Jeffrey Goldsmith Interviews Richard Corben (Dossier)

by Jeffrey Goldsmith.
Copyright © 1997 Heavy Metal.
Appeared in Heavy Metal #171 (Vol. 21, #5. Nov. 1997), pgs 14-15 (Dossier).

Dossier is written by Jeffrey Goldsmith. Reachable at wordz@sirius.com

RICHARD CORBEN: I've been doing comic strips for about 55 years.

JEFFREY GOLDSMITH: What did you do for living before comics?

I had an art job doing industrial animation for a movie company. It was a local company here in Kansas City, Kalvin Productions. They're no longer in existence.

Has it been any detriment being in Kansas City and not being on either of the coasts?

I imagine my career might have taken a few different turns if I was in New York, L.A. or San Francisco, but I'm kind of a stubborn guy, so here I am.

Is Den how you made your name?

Possibly. The Den character was originally a character in a movie I made in about 1968, an animated movie - back when I was at the film company. It was shown at some conventions and got a couple of awards, and then I turned it into a comic strip.

So we're coming up on the 30th anniversary of the film. Were did you get the idea for Den?

He's sort of a compilation of many different pulp-type heroes, plus the few bizarre things I wanted to stir in myself. For instance, he lives in a world where he walks around naked. I'm not a nudist, it just sort of symbolizes his vulnerability and why he strated out defenseless.

Why is he bald?

He's reduced to the simplest form I could come up with. Once you start coming up with hair and hair styles and then you're turning him into a specific person from a specific ethnic place. He's universal in that way.

What's the message that he conveys. Is he primal man for you?

Well, I guess. You know some of these things I figure out ahead of time and some things just sort of work themselves out and I don't know where they're going.

You go along and let your unconscious do what it does. But did you model Den after anybody?

No, well, he's probably modeled after... he's a mixture of many people.

A male ideal? What about the women?

They're archtypes. They're the Athenas of Den's world.

Like Jung. Mother. Warrior.

Right.

Some of them seem photo realistic.

Yeah, at the time my idea for my style was that I wanted to take a bizarre, fantastic situation, but render it as realistic as I could. I'm going back 30 years, but at the time I had models I drew from, real people, and that was one way I did that.

What about now. How have things changed?

Actually I haven't done a Den story in quite some time. I finished a sort of an offshoot of Den called Dens for Penthouse last year, but the way business is now, there's no time for too much preparatory work.

How do you prepare now?

I start drawing.

You just draw from your head? That's sort of sad. Renoir once said he could paint leaves from his mind, but they'd all be the same. If he painted them from nature, each one could be different.

Well, that's right. There's no matching the varitety of nature.

Do you want to get back to that?

I don't know where my comic career is really going at this point. I have no plans right now for Den. In fact, it would be hard to find a market for him, I think.

You think there is no more market for him?

It's out there, but I just can't find it.

Why?

I don't know. That's one part of business I'm not really good at.

I think you have a lot of fans, don't you?

Yes, but my fans, they're sort of... their interests change too. They're fans for a while, and then they take other interests, and then they may come back later.

Has there been any interest in Den from the video game or movie business?

Yeah, there were a couple of nibbles, but nothing serious.

So what are your plans for the future?

Oh, I love comics, but I don't know if my future's in comics. I'm doing comics now, but they seem to be fewer and further between, so I'm looking for other artistic things to do. Not just covers and illustrations, but I'm trying to see about the possibilities of computer animation.

Are you learning any new software packages?

Oh, you bet. I'm learning everything I can. On the paint side, I use all the favourites like Photoshop and Painter. And for 3D modelling, I haven't settled on anything, but I've used quite a few, Ray Dream Studio, Strata Vision Pro, Animation Master. 3D Studio in on the Windows side, and that's next on my agenda.

How do you feel about people who aren't artists, but learn to use software, then make bad art?

Well, they were probably doing bad art before, too. Some people go in with unrealistic expectations. If they didn't have talent before they think they'll get talent. That's just not the case. Computers make many things easier, but you've still got to have the vision.

What do you want to do with this stuff?

I have to see what the possibilites are. I think with some software packages it is feasible to do a cartoon movie by yourself. One person can do it now. Doing 3D models would be more difficult. I would love to do animated movies, but I don't know it that's feasible.

Is there a change you'll really make a movie?

Well, there is a good chance, but there is probably less of a chance that anybody will see it.

So, there's a little chance it will get distributed. Is this going to be a full length feature?

I don't know yet. Most of my ideas usually work themselves out in odd times so I suppoused as a business consideration it should be about 90 minutes or a half hour long, but I suppoused if I get to a point where I say I'm going ahead, there's a chance I may do it in the required form.

But you're begun this film?

Yes, I have several things and some we'll continue and some we'll not. Some of these things have several years work-out time.

I know you've worked with writers over the years. I often see their credits in your comics. Are you working with any writers now?

I'm working with a couple of writers. At Dark Horse, I'm working with John Arcudi on a three part alien series. And I'm doing a few things for a D.C. comic with Simon Revelstroke, I finished a Weird War Tales and we're working on a Weird Crime. I don't know if that's the title - it's something like that. It's a war genre only we take a weird stance on it. Supernatural.

What's the style?

My style, although I have several styles, I used to do a fully-rendered, in-color style, but everything has to be done too fast now, so I'm doing a line style and then it colored in.

So, it doesn't have that same ethereal quality Den had.

I think it depends more on the viewer to make it round. I'm trying to suggest it, but I'm not actually rendering it.

There's something very melancholy about this interview. Time and time again, we come up against that there's no time now to do it well.

Oh, well I've been in the business for a long time and I guess my viewpoint is from having seen the whole thing. Maybe other cartoonists will have a completely different take on it. But you are required to do things much faster. I guess I consider it more of a business now than I used to.

But maybe everything is like that in America. Doesn't the "content business" seem more like a business now than it used to?

Yeah, I think so. My attitude is different. When I started doing comics, I did them because I wanted to and if I made money, that was good. If I didn't, well, I did them anyway. Now, I feel I have to meet a financial quota.

Because of the loan on your house.

Right.

But there is something very sad about that. You're lost a kind of innocence.

I think that's inevitable.

Do you think that young people now starging out, start out without that innocence?

No, I think most of them start out with a strong desire to do something they really want to do, but it may take a while, or not very long.

And hopefully they're learned their craft and they can do it well. Well, I guess there's a little bit of hope. I'm glad I asked. In an ideal world, what would you do?

I think my projects would vary from time to time, but doing something I wanted and spending as much time to do it the best I could.

Copyright © 2013 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!,
Created: May 9, 2013. Modified: July 20, 2015.