The Jan Strnad Interview, Part 1(2)

by SidSid Keränen
Copyright © 2001 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!

Interview was made in February, March 2001.

Jan StrnadMr. Jan Strnad,

you are well known American writer, who has got roots in Czech. There is interesting interview of yours on Czech web site; we do not cover those questions here. But still I have to ask you some general questions for the beginning. Tell us a little bit of your past. Where did you live in early 70's? You started collaboration with Mr. Richard Corben in your first, own fanzine Anomaly and through years you did keep in touch with him, regularily publishing stories till we come present day to your very newest Internet web animation "Bludd". How you did met each other? Are you childhood's friends or so? Did you perhaps live near by? I know you lived in Wichita in eraly 80's, which is relatively close to Kansas City.

I lived in Wichita, Kansas and Corben lived in Kansas City, Missouri, about four hours away. I was a fan of his artwork before we met. We came close to meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, at a science fiction convention where I was selling my fanzine Anomaly. He signed up for a subscription while I was away from the table. When I got home and I discovered that I had Richard Corben's address, I wrote to him and asked if he would contribute to Anomaly. He kindly agreed and our friendship was born.

I know you have done a big variety of writings, but here we do concentrate mainly on comics and Richard Corben ones particularly. Let's start from that already mentioned Anomaly. You started it around same time as Mr. Corben his Fantagor. Since I have not seen your fanzine, can you light about it a little. The Official Underground and Newave Comix Price Guide (1982) by Jay Kennedy says, first three issues were fanzines, until on Anomaly #4 (Nov. 1972) it was published by Bud Plant. You've got same developing with it as Mr. Corben had with Fantagor. Was early Anomalys in comic book format or was there written stories or so?

Anomaly was devoted to science fiction, fantasy and comic books. It was professionally printed and contained articles, prose fiction and later some comic book fiction. It was magazine size. I had $1000 to invest in it and had blown through that money by issue #3. Issue #4 was an underground comic published by Bud Plant.

Your first collaboration with Mr. Corben was in Anomaly #3 (1971) story called "A Brief Encounter at War", though there was some drawings/comics of Mr. Corben already in Anomaly #2 (1970). Would you tell more about that story. I know there is at least two different versions of that piece of art. It appeared even in Anomaly #4 (1970) once again, where it was shorteded as "Encounter at War".

It also appeared in a science fiction comics magazine edited by Roy Thomas which was titled, I think, Incredible Worlds of Science Fiction or something close to that. It tied in with a prose story I wrote and published in Anomaly #2 whose title escapes me.

Actually "Encounter at War" appeared later in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #4 (1975) and in color in Den [III] #4 (1988).
Mr. Corben did some drawings in Anomaly #2 (1970). There was seven picts on pgs 2 to 8. They were named as "Buifra the Darkk - Sand of Quanam". Was it illustrated story (written by you, maybe...)?

The story was written by Stanley Wiater III, who is now a figure in horror fandom. I believe it was his first published work.

In Fantagor #2 (1971) you have got a story "To Spear a Fair Maiden". You did several sequels to Mr. Corben's other stories. This one was second story in trilogy of stories of Razar the Unhero. Which one of you wanted to go on with Razar? Was there meant to be more stories to come with him?

There was no long range plan. I liked the Razar story and somehow we ended up doing another one.

There is one more special question about this very story I always wanted to ask. The main plot is that rich father is worried about his daughter's virginity. Evil sorcerer needs a virgin to his rite and Razar is brought to castle to spoil sorcerer's plan. Now comes the best part: rich father asks Razar to screw with his daughter - he (i.e. father) would do it by himself (with his own daughter!), but he is too aged for that kind of act! There is even red, erected finger to point that line. Was it your idea? Did you mention the finger in your script or was it from Mr. Corben?

We can credit that finger solely to Corben.

Anomaly #4 (1972) has one more story with Mr. Corben, "Alice in Wonerlust". This one joke story is compact, sharp, fast and pleasantly short and it is based on rabbit's need for copulation. Did Mr. Corben draw it as you wrote? It is extremely visual story.

He drew it as I wrote it.
That story cost me a girlfriend, by the way. I'd ridden with her to Kansas City to pick up the artwork from Corben and we were on our way home when she lost control of the car and slammed into a guardrail on the freeway. We both ended up in the hospital and her parents found the artwork in the car. They were offended and said she couldn't see me anymore.

