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Master of Reality

Master of Reality: My Interview With Richard Corben

Posted by Chris Jones on November 23, 2009 at 5:00pm. Only on MuutaNet!

Richard Corben is a leviathan in the realm of horror and fantasy illustration. Starting his career in the late ’60s and still drawing today, his images have trampled and gnashed their way through the imaginations of generations of comics readers. Corben’s style is one that many have taken influence from, yet simultaneously defies comparison. His work has touched every publisher from the glory days of Heavy Metal Magazine to present-day Marvel Comics. It was an honor to be able to ask him a few questions about his past, present and future in the comics industry.

The series you’re currently illustrating, Starr the Slayer, has a story that’s told largely in verse and rhyme, rather than traditional prose. How do you take that into consideration when you illustrate the story?

Richard Corben: Although I knew that the character Morro would be singing or talking in rhyme, the rather course vulgar tone used was a surprise to me. By the time I saw the printed comic, I had already finished drawing the series.

The editor, writer and I discussed the possibility that the intent might be satirical, but when I received the outline guide to work from, it read as a straight adventure. So I set up the scenario and breakdowns to be a straight adventure. For instance, the idea that Morro was gay was very slightly suggested in the original material written by Roy Thomas. Perhaps the suggestion was more from Barry Smith’s drawing. The suggestion was so slight in fact that the inference might say more about homophobia than anything actually in the original comic.The editorial discussion was that we would take the stance that Morro idolized Starr as his hero, not as a possible lover. That is the way I set up the pages and panels. Daniel took a different tack by making Morro humorous and overtly homosexual.

How is it different creating stories for Marvel than something like Heavy Metal Magazine, in terms of creative freedom and how your work is managed by the publisher?

Richard Corben: As I remember doing comics for Heavy Metal Magazine, I pretty much came up with the concept, wrote it and drew it (and colored it) completely by myself. The editor and publisher at HM merely decided if they wanted to publish the work “as is”. I don’t think I ever redid any text or visual at their request. At Marvel, even their MAX line, they exert a lot more control over the work. In fact, they create the concept, then decide who they want to do it. Usually, they would prefer to revamp a character or property they all ready own over accepting something new from a writer or artist. Although MAX is an adult or mature readers line, there are still a lot of standards and guidelines that must be followed. This is established at the beginning so everybody works toward the same goals.

Do you have any plans to return to illustrating Conan the Barbarian?

Richard Corben: I enjoyed the Conan stories when I was younger but he is a little too “one dimensional” for me to want to draw him any more. These days I usually prefer a character who has more possibilities than hacking and chopping his way out of a problem.

Your style lends itself well to, and seems to be inspired by, classical horror, as evidenced by your illustration of Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe series for Marvel. Whose work do you take the most inspiration from in terms of your horror comics, and is there any new talent or comic that has caught your eye in terms of horror illustration or storytelling?

Richard Corben: I loved drawing the Poe adaptations and I was extremely happy to adapt and draw the Lovecraft stories and poems for HAUNT OF HORROR. These writers are very interested in creating a strong mood. My goal is to create a special mood or tension that can evoke such feelings in my comics.

Unfortunately it is very seldom that I am given an opportunity to work toward that goal, let alone achieving it. I don’t think there are many comics creators interested in specializing in the Horror genre. Perhaps there are, but there aren’t any publishers willing to take a chance on Horror material.

What are your plans for future creator-owned work?

Richard Corben: I haven’t done any creator-owned work in many years. Nor does any seem imminent. But in the realm of “wishful thinking” I consider such projects as a Corben illustrated edition of Poe’s TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION, or a quarterly black and white series of Corben Horror Comics. These projects would be more of a hobby or “labor of love” than a business undertaking.

In closing, I’d like to thank you and Lance’s Comic World for letting me talk to the comics readers.

This page: Copyright © 2017 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink! The interview: Copyright © 2009 Chris Jones.
Created: February 5, 2017. Last updated: January 15, 2019 at 18:14 pm

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