Acclaimed and controversial underground comix artist, illustrator and animator Richard Corben died on December 2nd, 2020, aged 80, following heart surgery. His widow Dona Corben, the former Madonna Marchant, whom he married in 1965, posted the news via Corben’s frequent collaborator Jack Strnad:
“It is with great sorrow and loss that I must share the sad news that Richard Corben died Dec 2, 2020 following heart surgery. He will be missed tremendously by his family, his friends, and his fans.
Richard was very appreciative of the love for his art that was shown by you, his fans. Your support over the decades meant a great deal to him. He tried to repay your support by working diligently on each piece of art going out to you. Although Richard has left us, his work will live on and his memory will live always in our hearts.”
Born in Anderson, Missouri, Corben achieved a Batchelor of Arts from Kansas City Art Institute. After working as a professional animator – in which capacity he met his future wife while working on her short film, Siegfried Saves Metropolis – Corben joined the burgeoning field of underground comics, including Grim Wit, Slow Death, Skull, Rowlf, Fever Dreams and his own anthology Fantagor.
In 1970 he began illustrating horror and science-fiction stories for Warren Publishing and in 1975 became a frequent contributor to Heavy Metal, the English-language version of Metal Hurlant.
Perhaps his most famous creation is the fantasy series Den, about a frail young boy who travels to an alternate universe and is recreated as a prodigiously-endowed naked barbarian who battles monsters for the attentions of a succession of equally unfeasibly-proportioned and underdressed ladies. Corben’s frank and enthusiastic attitude towards nudity, eroticism and violent physicality won him notoriety and acclaim in equal measure, but his lush colour palette, expert finishes and skilful use of shadow and line were universally praised.
The winner of multiple awards over the decades, he also illustrated record covers (including Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell) and film posters, and occasionally dabbled in ‘borderline’ mainstream series, including DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer, Marvel’s Startling Stories: Banner, and Punisher: The End, and a controversial reimagining of Luke Cage for Marvel’s short-lived Vertigo-wannabe Epic Line.
Preproduction work on an animated film adapted from his underground comic Fever Dreams was announced in May 2020.