Well, that about seals it: the great postwar explosion of lowbrow and pop culture is finally dead. The cause of death was blood-loss from thousands of cuts, in what seems to be slow-motion suicide. And the last iconic master of the form has now passed from this plane to put the final punctuation on the story.
Richard "Gore" Corben, who ascended to Valhalla at the age of 80 this week, is what you got when you combined the chops and unbridled tumescence of Frank Frazetta, the in-born strangeness and manic work ethic of Jack Kirby, and the numinous, nightmarish, intimate insanity of HP Lovecraft.
Before we eulogize the Last Giant, let me get a couple announcements out of the way...
First up is the all-new, all-different Den of Intrigue. I'd gotten a lot of feedback on the comments sections from readers recently and their wishes are my command.
We're starting fresh, with clear guidelines for posting and comment moderation. Hopefully a lot of folks who'd been scared off by the Wild West saloon vibe will now find a dark and cozy Victorian parlor instead.
Gore left the stage at just the right time. Kirby checked out while the mainstream (read: newsstand) comics market was finally collapsing for good. Frazetta did so just as the fetid tsunami of Woke was about to flood pop culture with their insane, intersectional ideologies. And now Gore leaves us as stage six Wokeinoma has utterly destroyed and despoiled what was left of mainstream pop culture.
Don't listen to the desperate wishful thinking: the citadel has fallen, and stark economic reality will eventually pick off any survivors. You saw what happened to the music industry, right? Well, that was just beta-testing. Now the real decimation begins.
Richard Corben was not only the ultimate antithesis of Woke, his art was like taking a rusty chainsaw to its bloated, blighted, blue-haired head. It was about as non-binary as a machine gun. Gore had been an amateur body builder before pursuing art full-time and like Frazetta, his heroes were all idealized versions of himself. Quite literally so.
OK, maybe just a little exaggerated. Gore fans know what I mean.
But Gore out-Frazetta'd Frazetta when it came to pure, unvarnished mesomorph worship. Everyone hero and heroine he drew was built for two things and two things only: fighting and fucking. When he hit his groove everything he drew was firm, sweaty and swole, even the backgrounds. Even his women looked tumescent.
His art alternated between the Arcane (his horror work) and the Priapic (his fantasy). He started out in the still-thriving underground comics scene, and then ascended to the ground-level magazines like Creepy and Heavy Metal, the latter of which featured his iconic sword and sorcery strip, Den.
Corben's output was admirably prolific, and he even took time to create a new form of color separation without proofing or guides (translation: his way of doing seps was crazy hard).
And like Frazetta and Van Halen - both of whom have been eulogized here - Gore's work was like a blast of fresh mountain air after wallowing through the dank, depressed, defeated smog of post-Vietnam pop culture.
So it's no surprise that he was tapped to paint the cover of one of the best-selling LPs of all time. It's only fitting that this whacked-out van-art money-shot is almost quintessentially Corben: a witches' brew of Frazetta, Roger Dean and Larry Flynt. If this was all he ever painted, he'd still be a legend.
But Gore wasn't just all about Kirbyesque load-blowing. His horror work could be as quiet and intimate as his fantasy stories were loud and gaudy. Which is exactly why they are so horrifying.
A classic example is "In Deep," a story about two stranded honeymooners waiting for rescue after their sailboat capsizes. Corben's under-utilized gift for lyrical understatement in the heartbreakingly hopeful panels early on in the story only makes the eventual bloody horror all the more grueling. Precisely because Gore made it feel so real.