short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill
DOZEN for 10/28/2009
Richard Corben on Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft:
Haunt of Horror
you first encountered it in the pages of such classic magazines
as Creepy, Eerie and Heavy Metal, between
the covers of such underground comix as Rowlf and
Fantagor, or in any number of graphic novels and
collections on the stands today, its likely that Richard
Corbens art left a deep and lasting impression. Combing
impeccably rendered human figures and backgrounds, seamless
visual storytelling and an unfailing ability to capture
the perfect moment and emotion in every panel, Corbens
work offers a glimpse into another universe, another reality,
and fresh insights into the heart and souls of the beings
inhabiting those uncharted realms.
Now, after forty-odd years in the business, Corben has returned
to his roots, crafting illustrated versions of choice tales
and poems from two seminal authors that readers of this
magazine should be intimately familiar with: Edgar Allen
Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. The result is a synergy between
words and pictures which achieves that rarest of states
Perfect and Fearful Symmetry
Richard Corben on Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft:
Haunt of Horror
Bill Baker: How would you describe the Haunt of
Horror project, and how did you get involved with it?
Richard Corben: Axel Alonso, an editor at Marvel and
a long time friend, came up with this brilliant concept.
He knew I loved weird horror stories, especially Poe and
Lovecraft. He also brought in Rich Margopoulos who also
has a keen interest in Poe. I worked with Margopoulos years
ago when [Jim] Warren was running many Edgar Allan Poe adaptations
in his books, Creepy and Eerie. Rich and I
did The Raven, The Oval Portrait
and The Shadow together--and I have done many
projects with Axel at Marvel, and before at DC Vertigo.
BB: What aspects of Poe's work, be they obvious or
more subtle, marked it as a perfect fit for this series
and for you? How about Lovecraft's work?
RC: I feel that much of Poe's works deals directly
with that most basic of all human feelings, fear, and its
more extreme state, horror. He speaks directly to me because
I am a very fearful guy. And he expresses these feelings
in an artful way, which to me makes them more palatable.
Lovecraft also deals with fear and horror but in a very
different way. Poe gets close to his characters, even inside
them. The fears that Lovecraft deals with are usually strange,
alien, even cosmic, definitely from the outside.
BB: Well, how influential have these authors been
upon you and your work, visually or otherwise?
RC: I have always loved the stories and poems of
Poe and Lovecraft. I think my first contact with Poe's work
was from the loose movie adaptations that Roger Corman did
in the sixties. I was doing commercial art at the time,
but it never occurred to me that I could do horror comics.
Then, when the Warren horror comics started appearing, I
felt I had to get into this somehow.
BB: One of the more interesting aspects of the Poe
collection is that you and your co-creators largely chose
to use his work as inspiration for your own, sometimes modernized
versions of his tales. What lead you folks to take that
I think this was an editorial decision. The idea was
to have these old stories relate to modern readers. At first
I preferred keeping the time period and mood as the author
originally wrote it. But now I like them both ways if the
intent and mood is sincere. Margopoulos and Alonso did most
of treatments before I saw them. The only story I wrote
for the Poe Haunt of Horror was The Raven.
And you see I kept it roughly in Poe's time frame. Actually
with The Raven, I was trying to recapture the
mood and feelings I had when I drew The Raven
years before in Eerie magazine, also with Rich Margopoulos.
I even drew the same handsome fellow as the lead character.
My good friend and fellow comic book artist Herb Arnold
modeled for me in those ancient times.
BB: So, how did you and the rest of the creative
team come up with the new scenarios?
RC: As I said, Axel and Rich did most of the adaptations.
As we got further into the project it was a matter of an
efficient division of labor. They were doing the writing
while I was drawing.
BB: It seems like you took a slightly different approach
with Lovecraft, not only by handling the scripting yourself,
but also by following the original texts more closely. What
lead to your taking that approach to adapting Lovecraft's
When the Poe Haunt of Horror was finished we all
went on to other projects. Although Axel had mentioned a
Lovecraft Haunt of Horror, I doubted that it would
happen because of other work. There was also some talk of
doing more Poe stories, but that didn't happen. When I had
time I did some conceptual work for the Lovecraft concept.
We didn't want to do the more well known stories, but adapt
some of his interesting poetry. I made a list of stories
and poems and a brief one line description of how I would
treat it. Based on that, they allowed me to proceed by myself.
In some ways the stories may seem close to the originals,
but many Lovecraft fans have objected to the liberties I
took. For instance, Lovecraft may have described some unknown
frightening threat without telling what it looked like.
I felt I had to give this threat an image. Often making
something from the indefinite, to the visually real and
definite, destroys its power. A viewer might realize that
the creature really just looks silly rather than unimaginably
BB: Aside from your art, one of the more visually
striking things about these books was the choice to present
it all in black and white and gray tones. What lead you
to go in that direction?
RC: I was in total agreement of producing the books in black
and white and tones; I wished to evoke the moods of the
old black and white horror movies. A tonal image has an
automatic harmony, a single mindedness of vision related
to the short stories single mindedness of thought. I hoped
I could maintain more control over the pages in tones than
in color. Some of the editors also wanted to suggest the
era of free spirited underground comix.
BB: Did you make any new discoveries about these
two seminal authors or their work while working on these
The discoveries I made on these projects were inspired by
the other people working with me and seeing their reactions
to the material, which were usually quite different than
mine. I've read the stories many times, but seeing what
another person gets from a story can be a revelation.
BB: You've been doing this for quite some time now.
What brought you into the field in the first place, and
what's kept you making comics through all those years to
RC: I have been and am in love with the possibility
of comics. I feel the comic artist/author has absolutely
as much control over his stories as the text writer has
over his. Making visual stories is basic to my purpose in
life. To me reading a good comic is like watching a good
movie on paper.
BB: What do you hope your audience gets from your
work? Is it all about pure entertainment, or might you hope
that they take something a little more substantial away
RC: When I'm drawing a comic, I hope for the best.
I want the technique to be so correct that it's invisible.
Frivolous entertainment is fine and is a good goal to shoot
for. Sometimes a story has a few more possibilities, and
I want to be ready to deliver them. Something about a character,
an intriguing plot, an insight to a relationship, about
life; you know, heavy stuff.
What's next for you? Will there be new additions to the
Haunt of Horror line, or have you moved on to something
RC: Right now I'm working on a fantasy adventure
for Marvel's Max line with Daniel Way. Since comic production
is dependent on successful business, my feelings about a
project may not be the deciding factor. I really enjoyed
the Haunt of Horror series and would love doing more,
but there aren't any plans for additional series right now.
BB: Anything you'd like to add before I let you get
back to work?
RC: For a gallery of old Corben illustrations, current
figure drawings, a checklist of Corben comics and other
stuff visit www.CorbenStudios.com.
I usually have several personal projects going at any one
time, which includes animated movies, paintings, or special
Finally, thanks to everyone who has supported my work over
the years. I'll continue to work as hard as I can to make
To learn more about Richard Corben,
head over to www.CorbenStudios.com.
Check out www.Marvel.com
for the latest information on Corbens most recent work
with the venerable House of Ideas.
Finally, a version of this interview first appeared in the
Spring, 2009 rendition of Weird Tales [otherwise know as Vol.
64, No. 1, Issue 353]. Hit www.WeirdTalesMagazine.com
if youd like to grab a copy of this or an earlier issue
of that venerable periodical for your own library.