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RIP Bernie Wrightson

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Legendary horror artist and friends Bernie Wrightson lost his battle with brain cancer last night, his wife Liz reported on Facebook and his webpage. He was 68. He had been fighting  the illness for a few years and last fall announced that he was no longer able to draw or attend conventions. In addition to his wife, he’s survived by his sons John and Jeffrey and stepson Thomas. A celebration of his life will be held later this year.

Wrightson made his reputation in the 70s as part of an influx of comics artists more influenced by fine art than other comics, although Wrightson wore his Frazetta allegiance on his sleeve. His true love was always horror, as his co-creating Swamp Thing for DC showed. Later he joined Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith to form The Studio and turned out his famed Frankenstein illustrations which were the capstone of his career, a series of intricate drawings that were supernatural in their detail and beauty.

Of course there was much more…his full bio is posted below. Bernie was a friend to just about everyone in comics, an outgoing, life loving personality. He was a frequent guest at the “comic book bar” gatherings of the 90s that I once attended, and I learned not to challenge Bernie to a game of pool and also that he was a good soul with a fine sense of humor and just an all around great guy. As in,when they say Bernie was a nice guy, they truly mean that it was so rare to find so much talent in such a genial soul.

Wrightson influenced countless artists with his gothic, light filled art. A few years ago at Heroes Con a friend and I were perusing the art auction, and both noted that Bernie had donated a small painting. It had the effect of being dashed off, but the colors, composition and emotion still made it one of the gems of the entire auction. The guy still had it and always had it.

 

Bernie “Berni” Wrightson (born October 27, 1948, Baltimore, Maryland, USA) was an American artist known for his horror illustrations and comic books. He received training in art from reading comics, particularly those of EC, as well as through a correspondence course from the Famous Artists School. In 1966, Wrightson began working for The Baltimore Sun newspaper as an illustrator. The following year, after meeting artist Frank Frazetta at a comic-book convention in New York City, he was inspired to produce his own stories. In 1968, he showed copies of his sequential art to DC Comics editor Dick Giordano and was given a freelance assignment. Wrightson began spelling his name “Berni” in his professional work to distinguish himself from an Olympic diver named Bernie Wrightson, but later restored the final E to his name.

His first professional comic work appeared in House of Mystery #179 in 1968. He continued to work on a variety of mystery and anthology titles for both DC and its principal rival, Marvel Comics. In 1971, with writer Len Wein, Wrightson co-created the muck creature Swamp Thing for DC. He also co-created Destiny, later to become famous in the work of Neil Gaiman. By 1974 he had left DC to work at Warren Publishing who were publishing black-and-white horror-comics magazines. There he produced a series of original work as well as adaptations of stories by H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. In 1975, Wrightson joined with fellow artists Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith to form “The Studio,” a shared loft in Manhattan where the group would pursue creative products outside the constraints of comic book commercialism. Though he continued to produce sequential art, Wrightson at this time began producing artwork for numerous posters, prints, calendars, and coloring books.

Wrightson spent seven years drawing approximately 50 detailed pen-and-ink illustrations to accompany an edition of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, which the artist considers among his most personal work. Wrightson drew the poster for the Stephen King-penned horror film Creepshow, as well as illustrating the comic book adaptation of the film. This led to several other collaborations with King, including illustrations for the novella “Cycle of the Werewolf,” the restored edition of King’s apocalyptic horror epic, “The Stand,” and art for the hardcover editions of “From a Buick 8” and “Dark Tower V.” Wrightson has contributed album covers for a number of bands, including Meat Loaf. The “Captain Sternn” segment of the animated film Heavy Metal is based on the character created by Wrightson for his award-winning short comic series of the same name.

Characters he worked on included Spiderman, Batman and The Punisher, and he provided painted covers for the DC comics Nevermore and Toe Tags, among many others. Recent works include Frankenstein Alive Alive, Dead She Said , the Ghoul and Doc Macabre (IDW Publishing) all co-created with esteemed horror author Steve Niles, and several print/poster/sketchbooks series produced by Nakatomi.

As a conceptual artist, Bernie worked on many movies, particularly in the horror genre: well-known films include Ghostbusters, The Faculty, Galaxy Quest, Spiderman, and George Romero’s Land of the Dead, and Frank Darabont’s Stephen King film The Mist.

Bernie lived in Austin, Texas with his wife Liz and two corgis – Mortimer and Maximillian. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, John and Jeffrey, one stepson, Thomas Adamson, and countless friends and fans. A celebration of his life is planned for later this year.

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. OH! So sad to hear of this loss. I had the honor and privilege of working with Berni on his seminal Frankenstein book for Epic Comics in the ’80s. I was even lucky enough to attend one of his legendary Halloween parties. He was a delightful, wonderful person. His talent was beyond description.

  2. Another giant of comics history leaves us. You know, because of his age and interests, he really did seem like someone from another time.

  3. Wrightson was a giant, up there with Gene Colan, Jack Davis and Graham Ingles as one of the great horror artists.

    This makes me nostalgic for the ’70s, when both Marvel and DC published a lot of horror comics (or “mystery” comics, as DC preferred to call them). There didn’t seem to be much of a place in the mainstream comics industry for Wrightson after horror died out. Although he did draw some superheroes.

    Bernie drew one of my — and seemingly everyone else’s — favorite comic book covers. Guess which one?

    https://www.comics.org/issue/24277/cover/4/

    Yes, that’s Louise Jones (now Simonson) as the girl.

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