Monday, March 20, 2017

In Memoriam- R.I.P. Bernie Wrightson

Bernie Wrightson: October 27, 1948 - March 18, 2017
On March 18, 2017 prolific comicbook artist and character creator Bernie Wrightson (at the age of 68) tragically lost his battle with brain cancer after retiring this past January. He is survived by his second wife Liz Wrightson, and his two sons.

It is with a solemn and heavy heart that I write these following words today. For with this post we are bidding farewell to one of the comic industry's most influential, inspiring, and downright incredible artists to have ever lived.

Inspired by the likes of fellow iconic artists Frank Frezetta and Graham Ingels, Wrightson started out his career as a quiet and humble illustrator working for The Baltimore Sun newspaper. Despite those small beginnings, it can never be understated how much Mr. Wrightson was without a singular doubt, a veritable legend in the comics industry himself.

Having co-created some of superhero comics more notable creature characters, such as the likes of Swamp Thing and Abby Holland (w/writer Len Wein) as well as Destiny (w/writer Marv Wolfman) for DC Comics, Wrightson was also known of his near metric ton of illustrative work for the horror comics genre. Working with such notable authors like Stephen King, Wrightson's efforts can be seen with such titles as Cycle of the Werewolf, the comic adaptation of King's anthology horror film Creepshow, and even The Dark Tower series. Wrightson has even been featured on the front of Meatloaf album covers, and is perhaps best known for his immaculate black and white penned images on Frankenstein.

Regardless of how one may be aware of Bernie Wrightson, his flawlessly fantastic works have more than certainly made his presence known for not only an entire genre of entertainment, but perhaps even more so to an entire generation of fans, and the generations yet to come.

Even after all these long years, I still remember my initial encounter with Bernie Wrightson's material. Back when I was just but a wee-aspiring artist at the age of seven, I found myself absolutely enamored by Wrightson's sublime pen and ink work on the illustrated version he did of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein novel. When I checked it out of my local library, and got home to read it proper, the images in that book were like nothing I had ever seen before. His poetic use of light and shadow blew my impressionable mind, and his meticulous hatching work on those pages still inspire me, to this very day, to create as much light, volume and texture into my own drawings as I can.

Upon taking note of Wrightson's name (and becoming a fan for life) I made it a point to start collecting his work in other mediums wherever I could. This inevitably lead me to his sequentials on the Swamp Thing series, as well as his issues on The Shadow. While those comics may have been way prior to my generational type of fan, it didn't stop me from diving headlong into those floppies.

That right there is the true beauty and testament to Wrightson's body of art over the years. His efforts bridged the gaps that existed between the generations. Here I was, a kid in the 90's, reading Swap Thing and Shadow issues from the 70's. How does that one happen?

I think it's safe to say that Mr. Bernie Wrightson's phenomenal works helped me (as well as countless other fans and other artists the world over) to acquire and shape a life-long love for all things pulp and creature feature in some way, shape, or form.

In these last words I simply wish to say thank you to Bernie Wrightson. Thank you for all the long nights you stayed up trying to hit a deadline. Thank you for staying true to yourself during the times when the comics industry didn't appreciate you like it should have in its early and formative years. Thank you for forming "The Studio" with Jeff Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Mike Kaluta, so that you could create art free of the rampant commercialism plaguing comics. Thank you for creating such magnificently macabre masterpieces for us all to indulge. Thank you for teaching me in your video lectures how important it was to create an image in your mind, before you create an image on paper. Thank you most of all for being a hometown Baltimore hero and shaking my hand all the way back at Baltimore Comic Con '08. You looked over my art, said you loved the sense of volume my characters had, and above all, you told me to never stop drawing...

Well Bernie, I'm still here, and I'm going to keep on drawing!

Here's to you Mr. Wrightson! God Speed sir! God Speed! 

The very image that made me love Wrightson's work forever.

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