BERNIE WRIGHTSON didn’t draw lines so much as he seemed to summon them from the deep.
His pen spun out dark and supernatural visions in such spellbinding detail that to some comics fans, Wrightson rendered Poe to be Baltimore’s second greatest master of the macabre.
It was in Baltimore, in fact, that Wrightson got his shot at drawing for professional publications while still a teenager. He began creating illustrations for the Sun in 1966, and by age 20 was getting freelance jobs from DC Comics, beginning with House of Mystery.
Three years later, in 1971, Wrightson co-created, with Len Wein, the character he likely will be most remembered for: the Swamp Thing. Within that character, you can find so many of Wrightson’s artistic gifts: the sinewy tension of tissue; the viscous muck clinging to muscle; the haunted eyes that dare you to come in for a close-up; and, always, elaborately rendered settings that reward close study.
Bernie “Berni” Wrightson, who lived in Austin, died over the weekend after a battle with brain cancer, said his wife, Liz.
Befitting his style, Wrightson adapted stories by Poe and Lovecraft for Warren Publishing, and collaborated with Stephen King several times as an illustrator, including on a special edition of “The Stand” and “Cycle of the Werewolf.” But it is his textured visions for Mary Shelley’s masterwork that might stand as his most compelling epic achievement. In 50 pen-and-ink illustrations, completed over more than a half-dozen years, Wrightson created a Frankenstein to haunt our waking dreams. The doctor’s lab is a staggering menagerie of tubes and beakers that stand like cool, clinical witnesses to the rise of a rippling, tortured beast.
Wrightson’s art and design contributions to Hollywood include the films “Ghostbusters,” “Heavy Metal,” “Creepshow,” “Spider-Man” and Frank Darabont’s “The Mist.”
Bernard Albert Wrightson was born Oct. 27, 1948, in Baltimore. Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons, Jeffrey and John, and a stepson, Thomas Adamson.
On a personal note, it was special to see Wrightson at Baltimore Comic-Con, where he first appeared in 2008 as a special guest. Before that, promoter Marc Nathan said, Wrightson had been one of the convention’s most requested guest hopefuls.
Among Wrightson’s legions of fans, some famous followers shared their sentiments on social media.
Deeply saddened by the loss of Bernie Wrightson-1 of the all-time greats whose superb artistry will live on forever! My condolences to Liz. pic.twitter.com/Ehask8HT4K
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) March 19, 2017
— Joss Whedon (@joss) March 19, 2017
As it comes to all of us, the end came for the greatest that ever lived: Bernie Wrightson. My North dark star of youth. A master.
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) March 19, 2017
RIP Bernie Wrightson. His masterful, evocative line work was simply unparalleled. Truly 1 of the greats-he was as kind as he was talented. pic.twitter.com/izmeR77TRo
— Jim Lee (@JimLee) March 19, 2017
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 19, 2017
Hard to be sad about Chuck Berry & Bernie Wrightson 'cuz they changed the art forms they pursued and thus lived amazing lives.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) March 19, 2017