The Comic Book Industry Remembers Bernie Wrightson

Bernie Wrightson
Credit: Tim Bradstreet

The news that legendary artist Bernie Wrightson died Saturday spread through the comic book industry, and creators reacted with both sadness and admiration for one of the best illustrators and kindest artists in the business.

Newsarama gathered comments from those individuals who both knew the artist and were influenced by him.


DC Entertainment (via the DC Comics blog)

DC Entertainment joins the entertainment and comic industries in mourning the loss of one of the greatest artists of our time, Bernie Wrightson. Whether he was drawing Swamp Thing or Super Heroes he was a joy to work with.

With his gothic and evocative work on such titles as House of Secrets and Swamp Thing, Bernie defined the early horror genre within the world of comic books.

Beyond DC, it was his masterful illustrations of Frankenstein which demonstrated the pinnacle of what an artist could create with simply pen and ink. His elaborately detailed compositions, balancing stark light and lush shadow, were both divine and terrifying, and influenced countless generations of artists and creators after him.

DC is grateful for his immeasurable contributions and our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time.  

Today we celebrate his kindness, his life, and his legacy.


Marvel Entertainment (via Twitter)

Marvel is saddened by the passing of talented artist Bernie Wrightson. We offer our condolences to his loved ones.
 

Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein
Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein

Tony Daniel

I am deeply saddened by Bernie’s passing. I was fortunate enough to meet Bernie when I was a young 20-something, (and my fondest memory) shooting a game of pool with him. His Frankenstein work leaves everyone who gazes upon it in slack-jawed awe. We ask ourselves how can these images of ink on paper possible come from a mortal human being? How many hours did he toil painstakingly, passionately, over every line, every wisp of grass, every grain of wood, every tiny morsel of detail? His work has touched my soul, and no doubt, countless other artists and fans. His work is inimitable, visionary, masterful, iconic and god-like. I join many, many others in mourning the death a true legend. My deepest condolences to his family and friends, and his awesome wife, Liz.  


David Finch

I just found out from Meredith that Bernie Wrightson had passed away. My first exposure to his work was in my early days at Top Cow, and it was earth shattering for me. I'm an Image artist, and my earliest influences were very recent at the time. So it took me time to discover Frank Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson, Barry Windsor Smith...it's such a long list! Bernie Wrightson stands above them all for me in terms of mastery and creativity in the medium. Whenever anyone talks about putting out the very best work they're capable of, Bernie's Frankenstein comes up.  

He was a very nice man that I only had the chance to meet briefly, but for me, and countless artists and fans, his work will live on forever as THE standard of technical and artistic excellence.  


Franco Aureliani

The Frankenstein monster series was just breathtaking. I would stare at those for hours and study what he did, realizing I could never do that no matter how hard I tried. I was fortunate enough to meet and interact with him at conventions a few times and although I was awkward and tried to express to him (not very well, I was always nervous) he was always gracious, patient and kind. He was simply an amazing artist and a nice person.


Van Jensen

I had the fortune of interacting with Bernie only a few times. The first time I met him, we were on a panel together talking horror, and I mentioned my love for classic movies, particularly The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Bernie pulled me aside afterward and we had a long chat about the film. I still can't believe I was able to have that conversation with someone I admired so deeply. He is one of the titans of the industry, and he leaves a legacy both of immaculate art and generosity of spirit. I hope younger generations are inspired by both.


Dan Jurgens

Swamp Thing #7 by Bernie Wrightson
Swamp Thing #7 by Bernie Wrightson
Credit: DC Comics

I only had the privilege to chat with Bernie a couple of times on the convention trail, but always found him to be one of the most gracious and unassuming men I’ve ever met. It didn’t matter if you were a fellow professional, amateur or fan, Bernie took the time to interact in a very genuine way.

The quality of his work almost defies description. I’ll never forget picking up Swamp Thing #7, mostly because it had Batman on the cover. I knew right away that it was something I had to buy because it was unlike any comic I’d ever seen. He conveyed mood and story in a way that astounded readers and would continue to do so throughout his stellar career. The quality of his work is simply breathtaking and he will be forever acknowledged as one of the all-time greats.


