As a young lad, I spent many hours in the dark and arcane environs of the Titus Avenue location of Rochester, New York’s Empire Comics. When I wasn’t in the arcade, I was drawn to the horror comics in the stacks, trying to pull together what money I had to take what I could home with me.
Among the most prized issues I did manage to bring home were the early issues of DC’s “Swamp Thing” and a new comic I had purchased; the first issue of “Berni Wrightson, Master of the Macabre.” I was absolutely taken with the style of the art. Incredible brush work and absolutely STUNNING pen and ink pieces soared on the pages within. The perspective was always fascinating and the tension within the illustrations was unmatched. It kept me poring over those pages again and again. I must have read those hundreds of times.
The self-titled comic gathered stories from Wrightson’s past — work for “Eerie Magazine,” the legendary horror comic anthology. Look at these panels from “The Pepper Lake Monster.” The detail in the ink work and the perspective are simply amazing. As a fan of cryptozoology as well, I was in hog heaven when I saw this piece.
For Christmas that year, my parents got me “Creepshow,” the graphic novel. Wrightson at the helm again and for a young lad with dreams of being an artist and more than his fair share of a love of horror, I was completely in love. I remain in love to this day, only moreso as I understand more the true genius of his unique talent. I credit this early exposure as a direct inspiration for my career in the arts as a graphic designer. On my best day, I don’t even have a thimbleful of Mr. Wrightson’s talent, but he drove me to dream.
Wrightson spent 10 years illustrating scenes from Mary Shelley’s classic “Frankenstein.” To say that the resulting collection of illustrations is gorgeous barely hints at the quality of this work. It is JAW-DROPPING. I remember a writer once saying “I’m pretty sure these illustrations have supernatural powers.” I agree. Look and wonder at a few samples from the collection ::
Wow. Just wow.
From early work for DC’s horror comic “House of Secrets,” through the game changing “Swamp Thing,” to “Eerie,” “Frankenstein” and the myriad other projects throughout a long and storied career, I personally want to nominate Bernie Wrightson (changed to “Berni” for some work to eliminate confusion with a US diver of the same name) to the great (yet to be built) Horror Hall of Fame. Thank you, Bernie, for the years of art, inspiration and chills. Those who say that comics aren’t “real art” clearly haven’t seen your work.