Wednesday, March 22, 2017

BERNI WRIGHTSON: MASTER OF THE MACABRE (1948-2017)

THE KING OF COMIC BOOK HORROR IS GONE.
 The legendary Berni Wrightson lost his battle with brain cancer on March 18th.  As one of my favourite artists of all-time, Berni Wrightson not only co-created Swamp Thing but also was the heir apparent to classic (and equally legendary) E.C. Comics horror-meister "Ghastly" Graham Ingels.  For pretty much my entire life, Wrightson has represented the best in comix horror from his first comic book HOUSE OF MYSTERY #179 to his latest illustrative work (epitomized by his justly-celebrated illustrations for Mary Shelley's novel FRANKENSTEIN).  

Born in Baltimore on the 27th of October (obviously infusing him with the spirit of Halloween), "Bernie" Wrightson showed his work to DC Comics editor Dick Giordano who hired him to do freelance work for the company.  At the tender age of 19, Wrightson got his first story published in HOUSE OF MYSTERY #179 in 1968; he dropped the "e" from "Bernie" to distinguish himself from an Olympic diver with the same name and became Berni Wrightson professionally (he would restore the "e" to his name years later).  In DC's HOUSE OF SECRETS, he would co-create the character Swamp Thing with Len Wein; the short story was so popular DC would spin it into it's own critically-acclaimed series.
 Leaving DC in 1974 for Warren Publications, Berni would illustrate many horror stories for their B&W mags CREEPY, EERIE and COMIX INTERNATIONAL including many adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  Wrightson took seven years to craft the incredibly detailed line drawings to illustrate the novel FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley which remains a benchmark of his career and his most personal work.  Collaborations with another horror guy by the name of Stephen King resulted in CREEPSHOW and CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF among others and his "Captain Sternn" segment of the cult film HEAVY METAL is also a fan favourite.  In more recent years, Berni's classic horror story "JENIFER" was adapted into a superb episode of Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR series directed by Dario Argento.  

Berni Wrightson represents to me, at least, the very essence of comic book horror for the last half century.  His loss is a great one to me and to all his fans.  My condolences go out to Liz, John, Jeffrey and Thomas.  As my woefully inadequate tribute, I thought I'd provide just a taste of some favourites from the Master of the Macabre.  




































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