Interview by Vaše Pitanje for the Angouleme International Comics Festival, 2019.
Congratulations on your win. Last American winner, Bill Watterson in 2011, said he never heard of the award before he got it. Did you know about the Angouleme Grand Prix and what it means?
I normally don’t follow comic fan activities, either those in the U. S. or in Europe. I felt the American awards really didn’t relate to me or the comics I produce. So, no, I’m afraid I didn’t know about the Angouleme awards at all and it was a big surprise to me, also.
You are the fifth American to win the Grand Prix in the almost half-century long history of the award, which has been given since 1974. Would you say that Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Bill Waterson and Richard Corben are a pretty good cross-section of the American comics scene?
Absolutely not. Generally American comics concern costumed super hero characters and virtually all of them deal with adolescent power fantasies. The other Americans who won the award are of a special group whose work has varied themes of more universal appeal. I dare say I am out of place in their company as well. I’m afraid that neither my art nor comic stories are profound in any way. I expect to receive a message at any moment that there has been a serious mistake.
From your days in Heavy Metal, you are probably acquainted with the work of a lot of European Grand Prix winners, like Moebius and Druillet. Do you have a favorite European artist, and who is that
Yes, I love many European artists. The incredibly detailed fantastic scenes that Druillet imagined are still an inspiration for me. But Moebius, Wow! He has got to be the greatest cartoon artist of all time. I refer to his art regularly when I’m trying to draw.
As the winner, it is your duty to design the next year’s Angouleme festival poster. Will it be homage to comics in general, a recap of your own work or a tribute to some fellow artists?
Since I was completely unaware of the Angouleme festival, I had no idea about the duties of the winner. So whatever happens, it will still be something that I can’t even imagine at the moment.
The readers in Croatia and Bosnia, then part of Yugoslavia, were introduced to Richard Corben in the mid-1980s when the “Stripoteka” magazine published, in weekly installments, Mutant World and Bloodstar. Would you say that it was a good start for reading Corben.? Or would you have preferred to became known for some other work?
Those two stories are a good introduction to Corben comics. They are both from the early part of my career and represent essential areas of my interests. In fact, some of the direct simplicity makes a stronger comic story than some later times when I became enmeshed in extra detail that was counterproductive because the additional detail not only took longer to draw, but was harder to view by the reader.
Your comics often contained explicit nudity. Some were censored and pages remodeled for “fig leafing”. How do you feel about that? Are you angry about it or just shrug your shoulders? Or does it vary from one comic to another – in some the nudity is an integral part of the story, in others it’s no big deal?
Generally the comics I draw and write are promoting my own attitudes and moral values. These are not necessarily suitable for children because I intend them for mature readers. However, if I undertake to draw a popular character that appeals to an audience that includes children, I make sure there is no possible objectionable material. In some cases I might complete a story with some adult material then reconsider that a too liberal stance. I might redo some bits myself causing reviewers to think I was being censored.
You have adapted many classics – Poe, Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and worked with some great writers like Jan Strnad and even Alan Moore for a charity one-off; and, besides being a great artist you are a great writer yourself. It is a bit controversial that so far only artists and not writers were awarded the Grand Prix at Angouleme, but in the last couple of years Stan Lee and Alan Moore were mentioned as possible winners. Some Europeans say that since the award was not given to late great names in Franco-Belgian comic writing like Jean-Michel Charlier, Renee Goscinny or Michel Regner “Greg”, it should be given to artists only and not writers. As the future president of jury for 2019, what is your take on that controversy?
I am very proud to have worked with many talented writers, and adapted some favorite classics myself. I have a responsibility to do an honest interpretation of their words. This isn’t always easy. Some of my adaptations may be less specifically representative of the original story and I am taking only a loose inspiration from it. The justification for this is that so-called true adaptations have been done innumerable times and the audience wishes for some originality. I feel completely inadequate to the work of writing; but, it is something I have to do because I have my own ideas that I want to fulfill. The controversy of whether writers should get the Angouleme prize is something I really have no opinion about. How could I? Just two weeks ago I had no idea about the festival. I’m sure both sides have strong views and arguments.
Thank you again