Richard Corben Interview
Q: To begin Rich, could you tell us what made you decide to enter the Comix field?
A: Why comics? I’ve been drawing comics ever since I can remember. One example of my early comics still exists. This is “Trail Comics” and is about 3rd Grade vintage. Trail was our family dog then, & I wrote and drew all kinds of fantastic adventures for him. So, I knew I wanted to be in comics or something like them a long time ago. Hey, I thought all these interviews started with: “Do you sleepin the Raw?”
Q: Okay, do you sleep in the raw?
A: Uh, …nevermind; whats that got to do with art? The comix fans don’t care about that. Let’s go on to the next question.
Q: I’ll bet there are a lot of comix fans that would care, but Ahhhh. I guess yer right. Anyway, which artists do you think influenced you the most?
A: There must be alot of artists that have influenced me since I first started looking. I was hooked on TARZAN comics when Jesse Marsh was doing them. I know, nobody likes his art, except me. The artists that took over his books concentrated mainly on figure drawing and a kind of surface level of slickness. Manning, Hogarth, or Kubert can’t draw animals that move and live the way Marsh could.
Maybe my admiration is partly nostalgia. He was the only TARZAN artist for me. I would only put Foster or Frazetta above him among the Burroughs Artists. I must have been influenced in some way undefinable by nearly all the EC Artists, especially Wally Wood. Some fans have said that my style resembles that of John Severin. Sorry, Mr. Severin! I personally can’t see it. ..maybe something in the eyes.
Frank Frazetta and Alex Toth are two artists I admire. Vaughn Bode is another. ..and Maxfteld Parrish.
Q: What was yer first professional break in which you recieved payment fer yer work?
A: Well, I got paid for my first work when I got a job at Calvin Productions in the Animation Department. That must’ve been 8 or 9 years ago. I tried several times to break into the comics and Science Fiction magazine field. The magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction finally bought a cover painting which was my first published art. That was the Sept. 67 issue. I tried to follow that up with another cover which illustrated a story and was commissioned by the Editor. I was horrified to hear from the editor that my painting was mangled by the Post Office and that he didn’t like it anyway. We disagreed on the aims and purposes of a cover so I gave up on that field for a while.
Q: Did the Editor explain why he didn’t like the painting?
A: He said it didn’t have the Science Fiction element in the scene, that the illustration could have been for any ‘straight’ magazine. My contention was that the illustration had to be true to the story (SOS the rope) first and for most. I tried to portray the scene as described by the author as accurately as possible and I guess it didn’t look too Science Fictiony.
Q: What was yer first break into comix?
A: I tried several times to get into the Warren magazines. It didn’t click until I sent him a couple of paintings. He returned them & said he’d buy one if I’d make a couple of changes. I reworked it as Warren wanted & he bought it. That was EERIE no. 32. The EERIE no. 31 cover was done later but published first.
Q: What did Warren want changed?
A: Well, he wanted the girl changed so she was a “Blonde Goddess” type instead of a “Sultry Native” type. He wanted the figures lighter so they’d stand out better and last, to extend the borders of the painting so he’d have more room to bleed off the page.
Q: We’re still talking about covers, when did you do some inside stuff?
A: It was shortly after that first sale that I submitted another strip. This time he liked it, and only had it relettered.
A: Warren says I’m the worlds worst letterer!
Q: To what direction did you head from there?
A: About that time I was getting into Fanzines and it was these that ultimately led me into the Underground Comix.
Q: What is yer personal opinion of FANDOM?
A: Fandom is a large sprawling unorganized group of people who like comics to varying degrees. The complete spetrum of human it: is represented in this group, both good and bad. I used to think that this common love of comics was like a kinship that linked all fans. Most of them are collectors. Some of them are writers, some are artists, mostly amateurs. I’m an amateur at heart.
A: By definition, an amateur is one who pursues an endeavor for the love of it as opposed to the professional who does it for the money. There are many fields of commercial art that are much more lucrative than comics. I love comics. I read John Severin’s interview and his other one in Graphic Story Magazine and I feel he has a professional attitude.
But back to fans, there are all kinds of fans. I like most of them. I’m a fan, but not much of a collector.
Q: What made you start yer artistic career through this limited media?
A: I told ya before, I didn’t start my artistic career in Fanzines. I was a fan and an amateur artist long before I knew of Fanzines. I was a pro at Calvin before I knew of Fanzines.
Q: But you must admit yer career surged in this direction at one time.
A: Yes, l saw some fan strips and thought: “This could be fun!” Doing industrial animation at Calvin left much of my creative drive unfulfilled, so I dived into Fanzines.
Q: Could you name a few of the lines you worked on back then?
A: Voice of Comicdom, Weirddom, Anomaly, even the super-slick Squa Tront. There were many others that had single illos or covers.
Q: Most folks aren’t aware of yer film career, could you tell us a little about it?
