Richard Corben, the award-winning artist whose work spanned from the underground comics of the 1970s to mainstream work in the 2000s, passed away on Dec. 2. following heart surgery. He was 80 years old.
Corben’s wife, Dona, shared the news on the Corben Studios Facebook page.
“Richard was very appreciative of the love for his art that was shown by you, his fans,” she wrote. “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.”
Corben was born in Missouri in 1940 and attended art school at the Kansas City Art Institute in the 1960s, where he created his first animation project for his senior project. After graduating, he worked construction for his dad before accepting a job at the Kansas City industrial film company as an artist, animator and cameraman. He spent 10 years there and started working in underground comics in the late ’60s, before eventually going to work for Warren Publishing.
His trademark horror style worked well at Warren, as he drew comics like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. He quit his day job and began drawing comics full-time, as his earlier underground work grew in popularity and was eventually reprinted in the French comics magazine Metal Hurlant, then found its way to its American cousin, Heavy Metal. Den had debuted in an anthology called Grim Wit years before, and it became a breakout hit in the pages of Heavy Metal. The character and story appeared in the 1981 Heavy Metal film, with Den voiced by John Candy.
From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Corben operated his own publisher, Fantagor Press, where he published Den, Den Saga, Horror in the Dark and other titles he created or co-created. Over the course of his career, he also drew album art, including Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, and movie posters.
In the late 1990s Corben started working with several American comics publishers, including DC, Marvel and Dark Horse. He worked with Brian Azzarello on Hellblazer, Cage and Startling Stories: Banner, and created an issue of Solo at DC. He also worked with Mike Mignola on some Hellboy stories, which earned him two Eisner Awards. Other characters and titles he worked on included Ghost Rider, Swamp Thing, Star the Slayer, Conan, Punisher and Rat God.
Corben was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2012. In January 2018 he won the Grand Prix at Angoulême and presidency of the 2019 festival.
His wife said that she plans to continue selling his art through the Corben Studios website at corbencomicart.com and managing “the ongoing process of publishing his work internationally.”