The previous claimant to the phrase “The Ultimate Forbidden Doc Savage” when it comes to the combination of writing and art, would certainly be the 1975 Fokker D-LXIX Press (A Subsidiary of Acme Zeppelin Co.) edition of A Feast Unknown, with illustrations by Richard Corben.
I encountered the art of Richard Corben in my teens, in Creepy, one of the Warren black and white horror magazines…a little story called Frozen Beauty, which was equal parts erotic and grotesque. I was at boy scout camp, and the magazine belonged to one of the older boys. Even that was “forbidden” stuff…he hid it under the mattress of his bunk in our communal tent, and I peeked at it when no one else was around.
Later on he used the magazine to start a campfire, and I watched it burn with an intense feeling that a treasure — a guilty-pleasure gem — was going up in flames. But very little is ever forgotten in a writer’s life…as a reader I would encounter the themes of sexuality/extended life again in Farmer’s Feast…and as a writer I continued to take them out onto a new razor’s edge in the Talos stories.
Much later I would learn that Corben had painted artwork for Farmer’s Feast, and I could not imagine a more appropriate choice of artist to depict the over-the-top primal eroticism and violence of that novel. When I finally found a copy of the book (its outlaw status further enhanced by the outlandish name of the publisher), I was not disappointed. The only time the anatomically correct qualities of the main characters was artfully muted was on the cover, where a large rifle screens Lord Grandrith’s no doubt similarly proportioned phallus.
Inside, the paintings were a fever dream of frenzied sex and death.
Richard Corben passed away a few months ago, at age 80. He was a huge inspiration to both Iason and myself…and his contribution to “forbidden Doc Savage” lore 46 years ago is the stuff of pulp/literary legend.
2 thoughts on “Richard Corben, A Feast Unknown artist, 1940-2020”
I only found out about Richard Corben legacy after his passing. The Doc Caliban painting is one of my favorite. It capture’s how scary a man like Caliban can be.
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There is a photo (in one of the Sanctum Doc Savage reprint books) of Phil Farmer standing in his study at home, and on the wall is that terrifying, brilliant painting of Caliban in the brutal fight near the climax of A Feast Unknown. It’s a great shot, I will be sure to feature it in a blog post here. Corben was a unique (and now legendary) artist…completely fearless in depicting “forbidden” stories throughout his long career.