Heavy Metal magazine are available right now at finer comic shops and book stores everywhere.