In Fantagor #3 (1972) appeared story "Kitten for Christian", which I never really liked. The story is good, but it sounds like it is more interesting as written, not in comic format. There is several Corben themes I like, as the house. Mr. Corben can do very impressive houses (as he did in very recent "The House on the Borderland"). But house does not help here. Comic has not very successful coloring. Did you adapt this comic strip from short story? It feels like it is part of the longer story (story similar to, say, "Vic and Blood").

No, it was an original. Yes, the coloring is strange. Corben was just perfecting his technique of creating color with black and white and this one is pretty rough. The technique involved drawing black and white overlays...twelve of them, I believe, for various densities of color... and then using those to burn color printing plates. When printed, the coloring emerged, though Corben worked only in black and white.

In 1972 there was also undergound comic book Fever Dreams, into where you did story "To Meet the Faces You Meet". Comic book is published by Kitchen Sink, issue is divided exactly half with Mr. Corben and Mr. John Richardson. Did Mr. Corben book from you that long story, or how did you end up like this? Maybe Kitchen Sink gave you those limited pages? I like this story very much. I found it early 80's; it's my one of the first Corben comics.

I really don't remember the exact origin of Fever Dreams. I may have pitched it to Denis Kitchen at Kitchen Sink. The standard length for underground comix was thirty-two pages because that was the most economical length to print.

During Mr. Corben's Warren period you had possibility to make only one story. At least they did not published anything but "Bowser". It appeared sereval times, Vampirella #54 (1976), Creepy #132 (1981) and Comix International #4 (1976). Heavy Metal later reprinted it in The Best of Richard Corben from Creepy and Eerie (1998), which shows how popular it was. Your story is almost silly with May-day fritter pet. But story is less SF than it looks like on first sight, it is story of problem to have a pet. It is more "softer" than stories on Creepy used to be, it is about family values. Is there link to your own life? Do you have kid or new pet at that time? I found it a different, interesting story. Story's inner logic is also refressing - it is normal to whole family that pet has habbit to attack on people.

I just wanted to have fun with the typical "little boy and dog" story and decided it would be funny if the pet were a deadly, neighbor-eating monster. Corben has a marvelous comic (as in funny) touch that he rarely gets credited with, and it shows up very well in "Bowser".

Inside of Warren Mr. Corben did some works to SF magazines. In 1984 #4 (1978) appeared the story "Ogre". I have seen only the sequel for this story ("Ogre II"). Would you like to tell a little about this story. It was called photographic art. Mr. Corben has done several comics with photo collage technique.

Gosh, I hardly remember this one at all. Did I write it? I remember that he experimented with photographing clay models but that people preferred his illustrations.

As a matter of fact, you indeed wrote it. Mr. Corben was about to make "Ogre II" in the same photo collage technique, but a disasterous production develoment forced him to abandon his graphic experimentations and draw the story in more regular way.

You started first full feature story with Mr. Corben in 1984 #1 (1978) to #8 (1979). It was called as "Mutant World" and it ran through several difficulties. It did appeared later as Album under Fantagor Press with original texts. Your warm relationship with this story is evident. Your introduction in 1982 Fantagor Album was touching to read. How did you realize that editor of 1984 did not like dialogue of the story? Did he say it out, or did you found it out from the pages of 1984?

We discovered that the dialogue had been rewritten by Bill DuBay when we received our copies of the magazine. We protested loudly. He ignored us. When the series was finished in the magazine, they wanted to issue a graphic album and we said, "No way." That got Warren Publishing mad at us. Mutant World remained out of print for several years until a French publisher issued it in several different languages and I was able to restore the original dialogue.
Bill DuBay pissed off a number of creators by bastardizing their work for 1984, including the late Wally Wood. He's out here in Los Angeles now, where I currently live, and lots of people simply won't work for him. He screwed himself royally.

"Mutant World" is full of different, new characters in the field of the post-hologcaust stories. The brutal faith of girl was horrifying to follow. Also Dimento did not go through the best possible life. Like that it is more "real" life for them than just dancing on flower fields; you wrote in the above mentioned introduction, quote "I wanted to portray the warm, nutring aspect of human personality, to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man. I failed dismally." It was about your script for "Mutant World". Don't be sorry. You did splendid story.
More about the story, specially I liked rats; they appeared in the very beginning, sewers and somewhere in the end biting tv cabel broken. You put out a Barsoomian eight legged wolfmonster, which was also on front cover of original Mutant World Album. What is your relationship with Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars/Barsoom series? That very same book series was my first touch to SF.

I loved ERB's Mars stories and bought all of the books when I was younger. He was very popular with fans when I was active in fandom and many comics artists and painters of the day illustrated his work.

