Richard Corben, a celebrated comic book illustrator known for his work on Heavy Metal magazine and the iconic album cover for Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, has passed away at the age of 80. The unfortunate news was confirmed on Corben’s official Facebook page by his wife, Donna.
“It is with great sorrow and loss that I must share the sad news that Richard Corben died December 2, 2020 following heart surgery. He will be missed tremendously by his family, his friends, and his fans,” reads the post. “Richard was very appreciative of the love for his art that was shown by you, his fans. 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. I will continue to conduct sales of Richard’s art through the Corben Studios website at corbencomicart.com. I will also be managing the ongoing process of publishing his work internationally. Please give me and my family a little time to collect ourselves and we’ll get back with you in 2021.”
“Richard Corben has been an institution in American comic book culture for the better part of four decades. Richard’s art is what Heavy Metal is all about, edgy, experimental and prolific. Having been intertwined into the fabric of Heavy Metal, this news comes as an incredible loss to not only Heavy Metal, but the community at large. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dona and the entire Corben family,” Heavy Metal CEO Matt Medney said in an exclusive statement to SYFY WIRE.
Born in Missouri, Corben grew up in Sunflower, Kansas: “a work force community of Sunflower Ordinance Works which made bombs for World War II,” according to his website. His affinity for artwork began at an early age when he decided to draw a comic about his family’s dog, Trail. In senior year of high school, he created a five-minute animated short using his father’s 8mm camera (the same kind of camera used by a young Steven Spielberg). While he wanted to move to New York to pursue a full-time career in animation, Corben did some construction work for his father before finding a job with an industrial film company in Kansas City.
After a decade or so with the company, Corben began to give into his artistic calling and started drawing underground comics. He got his big break in the comic book industry from James Warren and editor Bill Dubay of the Warren Publishing Company. Eventually, his original creations (like Den) found their way into Métal hurlant and Heavy Metal. Den was even featured in the Heavy Metal movie released in 1981.
For Bat Out of Hell (released in October 1977), Corben worked off a concept from composer Jim Steinman. “They needed the final art within a week, so there was no time for preliminary sketches,” the artist remarked during an interview in 2014. “The only pre-existing image to be used was a panel of a bat that I had drawn in my Den series that was running in Heavy Metal Magazine at the time. The concept of the guy on a motorcycle was all Steinman’s.”
Throughout his prolific career, Corben worked with some of America’s biggest comic book publishers: Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse for characters like Ghost Rider and Hellboy. In particular, his Crooked Man limited series with Mike Mignola won an Eisner Award in 2009. In 2012, Corben was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.
“R.I.P. the great Richard Corben I discovered him way back when (alongside Moebius) in an early issue of Heavy Metal magazine and instantly became a fan. His work was larger than life (in every way) and totally unique,” Mignola wrote on Twitter. “I never in a million years could have guessed that one day we would work together but we did. I wrote The Crooked Man specifically for him and to this day it remains my favorite Hellboy story. I didn’t really know him — I think very few did — but I did get to spend one very memorable afternoon with he and his wife in their home. They couldn’t have been nice and my thoughts go out to her, and their daughter, today.”