According to his wife Dona Corben on Facebook, artist Richard Corben, died on December 2, 2020, following complications from heart surgery. Corben, who was best known for his work on Heavy Metal, “Hellblazer,” “Hellboy,” and more, was 80 years old.
Corben was born on a farm in Anderson, Missouri, on October 1, 1940. He graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1965, and after working as a professional animator, he entered the world of underground comix. In 1970, he started drawing horror and sci-fi stories in Warren Publishing magazines like Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, and 1984; he also colored the publisher’s reprints of Will Eisner’s “The Spirit.”
Five years later, when Métal hurlant began publishing in France, Corben started submitting stories for the magazine. His best known creation for the company was “Den,” based on his 1968 animated short film Neverwhere; the heavily sexualized comic told the story of an ordinary man who is transported to another world, called Neverwhere, where he becomes a nude, musclebound warrior. Comics historian Maurice Horn remarked that the series “sounds like a lot of hokum … but it is saved by Corben’s astonishing graphic mastery and the sweep of his composition.” The comic ran into the ’90s, and formed the basis of a segment in the animated Heavy Metal film.
From 1986 to 1994, Corben operated his own publishing imprint, Fantagor Press, where he illustrated Bruce Jones’s dinosaur thriller “Rip in Time,” and Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog expansion “Vic and Blood.” He also illustrated the cover for Meat Loaf’s album Bat Out of Hell, Jim Steinman’s Bad for Good, and the poster for Brian De Palma’s film Phantom of the Paradise.
In the 2000s, Corben illustrated five issues of Brian Azzarello’s “Hellblazer” run, and reteamed with the writer on Marvel’s “Startling Stories: Banner,” and the MAX title “Cage.” His subsequent work at the company included Garth Ennis’s “The Punisher: The End,” “Ghost Rider,” a MAX “Starr the Slayer” series, and “Haunt of Horror,” which adapted stories by Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. At Dark Horse, he illustrated flashbacks for “Conan the Cimmerian,” and regularly penciled the Hellboy titles from 2006 to 2011, including “Makoma,” “The Crooked Man,” “The Bride of Hell,” “Hellboy in Mexico,” and “House of the Living Dead.” He also created “Bigfoot” at IDW Publishing with Rob Zombie and Steve Niles in 2005.
Corben continued to be active in his seventies, creating “Rat God,” and “Shadows on the Grave” for Dark Horse. He was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 2018, and created the poster art for the subsequent year’s festival. He was also recognized in 2009 with the Spectrum Grand Master Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2012. He is survived by his wife Dona, whom he had been married to since 1965, and their daughter.