Saturday, August 20, 2016

Forgotten Films: Richard Corben, "NeverWhere" 1969

Yesterday while scouring a local discount book store I lucked onto a collection of near mint bagged copies of early Heavy Metal at four George per copy. I sadly couldn't buy the lot, which numbered well into the thirties, but the copies I did get thrilled me when I got them home and discovered they contained not only Moebius stories but the original Richard Corben Den strips!

Corben was an artist/writer/film maker who really pushed new frontiers in adult comic illustration with his science-fantasy tales that are largely inspired by the old pulp fantasy and sci fi magazine serial stories such as the John Carter of Mars stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Now a cultural icon, Heavy Metal, which was actually the American offshoot of a French comic magazine called Metal Hurlant, was in its day, some of the most visionary and influential illustrated science fiction and fantasy stories to grace the magazine stands.

It corrupted...I mean inspired...many a young mind, mine being one of them, since on occasion in the early 80's, depending on the clerk at the convenience store and how new they were to the job, I could act nonchalant enough to walk up with a stack of comics, HM being one of them, and pay for them quickly enough and get out to avoid being told, "You're not old enough to buy this, kid." 

It was one of the magazines my mother would throw out unceremoniously into the garbage if she chanced across it while snooping or cleaning in my room. Though she expressly forbade it, perhaps no other comic had such a hold on my young imagination, but sadly, when I started reading it, Richard Corben was no longer a contributor. I knew his work, however, from some horror comics and aspired to be as good an artist and cartoonist as him.

If you enjoyed the animated 80's movie "Heavy Metal" and in particular the segment based on Richard Corben's Den of Earth serial from the 1977 and onward editions of the Heavy Metal comic magazine, you will either already know about this little gem or, if not, be quite thrilled as I was to learn that it exists and give it a watch.

Just under fifteen minutes, Neverwhere is a novel live action/animation mix with rotoscoping and collage. It is obviously very influential conceptually in the later Heavy Metal film. Thematically and plot-wise, it is also the basis of the entire Lok Nar relic that forms the thread which weaves all of the tales in Heavy Metal the Movie together. And I could swear that the voice of the female actor in the 1969 short film is heard again in the theatre film version.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and if you do, you might want to check out Corben's very strange and surreal live action follow up in 1989 called The Dark Planet.

I actually ran a few AD&D 1st Edition games based upon Neverwhere and the Lok Nar. I wanted to get around to mapping out the subterranean halls by which Den gained access to the Queen's palace but never did...perhaps another day.

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