Monday, 16 March 2015

Bernie Wrightson's Badtime Stories

Badtime Stories (1971)
(From Cerebus TV Season 3 Episode 25, 20 April 2012)
This is actually a book that I lost for a number of years - to my great regret - Bernie Wrightson’s Badtime Stories. This is from 1971... I remember vividly coming home on the bus from Toronto with my overhead light on, otherwise pitch-black, and reading Badtime Stories for the first time. Each story done is done in a different technique.

The first one, The Last Hunters, done with craft tint - the grey-tones are actually pre-printed into the art-board, a light-grey and a dark-grey, and you get two little bottles of developer fluid, one that brings out the dark-grey and one that brings out the light-grey – and then for the robot at the end he switches to a strict mechanical tone. All dots, but a very effective effect. Printed on glossy paper - and obviously Wrightson just working at the absolute top of his powers - tired of being printed on DC's, as Neal Adams called it, "toilet paper", and you can see why.

His homage to "ghastly" Graham Ingels, Ain’t She Sweet?. This was the pure black-and-white story, just brush-work and pen-lines and very influential on the Cerebus that would be some day. Look at that wood-grain. The show-stopper panel in this story, George twisting and turning in his sheets, tormented by the voice of the wife he’s murdered in his dreams. I just love that shadow of the rocking chair on the bed sheets with a little heart cut out of it.

The Task, which was done in wash and black ink. Was there any medium that Wrightson couldn't handle? I think that was pretty much the point of the book. Eye-candy? If you look in the dictionary under 'eye-candy' there’s a little picture of Berni Wrightson and a little picture of this panel [with the flames of lunacy and a drop of spittle glistens on his lips]. How does he dooo that? Effortlessly, it looked like.

The ink and tones story and humour piece - very influential on Cerebus - King Of The Mountain, Man. Very influential on my Dirty Drew and Dirty Fleagle characters. Yosemite Sam - Wrightson’s jumping off point was Lee Marvin – same genetic make-up. Two jaw-dropper panels in a row in this one. The King Of The Mountain Man and the Indian girl coming in to town. Absolute phenomenal balance of brush work, of line work, the tone on the mountain back-drops. And then this panel absolute phenomenal brush work, and I’ll tell you folks, that’ll be some fancy tone cutting there. Boy has he absolutely nailed the light patterns, and that's just taking each little piece of tone out one piece at a time, and you better know which one to cut out and which ones to leave in. And the rest of it beautifully rendered completely in pencil.

...Wrightson admitted that he really ran out of gas towards the end on Badtime Stories and instead of doing a final story, reprinted Uncle Bill’s Barrel, which was definitely a high water mark for the primarily Franzetta-influenced Berni Wrightson of 1968, but not a patch on the Bernie Wrightson he had become by 1971, which definitely showed me you can improve and you can improve exponentially in a very short space of time, but it takes a lot of hard work.


Travis Pelkie said...

I believe it's spelled Graham "Ingels", but I'm not sure.

That cover looks like "50 Shades of Grey Hair", huh? ;)

Max West said...

I love Wrightson's illustrations for Stephen King's novella "Cycle of the Werewolf". The line work along with the hatching and feathering is just amazing!

Anonymous said...

The faces and figures are very Jack Davis, but the folds are pure Wrightson.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, nib