Creepy Presents Richard Corben (book review).

Dark Horse have been reprinting Warren Publication magazines in hardback for some time. They must have been conscious of the fact that not everyone could afford them all, so did individual volumes of Bernie Wrighton, Alex Toth and Richard Corben.

The latter I have in my hands now. Here we have 35 stories, 3 of which are 2 or 3 multi-parters in his ‘Eerie’ magazine work, illustrated by Corben and written by both him and a multitude of writers, plus a selection of the covers he painted. Although the content is mostly horror, Science Fiction does creep in from time to time. Corben is also a fan of Edgar Allen Poe and there are three stories here based off his work.

I came to Corben originally back in the early 1980s with ‘Den’ in ‘Heavy Metal’ and recognised an interesting storyteller but only aware of his colour work, mostly done with an airbrush. Here, from ‘Creepy’ and ‘Eerie’, we also see his black and white work. Corben is very stylised but it comes out in both mediums. His characters are very expressive and he does understand movement to catch scenes in mid-action. Hardly surprising when you consider he has a filmic past having worked in clay animation. His ‘Neverwhere’, which evolved into ‘Den’ is on YouTube if you want to take a look at it:

There’s a certain exaggeration in the hands and faces that tends to derive from this animation background. However, seeing all of his Warren magazines work together here, Corben also demonstrates he can draw and paint realistically as befits a particular story. For his colour work, Corben doesn’t shy away from using unusual colour choices that strangely work and, again, distinguishes his work from other artists. He also makes the best use of the panels to tell each story.

Much of the work in these Warren magazines were twist of the tale stories, leaving that to the last page. Some you might telegraph but many are surprising. I would recommend spacing out reading them though. Like drinking a good wine assuming, unlike me, you can drink it, you need to savour then bulk read. You need to let them sink in under the skin and too much as one time can make you a little punch-drunk.

It shouldn’t be surprising that standard horror tropes are explored. The three-part ‘Child’ explores the Frankenstein monster myth, ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ is a cross between ‘King Kong’ and ‘Attack Of The 50 Foot Tall Woman’. Probably something that is pretty close to ‘The Twilight Zone’s ‘It’s A Good Life’ but with a funny twist is the final story, ‘A Woman Scorned’. Of all the stories here, this is one where I picked up at the time in Eerie # 90, significant because 4 different creators created stories based on this Corben cover, shown at the back of the book and worth pursing to see what they did if you don’t own a copy.

There is also a selection of covers Corben painted for ‘Creepy’ and ‘Eerie’, not to mention designs of their hosts. You also get to see the design part of one of covers and the new art for this book, although I’m not sure if I would take her on a date.

If there is a criticism, I wish the contents pages had included the date of original release of the material although I suspect these are in the correct order. Even so, this absence reduces the historical perspective of this book. Not all of the stories feature credits at their beginning. I did wonder if it was because the same people were involved in them but the contents page tends to reveal otherwise.

José Villarrubia points out in his extensive introduction that Corben worked on other Warren Publications so I hope Dark Horse consider doing separate volumes for these as well. The same applies to other artists, especially the Spanish ones, in the Warren Publications. You would have to be very dedicated, rich or both with decent floorboards to be able to buy all the Warren Archives that are out there.

In the meantime, if you like Rich Corben’s work and haven’t bought this volume by now, what are you waiting for?

GF Willmetts

March 2018

(pub: Dark Horse, 2012. 348 page graphic novel large hardback. Price: CHECK (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59582-919-1)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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