Most people know Richard Corben best for his work with musicians. He’s the artist behind the cover of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, and he illustrated the poster for cult rock classic The Phantom Of The Paradise. But that’s all a sideline to Corben’s long, unconventional career in comics. Where most comic artists cut their teeth on superheroes, Corben first came to fan attention as an artist for Warren Publications, drawing vivid tableaus of horror and fantasy, before working for Heavy Metal and collaborating with authors such as Harlan Ellison.
For Cinco De Mayo, though, one of his more mainstream works is returning to the stands. Back in 2010, Corben and Mike Mignola collaborated on Camazotz, a story where Hellboy, on a drunken walkabout South of the Border, runs into a team of luchadores fighting a mysterious supernatural threat. On the fifth anniversary, and with the story collected in the Hellboy In Mexico collection, Corben stepped away from his artist’s table to chat about the story and working with such a beloved character, and gave us permission to reprint the whole story.
You’re well known for your horror work. What first drew you to drawing horror comics?
I’ve always been drawn to the horror genre, even as a small kid. Even before the phenomena of Famous Monsters of Filmland. Movies like Frankenstien, The Wolf Man, Dracula, and The Thing really frightened me. But I only knew what a universally vast field it was when I was in college and started reading Poe, Lovecraft and the other masters of horror.
How did Hellboy In Mexico come together for you?
Like all of the Hellboy projects, it began with Mike Mignola. He presented his ideas combining HB with the fabulous Mexican horror movies and Lucha Libre subculture. With all that rich material pulled together with Mike’s special genius; well, there was no way I would miss this opportunity.
Is your approach different on something like Hellboy, where you have some designs to work from, versus work you have to build from the ground up?
There are very few writers working at Mike’s level. Mostly I feel like reediting myself! In the past I have studied the Mexican pre-Columbian cultures with an idea about developing a comic book story. With Camazotz, Mignola had done it all for me, and far better than I could have achieved myself.
What goes into researching a specific place and culture? You’ve got a lot to work with in Mexico, after all!
As I said I had done some study of these cultures, especially the Aztecs, previously for a possible comic book project, so all I needed was review work. And some specific references were supplied by Mike and Scott Allie. These days there is an abundance of reference material available on the internet. And I was able to restudy books from my own library as well.
What’s your thought process when taking a story from script to drawn pages? Where do you start?
Normally, I’ll reread the script pretending I’m watching a movie. Doing this helps me visualise certain cinemagraphic techniques, like whether a scene is close or long shot, where a character is standing in a panel, which way everybody is running, etc. This train of thought helps me do a thumbnail version of the story, which is the actual “blueprint” for me to follow when I start drawing.
Hellboy In Mexico is available now. For a taste of what’s in store, Dark Horse and Mr. Corben graciously gave us permission to run the full story below. Enjoy!