Dimento's story got surprisingly sequel more than ten years later as "Son of Mutant World" in a comic book series bearing the same name (1990). You must have been enchanted to go on with the story.

Yes, it's one of my favorites.

Here in Finland we have very active amateur SF movement. In the middle of Finland (where I lived ten years), we founded Jyvaskyla Science Fiction Society 42 (you know fourty-two and that Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hikers Guide to Galaxy books). We published a fanzine called Alienist. The reason for the twist is, that that very fanzine (I used to make it) is "numbered" very particular way: all numbers have name, not number. First number was just simply "42", and numbers after that "The Return of 42", "The Revenge of 42", "The Bride of 42", "The Son of 42", "The Mum-in-law of 42", "Daughters of 42", "The Hound of 42", "The Left Hand of 42" etc., which leads me brilliantly back to "Son of Mutant World". Why story is called "Son of Mutant World"? Dimentia is actually DAUGHTER? Who is "Son of Mutant World"? The story?

As with your fanzine, the title was a joke. If there's another one, it'll be Bride of Mutant World but I won't guarantee that there will be a bride in it.

Wolf is back in the story. This time mutant wolf has a couple of extra, blind eyes. But the most interesteing animal in "Son of Mutant World" is anyway the bear. It was unexpected and because of story, there could not be any other animal. Did you choose it for certain reason?

There's a sexual tension between women and bears that I wanted to exploit. A lot of women have "bear" fantasies and the match between the bear and Dimentia just seemed natural.

And again there is family values (scare trapper with brave son). Actually story does not have much common with original "Mutant World"; there is no prev. story's religious people or militants or down underground living people kinds of characters. This time story is focused to small fortress on island. And of course the end of the world. Was it expedient choise to draw it away from "Mutant World"? To make it happen in smaller circles?

It was indeed a very loose "sequel."

Did Max has for purpose six finger? There was never any "underlining" of it (which is good). But was it only because he was mutant (they all were)? I did pay attention on it mainly because Dorra had on cover of #4 kind of 5+6 fingers (you cannot say for sure), but she used to have just ten fingers all together.

I just wanted Max to be a mutant, because otherwise people would be wondering why he was completely normal. I didn't notice Dorra having any extra fingers and didn't call for any in the script.

Have you seen "Son of Mutant World" totally in color? Comic book versio of "Son of Mutant World" was in color only in two first chapters, three last ones were forced to draw in B&W. One of Corben fan send me scans to verify, that the Album version of "Son of Mutant World" (which was never published in English, I pressume) in Germany were totally in color!

Yes, the album is totally in color.

Now, back to the end of 70's. There was "Den" in Heavy Metal while "Mutant World" was in 1984. Before we saw sequel for "Den" or Mr. Corben's "Bloodstar" adaptation (which was IMHO much better in B&W than in colors), you brought out "The Last Voyage of Sindbad" (1978-1979). What I like in this story is that it is not rerun of "1001 Arabian Nights", it's fresh, new story. What I don't understand in this story is, that it appeared under several different names (even in Heavy Metal it had several alternative names). Was it your or Mr. Corben's idea to make that famous story again?

The story was originally New Tales of the Arabian Nights, but when it was re-published later I just thought that The Last Voyage of Sindbad was a catchier title. We're both fans of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies, mainly for the special effects, and I wanted to do a "Sinbad" story that would have unusual effects but be (I hoped) a little better written than the Sinbad movies. I guess I hoped Harryhausen would see it somehow and go, "Hey! This guy should write my next Sinbad movie!" It didn't happen.

Dog does again visit in the story. Some movie directors have dog obsessions. David Lynch has in every single movie a dog (do you know his "Angriest Dog in the World", a comic strip story with always same strip, only story in bubble changes?). Ethan and Joe Coen have dog in every they movies. Do you have a special relationship with dogs? They do appear in stories of yours time after time.

Yeah, I love dogs. I love their simplicity and their goofiness. I based my most-nearly-famous, non-Corben comic book character, Dalgoda, on dogs. They're such a big part of our lives that I just naturally put them in stories.

"Sindbad" has some remarkable scenes full of action without any dialogue! You do not see that kind of art in Mr. Corben's works nowadays.

One of the nicest things about working with Corben is that I don't need to "cover" the action with words. His art often speaks for itself, so I just describe the scene and let him go to it!

The Jan Strnad Interview, February, March 2001, by SidSid Keränen (Cont... >>>)

Copyright © 2001 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!,
Created: February 15, 2001. Modified: January 3, 2010.
(Q's 11th Feb. and 1st April; A's 30th March + 1st April 2001.)