Interview with Richard Corben by Jan S. Strnad
Appeared in Infinity #5 (1973).
I owe Richard Corben a lot. He kept the ailing ship Anomaly afloat for one issue longer after my key artist gafiated, and he helped me sneak into the underground comic book field – the publishers had to take my stories if they wanted Rich’s artwork. He also got me kicked out of my girlfriend’s house when her parents found some of his artwork in the girl’s car … and I owe him for that, too. Still, all in all, Richard is a rare bean and a pleasant person to know, and it was an enjoyable task to interview him Infinity.
He grew up in Sunflower, Kansas, a small town even by Kansan standards. He attended high shool in Kansas City and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Kansas City Art Institute, going soon after graduation into a job with Calvin Workshop, one of Kansas’ better-known advertising agencies. After more than seven years in the animation department at Calvin, he dropped out of the workaday world and devoted himself full time to illustrating comic strips for the underground.
Richard has won both a Comic Art and Shazam award and has received numerous other awards and certificates for his comic strip work and his movie animation. His animated film “NeverWhere” has been a hit at every comic convention lucky enough to show it, winning awards in both America and Japan. His comic strip Rowlf, pirated and printed in French, won him a medal as ” Best Non-European Artist” even though it was an unauthorized edition. His most prized award, however, is a certificate of appreciation from his co-workers at Calvin Workshop, personally signed by each one.
He and his wife Dona and daughter Beth live in Kansas City, though Dona talks wistfully of moving to a more equable climate. The basement is Richard’s and it’s filled with movie equipment, drawing materials, an air compressor that Richard can’t use when Beth is sleeping, barbells, a punching bag, a copy camera and supplies, posters, books, and a stereo with mammoth “Voice of the Theater” speakers.
The following interview was conducted in the middle of April, 1973, in the basement amid thunder and rain. Richard spoke quietly and smiled and laughed a lot, not seeming at all like the ghoulish, evil-minded fiend his work conjures up in the mind. He gave his views with polite conviction, almost hesitantly, and nearly always gave the impression that he was telling only part of what he thought and believed. Richard is slow to criticize and fast to express an appreciation for someone else’s work, and was worried throughout the interview that he would sound like a “know-it-all”. Any such appearance in the following paragraphs must be attributed to the impersonality of the printed page, f r the trait is certainly not present in the individual.
Jan Strnad: What exactly did you do at Calvin Workshop, and why did you quit?
Richard Corben: Technically I was in the animation department but that meant you could be doing various kinds of art-titles, graphs, charts, maps, and so on. It was industrial-type animation rather than cartoon-type. At the time I was doing a lot of underground comix and it looked like I’d be doing more and more; also, some people I know were laid off and I felt it was unfair. So I quit in protest. It just happened to be convenient that I had something else to rely on at the time.
JS : What were some of Calvin’s ads that we might see on television?
RC: Mostly it was local stuff like Macy’s Santa Claus. Very cute. There wasn’t much character animation. I kept staying on because I believed they’d do a feature-length character animation type film, but they don’t want to do it. In fact, their animation department only stays open because it represents a service to clients who want complete service. It’s barely in the black most of the time, usually just breaking even. Calvin makes most of their money on the printing process and they’d close the animation department on a whim without thinking about it. I didn’t like working in department that was like a poor cousin to the money-making part.
JS: I know you’d worked with some of the people there on private projects like “NeverWhere” – was it these people who got laid off?
RC: No, it was just people I knew at the time.
JS: How has it been working out?
RC: It’s been up and down. We’ve had some pretty thin times, but we’re still alive. I wouldn’t go hack to that kind of regular job, and I can’t see working for any of the establishment publishers.
JS: How come?
RC: Well, the regular comics are like big business. They’re not liable to change their product to make a better product – they mainly want something that sells, something as profit-making as possible. They’re not going to go to any extra expense just to make the product better as long as it sells well enough as is. They won’t go to better printing processes or better paper, they won’t go to less advertising or letting their artists have more freedom in what they write and draw.
