Monday, October 27, 2008

As you can tell from all the above display, it's time for another Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting slash Tribute! Today's spotlight is on that Master of the Macabre, BERNIE WRIGHTSON, who according to Tom turns the big 60 today.

I don't know exactly when I first laid eyes on Wrightson's work; I'm sure I saw it on the spinner rack on a cover of one of DC's (or perhaps Marvel- he did a couple of things for them in the very early 70's) horror-themed books...but the first place I recall becoming aware of it was in Swamp Thing #4, which was the first issue of that seminal series that I ever picked up and read. I also think it was not long after that I spotted this ad (top of the page if you click) for DC's Shadow comic, which eventually ended up being done by Mike Kaluta (with ink assists from Bernie at various junctures, including total inks on #3). And as with so many of his early-mid 70's peers that I've written about lately- Kaluta, Chaykin, Simonson, etc- I was absolutely blown away. Didn't miss an issue of Swampy after that (but it wasn't just for Wrightson's art- I really liked that series, even after he sadly left with issue #10), and I grabbed up any and every thing I saw that he drew, even covers, for most of the major companies like Warren, where he did some of his finest work. We're talking serious obsession here, folks- back when I was laboring under the foolish notion that I wanted to draw comics one day, I would literally copy entire panels out of Swamp Thing comics, trying to nail that fluid style he had, in which everything he drew seemed to be perpetually coiled and in motion, like the folds of clothing and drapes that he drew so well. Of course, I eventually found out about the Studio (which he shared with Kaluta, Jeffrey Jones and Barry Smith, favorites all) and its attendant portfolio book, which I bought as soon as I could find it in 1979, and eventually discovered (most likely via Pal Dave) that he was the latest in a long line of horror/fantasy artists such as Frank Frazetta, "Ghastly" Graham Ingels, Wally Wood, Jack Davis and others, and these were his direct influences. I bought the Frankenstein portfolio, and marveled at its insane detail and amazing fine-line rendering. Hell, when my son was born in 1982, I almost named him after Mr. Wrightson...but I just didn't know if I wanted to keep explaining to people why (not to mention my son having to explain it years later) so I decided against it. Anyway, that just shows to go ya how much into Mr. Wrightson's work I was as a young man.

Sadly, as time has passed his work has lost some of the qualities which attracted me to it so intensely in my teenage years; I think it's just my evolving tastes more than any loss of facility on his part. Still, for my money, comics art doesn't get much better than the output he produced from roughly 1969 till 1980 or so- and in that spirit, I hope Bernie has a wonderful birthday, and many more. And will always wonder why he added the "e" back to the end of his first name.

Here's Mr. Wrightson's official website.

Here's a cover gallery.

Also, here's "The Black Cat", scripted and illustrated by Wrightson.

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