Corben was born in Missouri and grew up in Sunflower, Kansas, a work force community of Sunflower Ordinance Works which made bombs for World War II.
He's been drawing comics all of his life. An early effort was a series of comics about the adventures of TRAIL, the family dog. Later he moved to imitations of Tarzan and Brothers of the Spear. Corben also showed a keen interest in animation by turning many pads of paper into animated flip books. In art college he concentrated on basic drawing and painting. Developing these skills would become vital in creating his chosen realistic style.
His school offered no courses for animation but Corben nevertheless produced a 5 minute animated film highlighting the labors of Heracles, using his father's 8 mm movie camera, as his senior project.
After school he wanted to go to New York to launch a career in comics or animation. But Corben was always a timid and shy person and he put off such a drastic move. After some time working in construction for his father among other things, he found a local job as an artist/animator/cameraman in a Kansas City industrial film company. Despite his shyness he found a girl to marry him. After nearly ten years at the film company, Corben felt frustrated that he really hadn't given his art career a chance. He started drawing so called "underground" comix and fanzines. About this time Warren Publishing Company began publishing a series of black and white horror comics, CREEPY, EERIE, and VAMPIRELLA. This was a perfect match for Corben's interests and he drew several stories for CREEPY on speculation. Unfortunately none of these were accepted. But the "wannabe" comic book artist persevered and even met James Warren at a science fiction convention. Finally Warren and his editor Bill Dubay relented and started sending Corben scripts to draw. At last a foothold was established in his comic career. Even with the responsibilities of a wife, daughter and house the young artist felt with the steady flow of comic work, he could quit the full time job at the industrial film company and devote all his time to drawing.
The underground comix surge spread to Europe and requests to reprint Corben underground features began to appear. His fantasy character DEN that appeared in the American underground comic GRIM WIT, went on to the French METAL HURLANT, then back to the American HEAVY METAL. When the popularity of the undergrounds began to diminish, the Corben's started FANTAGOR, a publishing company mainly devoted to publishing Richard's comics. This business wasn't enough to support them so he also began drawing for American comics, D.C., MARVEL ,DARK HORSE, and others.
Now his work of drawing comics continues as a business but he creates small animated movies for pleasure. Maintaining drawing skills requires constant practice. Corben has regularly attended life drawing sessions throughout his career.. He finds this activity both challenging and a source of pleasure.