JS: Who did you talk to from the four-color comics?
RC: Joe Kubert, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas. I guess the most recent would be Marv Wolfman. I got a phone call from Stan Lee and letters from Joe Kubert and Roy Thomas. I don’t believe half of what they say; they’re always putting you on, building you up, saying how great you are – l just let all that pass. They’re so set in the way they do things that, if I worked for them, I wouldn’t enjoy doing comics anymore; it would be just like working for Calvin again. If I have to have a steady job I’d have one where I’d make a lot of money and then I’d do what I really love to do as a hobby.
JS: You exchange with Joe Kubert – didn’t that get a little heated?
RC: Well, what made it heated was that I had corresponded with Alex Toth and he had recommended me to Joe Kubert, his boss; so Kubert paved the way for me as a favor to Alex Toth, and he really felt put upon after I refused him. That’s just conjecture, but it might be the case.
JS: Is Toth a big fan of yours?
RC: It’s mutual, I guess. It’s strange that a lot of people can’t stand his work. He doesn’t take a lot of time in finishing the work – what’s great about it is the design and structural qualities and the way he lays out pages. The way he draws figures is realistic but it’s not superhero style, so he doesn’t get a great following.
His indivdual panels have a nice linear quality to them but this is a strike against him as far as some fans are concerned; he takes no pains in modeling – it’s just an outline drawing, a cartoon. He’s concerned with the story as a whole instead of just individual panels.
JS: Have you thought of doing any commercial work, like Greg Irons is doing for Grunt records? Any nicely printed promotional books or any album covers?
RC: I might do album covers if I ever get together with the people who produce these things. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, like doing a whole bunch of them. Comix are my thing; comix and motion pictures. Anything else would just be a break.
JS: Whatever happened to your paperback book cover? What was that for?
RC: The name of the story was The Green Men of Rapaz. It was originally published by Arkham House but it is out of print now. It’s a Burroughs type adventure thing. The company that wanted to reprint it was called Sebastian Graphics or something like that.
First they wanted to buy my color poster. I wrote back and said it was published as a poster and copyrighted by me, and they said I could do a cover. They sent me a copy of the story, I read it and made some sketches, and they picked one for the cover. At this time we had some discussions about the original and I finally agreed to let them keep it because I needed the money. Then I did the painting, sent it to them, and got no reaction. I finally wrote to them and they said, “Oh, we wrote to you; we liked your painting but had to shelve the project and we’ll let you know later.” That was at least two years ago.
JS: Would you think of getting a job totally removed from doing artwork?
RC: Possibly. I have the copy camera now and Warren wants me to shoot some of his color separations. I could probably be working indirectly for the undergrounds by doing their camera work.
Right now I plan to do more work for Warren until I get out of debt; I’ll mainly do color strips for the inserts in Creepy and Eerie.
JS: I can’t see your style as being acceptable to the establishment, even aside from the busty women and the violence. it seems too grotesque, not slick enough.
RC: The way different people describe my style is so different. Mike Barrier once said I have a crude but strong style. I don’t necessarily agree with all the criticism but I accept it as personal opinion. As far as my own style being in the comics, I think the editors thought I have some kind of underlying skill that they might be able to mold into what they really want, rather than what it is right now or what I want to do.
JS: CidOpey in the first issue of UP FROM THE DEEP implies a very strong anti-drug message. Is that written in there or am I reading something into it?
RC: I guess it’s there. I don’t think it’s really that strong.
JS: So what’s your feeling on the use of drugs, especially as a catalyst for the creative process?
RC: It’s no catalyst. The best creative concepts are in your head the drugs don’t do anything. When Jaxon was here he asked me if I smoke marijuana or use any kind of drugs and I said no, and he was shocked. He felt sure from looking at the stuff I do that I was getting some inspiration from drugs, but I don’t think there is any inspiration in them. If you analyze what you like about art or any creative processes, it stems from logic. You know for me it comes from logical reasons, not some kind of emotional surges. Perspiration more than inspiration.
