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shadows on the grave 2 00

Richard Corben Interview

Interview conducted by James Ferguson

Richard Corben knows a thing or two about horror comics.  The man has been making them for years and he's pretty friggin' good at it.  Shadows on the Grave, his most recent anthology series from Dark Horse Comics, is packed with tales of terror, including a multi-part story that will be serialized across the entire run.  I had a chance to speak with Richard about the book, his process, and what scares him.  As an added bonus, we've got some exclusive images from Shadows on the Grave #2.

James Ferguson: What was the catalyst for Shadows on the Grave?

Richard Corben: Shadows on the Grave is basically Corben returning to his roots.  I grew up in the fifties and collected the EC Horror comics when they were first published. Many of my early amateur comics were horror oriented.  When the underground comix came along with Skull, I felt I had at last found my true calling.  Unfortunately, they didn't last long enough to base a career on.  Then the Warren horror books, Creepy and Eerie, appeared and I thought I still had a possible home. Much has happened since then and my work has gone into other directions.  Now, I just want to work on a project that feels natural to me.  There are no mainstream horror publications for me to court, so I had to make my own.

Click images to enlarge

JF: As you're writing and illustrating this book, what is your process like?  Do you have a full script or just jump into pencils?

RC: When I write for myself, I usually have a brief concept, which I then develop into a page by page synopsis.  A sketched set of thumbnails follows. The form is pretty malleable and I might emphasize different elements than I had first planned. Then I begin the finished art. The characters are not fully developed until I start drawing them.  My goal is to have the story work on a visual level first.  The final text is usually the last thing to be added.

JF: How do you feel when people call you a horror legend?

RC: Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker are horror legends. Boris Karloff is a horror legend. Harry Clark is a horror legend. Graham Engles (Ghastly) is a horror legend. Me? I'm just an inspired follower.

JF: Earlier on in your career, when you went from your underground / self-published work to Warren, did you have to compromise your work at all to “go mainstream”?

RC: The time of the underground comix was a Xanadu period for me.  I could pretty much do anything I wanted and it would be accepted. Virtually any change from that situation would cause a lot of angst and turmoil.  But going to Warren was not all that difficult.  My editor at that time, Bill Dubay, was very helpful during the transition. I have many good memories working for Warren.

Click images to enlarge

JF: Do you have a favorite story amongst your work?

RC: Yes, I have favorites.  These are not necessarily my best work, but have certain memories connected to them, usually having to do with other things in my life at the time…Lame Lem's Love, Lycanklutz, Bloodstar, Neverwhere come to mind. The more recent Poe adaptations, Spirits of the Dead, particularly Masque of the Red Death and The Premature Burial are certainly contenders for my "most favorite."

JF: What's something that scares you?

RC: Probably mankind’s headlong rush toward self-annihilation, the human ability to justify virtually anything it does, an inevitable collision of Earth and large meteorites. That's just a short selection of the things that scare me. Or, on a smaller scale, whether anyone buys my comics. I'm a pretty timid guy.

Click images to enlarge

JF: What would you do if confronted by one of these creepy clowns that have been seen wandering all over the place lately?

RC: My motto is: when in doubt, run away.  Of course most survival schemes usually involve avoiding danger. A horror writer (Robert Bloch, I think) is quoted as saying: (paraphrasing here), “Nothing is more frightening than a clown at midnight.”

JF: Anything you want to tease heading into future releases of Shadows on the Grave?

RC: There will be many kinds of scary things and happenings in further issues of Shadows on the Grave, such as psychotic killers, demented relatives, dream ghosts, Bigfoot, avenging corpses, grave flies, supernatural obsessions, sentient islands, magic mirrors, Voodoo curses, tomb traps, and more.

Horror DNA would like to thank Richard Corben for taking the time to speak with us.  Shadows on the Grave #1 is currently available and the next issues are available for pre-order.

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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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