Wrightson at the 2006 Dallas Comic Con.
October 27, 1948|
Dundalk, Maryland, United States
|Area(s)||Penciller, Artist, Inker|
|Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Swamp Thing|
|Awards||Shazam Award 1972, 1973, 1974; Inkpot Award 1987; H.P. Lovecraft Award 2007; National Cartoonists Society Award 2012; Inkwell Awards Special Recognition Award 2015|
Wrightson was born in Dundalk, Maryland.
He received training in art from watching Jon Gnagy on television, reading comics, particularly those of EC, as well as through a correspondence course from the Famous Artists School. His early (and lasting) artistic influences were Frank Frazetta and Graham Ingels. He published a piece of fan art, containing a headstone bearing the inscription "Berni Wrightson, Dec. 15, 1965", on page 33 of Warren Publishing's Creepy #9 (cover-dated June 1966).
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.
In 1968 he drew his first professional comic book story, "The Man Who Murdered Himself", which appeared in House of Mystery No. 179 (March–April 1969). He continued to work on a variety of mystery and anthology titles for both DC and, a few years later, its principal rival, Marvel Comics. It was for Marvel's Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows titles where he was first encouraged to slightly simplify his intricate pen-and-ink drawing, and where his lush brushwork, a hallmark of his comics inking in the 1970s, was first evidenced.
With writer Len Wein, Wrightson co-created the muck creature Swamp Thing in House of Secrets No. 92 (July 1971) in a standalone horror story set in the Victorian era. Wein later recounted how Wrightson became involved with the story: "Bernie Wrightson had just broken up with a girlfriend, and we were sitting in my car just talking about life – all the important things to do when you're 19 and 20 years old. [Laughs] And I said, 'You know, I just wrote a story that actually kind of feels like the way you feel now.' I told him about Swamp Thing, and he said, 'I gotta draw that.'"
In summer 1972 he published Badtime Stories, a horror/science fiction comics anthology featuring his own scripts and artwork (from the period 1970–1971), each story being drawn in a different medium (ink wash, tonal pencil drawings, duoshade paper, screen tones, e.g., along with traditional pen-and-ink and brushwork).
In the fall of 1972 the Swamp Thing returned in his own series, set in the contemporary world and in the general DC continuity. Wrightson drew the first ten issues of the series. Abigail Arcane, a major supporting character in the Swamp Thing mythos was introduced in issue No. 3 (Feb.-March 1973).
Wrightson had originally been asked by DC to handle the art for its revival of The Shadow, but he left the project early on when he realized he could not produce the necessary minimum number of pages on time, along with his work on Swamp Thing. Michael Kaluta illustrated the series, but Wrightson did contribute much to the third issue in both pencils and inks, as well as inking the splash page of issue four.
Warren and The Studio
In January 1974, he left DC to work at Warren Publishing, for whose black-and-white horror-comics magazines he produced a series of original work as well as short story adaptations. As with BadTime Stories, Wrightson experimented with different media in these black-and-white tales: Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" featured intricate pen-and-ink work which stood in direct contrast with his brush-dominated Swamp Thing panels. "Jenifer", scripted by Bruce Jones, was atmospherically rendered with gray markers. "The Pepper Lake Monster" was a synthesis of brush and pen-and-ink, whereas H.P. Lovecraft's "Cool Air" was a foray into duotone paper. "Nightfall" was an exercise in ink wash and a subtle "Little Nemo in Slumberland" satire, and "The Muck Monster" a sequential art precursor to Wrightson's Frankenstein, with the Franklin Booth-inspired pen-and-ink style in evidence. "Clarice" was also drawn in pen, brush, and ink, and with ink wash.
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 even a highly detailed coloring book. He also drew sporadic comics stories and single illustrations for National Lampoon magazine from 1973 to 1983.
The "Captain Sternn" segment of the animated film Heavy Metal is based on a character created by Wrightson (first appearing in the June 1980 issue of Heavy Metal magazine). The Freakshow graphic novel, written by Bruce Jones and illustrated (via pen, brush, and ink with watercolors) by Wrightson, was published in Spain in 1982 and serialized in Heavy Metal magazine in the early 1980s.