JS: Are you against the use of marijuana?
RC: No, I’m not for or against. I say let everybody do his own thing.
JS: The main thing you brought to fandom as far as technique is concerned has been the airbrush. Up until recently it’s been pretty well scorned by fine artists but seems to be enjoying a comeback. Is your use of it in the comics an original technique?
RC: No, the airbrush has been used before but in a way that you wouldn’t recognize. Mainly in color separations for covers. Sometimes the airbrush can do many things that make it hard to recognize. You can lay down a flat tone with it and you wouldn’t recognize it as airbrush tone – it’d look like a flat paint. Dave Sheridan has an airbrush, but he uses it for covers rather than interior artwork.
JS: You’ve been ripped off a lot. WARREN changed your artwork, SEBASTIAN GRAPHICS stole your painting, you’re had some trouble with fandom, the undergrounds are proving unreliable in their payments…
RC: Yeah, I guess it’s a matter of coincidence. Not that it’s bad intent – they’re just poor or small.
JS: What’s your favourite underground company to work for? And who are you most mad at?
RC: Well, they all have their problems. I don’t think I have a favorite. I guess I’m most mad at Rip-Off; I don’t like the way they do a slipshod job of printing and then go out selling it even though it gives a bad impression of not only the printing but of the artist too. This applies to the underground in general, but especially Rip-Off. If they ever read this article they’re going to be mad at me.
JS: How much karate do you really know? Your strips are full of it.
RC: Not much. I guess it started with Bruce Lee playing Kato in The Green Hornet, and then I started studying it. I have some books, but the only lessons I remember are the ones I took in the Army.
JS: So you’d say that the Army has played a critical part in your storytelling style?
RC: Any influence the Army has would be my anti-reaction to it.
JS: How old is Beth?
RC: About two years old.
JS: When she gets old enough to read comics will you let her read the ones you draw?
JS: You don’t consider yourself a pornographer then.
RC: That depends on how you define pornography. Is pornography bad, or if it’s bad am I a pornographer? I like to have a certain amount of erotic content in a strip, and some of the readers do too.
JS: Do you think there shouldn’t be an age restriction on the Comix?
RC: What’s good for some kids isn’t good for others. It depends on how their family life really is. I think a well-rounded child wouldn’t be affected by the worst pornography. It’s just pictures and words. I don’t think it can hurt unless there is something twisted about the person already.
JS: What do you think of people who are generally considered to be buyers of underground comix? Mainly the collage age, in the drug or freak subculture?
RC: I like to accept or reject people as individuals rather than as members of a group. I accept you. But you know, like Stan … he’s older and more into the new subculture, but I know him as a person and I like him.
JS: Do you classify yourself as a straight?
RC: I don’t know. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be accepted by the straights or the freaks.
JS: You and I have worked together in Fantagor and Anomaly, Doug Moench has a strip in Grim Wit #2, and you’ve adapted Harlan Ellison’s “A Boy and his Dog”…
RC: Oh yeah, right. There’s been some delay. It’s been brewing ever since last summer, I guess. Then finally in December or January Harlan Ellison called me, I agreed it would be a good story and we should try to do it, and so we went ahead. He sent me a new beginning which he wanted in the comic version and I did the adaptation and did the pencils in the month of February. That was a tight schedule. Harlan wanted to look at character sketches and pencils if possible, so I sent those the second week in February and so far he hasn’t gotten to going over it. It’ll be a high-quality version on good paper like the fanzine edition of Fantagor 1 was. It’ll be 8 1/2 by 11 inches, 34 pages long: plus covers which makes it an odd signature. I wasn’t going to bring out the fact that it’s going to be reprinted as an underground comic but he’s already announced it so it won’t hurt. It’ll be reprinted after the collectors edition is sold out. The underground comic will be four pages shorter and will be in color, so even the collectors will have to get both of them. The underground will be more like the short story.
