Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Wrightson Stuff!


Berni Wrightson passed away last month. It was not a shock since he had been very ill for a very long time. But it was nonetheless a loss which left a real mark on comic book fans of my generation, since Wrightson was one of those key artists who helped define the Bronze Age of comics and beyond. I first encountered Wrightson's work in a 100-Page Spectacular issue of his mystery stories produced for various of DC's magazines over the years. The cover image above, a grim image of a plan gone wrong is my favorite Wrightson image of all time. But it's far from the the only one.




Berni Wrightson produced a lot of covers in his career, all of them oozing the gothic atmosphere which he was famous for. A fanboy of the great Graham Ingels, an artist who made his mark on the legendary EC Comics, Wrightson took that influence and bonded it with a more rugged influence from Frank Frazetta, the seminal artist of the late 60's.







Wrightson had a real gift for portraits and constructed many of them for the ghost hosts who populated the comics of the era. He did images of DC's Caine and Abel along with Cousin Eerie, Uncle Creepy and Vampirella for Warren Magazines.








But there's little doubt that his career was elevated by his work on Swamp Thing. Alongside Len Wein he created truly memorable and important issues of a comic which has been in print pretty much constantly since it first appeared. While Swamp Thing went on to become a plaything for talents like Alan Moore and others, it will always be those early Wein-Wrightson issues which defined the character for me once and for all.




But arguably the most important work Wrightson was able to do was his illustrated version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Wrightson apparently worked on this labor of love for years while he continued to produce paying work for companies like Marvel and DC. It was Marvel which first published his opus and currently Dark Horse has offered up a handsome version for the modern fan.


(The Studio - Wrightson, Jones, Kaluta and Windsor-Smith)
When Berni joined forces with other up and coming comic book talents Mike Kaluta, the late Jeff "Catherine" Jones, and Barry Windsor-Smith to form "The Studio" he became part of the first comic super-band I was aware of. These talents were guys who took themselves and their art seriously (maybe at times a bit too much so) but they were distinctive stylists one and all, and strong influences on those who followed after them.


Berni Wrightson left his mark on comics and like any comic book artist of such consumate skill and talent and special vision, left his mark on comic book fans. Rest in peace Mr. Wrightson.

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7 comments:

  1. As great an artist as he was, he was an even greater human being. I was a guest of his during an interesting period and got to see, for instance, the double page Frankenstein spread in an incomplete state. It was amazing how meticulous he was with the pencils on all of the flasks and test-tubes. He was extremely patient in explaining his methods and sharing his enthusiasms. And he and Michelle were indulgent, gracious hosts. I've written about this at length elsewhere, but let me just add that Wrightson was able to spend his life doing what he loved and seemed very happy to have lived the life he lived.

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    1. He seems to have been a lucky man. We should all be so lucky.

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  2. A fantastic collection here. What's not to like about Wrightson's work? His composition is as dramatic as anyone's. What tops it for me, though, is his incredibly meticulous ink and brushwork. Berni was among the very best.

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    1. Details which add to the overall impression, not to just fill space.

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  3. Back in the early 1990s, one of the only videos you could find on comic book creators was one that covered ten or so artists in the industry. In addition to Frank Miller (and I forget who else), this one had a segment on Wrightson, and it was great to see him talk about his work and what he considered horror (especially during a time when such comments were hard to come by). What struck me after looking at photos of him from recent years was how young and healthy he looked in that video. His death feels too soon and too sudden.

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