Richard Corben‘s name is synonymous with comic book art. In the era of the comic code and before the mainstream companies were even daring enough to start deconstructing their own universes, Richard was pushing the boundaries in Heavy Metal and other magazines. He has continued his long and talented career since then. His most recent offering is Rat God which he wrote and illustrated himself. We got a chance to talk with him about the new series
Graphic Policy: Rat God #1 still leaves a lot open as to where the story is going as it incorporates in three different groups of people. It does tie in some common themes though, such as travel, love and being an outsider. Which themes are the most important in this series?
Richard Corben: Of those Love is the most important. In a series of this length, there is enough space to explore several themes and how they relate to the lead character.
GP: Is it easier to both write and draw a series? Does it make it easier to realize the full story, or can it be easier to have another creator work on the story or art?
RC: For me it is certainly not easy to write and draw a story. But it is much more fulfilling to have complete control over my work, at least as much as is possible. I enjoy visualizing other writer’s stories, but when I write myself, I keep having further ideas about a scenario and I’m free to utilize them.
GP: This is a story from different times, from both the unknown setting for the natives and an earlier time for the driver and the academic. Is it hard to balance the narrative when changing the era of writing?
RC: Obviously, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. My idea is to start in a prehistoric setting, and then try to make some connections to later events. The narrator character, Mag the hag, is one way of creating continuity between story events widely separated in time. I’m not so much trying to make a balance as to create a unity between the first book and later books.
GP: Why did you choose New England as the setting for this story? And why also choose a real place but then use a fictitious one for the city (Arkham)?
RC: My intention is to correlate several settings here. I admit part of my goal was to create a pastiche of some of the themes used by Lovecraft; Arkham and the Miskatonic University are obvious Lovecraftian links. There are also other instances where I use real things as well as fictitious ones, such as the real Indian tribe, the Tlingits, and a made up one, the Cthanhluks.
GP: The conflict here seems to not only be man versus man, but also man versus wilderness, as the characters struggle without fire for warmth or being stuck in a snowstorm. Are there challenges to writing when a protagonist is the natural world?
RC: In this case I’m drawing from my own anxiety and awe of the vast Northern forests. It is a common practice to isolate characters in a remote setting. I wanted to escalate this idea and put them in an extremely remote setting. Much of man’s efforts are spent on conquering nature. I want to show that in some cases, nature can’t be conquered.
GP: Race plays a part in the narrative here as well. Of course the characters are showing signs of their own prejudice, but how do you approach this as a writer to make the characters still approachable?
RC: Racial bigotry has always been with us. In the time period that I’m portraying, it was common even among intelligent sophisticated social groups. I don’t want to give away an important plot conclusion, but Clark’s prejudices will haunt him further in the story, hopefully in unexpected ways.
GP: There are a lot more questions than answers after this impressive first issue. Any clues on where the story might be going?
RC: The plot will become more entangled with more sinister characters in more atmospherically moody settings before Clark can figure out and fight his way through the situation. The writing and drawing is still a challenge to me. I hope the readers enjoy it as much as I do creating it.