JS: I’ve heard you’re going to work with Philip Jose Farmer.
RC: That’s another project that’s off in the distance. In fact, I won’t be able to work on that until after Fantagor 5. I’m doing an adaptation of his A Feast Unknown. It’ll be two comic books – there will be one story spread out over the length of two comic books and it will be in full color.
JS: Is the commission the same for working in color?
RC: The way I work it, the publisher pays me a flat rate for doing colors. There are no royalties on the color, just royalties on the book. At Rip-Off I have a different deal. They said that for a 75¢ book the price in the beginning is half again as much, so the royalties would be half again as much, which makes it 9¢ a Book. But you have to sell out of a first edition to make it worthwhile.
JS: When you strated out you wrote all your own stories. Why are you relying on outside writers now?
RC: There are lots of writers that I enjoy. I guess I didn’t rely on them before because they weren’t available to me – nobody had heard of me.
JS: How come you don’t work with Harvey Sea anymore?
RC: Well, he doesn’t write too well sometimes and he has a problem with spelling.
JS: Would you rather work on a comic strip from a synopsis or from a fully written script like “A Boy and his Dog”?
RC: I like variety.
JS: Fandom thinks of your work as being very cinematic, often reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, relying more on pictures than on words. But certain stories you’ve done, like “For The Love of a Daemon” where you had Herb Arnold rewrite the dialogue shows to me that you’re very concerned with words as well.
RC: The way I wanted “For The Love of a Daemon” was like the strip in Fantagor 2. “Dukmous, The Man With the Head of an Ape” which was written in a real flowery, indirect way. I wanted it sort of tongue in cheek humor, and Herb is more literary than I am. I wrote the thing first then he went over it and wrote the dialogue.
JS: You seem to have an appreciation of words. In “Necromancer” in Grim Witt 1, the whole storyhinged on a syntactical mistake on the part of the sorcerer. And I really enjoyed in “The Beast of Wolfton” when Ellen is calling her husband thing slike “discusting leprous debased worm”.
RC: I had a list of words that Tom Vietch sent me. He had read H. P. Lovecraft’s novels and had made a list headed “The Words of H. P. Lovecraft”. I went through and found various picturesque words and used them.
JS: What’s your opinion of text versus pictures in comic strips?
RC: It should go from versions of all text to versions of all pictures and everything in between. I think the comics medium is flexible enough so you can do a lot of different things with it. And one isn’t measurably better than the other.
JS: I’m glad to bear you say that. “The Beast of Wolfton” looks like a lot of planning went into it. Did you do any background on it?
RC: The story is one that I wrote way back in art school. I handed it in as an extra project to my treatise writing teacher and he started making spelling and grammatical corrections and about halfway through he gave up and handed the thing back.
JS: People are going to write a history of the underground comix and they’re going to to have a Richard Corben section, what do you want them to say about you?
RC: I don’t know. I don’t really worry about what historians will have to say. Just live your own life.
JS: Can you think of any particular contributions you have made to the comic book field?
RC: The contributions I’m making I don’t think they want. Some people have said that I’m bringing a technical kind of quality to the comix, a slickness and a technical self-assurance, but they don’t care about that. It’s not a real influence, and it’s not one I’m consciously pushing, but it’s coming anyway. Other artists feel influenced by me; they might like some of my artwork but they’ll pick on something they can do like drawing a line this way or using a special technique, so they’ll try to imitate it. What I really want to do is just to write a bunch of stories and have them produced well enough that a reader can become totally involved in them rather than being distracted by poor printing or certain art techniques.
JS: The fact that you were a professional artist before you did undergrounds means you have quite a skill developed that most underground artists don’t have. The artists who go to the underground are usually self-taught, a lot of them very rough around the edges. I think some of the artists feel a little threatened by this.
RC: If they look at the sales they’ll see that the slick ones don’t sell any better than the crude ones.