Tim Seeley

I was 11 when my brother Steve got Hooky from a mail order comics catalog. We just thought it was a 'long' Spider-Man story, and that was novel enough for us. But then we read it. Bernie's art terrified and captivated us both. I started tracing the Tordenkakerlakk immediately... its goopy, ever changing form giving me the creeps in a way I thoroughly enjoyed. To this day, I reference that book for monster designs.

I met Bernie at various cons over the years, and he was always friendly and brushed off my awkward reverence. I sat next to him at Boston Con in August and made sure to buy some prints, and watch as my girlfriend marveled over his work after seeing it for the first time. I'm so glad for that weekend now... because Bernie's passing is a reminder that we need to appreciate the creative legends of comics while they live. Celebrate their works. Meet them at conventions. Remember that they're just people, and that their work will outlive them. That's both comforting, and sad.


Christos Gage

Great sadness, and deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones.

I only met him a couple of times, but was struck by how happy, friendly, kind and approachable he was. The notion that the greatest horror artist ever was such an upbeat, sunny, compassionate person was incongruous, but also made his work that much more impressive. As for his work, he was the best, bar none. There was no greater horror artist, full stop. When I read a prose horror story, or think about one I'm telling myself, I imagine it as it would be if drawn by Bernie Wrightson.


Jimmy Palmiotti

The Punisher by Bernie Wrightson
The Punisher by Bernie Wrightson
Credit: Marvel Comics

Bernie Wrightson has been a part of my life since I bought my first Swamp Thing comic when I was a kid. When in high school, I got to meet Bernie at a gallery show in New York City, and he was so out-of-his-way nice to me, it left an impression on me that made me rethink some of what I was planning to do in my future. When Joe Quesada and I put together Marvel Knights, Bernie was one of the first people we hired. I got to ink his breakdowns on four books and it was the hardest thing ever to do — but all I wanted to do was make him happy. We became friends over the years, as well as with his beautiful wife Liz, and every single time we had together we would catch up on each other's lives. I got a chance to work some more over the years, but the greatest gift was the man himself. Kind, smart, funny and charming as hell...he was one of the good ones and so soon...another friend has been taken from me. The rest of the world gets to enjoy the art for many generations, but for me, it's his laugh and smile I will miss the most. Rest in Peace, brother. We love you.


Ethan Van Sciver

Bernie Wrightson was such a kind man.  I want to say that about him. He was truly a good man with a big heart, it seemed to me, and he was generous with his time and with his encouragement for younger artists. I was very sad to hear from Billy Tucci that we'd lost him. As for his art, I can't find words. He defined an entire genre. Everyone knows his work. Everyone treasures his work. And thank God he spent his time laboring over it. We are all grateful for that, and for his noble life.


Mark Brooks

There is no refuting that Bernie Wrightson was a master of his craft and leaves a legacy that will outlive us all. But the thing I most remember about him was how unassuming and open he was. Bernie was the first creator of his legendary level that I got to hang out with for an extended period of time and I was struck by him and his wife Liz's humility, warmth, and lack of ego. It's what I will always remember about him most. Beyond a great artist. he was a great person. We were incredibly lucky to have him.


Dale Eaglesham

Along with a Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four and a Gil Kane Green Lantern, I purchased Swamp Thing #2 off the spinner rack in the grocery store way back when. Jack's FF and Bernie's Swamp Thing are the childhood epicenters of my artistic inspiration. I'll forever remember Swamp Thing battling Arcane's monster squad — in particular, the Head on the Hand (Wrightson fans know who I mean). I never met Bernie personally but always admired his work, the life he infused into his images as they pulsed with flow, texture and grim foreboding. Clearly he loved what he did and he stands unique among his peers as Kirby did. His works will whisper his name forever and anon.


Mike Deodato Jr.

