Sunday, 19 March 2017

RIP Bernie Wrightson (1948-2017)

Badtime Stories (1971)

(posted on Facebook, 18 March 2017)
Legendary comic book artist and illustrator Bernie Wrightson has lost his long battle with brain cancer. He is survived by his wife Liz, sons John and Jeffrey, stepson Thomas, and countless friends and fans. We will have a celebration of life for him later this year. His full obituary can be found here:

 Thank you for the many years of love and support!


Lee Thacker said...

Very sad news. A true great.

Tony Dunlop said...

Wow, the attached image screams "Jack Davis." I'm beginning to see just how influential he was - I've never associated Wrightson with Davis before, but there it is, in…ahem…"living" colo(u)r.

Unknown said...

Wrightson did a lot of work "in a Jack Davis vein" and -- at least when I knew him -- considered himself as much a humour as a horror artist. Other Davis-influenced pieces you might want to check out are "Change For A Dollar" "Bad Doin's in Knuckledown's Lonesome" (both of which he did as prints through Christopher Enterprise), "King of the Mountain, Man" in BADTIME STORIES, his CAPTAIN STERN stories in HEAVY METAL...

He fell on the ice at some point, while skating, and injured his wrist and (self-admittedly) lost the ability to do his unparalleled brush inking. Although he still remained a formidable artist, on a scale of 1 to 10, "formidable artist" is a 4 and "peak Berni Wrightson" is a 10.

He was profoundly influential on CEREBUS. I purchased BADTIME STORIES at Memory Lane in Toronto in 1971 and read it on the bus going home. I didn't really know what I was looking at but I knew that it pretty much buried everything else being done in the field.

What I was looking at was self-published Berni Wrightson: every story a labour of love and done exactly the way that he wanted it done. He only worked on it when he had the time to devote his full attention to it. He had it printed on slick paper so it would reproduce correctly. It was his answer to everything that had been and was wrong with his relationship with DC. He didn't just complain about it, he fixed it. He still had to labour in the salt mines but -- as with FRANKENSTEIN -- he would always have something in print on which he made no compromises.

My question to myself was "Okay, so why can't you do that for a living INSTEAD of compromising?"

CEREBUS was the answer.

His Edgar Allen Poe "Black Cat" adaptation for Warren was a textbook for Gerhard: "This is what you're shooting for. Shore up the corners with solid black and dole out your rendering through the middle of the panel so it looks as if you're doing more detailed work than you are."

In other words, here's how you THINK about the page to get the most value out of the time that you're putting in.

Michael Grabowski said...

Dave, was Wrightson ever one of your interview subjects from your fanzine days, and if so, can we see that here?

Anonymous said...

I had never seen a Jack Davis inspiration in Berni Wrightson's work, and then he dies and the internet starts posting all sorts of images I'd never seen before, and I' thinking "That's Bernie Wrightson? Well, ok, it's definitely Bernie Wrightson, but that looks like a really good Jack Davis."

Can someone please point me to Bill Sienkiewicz' good Neal Adams pictures so I can appreciate them before he dies? Even the most photorealistic Sienkiewicz pictures I've seen, I just think 'that's really really good,' I don't think 'that's a good Neal Adams.'


Unknown said...

Fantacon in Albany and I'm standing in front of the table that Berni is sharing with BWS and waiting to ask a question and they're...quibbling...about something very prosaic: Where they're going to store their bags when they check out of their rooms or something. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Just a line here and a line there, but neither one giving an inch. Finally they paused and I said, "Well, I can see why The Studio broke up."

Berni laughed and wagged his finger at Barry and said, "YEAH! IT WAS ALL HIS FAULT!"

Berni was a naturally funny guy.

Unknown said...

He was also a very humble guy even when he was at the absolute peak of his popularity. I interviewed him in 1974 when he would have been 26 and riding the crest of his SWAMP THING popularity. Before (?) I turned on the tape recorder, I brought up the subject of him getting his own book to do at DC in BRAVE & BOLD as a complete novice, which was unheard of. And, as a comics fan, he would have KNOWN how unheard of it was. Neal Adams had had to work his way in from JERRY LEWIS. Did he remember what his REACTION had been?

"Yeah," he said, "'Ain't I somethin''"?

But the "Ain't I somethin'" said in such a completely affected DWEEB voice that I had to laugh. "Next question?"

Unknown said...

ChrisW - MOON KNIGHT starting from #1. Someone could do a rare service to mankind (well, okay, to me, anyway) by reproducing all of those pages in B&W up through "HIT IT!"

I'm not sure if Bill agrees with me, but I think everyone worked overtime to make him SO self-conscious about being an Adams clone that he overcompensated and moved too consciously away from Neal's style. Yes, he's an Adams clone but he's THE BEST Adams clone and do you realize how IMPOSSIBLE that is? NO ONE hit that level before or since IMHO.

Anonymous said...

*at the risk of making this too much not about Bernie Wrightson...*

I don't really know how impossible it is. I just went to [a site that is trying to put the entire Marvel Universe into chronological order, with excerpts from each issue, recapping the plot, making observations, etc.] and looked at scans from the first several issues of "Moon Knight."

