Sunday, March 19, 2017

RIP Berni Wrightson

I'd say DAMN YOU 2016 but that was so last year.

But today I find out that one of my favorite graphic illustrators died. Berni Wrightson, co-creator on DC Comic's Swamp Thing and arguably the most influential Gothic Horror visionaries of our era, passed away...

One of the first posters I ever owned... from Batman: The Cult

He was also one of the more recognizable Batman illustrators out there. He infamously drew Batman's cape to be longer than his own height.

In Berni's mind, Batman's superpower was being able to stop himself from tripping on his own cape.
Wrightson also worked on a project - on his own time and dime - illustrating Shelley's Frankenstein back in the 1980s, his most famous work and considered one of the best adaptations of that classic work ever.

But I will always remember Wrightson as the one who teamed with Len Wein to create Swamp Thing, one of the best-loved comic books from the early 1970s

I was seven, maybe eight years old, when my family was part of a comic book trade-off at the Dunedin Public Library. We ended up with a copy of the Special Issue re-release of issues 1 and 2 of the original Swamp Thing. It was an eye-opening work, far darker and mature than most of the children's literature I had been reading at the time:

In hindsight, the story itself was pretty simple origin story stuff: good scientist gets killed by mobsters trying to steal his plant formula, the plant formula turns scientist into a monstrous plant-human, the Swamp Thing gets his revenge but not before his wife is also killed, and a vengeful government agent swears to hunt the Swamp Thing down for all the wrong reasons.

But the artwork was incredible, with the beautiful use of shadow, and stylistic camera angles:

I will remember this sequence to the day I die.
This was one of two comic book in the house (the other was a beat-up copy of a Star Wars #14 I think with Han and team battling space pirates) until the 1980s when I snagged Issue 3 of Dark Knight Returns and got hooked for good.

When I was that age, I dabbled a bit into drawing, to see if I could develop a talent for it. Never really could. I got into writing instead, and I hopefully have some talent to that.

One of the things I want to do as a writer is become a comic book writer, to work in that genre of storytelling. I had hopes of someday getting into the industry, and getting to team up with the aritsts I liked.

Berni Wrightson topped my list.

At least I met him back in 2014 at the Tampa Bay Comic Con:

Buying a Wrightson-drawn print of two of my favorite characters: Batman and Swamp Thing.
Rest in peace, Mr. Wrightson.

"He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance."
- Final line of Frankenstein

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