I am very sad for Bernie's passing. I only met him once so I have no stories about him because I didn't know him well. But his art I do know very well. I studied every single brush stroke, every shadow, every haunted expression, every contorted hand. I spent hours and hours copying his drawings hoping I could, someday, be able to do the same. I couldn't do it because he was unique, he was the best, but it was essential for the formation of my own style. Bernie was one of the biggest influences in my work and I will be forever grateful for that.


Howard Porter

I was so saddened to hear the news of Mr. Wrightson's passing. Very few have made such an impact on the field they work in and on the lives of the admirers of that work. Through his art he has been with me since my childhood, today his books remain by my side as a source of inspiration and amazement. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Neal Adams

Bernie Wrightson came to DC Comics at a time when DC Comics was not interviewing freelancers or even seeing them to hand out work. I was hiding young artists out in the small room I used to draw the covers that DC needed practically daily. I would smuggle these young artists in; the likes of Howard Chaykin, Alan Weiss, Rich Buckler, and writers like Len Wien and Marv Wolfman. We would migrate between that tiny room and the coffee room in the magazine distribution section of the floor.

I can’t tell you exactly when Bernie came in or what the circumstances were, but I can tell you his smile was charming and ingratiating. His attitude was joyful and his friendliness was open and meant for everyone. Normally, the new artists’ work either looked like Jack Kirby's or my own, or a mix of other artists with few exceptions.

But where would he fit into DC Comics’ clean-cut superhero look? Bernie Wrightson’s work looked like a mix between Frank Frazetta and EC horror comics. It was unexpected and it had snatches of brilliance that was clear to everyone who looked at it. Joe Orlando, who had just graduated from the EC Comics horror school, immediately fell in love with Bernie’s work.

I know it wasn’t in the blink of an eye before Bernie was doing Swamp Thing, but I guess as I look back on it it sure seems like it.

Out of our community memory of EC’s horror and adventure comics rose Bernie Wrightson with his Swamp Thing, which opened doors to a new generation of comic book artists.

Others will tell you of Bernie’s Frankenstein and their experiences with Bernie. What I have to tell you is a little different:

Bernie Wrightson was the handsome, smiling, happy-go-lucky reinventor of a genre that nobody expected. My young friend, Bernie Wrightson. His smile lit the room.
 

J.G. Jones

Credit: Bernie Wrightson (DC Comics)

Like most of my generation of comic artists, I not only loved Bernie's work, but adored the man, as well. He was giant, legend, a dazzling call to always try harder and do better. I remember the first time I held an issue of Swamp Thing in my hands as a child. I just couldn't believe such a thing existed, and Bernie's art became a marker for me; an aspirational marker of greatness.

When I was a bit older, I found his Frankenstein, and The Studio. I have replaced both several times, having worn through my copies, studying the art again and again.

Credit: J.G. Jones (DC Comics)

Bernie's death leaves a hole in the world. He was not only and incredible draftsman, but one of the nicest people I have ever met in this business. It was a great joy to me to meet one of my heroes, and find that he was more than I had imagined. He was more than a towering talent. He was a lovely human being.

P.S.- I did this Batman Black & White project with Dan DiDio, just so that we could reference Bernie's House of Mystery cover.
 

Jeff Parker

Wrightson is a huge pillar of modern comics, his clear influence by Frazetta led him to look further back to master illustrators Joseph Clement Coll and Franklin Booth and bring that elaborate and hypnotic linework approach to our medium. But all the technique isn’t what makes it work, it’s the way Bernie would push and distort it to serve his love of horror and humor. It’s like he distilled comics into a more potent solution.

When I was a teen, that solution cracked my brain open. I came across an article on Wrightson in Comics Scene magazine, and just the few panels it showed from his 70’s Swamp Thing hit me like a ton of bricks. This was the first time I went beyond reading whatever comics were on the stands and used my new ability to drive to go to the next town and dig through back issue bins to find those first ten Swamp Thing issues. And like I had with the work of Don Newton and Gene Colan, I started copying heads, bodies, whole panels out of those stories. Those issues lit enough fire under me that I went from drawing a picture here and there to writing and drawing whole stories for myself.