JS: When you begin to work a strip for someone else, what determines how much effort you put into it? I see a great difference in, let’s say, “To Meet The Faces You Meet” in Frever Dreams and “Gastric Fortitude” in Death Rattle.
RC: There are many factors. Sometimes time has something to do with it. Sometimes I want to try something new, a different idea. “Gastric Fortitude” failed, I guess, because nobody liked it.
JS: What if you knew you were getting paid twice as much as usual for a story. Would you put more into it?
RC: I’d feel there’s more pressure. Warren does pay me more than the undergrounds to start with, but he doesn’t mind sending stuff back to be redone, either.
JS: Or changing it without asking.
RC: Yeah, if he thinks his production managers can do it. Weather I know about it or not doesn’t matter.
JS: How much better than undergrounds does Warren pay?
RC: I think he pays different artists different amounts. The last strip I did for him was twice as much as the underground pays, but his is a flat rate. Conceivably the undergrounds have a remote possibility of paying more if the books sell enough.
JS: What’s the longest-running book you’ve had in the underground?
RC: I have a story in Skull 2, but there have been better selling books than that. In fact, Slow Death sells better than Skull 1 and 3.
JS: Why haven’t you done much work lately for fandom?
RC: Mainly I’m trying for financial success. I really don’t have the time; otherwise I’d probably do more. In fact, whenever I get into my fights with the publishers I feel, well, I’m not going to do any more comix, just a fanzine once in awhile when I can afford it. But then I’d have to have an outside job.
JS: Do you buy any comics?
RC: No, Herb brings them over when he comes once in awhile. I don’t collect any comics now. I only get what the underground publishers send me or the ones that Herb brings over.
JS: Do you ever leave this basement?
RC: Sometimes, to go upstairs, to get my meals. The bathroom’s upstairs.
JS: What do you think of Warren’s artists?
RC: There’s one of them that’s really good and everybody’s trying to be like him – Esteban Maroto. Even the American artists are trying to be like him – scratching the drawings to get marks all over it and doing full page montages as opposed to sequences of panels.
JS: What kind of stories do you like to do best?
RC: Very strange. Most of my stories take place in unusual settings. H. P. Lovecraft’s stories have mundane settings but ultimately the main idea is very bizarre.
JS: How about your sculpture? We all know you make little clay models of things – what do you make models of?
RC: Mainly characters. I used to make characters, armatures, clay models, castings, and foam rubber flgures to be animated. I really don’ t do much of that lately, but that’s the way it started. I made the statue of Gurgy Tate mainly for fun, but there was something in the back of my head about going into big production on them and selling them at head shops. But it takes so long to make one casting that it’d have to sell for ten or fifteen dollars.
JS: How much does the Jones piece sell for?
RC: I don’ t know – $25 wasn’t it?
JS: It was more than I could afford, which means over two dollars. Gurgy would be a good convention item. You could make up a dozen or so.
RC: I’ve made up three so far. I gave one to Herb and one to Stan and that’s the other one. Theirs are painted in colors.
JS: Is it tbe sort of thing where, once you do the creative work, you could assign the casting to somebody else?
RC: If I could find someone who would enjoy it enough to do it. It’d take a knowledge of casting techniques. Stan could do it. Herb couldn’t because he’s allergic to almost everything.
JS: “NeverWhere” is a very popular item. You’ve stopped sending it to conventions haven’t you?
RC: Yeah. Everybody’s seen it already.
JS: If a person wanted a print of “NeverWhere”, what would be have to do?
RC: He’d have to buy it from Calvin. They still have all the printing material. It’s $100, 16mm, color, sound.
JS: The guy who played Den in the movie – that was your boss wasn’t it?
RC: Yeah, that was played by Ed Faust. He’s also written a couple scripts for me. In fact, that one called “Flys”, that was his misspelling. There’s another one he did that will appear in Slow Death 5. The title of that one is “Melton’s Big Game”. I’d better say it now because I forgot to put his name on it.
JS: Like you did to somebody else’s!