It's definitely good art, and because I know I'm looking for Neal Adams' influence, I can see some, but if I just came upon these comic books and read them without knowing anything about the context - I probably know more about Neal Adams and Bill Sienkiewicz than I do about Moon Knight - I don't think I'd automatically see a Neal Adams influence much further than the extent to which most comics artists of the time were influenced. Even there it's more in the pacing and layouts and staging.

I mean, if you asked me who draws more like Neal Adams, the guy doing "Moon Knight" or the guys drawing whatever books George Perez, John Byrne and Frank Miller were doing at the time, sure, that would be a no-brainer.

Idle thought: Neal Adams was so good and influential at what he did that anybody capable of really 'doing' Neal Adams has to be stopped and shamed away from anything resembling that style. So for good or bad, he goes elsewhere, leading to the first "Electra: Assassin" letters column leading off with 'this Sienkiewicz guy can't draw!!!' and the style that he's been known for ever since.

Now I feel bad because I'm not saying anything about Bernie Wrightson. Rest in Peace, Bernie. Unless you'd prefer not to. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Unknown said...

Definitely one of my uppermost comics memories "I was there" in the lobby of the hotel at a UK Comic Art Convention sitting with Bissette and Totelben and a couple of other people waiting for our ride to the con and Bill strolls up with his portfolio. "Hey, you guys want to see what I'm working on now?" Sure, Bill, let's have a look. And he pulls out this fully painted ELEKTRA ASSASSIN #1.

For "mind-blowing" that rates up with Frank Miller acting out a good chunk of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS #1 -- months before it came out -- for the same crew.

I clicked on the link to Bernie Wrightson's website and saw the picture of his widow, Liz, and I thought, "She looks just like Louise Jones". It seems SO appropriate that Bernie Wrightson would have married someone who looked like Louise Jones (ex-wife of Jeff Jones, my editor at Warren, Marvel editor and Walt Simonsen's long-time wife, chronologically).

I hope my saying that isn't in bad taste.

Anonymous said...

I just saw that connection yesterday. Louise Jones was married to Jeffery Jones [that guy who became a girlyboy?] and then went on to become an editor/writer on Claremont's X-Titles.

Never mind "Strange Death of Alex Raymond" or other comic book Metaphy-X, someone needs to write a tell-all biography of the comics industry in the 1970s-80s. Frederic Wertham had his problems to be sure, but he was tackling an industry with heavy connections to the mafia, drugs and sex trafficking, and there are solid reasons to point to his accomplishments and give him the benefit of the doubt in his failings. [He argued in favor of desegregation in "Brown versus the Board of Education" for a school that is only a few miles from where my parents live, but farther than the Westboro Baptist Church, for instance] And by the 1980s they were into all of the things Wertham warned us about? I bow to nobody in my fondness for Claremont's X-Titles, but there are definitely places where I think "You are aiming this at small children. Where can you go that I can beat you into a pulp for even thinking such a thing?" At least Bernie Wrightson gave us straightforward horror.

"The Bath" (I think that was its name) in "Epic Illustrated" happens to be my favorite Wrightson story, because the female lead was always naked, and it was such a banal EC Comics-like tale of vengeance [a wife who likes bathing murders her husband, and his corpse returns through the pipes to get revenge] that it worked. Not the greatest comic ever, but the characters were understandable and believable. It didn't scare me, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've been scared by fiction. It was good for what it was.

Dave recounts the Sienkiewicz "Electra" meeting in much more detail in the "Synchronicity" Tryptych. If it isn't already on "A Moment of Cerebus," it should be.

Unknown said...

Anonymous - I read an interview with Bernie in the SWAMP THING issue of one of TwoMorrows titles that was very affecting in the human sense that I was trying to convey. They were all in love with Louise Jones and if you see period pictures of her (THE WARREN COMPANION has several good ones) you can see why. She posed for "the girl" on the first HOUSE OF SECRETS "Swamp Thing" story. And Bernie was always one of those guys that all the girls went ga-ga for and he was, by nature, a husband. The only question was Who does he end up with?

"Jenifer" -- his first Warren story done in wash -- was unconsciously autobiographical. A girlfriend that he had that he just couldn't get rid of. Someone pointed out the resemblance to him and that knocked him for a loop. The twist ending on "The Task" in BADTIME STORIES comes from the same "dark place".

I'll agree with you about many of Chris' X-MEN stories. The problem there, I think, was the scale of the success that he was having: the book outsold pretty much everything by a wide margin and the more boundaries Chris pushed the better it sold. That's a capitalism "sweet spot": the more you sell the more latitude you have if you're working for a large corporation. Along about the time that Chris bought a private plane with his X-MEN royalties, that pretty much settled the question:

What can Chris do in his stories?


Unknown said...

The problem you're going to run into is always going to be the same: If you confine your "tell-all" book to first-person narratives, it's never going to sell as well as Bryan Talbot's approach: wild rumours and fourth-generation accounts told in all their lurid glory.

You also appear to be advocating a book founded in traditional morality which is a progressively tougher and tougher "sell" in our culture.