Review by Roy Boyd
Edgar Allan Poe is Richard Corben’s first collection of stories adapted from the tales of Poe, though not his last. Spirits of the Dead and Haunt of Horror would follow, the latter also including H. P. Lovecraft tales.
Richard Margopoulos handles writing duties on the first three short stories (only eight pages apiece) that were produced in 1974 and 1975, for Warren’s Creepy magazine. We open with ‘The Oval Portrait’, a typical Poe tale of obsession and compulsion. Corben draws most of the black and white story in pen and ink, though there is some impressive airbrush work on display too.
Next up is ‘The Raven’, one of Poe’s most well known poems, propelled into modern day memory by Homer’s memorable version in a Halloween episode of The Simpsons. Corben has produced at least three different versions over the years. This, the first, is gorgeously rendered in lush colour. Corben’s colouring is masterful. He invented a technique that allowed for superb reproduction while keeping costs down back in the days of expensive colour separations. The nature of Poe’s original work, while haunting and memorable, demands some artistic interpretation to provide a coherent story, and Margopoulos does a fine job.
The last of the trio is ‘The Shadow’, and again the artwork’s excellent, especially two striking full-page illustrations.
At 28 pages, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ comprises more than half of the book. Corben both writes and illustrates this tale, and he would later create an even longer adaptation – 47 pages – for Spirits of the Dead, so he obviously likes the story. Our protagonist in this version is clearly based on Edgar Allan Poe himself, and his impressive imagery incorporates effects that, in the pre-Photoshop days, were extremely challenging to artists, such as superbly rendered blurry dream sequences. Sadly, even by Corben’s standards, the lettering is poor, and he makes the odd decision to put much of the black text against a dark grey background.
Creepy Presents Richard Corben includes the first three stories, as well as a great deal more. However, for completists and collectors, this volume is a worthwhile purchase, featuring the talents of two of America’s foremost purveyors of horror.
We’ll leave the final word to M. Thomas Inge, authority on Poe: “Richard Corben may well be our most acute and creative interpreter of Poe in visual terms. All of his comic book work has been imbued with the same gothic sensibilities and keen eye for the grotesque that possessed Poe himself.”