RC: Yeah, there’s some other guy complaining because I didn’t put his name on the strip. We would be like the gothic craftsmen – the work is important, not the artist.
JS: Are you basically a shy person?
RC: Very introverted. I’d never make a speech. That’s why I didn’t go to the Berkeley Con. I had to make a workshop speech once. I wouldn’t serve on a panel, either. I’d like to have a discussion among friends but not in front of six or seven hundred people.
JS: Who did you vote for in the presidential election?
RC: Well, I voted for Nixon. It wasn’t that I was really for Nixon; I just didn’t believe McCovern.
JS: You’ll be sorry.
RC: I am!
JS: What are your political leanings: liberal or conservative?
RC: I’d say liberal on some things, conservative on others. Sort of a militant middle of the roader.
JS: What do you think of the space program?
RC: Well, it’s not going as strong as it was. I’d say if you’re going to spend money, I’d rather spend it on the space program than on killing people.
JS: Do you think going to the moon is a worthwhile thing to do?
RC: It’s sort of like, was it worth while for Columbus to discover America? He couldn’t possibly see if everything was going to happen, but it was certainly worthwhile as far as all of civilization is concerned. We can’t possibly see if things are going to work out at this point in time. Maybe there’ll be people living up there in space, and maybe there won’t be. Maybe they’ll all say it wasn’t worth the trouble.
JS: I see your poster of Mr. Spock there on the wall. Are you a trekkie?
RC: I like Star Trek the first season. I didn’t like it as much the second. And now it ‘s going to be a cartoon series. What’s Bob Kline doing these days?
JS: Oh well, Bob … I have to interview him later. Are you interested in doing animated feature Stark Trek?
RC: Not unless I could have some kind of controlling voice in them. Everybody wants to be Chuck Jones, but nobody wants to do the inking and painting.
JS: How do you see the state of affairs concerning animated films. Can anybody beat the old Disney’s?
RC: Not even the new Disney’s. It’s just not as animated as it used to be. Not only is the animation not as good but they don’t even think about how they should be – you know, the best way in which the characters should work. Characters who are animated now look more like robots than living characters.
JS: Do you ever watch Saturday morning television?
RC: Unfortunately my daughter watches it now and so it’s on so I see some of it.
JS: TV Guide has said that Saturday morning tv is witless, poorly animated, steretype, clichéd, and so on.
RC: That ‘s what Rill Griffith says about my comic books.
JS: What do you think of Kenneth Smith’s work?
RC: In some ways it reminds me of Herb’s; not the funny animal stuff so much, but the work he did for the fanzines like Anomaly. It seemed like it was so concerned with detail, such minute detail that it’s hard to see as a whole thing. It’s very nice looking. And I especially like his Phantasmagoria. He’ ll never make money on that – he’ll go broke.
JS: You know from experience with Fantagor.
JS: Have you thought about doing your own underground printing so you could control the quality and so on?
RC: It seems like it’s a bunch of extra work, and even then you’re still depending on almost the same people. If you don’t trust the people who are publishing now, then you might not trust them when they’re doing your distribution for you and telling you the truth on how many books you’ve sold. It would be nice publishing if you had good distribution and you had some people who enjoyed doing it too instead of doing all the work yourself.
JS: You’d spend more time worrying about production matters and not getting very much drawing done. That could be a problem.
RC: Sure. There’s not much else I could do at this point. It all takes money.
JS: Who’s your personal favourite among underground artist?
RC: I think it’d be Fred Schrier. There’s a kind of cuteness about his work. It kind of reminds me of Kenneth Smith in some ways. When he draws cartoon characters he renders them to the nth degree. Some of the effects he renders are very interesting, like reflections and atmospheric effects. He’s a graphic artist as opposed to a total cartoonist.
JS: Who do you like to read?
RC: I liked Lord of the Rings.
JS: I’ve never seen any LotR illustrations by you.
