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Remembering the Breathtaking Dark Beauty of Comic Book Legend Bernie Wrightson

Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, and more look back at the work of the 20th century master illustrator of horror, monsters, and suspense.

by Giaco Furino
Mar 23 2017, 6:53pm

Earlier this week the comic book world lost one of the most innovative and boundary shattering artists working in the business. Bernie Wrightson, the comic illustrator who specialized in highly detailed horror illustrations, passed away on Saturday after battling brain cancer. Wrightson got his start illustrating comics in horror and suspense anthologies like House of Mystery and House of Suspense, and went on to co-create the character Swamp Thing for DC Comics. Wrightson also worked for Marvel and nearly every other publisher on the market in his 50 years in the business, and was perhaps best known for his illustrations that accompanied an edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He was known both for intricate pen work and flowing ink, and the comic and entertainment community showed an outpouring of grief, respect, and adoration at the news of his passing.

Stephen King and Wrightson first worked together on King's screenplay for Creepshow, directed by George Romero. The film was the perfect pairing for the two to collaborate on, as it was an homage to the types of comics Wrightson illustrated as he was coming up in the business. Wrightson went on to illustrate the graphic novel adaptation of Creepshow, and the two remained friends and collaborators.

Others in the entertainment industry also reached out with their sadness and condolences, including director Guillermo del Toro, a longtime admirer of Wrightson's work, who kept panels of his Frankenstein illustrations above his deskBuffy the Vampire Slayer creator and Avengers director Joss Whedon also offered a toast.

But, unsurprisingly, it was the comic industry that most showed up to sing the praises of Bernie Wrightson's incredible talent. Their small memorials, and the images of his work they posted, reflect the immensity of his ability and the effect he had on their creative lives.

These illustrations show exactly what Wrightson was so wonderful at achieving with pen and brush. From atmospheric graveyards covered in creeping ivy to pouring rain crashing down on cobblestone streets, Wrightson managed to convey pure, heartfelt emotion through some of the most crowded, cluttered panels ever imagined. He filled his work with detail, and yet, somehow, the most important aspect of all of his work was always the overall mood, tone, and feeling of the piece. It's as fair to say Wrightson was a technical master as it is to say he was a "big picture" or "storytelling" king.

Finally, fans from around the world took to twitter to post their favorite illustrations from Wrightson, who could elicit moods in black and white that seemed to rise off the page. Comic illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz offered up an illustrated portrait.

Bernie Wrightson in his studio. Photo via Bernie Wrightson's Official Website.

For more examples of Bernie Wrightson's incredible work, and to purchase prints, artwork, and other memorabilia straight from the Wrightson family, visit Bernie's Official Website. R.I.P.

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