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Neverwhere [Ariel], Foreword by Fritz Leiber

Neverwhere [Ariel]

Den [I]: Neverwhere [Arial] (1978)
A Illustrated Epic Adventure of Fantasy and Magic
1) Feb. 1978. 2nd: Oct. 1978. Ariel. 9″x12″. $7.95. 112[+4] pages. Story/Art/Color-Richard Corben. Cover: glossy color. Guts: glossy color on white. [oug+id2nd]
2) 1st: Feb. 1978. 2nd: Oct. 1978. Leather Bound with Slipcase. Edition of 150. Signed. [ebay]

Foreword (pg 7) by Fritz Leiber:

Foreword [no title]

The art traditions which Richard Corben drew on in creating this remarkable book go back thirty thousand years and more – to Late Palaeolithic man’s cave paintings of hunters and their weapons, witchdoctors and their rituals, and a profusion of animals feared and revealed: the mammoth and the aurochs, the reindeer, wild horse, bison, rhinoceros, and elephant, and perhaps by way of dimly recalled racial experience the sabertooth tiger, the dire wolf, the dragon, and kindred monsters. The dry caves sought out by the artists of the Aurignacian and Solutrean culture preserved their vivid work from sun, damp wind, and weathering and many of their techniques were curiously modern – big posters expanses of color, dramatic stick figures, the effect of air brush got by blowing through hollow bones to break up paint fed through a similar tube into a fine spray.

Correspondingly, Richard Corben reaches far back into time for his fundamentals: a great desert landscape in cave browns and reds and in it the single figure of a powerful naked man – one more statuesque and entirely nature animal, but a brooding one, imaginative and feelingful and lonely, wondering about the mystery of his existence. To him come other primitives: a mysterious woman-girl with exotic head-dress and facial stripping (the use of body paint is another odd link between ancient and contemporary); the beast-man (primitive often guised themselves as their totem animal, both hunted and worshipped); and then the trek begins, whipped on by curiosity (the mythological theme of spying on the naked goddess is a common one), toward the arena of the story set amongst temple ruins suggestive of the Incan, Aztec, and mysterious Mayan – the whole wealth of archeology and anthropology is at the artist’s fingertips. Thereafter bursts of action savage, dramatic and humorous, more animal men, magical women, strange monsters, then escape and the weaving into the tale of its science fiction and occult elements, that notion of inter dimensional doorways between worlds which haunts the imaginations of fantasy writers, speculative scientists and mystic alike.

All art, it seems to me, goes back to the dramatic, the acted-out tale, the creation of scenes, the weaving together of words and pictures to tell a story. The comic adventure, the action tale told in brief words and pictures, has a long history, for the reader is always happiest if he can see as well as read. Illuminations in gilts and silvers, purest blues and reds flower from the crabbed texts of medieval manuscripts out onto the vellum margins, as though the blackletter words cried out for pictures and thus, brought them into being.

Yes, man has always had the need to visualize a story so as to make it all the more palpable. Neverwhere, a graphic story, has all the sophisticated techniques of modern art to bring a wonderful new pictorial tale to an age-old tradition.

Friz Leber
San Francisco 1977

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Created: July 13, 2015. Last updated: July 18, 2019 at 10:15 am

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