Friday, 20 July 2012


This review (minus illustrations) will be submitted to Amazon shortly.

As you can tell from the book's subtitle this isn't a graphic novel but 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 sorcerors, 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.

If you're easily offended by (censored censored) don't look at the image below. The one after is more acceptable.
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.

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.

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