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Richard Corben Interview [Mirkwood Times], Part 2

Richard Corben Interview [Part 2]

Richard Corben Interview [Mirkwood Times]: Part 1 | Part 2 |

Q: How’d you get into Underground Comix?

A: Underground comix? ..What’s that?. . . Oh yeh, I remember. Gary Arlington who runs a comic store in San Francisco also reads Fanzines.

I had some stuff in Voice of Comicdom and even an ad for my posters. 

Well, Gary ignored my ad but sent me some copies of Skull I and told me to get with it. I was flabbergasted at those Skulls. I had no idea about this new medium with infinite freedom and boundless energy. So, l got with it and did “Lame Lem’s Love” for Skull 2.

Q: Of the first GORE Underground Comix, there was “FantaGor” and “ROWLF” – both previously appeared before Fandom as Fanzines. What’s the difference in circulation now that these titles are Undergrounds instead of Fanzines?

A: I think the Underground Comix audience is on the average, older than the Fanzine audience. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re more intelligent, but there are a lot more of them than fans, which is why comix can continue to exist and even make a profit. The comix versions of FantaGor & Rowlf have sold a hell of a lot more books than when they were fanzines.

Q: How many copies have been sold?

A: Last Gasp has sold over 30,000 FantaCors so far. Each succeeding issue gives the previous numbers a title a sales boost. Rowlf isn’t doing as well. Rip Off Press has sold just under 20,000 copies of RowIf.

Q: Of all the work you’ve done, which have been yer favorites?

A: Despite it’s pathetic sales, Rowlf is still my favourite.

Q: Any special reason?

A: For me to enjoy illustrating a story, it’s got to have some bizarre element to it. A character a setting, something that’s really out of the ordinary. That’s why I’m most at home with Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Q: How long did it take you to draw “ROWLF”?

A: Rowlf was done over a period of a couple of years. Normally, l don’t like to stretch a story that length of time, but I was doing some other things along at the same time, like working on other amateur projects and making a living.

Q: Could you tell a bit about yer tecnique to us?

A: I just draw. Oh, you mean the steps in doing a strip?

Q: Yep!

A: If I write the strip myself, I do it on 2 pieces of folded & stapled typing paper so it makes 8 half sized pages. So the pictures/words breakdowns are done as I write. I then layout all the pages for the strip and do the lettering.

I bet you guessed the next step, right?

Q: Wrong!

A: Right! The Inking!

Q: Inking?

A: No?

Q: I’m sorry Rich, I’m starting to fall asleep…

A: Oh Yeh! Okay, then I make loose pencils and then the ink. As I finish inking each page, I’ll erase the pencil lines and add the zipatone effects, before going on to the next page. As you know, when penciling, I’ll sometimes draw from a clay model head of the character which I have made before hand. This helps in giving me a basic reference of the characters features which can be held and drawn at any required angle or lighting effect. Drawing from these little sculptures sometimes gives the art a sculptural quality, which I like very much as long as it doesn’t detract from the graphic composition.

Are you still with me?

Q: ZZZZZZZZZZZZ***Hmmm? ….Oh yes! Yes of course! I was only joking! …Ah, what are some of yer tools 0 De trade?

A: Okay, I use paper, pencil, …

I hold the pencil, point end down, in my right hand so that it comes into medium firm contact with the paper. Are you with me so far?

Q: That’s pretty unique Corben; we want to know about the airbrush!

A: Oh! …I use an airbrush… …sometimes.

Q: How do you create new characters fer yer stories?

A: Characters are easy, and are a lot of fun to create. Some stories require stereotypes but I usually try to give them at least some individuality.

Q: Have you made films of any of yer comix characters?

A: No, but Rowlf was the reverse of that situation. It was going to be a movie with model animation first, and when it proved too complex, I completed it as a comic book.

Q: Any future plans?

A: I’ve written a couple a synopsis using Gurgy Tate & Horrilor and others for Razar. But they may never be filmed.

Q: You also do most of the colour layouts fer the newer Undergrounds. Could you explain the process?