A: Well , as I said, I worked at Calvin about 7 or 8 years as an animation artist and cameraman. I feel movies and comix are very closely related and animation is the most graphic way of doing movies. My interest in animation goes back further through. Back to grade school when us artistic types were making “Flip” drawings in Text Books. These led to more advanced animation where one scene would be animated continuously throughout the pages of the books. They were great scenes like one guy socks another guy, or a guy shooting a submachine gun, or an arrow hits a guy and he falls down-
Q: We get the picture (yuk- yuk) – sorry Rich, what then?
A: Well, during summer vacations I didn’t have any school books to draw in, so I spent my allowance on blank pads of paper just for animation. These scenes developed into longer sequences that had continuity from scene to scene.
The next big step was a movie camera. My Dad finally got one & I used it to film my animation. After a while, I had converted a titler into an animation stand. The paper pads went to stacks of tracing paper through which a line background could be perceived. My register system consisted of wooden dowel pins glued to the titlers copy board and a paper punch to make the holes in the paper. I made several 8MM films with this set up culminating in a 7 minute version of “The labors of Hercules” as an art school project. It was the showing of this film that landed my job at Calvin. I made a few amateur movies while at Calvin. Most of these were never completed. One that was, is “NEVER WHERE”. Some of my professional friends at the movie factory helped me with it resulting in a 15 minute film in color with a classy soundtrack.
Q: What are the major differences between making movies & drawing comix?
A: I think of comics as a shorthand version of movies. The comics have static highlights of a movie & depend upon the readers imagination to fill the movement and sound. Comics are easier because they normally require only 1 drawing per scene as compared with 200 to 1000 – an indefinite number of drawings for a scene in a movie. So doing an animated movie requires an enduring kind of energy. I like ’em both. Comics, because, being simple, there can be a lot of them telling a lot of stories in a variety of ways without being expensive. Movies, because movement brings them a step closer to making the illusion into reality. Well done animation has a life that can’t be denied.
Q: How long did it take you to film “NEVERWHERE”?
A: Neverwhere was done over a period of a year in my spare lime.
Q: Can we expect more movies from GORE in the future?
A: God! I hope so!! I’m going through a difficult time now, trying to adjust to being a full time comix artist. I’ve got to get ahead in my commitments both in time and financially before I can do a movie.
Incidentally, a new outfit in HollyWood wants to do ROWLF as an animated movie. I’m skeptical but I reserved judgement until they produce a 30 second test film from it.
Q: I remember the first place I met you was in an advertisement a couple of years back. …On the page, stood (barely) an old wizened man with only one leg, leaning on a staff. There was a hungry-looking vulture above him & in his voice balloon; it read: “Help a starving Fanzine Editor!” … – Which brings us back to “GORE in FANDOMLAND” again. Care to tell us about the Fanzine version of “FANTAGOR 1”?
A: The fanzine Fantagor was an all strip zine printed on fine paper with a process color cover. Beginning Fan editors are betting against hopeless odds that their book will break even financially. I was convinced that I’d sell my first edition within a couple months. After all, I had worked very hard to produce it and saved money for a year to give it the best printing I could. I just knew that a United fandom would flock to support Fantagor.
Q: Well, how was yer response?
A: It seems that my vast plans were really only half-vast. Fantagor’s sales leveled off after about 5 months with more than half my original print run still sitting in the basement.
Q: How many copies did you sell?
A: I sold around 500 books, or rather, Dona, my wife sold them for me. Filling mail orders is a real drag. This is the biggest single detriment to my ever publishing on my own again. I felt crushed. I went to a depression and realized I’d never get rid of those fanzines unless I cut my prices drastically and sell to the dealers. I did this and the remaining FantaGors were all gone within 2 weeks. I held onto a few copies just for sentimental reasons.
Q: Do you think there is any hope for Fandom?
A: Sure! Fandom has survived longer than most comics and I suspect that it would continue even if all the comics publishers folded. I was disappointed at FantaGors reception but I can’t blame anyone but myself. After all, nobody else could love my creation as much as I do. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a cure for my brand of stupidity, because, whenever I get into a hassle with my publishers, I feel that urge to publish myself coming on again.
Q: How about Fandom Publishers?
A: I really admire those guys that can keep their homemade books corning out. I just wish I could have made FantaGor durable, on a small run, high quality basis. I made many mistakes. My print run was too large, my printer was too high, forget it.
Q: Any other observations or views?
A: Yeh – FantaGor was really doomed as a Fanzine because my ambitions are too big for fanzines. Do you know of any fanzine that was/is printed in color throughout? I had thoughts of doing a 3-D issue also. …Not now though.
End of Part One
Part Two in the next issue of the MIRK-WOOD TIMES
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Created: Jan. 18, 2019. Last updated: September 19, 2020 at 9:58 am