Topping off my summer-long Corben celebration, I’ve just completed reading CREEPY PRESENTS RICHARD CORBEN. This is a gorgeous and hefty tome that collects all of Corben’s work from the classic CREEPY and EERIE horror magazines. The gruesome tales presented here come from a prolific period that spanned 1970 to 1982.

Not only can you see the evolution of a great master in these tales, you can also literally see Corben re-defining what color comics could look like. This was well before computer coloring came along, and Corben blew the minds of comics readers in a way that the Beatles’ SGT. PEPPERS must have blown away music fans a few years earlier.

The tales themselves are solid horror gems, with the flavors of high fantasy and science fiction recurring throughout. In black-and-white, or in color, Corben is a force to be reckoned with, even in this early phase of his career. CREEPY and EERIE were the only places that stories of this nature could be printed for many years. Coming out of the 60s, when the magazines mainly featured takes on traditional horror tropes like vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and zombies, these 70s tales often stretched the boundaries of comics storytelling in interesting new ways.

The 70s was a time when comics writers were beginning to weave social commentary and socio-political themes into their comics. Nowhere is this more evident in these tales by Corben and his many collaborators. There are some really nice pieces written by Jan Strnad and Bruce Jones, as well as several names that are less well known.

This collection is intended to showcase Richard Corben’s work from the period, but it ends up being pretty close to something like a BEST OF CREEPY & EERIE. The reason being that Corben was on the cutting edge of the medium, both artistically and thematically.

Out of all these great tales, I think my favorite is “The Hero Within,” where a young boy locked in a basement by his abusive foster-parent escapes into a world of fantasy by focusing on a weird stone he finds there. The story has an amazing fantasy sequence that must have truly amazed readers back in the 70s, and it reminds me of Corben’s own DEN somewhat. The “hero” battles giant lizards, roams a weird wasteland, and rescues a damsel in distress, only to be returned to his own brutal reality for a decidedly unhappy ending.

The horror stories of this era pulled no punches; at times I was shocked by the sheer grimness of certain tales. But there is also a lot of the famous CREEPY/EERIE dark humor here. All in all, the hardcore horror and dark humor are balanced well, and Corben’s amazing artwork makes it all look incredible.

It’s nice that CREEPY has released this collection of Corben works because otherwise all these great stories would be scattered over twelve years’ worth of archive volumes. If you’re thinking of checking out any of the CREEPY or EERIE archives (which I high recommend), then CREEPY PRESENTS RICHARD CORBEN is a great way to “sample” some of the very best that these legendary books had to offer.

You can’t go wrong with Corben.