A: I did all the color for FantaGor 2, 60% of the color in FantaGor 3 and all the colour for FantaGor 4.

FantaGor 2 used zipatone colour on one strip and Graphix colour shade system on the “To Spear a fair Maiden” strip. FantaGor 3’s colour was all done with zipatone on overlays. I utilized my new copy camera to make halftoned separations for FantaGor 4. I’ll be using this camera also for FantaGor 5, 6 and GrimWit 2 s colour. Artwork for halftoned separations can be done much more quickly than the zipatone method.

It also opens up an immense varIety of modelled colour effects.

Q: Any difference from the Overground’s colour seperation?

A: I haven’t got the foggiest idea how they do the colors for the regular comics. The system I’m developing now, l dreamed up myself.

Q: Could you name any of yer favorite artists of the Overground?

A: Well, beside the ones I’ve already named in a previous question, I could add Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Neal Adams, Jim Steranko & Alex Nino.

Q: In our last interview (Mirk-Wood 2) with John Severin, when asked of his favourite artists from the Underground, he said: (and we quote) “Richard Corben is the only Underground Artist who can consistently draw well, write coherent stories & refrains from, at least most of the immature vulgarities that most Underground Artists find so absolutely necessary to include in their work in lieu of talent or some other saving quality.” – What’s yer opinion of this statement?

A: I guess that’s a ‘left handed’ sort of compliment but I appreciate the thought anyway. Mr. Severin’s choice demonstrates his sharp eye, sophisticated judgement and refined aesthetic taste. Thank you Mr. Severin. However, I must take issue with his statement saying the Undergrounds are unnecessary. I feel that if they were really unnecessary, they couldn’t exist beyond an issue or two, let alone, thrive and grow at a rapid, rate. The existence of a large enough market to do this justification enough. The Underground also is doing a service in that it gives cartoonists a place to do what they want to do.

Q: What’s yer opinion of Overground Comix?

A: I know, I bet you think I’m gonna blast ’em. Right?

Q: Well ah ..ur that is uh…

A: Wrong! Regular Overground (as you say) comics are a good medium of light entertainment for …kids. Kids like comics, and they are regular comics most important audience, like it or not.

Q: I’m hep! Kidz make the sales.

A: Yeh, there’s talk about comics ‘growing up’ among fans and even the professionals. The fans (as opposed to the main audience: kids) want more than kid stuff; so do the writers & artists; the publishers want to cash in on a potentially big market: young adults. This is leading to a schizophrenic comic book trying to please too many age levels. It succeeds sometimes but not very often.

I would like to see comics for kids doing their thing and satisfied with it. I’d also want comics for Adults at the same time and they would have “For Adults” on the cover so there would be no mistake about their intent.

Q: What’s yer opinion of John Severin?

A: John Severin is a good professional artist. I would contrast this statement by describing myself as an inspired, ambitious amateur.

Q: To what class would you place Overground Comics?

A: As I said, Overground comics are okay, but I agree with John Severin on his suggestions for their improvement. I think he said: more pages, less ads, better paper, etc.

Q: To what class would you place Underground Comix?

A: Underground Comix run the gamut from trash to great art. The medium has set me free (from my old job) and let me do my thing.

I love it.

Q: From the Overgrounds you’ve read, which have been yer favorites?

A: I don’t collect them now, or even look at them unless Herb brings some over. I used to collect Neal Adams “Deadman”. I feel he reached a peak on that book, that he hasn’t surpassed since.

Q: Any particular reason?

A: It had Adams best art, fair stories and a character with some depth.

Q: How do you feel about doing work fer the Overground?

A: The only thing the regular comics can offer me that the Undergrounds can’t; is lotsa money. The Undergrounds give me much more than that. I can do the books l want, the way I want, and when I want. 

Nothing goes into FantaGor unless I put it there. I don’t even have to put the publishers seal on. Also, I keep the art, the copyrights, the characters rights (would you believe Razar tee shirts?).

End of part two. Part three (final part) in nextish of mwt -“see ya there!”

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Created: September 19, 2020. Last updated: February 11, 2021 at 20:16 pm

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