Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wrightson, Bernie

(1948-2017) Prolific US fantasy Comic-book artist with a unique talent for macabre Horror. His art is distinguished by a confident line and skilful use of stark black, and by forceful composition. Despite a predilection for grotesque mutation and decay, his work still often manages to retain a humane quality that renders it endearing rather than repulsive.

BW's early work included Nightmaster (DC Showcase #83-#84 1969), which he did with Jeff Jones and Mike Kaluta, and covers and short stories for House of Secrets and House of Mystery. One of these was "The Swamp Thing" (House of Secrets #92 1971), again a collaboration with Jones and Kaluta; this became a series the following year, winning BW several awards from the Academy of Comic Book Arts. He also collaborated with Vaughn Bodé on some cartoon erotica for Swank magazine under the title Purple Pictography (1971), and published a collection of his own horror stories entitled Badtime Stories (1971). After Swamp Thing (#1-#10 1972-1974) BW drew several horror stories for Warren Publishing's Eerie and Creepy magazines along with many spot illustrations, then occupied a warehouse in New York with Jeff Jones, Mike Kaluta and Barry Windsor-Smith, where all four became involved in the production of personal portfolios and other projects. A book about this period of experimentation is The Studio (graph 1979), which seems to be by the four artists (although "JS" is credited for the introduction). It was during this period that BW began producing a remarkable series of illustrations for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), eventually published with the original text as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein (graph 1983; vt Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein 1984), coinciding with the publication of another BW-illustrated volume, Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf (1983). BW began doing design work for a movie provisionally titled Traveler, but it was eventually abandoned. He returned to comic books with Batman: The Cult (#1-#4 1988; graph coll 1989), in which his drawing style took an unexpected new direction, being more spontaneous and less polished.

BW has maintained a consistent personal direction in his work while remaining a firm favourite with comics fans. The number of comic books he has drawn is relatively small but his work remains very popular, and each new project is eagerly welcomed – a unique achievement in a field with such fickle enthusiasms. [RT]

other works: The Bernie Wrightson Exhibition (graph 1977); Apparitions (portfolio 1978); The Mutants (graph coll 1980).

further reading: Berni Wrightson: A Look Back (graph 1980) ed Christopher Zavisa.

Bernie Wrightson


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.