The Wild and Wondrous World of Richard Corben: a comic-book genius remembered (video).
Enter the fantastical realm of Richard Corben (October 1, 1940 – December 2, 2020), an American comic book artist and illustrator whose spellbinding works transcended the mundane and transported us to daring new worlds. Best known for his captivating contributions to Heavy Metal magazine, including the iconic Den series, Corben dazzled fans and critics alike. His accolades include the 2009 Spectrum Grand Master Award, the 2018 Grand Prix at Angoulême, and a 2012 induction into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.
The Man Behind the Magic
Born on a humble farm in Anderson, Missouri, Corben’s journey from rural life to comic book stardom began with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1965. Alongside his passion for art, Corben flexed his muscles in the world of bodybuilding but ultimately chose ink over iron.
Breaking into the Biz
After a stint as a professional animator at Kansas City’s Calvin Productions, Corben plunged headfirst into the wild world of underground comics, creating mind-bending masterpieces for publications like Grim Wit, Slow Death, Skull, Rowlf, Fever Dreams, and his own anthology, Fantagor.
Corben soon expanded his artistic horizons, illustrating horror and science-fiction stories for Warren Publishing. His eerie yet enchanting illustrations graced the pages of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, 1984, and Comix International. Dark Horse Books and Dynamite Entertainment have since reprinted these otherworldly works, ensuring that Corben’s nightmarish narratives continue to captivate new generations of fans.
Heavy Metal and Den
Corben’s artistic prowess caught the attention of Moebius, Druillet, and Jean-Pierre Dionnet, leading to his collaboration with the groundbreaking French magazine Métal Hurlant and its American counterpart, Heavy Metal. Among Corben’s unforgettable contributions is the saga of Den, a skinny nerd who embarks on mind-blowing adventures in the mystical land of Neverwhere. This fantastical realm drew inspiration from the mythic worlds of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H.P. Lovecraft, and it was later adapted into an animated film with John Candy voicing Den.
A Visual Feast of Collaborations
Corben’s extraordinary talent led to collaborations with a host of comic book luminaries, such as Bruce Jones, Harlan Ellison, and Jan Strnad. From the gripping Rip in Time series to the spellbinding Mutant World titles, Corben’s vivid illustrations left readers hungry for more.
The Sensual Side of Corben
Despite some critics labeling his work as pornographic, Corben preferred to describe his sensual art style as “sensual.” In a 1981 interview with Heavy Metal editor Brad Balfour, Corben expressed dissatisfaction with how he was portrayed, penning a sharp-witted retort that was published in the magazine’s September issue.
Cover Art and Later Works
Beyond the pages of comics, Corben’s artwork adorned the covers of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Jim Steinman’s Bad for Good, as well as the movie poster for Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise. His distinctive touch graced projects for publishers like Marvel, DC, IDW, and Dark Horse, where he won an Eisner Award for Hellboy.
Fever Dreams Comes to Life
In May 2020, Parallax Studio announced preproduction on MEAD, a live-action animated film adaptation of the comic book Fever Dreams, illustrated by Corben and written by Jan Strnad. Featuring stars like Robert Picardo, Samuel Hunt, Patton Oswalt, and Patrick Warburton, MEAD made its grand debut at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2022. The film arrived on North American streaming platforms on August 9, 2022, bringing Corben’s mesmerizing universe to life for a new generation of fans.
A Glimpse Into Corben’s Personal Life
Corben’s life wasn’t all ink and adventure – he found love with his wife, Madonna “Dona” (née Marchant). The two joined forces on her prize-winning film entry, Siegfried Saves Metropolis, in a contest sponsored by Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine in 1964. They tied the knot the following year and embarked on a lifelong journey together.
The Legacy Lives On
Richard Corben passed away on December 2, 2020, after undergoing heart surgery. He was 80 years old. Throughout his illustrious career, Corben garnered numerous awards and honors, including Shazam Awards, Goethe Awards, Warren Awards, and Ghastly Awards. His induction into the prestigious Grand Prix at Angoulême and the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame are testaments to his artistic genius.
As we remember Richard Corben, we celebrate his wild and wondrous contributions to the world of sci-fi and comic books. His captivating art and imaginative storytelling have left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. And as we continue to explore the extraordinary worlds he created, one thing is certain: the magic of Richard Corben will live on for generations to come.