To me Wrightson brought a whole different angle of viewing the worlds in comics. Even small scenes like Abigail Arcane and Matt Cable sitting on a beach by a stormy sea hit me as something I didn’t see enough of, or his retro sensibilities in the design of the killer robot in #6 - I also loved the clockwork shop in that issue. His unusual angles, double-lighting, going for textures you wouldn’t even think reproducible at the time - I’d get excited about seeing things I took for granted filtered through his vision - how will Bernie draw a werewolf? Frankenstein? Batman? I knew it would feel like nothing else on the stands.

There’s not enough room on the internet for this. In short, I treasure the work of Bernie Wrightson, am grateful for his time with us and his impact, and the times I got to hang around him at conventions. He was a true great.
 

Jamal Igle

Back in 1993, I attended one of the old Fred Greenberg Great East Coast conventions at the Javits Center looking for work as an artist. I was 21, had just returned to New York, and as usual single-minded of purpose to the point of being super annoying. I followed poor Randy Stradley around for a half an hour, waiting to get a portfolio review.

Towards the end of the day, the companies were doing reviews and I waited in line. Just as I was about to walk up to the table, a man comes over to replace the person in front of me. He beckons me over smiling. I introduce myself and hand over my book. As he's flipping the pages, I try not to stare at him but as I find myself examining him I glance at his badge. It says "Bernie Wrightson."

I start to panic internally. "Of all the people who could be looking at my work, I get the Bernie Wrightson? Frankenstein, Swamp Thing, Batman?? I'm so screwed!!"

He looks at me, very quizzically and says "How old are you?" . "Uhm, I'm 21." I reply sheepishly. He cracks his Bernie smile that I've seen a thousand times since, shakes his head and says "You're too young to be this good."

I thanked him, walked away from the booth and made sure I was well out of earshot when I started screaming "Bernie Wrightson likes my work!!" Repeatedly.

Goodbye, Bernie.

It was a pleasure and an honor to know you.
 

Mark Irwin

Initially, I was devastated. Bernie's art has been such an integral part of my life, and his influence on my thought process of art and creation is something I'd counted on and used pretty much every single day of my career. Hard to lose a hero, harder still to lose someone that was universally renowned as a great guy, in addition to a master illustrator.

I shared this story on my Facebook page, but basically, there was a time in my life when I wouldn't look at a comic or book unless it had Bernie's signature. I literally ignored countless great artists because I was obsessed with seeing and understanding every single thing Bernie did art-wise. I'd bike and sometimes walk miles to a comic shop in the hope that something new of Bernie's would be on the shelves.

As I started to get work professionally and discover other great artists, I grew, but always would talk Bernie with the other pros I met, always returning to the best artist I knew for inspiration. Even now, as an editor/publisher, I tend to gravitate toward anything remotely Bernie-like, wanting to experience more of that special goodness.

While we can mourn the man, for both his family and friends, we should also celebrate him. His work is unparalleled, and he was prolific- there's still so much to see and wonder over. Very thankful that I discovered his work as a kid and got to grow up with him informing my own artistic journey.
 

Cully Hamner

I knew (as everyone did, I think) that Bernie had been ill for some time. But even when you know a punch to the gut is coming, it still takes your breath before the pain settles in.

I’ve known Bernie’s work since I was a very small child - I was always attracted to the darkness of it. I got my hands on Creepshow (adapted from the Stephen King movie) when I was about 13. I’d already loved his work, as I said, but that grabbed my face and never let go. I must’ve read it in the bookstore a dozen times. I begged my parents for it, and against their better judgment, they bought it for me that Christmas. I later lost it when a water heater above one of my old apartments blew. But I still have his darkness in my head.

But if you want to know his real influence on me, it’s this: Bernie was and is one of the kindest men I ever met. After I broke into comics, I’d run across him here and there at a con or one of our old Gaijin/Dragon Con parties, and… look, I’m pretty sure he had no clue who I was. He couldn’t remember my name. Still, somehow I always rated a hug from the guy. Maybe it was his way of getting to know me.