In 1983 Bernie Wrightson illustrated the comic book adaptation of the Stephen King-penned horror film Creepshow. 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 Wolves of the Calla, the fifth installment of King's Dark Tower series.
Jim Starlin and Wrightson produced Heroes for Hope, a 1985 one-shot designed to raise money for African famine relief and recovery. Published in the form of a comics "jam", the book featured an all-star lineup of comics creators as well as a few notable authors from outside the comic book industry, such as Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, and Edward Bryant. In 1986, Wrightson and writer Susan K. Putney collaborated on the Spider-Man: Hooky graphic novel. That same year saw Wrightson and Starlin produce a second benefit comic, Heroes Against Hunger featuring Superman and Batman which was published by DC and like the earlier Marvel project featured many top comics creators. Starlin and Wrightson collaborated on two miniseries in 1988, The Weird and Batman: The Cult, as well as Marvel Graphic Novel No. 29 featuring the Hulk and the Thing for Marvel.
Wrightson won the Shazam Award for Best Penciller (Dramatic Division) in 1972 and 1973 for Swamp Thing, the Shazam Award for Best Individual Story (Dramatic) in 1972 for Swamp Thing No. 1 (with Len Wein). He received additional nominations, including for the Shazam Award for Best Inker in 1973 for Swamp Thing, as well as that year's Shazam for Best Individual Story, for "A Clockwork Horror" in Swamp Thing No. 6 (with Len Wein).
Chanting Monks Studios
Cry for Dawn Productions
Dark Horse Comics
DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics
Fantagraphics Books/Eros Comix
Kitchen Sink Press
New American Library
As You Like It Publications
- Comic Book Profiles No. 2 (1998)
- Comic Book Marketplace No. 105 (2003)
Metal Mammoth, Inc.
- Heavy Metal Special Editions #v10#1 (1996)
NL Communications, Inc.
- Nightmare No. 9-10 (1972)
- Creepy No. 62–63, 77, 87, 91, 95 (1974–1978)
- Eerie No. 58, 60, 62, 68, 72 (1974–1976)
- Vampirella (backup stories) No. 33 (with Jeff Jones), 63 (1974–1977)
- The Art of Wrightson : A Pop-Up Portfolio, 1996, Sideshow, Incorporated, ISBN 1889164003
- Badtime Stories, 1972, Graphic Masters
- The Berni Wrightson Treasury, 1975, Omnibus Publishing
- Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein, 1983, Dodd, Mead & Company, ISBN 0396082777
- Berni Wrightson: A Look Back, 1991, Underwood Books, ISBN 0887331300
- Berni Wrightson: Back for More, 1978, Archival Press, Inc., ISBN 091582230X
- The Conan Grimoire, by L. Sprague de Camp, 1972, Mirage Press
- The Conan Reader, by L. Sprague de Camp, 1968, Mirage Press
- Creepshow by Stephen King, 1982, NAL
- Cycle of the Werewolf, by Stephen King, 1985, NAL, ISBN 0451822196
- The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King, 2006, Pocket Books, ISBN 141651693X
- The House of Mystery by Jack Oleck, 1973, Warner Books
- The Lost Frankenstein Pages, 1993, Apple Pr Inc., ISBN 0927203081
- The Monsters Color the Creature Book, 1974, Phil Seuling
- The Mutants, 1980, Mother of Pearl, ISBN 093784800X
- The Reaper of Love and Other Stories, 1988, Fantagraphics Books, ISBN 093019361X
- The Stand-Complete and Uncut by Stephen King, 1990, Dbldy; BOMC edition
- The Studio (includes work by other artists), 1979, Dragons Dream, ISBN 9063325819
- Stuff Out'a My Head, by Joseph M. Monks, 2002, Chanting Monks Press, ISBN 0972660402
- Zombie Jam, by David J. Schow, 2005, Subterranean Press, ISBN 1931081778
- "Bernie Wrightson, illustrator". The Baltimore Sun. n.d. Archived from the original on October 27, 2014.
