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2021.01.12

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Forgot to mention a key, key Mad/EC-era influence on both Corben's drafting and his stippled rendering style: the great war/western cartoonist John Severin. I recently picked up a 1971 issue of DC war comic "The Losers" by Severin - contemporary with Corben's entry into comics- and the similarity between their approaches is as plain as can be, though Severin never got as expressionistic as Corben could.

I was hoping you guys would do Corben & I was not disappointed. A great episode of the special genre "Comic Books are Burning in Hell guys explain the appeal of comics I absolutely can't stand." I realize I'm on the Groth end of the generational divide but believe me I've tried to appreciate Corben (as I've tried to appreciate Judge Dredd, Alan Moore, Darth Anus, Grant Morrison and other favorites). And yes I can see the use of colors -- which I wish had been put the service of better work. But I think the problem is not so much as a focus on "content" over "art" as the art is ultimately kind of empty and mannered. There's the lack of cognitive complexity or sophistication about the world that one finds in the best underground cartoonists -- Crumb and Spiegelman obviously but also Deitch, Spain, etc.

I think there’s a case to be made for Corben as an artist whose most impressive comics- not art, but comics- were made in service of a writer’s vision. (Hellblazer Hard Time is probably my favorite work of his.) Corben’s genius is best displayed in purely visual areas- manipulation of open and negative space, his approach to color, squash and stretch, markmaking, camera movements during talking head scenes, facial expressions... the list goes on but hopefully you get the gist. To me holding up someone like Spiegelman as emblematic of a more “cognitively complex” (?) approach to the medium is illustrative of a gap between ways of looking at the medium that just can’t be closed. Corben uses the tools of the trade I’m talking about to elevate rote material and make it smack and sing without calling too much attention to his process- he’s not interested in putting form above content, whereas for someone like Spiegelman the two are inextricable.

There’s validity to both ways of thinking, but I’d personally rather read ten corben comics than one Spiegelman. That’s because Corben’s work ultimately is what it is, fantastically executed genre, while I think Spiegelman is so invested in making his points about the medium (and of course, Himself as a genius artist), spittle flying, that his work ends up exciting but incoherent. Crumb is a more solid example of what I think you mean, but he’s so self referential so often that you have to be invested in outdated notions of self-expression to get much out of anything but his graphic approach- and let’s not get started on that guy as a cultural commentator.

Ultimately as a reader I think you have to place greater than normal importance on *something* to get much out of any of the underground cartoonists we’re talking about- be it craft, genre, influence, personal style, whatever. But Corben is the guy from that milieu whose innovation and historical importance carries equal value as generic entertainment- the guy with whom you can have your cake and eat it too- so I’ll take him over the Groth all stars as someone to return to. If you’re allergic to genre it’s a lost cause, but boy are you sealing yourself off from some cool comics if that’s where you’re at. And it’s a little rich to hold up someone like Crumb as a bastion of cognitive complexity and sophistication about the world in the same breath as a dismissal of Alan Moore, haha! I could go on, but there’s not really any reason to.... apples and oranges, there’s no credible case for either as superior.

The only work I've read by Corben has been his Hellboy stuff, but this podcast definitely made me want to seek out more. Looking at more of his stuff has made me wonder if he was influenced by Basil Wolverton. They seem to share a talent for combining the cartoony with the grotesque.

The Fantagor editions of DEN were NOT censored. NEVERWHERE (the first volume of DEN) had TPBs from 3 publishers: Ariel, Catalan, and Fantagor -- I have all 3, and the horse cock remains the same in all of them.

Kumar coming in for the easy win with the horsecock content I crave!

Ugh, I’m afraid I misremembered that... Corben replaced the nudity in some of the older stories used in the Fantagor Den comic books as backups, not in the Den stories themselves; fuck, that’s a dumb error.

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