As a Brit, and fan of American underground comix of the sixties and seventies, I was an admirer of what Richard Corben stories and illustrations I had come across, those mainly from publishers Last Gasp and Corben's own Fantagor. The story When Dreams Collide being a particular favourite.
Then somehow I stumbled on this book among those Amazon recommendations and decided to buy it. The book reprints stories from American horror comics Creepy and Eerie, not a series familiar to most on this side of the pond I suspect.
The publisher, Warren, have produced a book that feels like a labour of love. For once, almost all Corben's entire contributions of the 1970's have been collected together, printed on good quality paper in the best reproduction possible. About 300 pages of top notch horror and fantasy, colour and B&W. For someone like me who has seen few of these in the past, it is a real treasure.
Having now checked the prices of Corben's other trade paperbacks on the second-hand market, it is an absolute bargain.
As you can tell from the book's subtitle, this is a collection of short graphic stories from two 'adult' and primarily b/w horror magazines (not comics) mostly in the 70's and a big fat collection it is too.
Corben really came to fame with his adult fantasy series Neverwhere (aka Den) which started in the French magazine Metal Hurlant (later US edition, Heavy Metal). A puny human was transported into a magical world and into the body of hairless, mostly naked, (censored censored) muscleman and hero Den. Den fights lots of vile monsters, evil sorcerers, beautiful evil naked women with (censored censored) who wanted to (censored censored censored) and then kill him, rescues beautiful naked heroines with (censored censored) and has (censored censored censored) and adventures. Definitely adult fantasy.
But back to the book in hand.
The short story is a form that's fallen out of favour in comics since the rise of the extended multi-issue narrative begun primarily by Stan Lee at Marvel back in the 60's. It isn't surprising as, in comics and particularly horror comics, the story is usually very simplistic and dependent on a gimmick or money shot shock end (the legendary EC is excepted from the simplistic tag but only just). It's simply very difficult indeed to create something worthwhile in standalone short form graphic narrative. The form has only begun to gain respectability due to independent creators like the Hernandez Brothers who sometimes use it for a different and more serious purpose.
To be honest, the Warren magazines weren't always notably better than their antecedents, though the art was a vast improvement (again EC mostly excepted) from the horror comics of the 50's. Now, in their heyday of the 70's, Creepy and Eerie had people like Jeff Jones, Berni Wrightson (the subject of his own Creepy collection and reviewed elsewhere), a variety of talented (but cheap) Philippino artists (Alcala, Maroto, etc), and, of course, Richard Corben who was present throughout that period. The art is usually way better and more sophisticated than the stories they illustrate though that doesn't mean the stories are lacking in interest. But basically you'd best be here for the art rather than the narrative, though there are gems like his adaptation of Poe's The Raven.
The stories are presented in chronological order of appearance (which isn't always the order in which they were drawn) so you can see the development of Corben over a decade. There's a wide range of genres and subgenres: horror, SF, crime, serial killer, ghost, fantasy, monster, humour, satire, etc and all are short enough so that you never get bored. A substantial minority are in colour and coloured by Corben himself who was an innovator in its use. At over 340 pages (including covers and sketches) it can justifiably call itself a definitive collection. Publisher Dark Horse could easily have split it into two volumes and it's to their credit that they didn't. Plus there is a very good introduction by Jose Villarrubia. Despite the undercurrent of sexuality, there are very few (censored censored) and breasts.
For what it is, this is a truly excellent collection and fans of the artist will be ecstatic when they see it. Now if only someone would repackage Corben's longer form stories like Den, Mutant World, Bloodstar and Arabian Nights, I'd be happy as a (censored censored censored).
Some of my favourite stories from "Creepy" and "Eerie" were illustrated by Richard Corben and it's thanks to him that I got so into Edgar Allan Poe. It was his artwork that made Poe so accessibly to a young boy of ten years of age. Dark Horse have collected all of Corben's work from those publications, and like the Bernie Wrightson volume that proceeded it, have done a fantastic job. Highly recommended.