The major comics artist and creator Richard Corben has passed away.
He came of age as an aspiring young artist in Sunflower, Kansas, and worked for a decade in making animations for business and industrial training purposes. But comics were his love, and from 1970 he produced many horror and science-fiction shorts for Eerie and Creepy magazine (now collected as Creepy Presents Richard Corben) and underground comix titles, including short b&w adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft tales. His black-and-white adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “The Valley of the Worm” (1934) was perhaps the culmination of this period. This was the still highly-regarded Bloodstar (1976), published as a single volume inspired by the French BD format, and was the first to describe itself as a “graphic novel” in the modern sense.
Corben worked for a while as the colourist on Will Eisner’s Spirit magazine, and his own style flowered into full colour. This found a home in Metal Hurlant and Heavy Metal magazine, and such mass-market pulp-inspired work was also able to take full advantage of the uninhibited and anti-censorship mood of the 1973-1986 period. His finely painted and sensual airbrushed style became a well-known feature in the early Heavy Metal magazine, and other titles as they introduced colour sections. But his signature colour style found an even larger audience when he created the classic album cover for Meatloaf’s best-selling rock album Bat out of Hell (1977). As the times changed, from 1986–1994 Corben ran his own Fantagor Press to publish his work.
His colour and strong composition gained him a cult following over the years, but his black-and-white work is what most Lovecraftians will cherish him for. This is exemplified by his collected Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft (2008), containing his short masterly adaptations done in fine black-and-white and printed on paper able to reproduce subtle gradations and shades.