A trib­ute to the late, great mas­ter of hor­ror illustration.

Karl Stock re­mem­bers the fan favourite with a taste for the dark and macabre, never en­tirely at home in the su­per­hero-dom­i­nated main­stream

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

Each time I fin­ished a draw­ing, I re­mem­ber feel­ing a bit let down,” Bernie Wright­son told writer Steve Niles in 2012, talk­ing about his il­lus­tra­tions for Marvel’s 1983 edi­tion of Mary Shel­ley’s Franken­stein. “If I’d only worked a lit­tle harder I could nail it ex­actly. Sev­eral times I’d start a new ver­sion of an al­ready fin­ished piece, or even an in­com­plete one, try­ing and try­ing again to get it just right.”

Seven years in the mak­ing, the book stands as tes­ti­mony to Wright­son’s painstak­ing de­tail work and his life­long love of hor­ror. The artist died in March at the age of 68. He had re­tired just two months ear­lier from cre­at­ing art and tour­ing the con­ven­tion cir­cuit fol­low­ing com­pli­ca­tions from surgery for a brain tu­mour.

His rep­u­ta­tion was high and his achieve­ments many. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, in­spired by a meet­ing with his hero Frank Frazetta, Wright­son be­came a pro­lific con­trib­u­tor to the hor­ror lines of Marvel, DC and War­ren Pub­lish­ing; in 1971, with writer Len Wein, he co-cre­ated Swamp Thing for DC Comics. In 1975, he and a group of fel­low comic artists set up the Man­hat­tan­based illustration col­lec­tive The Stu­dio; in 1983 he il­lus­trated a comics adap­ta­tion of Stephen King’s Creepshow, lead­ing to a num­ber of other col­lab­o­ra­tions with King.

In 1985, Wright­son and writer Jim Star­lin cre­ated

He­roes For Hope for Marvel, and its DC fol­low-up He­roes

Against Hunger – one-shot, Band Aid era char­ity jams to raise funds for African famine re­lief, with con­tri­bu­tions from top creators of the day. He re­turned to Shel­ley’s char­ac­ter for IDW’s Franken­stein Alive,

Alive! in 2012, for which he won a Na­tional Car­toon­ist’s So­ci­ety Award.

Born on 27 Oc­to­ber 1948 in the work­ing-class Bal­ti­more sub­urb of Dun­dalk, Wright­son grew up in a family of comic read­ers, al­though he felt forced to read his beloved EC comics at the news­stand or hide them un­der the mat­tress and away from his mother; at the time the line was at the heart of a na­tional moral panic in­spired by Dr. Fredric Wertham’s an­ti­comics tract Se­duc­tion Of The

In­no­cent. At Catholic school (which he dis­liked strongly) he was al­ways in trou­ble for draw­ing EC or Univer­sal mon­sters on his text­books.

Be­tween 1964 and 1966 Bal­lan­tine books pub­lished five col­lec­tions of old EC comics, while at the same time War­ren be­gan pub­lish­ing

Be­low: Be­sides his af­fec­tion for hor­ror, Wright­son’s Franken­stein projects am­ply demon­strate his skill with pen and ink.

Op­po­site page: A breath­tak­ing ex­am­ple of the sheer painstak­ing de­tail that went into what many re­gard as Wright­son’s mas­ter­piece, Franken­stein.

Right: The artist was a pop­u­lar reg­u­lar on the con­ven­tion cir­cuit un­til ill health forced him to cur­tail his ap­pear­ances.

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