RC: I don’t think I’d fit! I have done some things, though. We’d do sketches at coffee break at Calvin. Dave Holman would draw his versions and I’d draw mine. Like the subject of the day might be orcs or trolls, and of course, hobbits.
One of my favorite authors, and one I hate, is Robert Heinlein. I like some of his books a whole lot, and some of the others I hate. I like his Glory Road and Stranger in a Strange Land, but I hate his Starship Troopers.
JS: He writes on a couple different levels, some of his books being admittedly juvenile. He says they’re for that age bracket. Also he’s a little bit gung-ho on the military.
RC: I think he’s pushing it too much. Dave introduced me to a couple of his stories.
JS: What do you do in your spare time?
RC: Sleep! I’m so involved with everything, I don’t have time for anything else. When I’m not working on a strip in the evening, while I’m watching the news I’m writing up stuff in my notebook or maybe a story synopsis or a new technique of photographing color separations or a way to shoot an animated movie. I just can’t get it out of my head.
JS: You don’t find time to see A Clockwork Orange?
RC: No. Everything’s got to be organized before we go out. We have to get a babysitter – it’s got to be the right babysitter – and we have to have the money and there has to be a show we want to see.
JS: What kind of music do you like? I see a Monkees tape here – are you a Monkees fan?
RC: That’s not mine! I like off-beat groups. I like the Moody Blues. I like classical music, ethnic type music like Tahitian drums or African folk songs, electronic … various things.
JS: The music in “NeverWhere” was what?
RC: Electronic piano. At least that’s what the guy told me.
JS: Did you ever do vetriloquism … card tricks …?
RC: I just get out of a straight jacket.
JS: Did you see Fritz the Cat?
RC: Yes, I did. I didn’t like it too well. Fritz dosen’t seem as warm and friendly as in the comic book, or as sympathetic. He seems like a … thing. Very shallow.
JS: What did you think of the animation?
RC: Well it sure wasn’t Disney.
JS: Do you think there’s a future in adult animated movies?
RC: I’d say there’s as much future in adult animated movies as there is in any kind of animated movie, ‘causc that isn’t very much. The production costs keep going up and up. One firm is interested in making a full-length of animated film of Rowlf using the comic book art as a basis for the move. I’m not sure they know how much work they’re getting into, but I’ve told them to go ahead and shoot a 30-second test section and then I’d tell them whether I approve or not. Also, Bruce Jones called a few times asking if I’d be interested in doing an animated movie. He said he had people who were going to give him money for it. I haven’t heard anything more about it for awhile.
JS: Do you think you’re going to be doing underground comix the rest of your life?
RC: I don’t know if they’re really going to last. What I think is going to happen is some of the publishing companies of underground comix will cease to be underground – they’ll be as common as regular comics. That means they won’t be like they are now. If I have any influence at all I’ll push them toward books like these French ones by Druillet. In fact, if I had money I’d publish books like these and nothing else.
JS: Some people think the underground comix are becoming as slick as the establishment ones, and pretty soon there’ll be revolution against the undergrounds just as there was against the establishment comics.
RC: That’s already happening! Somebody mentioned to me that the underground revolted against the social system, but now they’ve reached a level of slickness and become a part of the system. There’s a new underground comix company coming out, not from San Francisco but from Canada, and the comix are crude again. One of the artist’s work has a certain degree of fantasy to it. It looks like a strong Wally Wood influence. Swipes!
JS: What do you think of that?
RC: Everybody can do his own thing. Swipe if they must. I don’t want to get involved, but there are reasons they do it. For me, it would take longer to do a swipe than to draw something fresh. It gives you an idea that their with a slick surface representation as opposed to a form.
JS: Did you do a lot of drawing from live models when you were in art school?
RC: Oh yeah. I think the greatest value an art school has is life drawing. We even had life drawing when I worked at Calvin. I went about once a month for a year or so. People who were in the animation department would go together and chip in on the model’s fee.
JS: Do you think that’s the best way to get background for doing comic strips, as opposed to what most fan artists do?