- "Connecticut Talent". Hartford, Connecticut: Connecticut Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
- Cooke, Jon B. (Summer 1999). "Like a Bat Out of Hell Chatting with Bernie Wrightson, DC's Monster Maker". Comic Book Artist. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing (5). Archived from the original on September 18, 2010.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1960s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
'The Man Who Murdered Himself' in House of Mystery was...the first DC story illustrated by Berni Wrightson (who left the "e" off his first name to distinguish himself from a famous diver.
- McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 146: "'Swamp Thing' was the name of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson's turn-of-the-century tale, and its popularity with readers led a modernized version of the character into his own series a year later."
- Ho, Richard (November 2004). "Who's Your Daddy??". Wizard (140): 68–74.
- Berni Wrightson at the Grand Comics Database and Bernie Wrightson at the Grand Comics Database
- McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p.152 "The host that was first presented in a framing sequence by scribe Marv Wolfman and artist Bernie Wrightson received further, imaginative development in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series decades later."
- McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 153: "Following his debut in House of Secrets No. 92 in 1971, the Swamp Thing grew into his own series, albeit with a reimagining of his origins by writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson."
- McAvennie "1970s" in Dolan, p. 154: "Scribe Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson left Swamp Thing some company...the woman who would become Swamp Thing's soul mate, Abigail Arcane."
- Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men at the Grand Comics Database
- DeFalco, Tom; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2008). "1980s". Marvel Chronicle A Year by Year History. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 223. ISBN 978-0756641238.
Horrified by the plight of starving children in Africa, writer/artist Jim Starlin and illustrator Bernie Wrightson convinced Marvel to publish Heroes For Hope. It was a 'jam' book...and all of Marvel's profits were donated to famine relief in Africa.
- Manning, Matthew K.; Gilbert, Laura, ed. (2012). "1980s". Spider-Man Chronicle Celebrating 50 Years of Web-Slinging. London, United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 156. ISBN 978-0756692360.
Writer Susan K. Putney and artist Bernie Wrightson delivered a memorable graphic novel that removed Spider-Man from his usual urban setting and placed him in a fantasy world of magic and mysticism.
- Heroes Against Hunger at the Grand Comics Database
- Manning, Matthew K. "1980s" in Dolan, p. 219: "Plotted by Jim Starlin, with dramatic designs by Bernie Wrightson...Heroes Against Hunger featured nearly every popular DC creator of the time."
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 234: "Writer Jim Starlin took the Dark Knight into the depths of Gotham for the four-issue prestige format Batman: The Cult...with horror artist Bernie Wrightson."
- "Heresy Cards by Artist". The Sendai Bubble. Archived from the original on December 10, 2003. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
- Epstein, Daniel Robert (September 30, 2005). "Joss Whedon". SuicideGirls.
- "Byrne, Wrightson Return To IDW With New Series". Comic Book Resources. March 5, 2012. Archived from the original on March 5, 2012. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
- "1972 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on December 12, 2013.
- "1973 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on December 12, 2013.
- "The Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award". San Diego Comic-Con International. 2013. Archived from the original on February 13, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- "Inkpot Award Winners". Hahn Library Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012.
- "The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival Awards". HPLFilmFestival.com. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
- Parkin, JK (May 26, 2013). "National Cartoonist Society announces Reuben, divisional awards". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on December 21, 2013.
- Mahadeo, Kevin (August 12, 2010). "Marz Reveals Batman's "Hidden Treasures"". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013.
Writer Ron Marz's Legend of the Dark Knight tale with artist Bernie Wrightson became a legend in its own right among the comic book professional community—a long-lost story the writer himself believed would never see print.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bernie Wrightson.|
- Bernie Wrightson official site
- Bernie Wrightson at Mike's Amazing World of Comics
- Bernie Wrightson at the Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators
- Spotlight on Bernie Wrightson, Comic Book Resources, June 16, 2008