RIP Bernie Wrightson: Legendary Horror and Comic Book Artist Dies at 68

Bernie Wrightson, the legendary horror and comic book artist, and actual miracle worker on a page, has passed away at the age of 68 after a battle with brain cancer. Wrightson announced his official retirement at the start of this year due to poor health.

Best known as the co-creator of Swamp Thing and for his staggering work on the illustrated edition of Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein. He also created the artwork for Creepshow, kicking off a long-running relationship with Stephen King, for whom he also illustrated The Cycle of the Werewolf, and special editions of The Stand and From a Buick 8. He also provided illustrations for Spider-Man, The Punisher, and Batman. In recent years, he worked on the Monstrous Collection with 30 Days of Night creator Steve Niles.

Image via IDW Publishing

In addition to his work as an illustrator, Wrightson worked as a concept artist on a number of beloved films including Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, and Frank Darabont‘s The Mist, for which he designed the creatures including the instantly iconic Impossibly Tall Creature.

I first met Wrightson at Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors when he was doing the rounds for The Mist. A young horror enthusiast, I wasn’t familiar with his work, but he was so lovely and inspirational, I made a point to seek it out after the fact. Well, once you get a glimpse of Wrightson’s insanely intricate and emotionally evocative pieces, you’re a fan for life. Wrightson made miracles and nightmares out of pen and page and the world is a little less wondrous without him. RIP Bernie, you’ve left an Impossibly Tall Legacy.

We send our deepest condolences to Wrightson’s friends and family. Here’s the statement and obituary posted to his official website:

It is with great sorrow that I must announce the passing of my beloved husband, Bernie. We thank you for all the years of love and support. His obituary is below:

 

After a long battle with brain cancer, legendary artist Bernie Wrightson has passed away.

 

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.

See some of Wrightson’s work below, or better yet, go buy the illustrated Frankenstein a be in complete awe.

Image via Bernie Wrightson/Dimension Films

Image via IDW Publishing

Image via Dark Horse

Image via Marvel

Image via DC Comics

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