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Corben, Richard

Entry updated 8 May 2023. Tagged: Artist.

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(1940-2020) US illustrator and film animator, who sometimes added his middle initial to his signature, signing some work as Richard V Corben. He attended the Kansas City Art Institute, and worked for almost a decade with a Kansas City animation company, doing sf illustration (a cover for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1967, was his first sale) and underground Comics (mostly horror-oriented) on the side. He became a full-time freelance illustrator in 1972. Better known as a comic-book artist than as an sf illustrator, Corben in fact combined the fields in his work: his sf art can look cartoonish, while his comics art has the solid feel of sf illustration. While his men tended to look like "sacks filled with potatoes" and his women were ridiculously huge-breasted, he had a genius for surface texture and for three-dimensional solidity achieved with shading.

Much of his best work in sf was for the Science Fiction Book Club and Doubleday, and, in comics, for Métal Hurlant and Heavy Metal, especially his two series Den and Rowlff. He contributed a sequence based on his Den comics to the animated film Heavy Metal (1981). His Graphic Novel Bloodstar (1976), adapted from a work by Robert E Howard by writer John Jakes, was the first totally original, book-length work printed with the words "graphic novel" on the cover. With Jan Strnad, Corben produced New Tales of the Arabian Nights (1978) and numerous other works. A somewhat fannish study, with 80 pages of colour illustration and many more in black and white, is Richard Corben: Flights into Fantasy (1981) by Fershid Bharucha. Richard Corben's Art Book (graph coll 1990) and its 1994 sequel are useful. Many of his comics stories in the 1980s and 1990s were published by his own company, Fantagor Press; in 1994, though, low sales forced him to turn to larger publishers including DC Comics, where he adapted The House on the Borderland (1908) by William Hope Hodgson, and Marvel Comics, where he worked on several of their Superhero titles and produced comics adaptations of work by Edgar Allan Poe and H P Lovecraft. He also teamed with Mike Mignola for several stories in the Hellboy franchise.

Career awards included the Spectrum Grand Master Award in 2009, entry into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2012, and the Chesley Award for lifetime artistic achievement in 2022. [PN/JG/JP/DRL]

Richard Vance Corben

born Anderson, Missouri: 1 October 1940

died 2 December 2020




  • Neverwhere (New York: Ariel Books, 1978) [graph: Den: pb/Richard Corben]
  • Den 2: Muvovum (Anderson, Missouri: Fantagor Press, 1983) [graph: Den: pb/Richard Corben]
  • Den 3: Children of Fire (Anderson, Missouri: Fantagor Press, 1991) [coll: graph: Den: pb/Richard Corben]
  • Den 4: Dreams (Anderson, Missouri: Fantagor Press, 1992) [coll: graph: Den: pb/Richard Corben]
  • Den 5: Elements (Anderson, Missouri: Fantagor Press, 1992) [coll: graph: Den: pb/Richard Corben]

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