RC: Only if the individual artist considers the human form that important. Maybe his ideas and his characters don’t depend on a strip representation. Characters are sometimes better when they’re straight from the head.
JS: What about the aspiring fan artist who starts out coping his favourite comic artist?
RC: They do it because they want to find out that certain way their favorite artist draws, not that they will ever attain it, at least not in that way. It’s when you’ re a kid, when you’re first getting into it, that you feel you want to do it. I did it all the time when I was in grade school; I traced Mickey Mouse, Superman …
JS: What do you think of superheroes in general?
RC: No such thing! I can’t take them seriously because they’ re so removed from real experience. It’s a kid’s fantasy to believe in super powers. I reject it because I feel super powers wouldn’t lead to good, they’d lead to corruption. Superheroes are so smart-alecky. I guess part of the fantasy is to be super and show off.
JS: When you start to work on a comicstrip, where does it begin? Do you have a story in mind, or a character, or what?
RC: All different ways. I have lots of characters. If I wrote a story for all the characters, I’d have lots of stories. I think the story plot is harder for me. It’s not because I can’t think of a coherent plot – it’s because I can’t think of ones I like. Sometimes I see similarities where I probably unconsciously borrowed from another story and I reject it for that, or if I feel it’s completely ridiculous.
JS: What do you think of Vaughn Bode’s work?
RC: I like it. He’s probably had some influence over me as far as going towards violence. He’s done some of the most violent stuff I’ve ever seen, like the “Cobalt 60” series. D id you read the second version, the one that was mostly text?
RC: That was awful – really violent
JS: Bode says all artists are perverse. Do you feel perverse?
RC: I’m afraid so. I only think so when I see people who are so different from me. When I watch commercials I keep making comments on them and I drive Dona wild ’cause she can’t stand my comments.
JS: What does she think of your underground work?
RC: She likes it as well as any other stuff I’ve done.
JS: Do you get a thrill when people come up to you at conventions and ask you to sign their comics?
JS: Are you embarassed?
RC: No. I wear a disguise.
JS: How come you sign your work “Gore” sometimes, “Corben” other times, “Harvey Sea” other times …?
RC: It’s fun, being completely anonymous sometimes.
JS: Except that your style is so obviously your own that you don’t have to sign it.
RC: I got a letter from one fan who said I was stealing Wally Wood’s style. And another fan said I was copying John Severin. So far Wally Wood and John Severin haven’t made any accusations, though.
JS: What about your painting? You haven’t been doing much lately.
RC: I’ve been getting some of my color ideas done with separations, which is a more intellectual thing because you never see the color until it’s printed. Well, that’s not quite true. I check myself with acetate color keys before I send it in to be printed.
JS: Why don’t you give us some of the dirt on the paintings you did for Mark Feldman?
RC: Why? Well, okay. He wanted some paintings and I did them for him and he paid me $100 each.
JS: Did he tell you he was goint to re-sell them?
RC: No, he said he was going to print them in his book. Very interesting – just as I finished the last painting I saw the very next issue of Rocket’s Blast. He had them up for bid.
JS: Very strange. Are you doing any covers for Warren?
RC: No, the people who want paintings for covers are very particular and want to see detailed color roughs. Well, I don’t like to do detailed color roughs because there’s not much left to do on the final painting once the detailed color roughs are done. If they can’t choose from a black and white rough, then I’d rather not do it. I get the most fulfillment and most into a painting by saving all the good parts to do on the painting rather than having done them already on the rough.
JS: And think it’s very odd that you don’t keep color photos of the paintings you send off. Whenever I come over all you have is … if I’m lucky … a black and white Polaroid of the painting you mailed off last week.
RC: I don’t know. It usually works out that by the time I finish a painting the people who are going to use it need it right away, and I don’t have film.
Hey, I’m getting tired of this. Let’s go upstairs and see if I still have a wife and kid.
Copyright © 2019 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!
Created: January 19, 2019. Last updated: February 9, 2021 at 17:44 pm