Later, we ended up living in the same town as Bernie and his wife Liz. We sure didn’t see each other as much as we’d have liked, but we had them over a few times for parties, met up with them for a few meals here and there. Bernie and Liz were always the same - the most upbeat, positive folks, funny and smart. One time - and forgive me if this seems self-serving, but I treasure this they were over for a party, and the two of them and a few others ended up in my studio for a bit. Bernie was looking over some pages I’d done for something, actually studying them. Bernie Wrightson was studying my stuff. The Bernie Wrightson - even after we became friendly, he’d never stop being a “The” to me. And he looked up at me from the pages with his eyes wide and full of light, and this kind of wonder in his voice, and said, “These are really good, Cully.” It wasn’t ironic. It wasn’t hyperbolic. It was one artist to another, expressing a true feeling. Later, when no one was looking, I burst into tears over that. It meant the world that someone like him could be so kind to me.

Bernie Wrightson was kind, full of darkness and light, and wonder at both.
 

Greg Capullo

I was at LaMole Con in Mexico when I read a tweet from a fan. I was laying in bed alone at the time, away from my wife's eyes. I cried. It may sound silly that I would cry, but I felt as if a part of me died a little. I mean, someone like Bernie, a master, a man whose work influenced or inspired so many in my field... it was so very, very sad. His work on Frankenstein was so impossibly incredible. It impressed and intimidated me at the same time. Luckily, I learned it took years to complete and while that eased my pain a little, I still knew I'd never create anything that could rival it. I doubt that anyone can. I show that book to everyone. Everyone. His work will steal people's breath forever. Bernie Wrightson is a true legend.
 

Giuseppe Camuncoli

Bernie Wrightson was a giant, and although I had read about his recent conditions, I always hoped that he could get better, and get by, and get to stay among us a little bit more. But his legacy, his body of work, his legend will live on. I hope that his wife and family can feel at least a little bit of the love that everyone in this community, from professionals to readers, is pouring online as a tribute to a true legend.

As a comic book fan, I think I first discovered Bernie's work on the Italian edition of Spider-Man: Hooky, which totally blew me away, and then led me to discover his other works, starting from Swamp Thing, and then going to Frankenstein, Batman: The Cult, and so on. Once you're exposed to his art, there's no way back.

I also got the chance of meeting Bernie in the early 2000s, during one of my first trip to the San Diego Comic Con. After the con, we spent some days in L.A. and David J. Schow (novelist and screenwriter for the The Crow movie) graciously let me and some friends stay at his place in Mulholland Drive. And one night Bernie and his son (if I remember well) passed by to help another friend move his stuff to a new apartment. It was really weird to get to meet one of your legends in such a normal way, and to help everyone put sofas and furnitures into a van. What stroke me immediately was how kind and down to earth Bernie really was. I can't remember if I was already working at Vertigo at the time or I was just about to, but the fact that my first gig would've been on Swamp Thing, made this encounter even cooler. I saw him again many years after that day at SDCC, he remembered me from that day, we had a little chat and he was still the nicest guy you could ever meet.

I will treasure these moments dearly, together with his unforgettable art. So, thank you Bernie. You will definitely be missed.
 

Joe Kelly

A legend lost. He was a master of his craft. Bernie Wrightson's contributions to the visual vocabulary of the horror and suspense genres can be felt across comics, film and television. His attention to detail and superior draftsmanship infused his tales with gravity and magic at the same time. He elevated the art form, even when his stories dragged us to the depths of fear.
 

Steven T. Seagle

Bernie was a legend before I was even thinking about working in comics. When i started out as a fan and collector, I was mesmerized by his illustrations for the numerous Frankenstein portfolios he did. He was the Gustav Dore of modern comic book illustration and his unique attention to detail as well as his gothic sensibilities will be missed. I'm going to go look back on those portfolios tonight in his honor.


Duncan Rouleau

Legend seems too small of a word to encompass the impact Bernie Wrightson had on me, popular culture and comics. He was brilliant in every way an artist can be brilliant. Form. Style. Composition. The list goes on and on. Personally, I will miss the man because he was a kind and gentle soul. But, his work. His work is Promethean! Simply put, Bernie brought us fire.

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