Meat Melt

Facebook Twitter Google

Bernie Wrightson:
A Look Back

The king of monsters is dead; no I’m not talking about Basil Gogos (The Famous Monsters cover painter), but the other one who drew zombies, ghouls, monsters and super heroes for over 40 years. I’m referring to Bernie Wrightson – the gifted comic book artist who wowed and titillated my imagination for many years. He sadly passed away last night at the young age of 68 from complications related to brain cancer.


His artistic legacy will live on forever in the pages of comic books from both DC and Marvel, in addition to art prints, books, graphic novels, toys and even stuff he contributed to in the movies. Yes Bernie was a talented artist and his work inspired so many artists like me growing up in the 70’s/80’s. Bernie also helped create characters like the Swamp Thing (in the comics) and immortalized the stark imagery of Frankenstein’s monster. Over the years he contributed to many amazing adventures and stories chronicling the likes of the Justice League taking on a strange being (The Weird) and also drew stories about Batman and Punisher taking on zombies and mercurial cult leaders (The Cult and Punisher P.O.V.) series.

His work also extends to prolific graphic novels like the Thing/Hulk and Spiderman: Hooky for Marvel, plus the colossal and probably seminal work found in his Frankenstein graphic novel. He’s worked with writers like Jim Starlin, Steve Niles and Len Wein repeatedly over the years and he’s also teamed up with Stephen King on Cycle of the Werewolf and The Creepshow adaptations; proving how popular he was throughout the years with creators from all walks of life.

Wrightson also worked alongside contemporaries like Michael Kaluta, Barry Windsor Smith and Jeffrey Jones forging an artist studio to produce some of the greatest pieces of artwork ever. His collaboration continued with others into the world of cinema on films likes of Ghostbusters, The Faculty, Galaxy Quest, Spiderman, Ghost Rider, The Mist and George Romero’s Land of the Dead. The artist has done it all over a lifespan of creating art for many different genres.

So he leaves behind a potent and phantasmagoric body of work that will live on in the hearts of many comic books fans and artists who adored his style of images exploring the wildest looking monsters and ghoulishly appearing zombies ever found on the printed page. What I have mentioned so far is just the tip of the iceberg. Bernie has produced so many great drawings and pieces that to list them all will take forever to say here.

The point of my article is to give you an idea of the type of artist he was in life. He was always working on something no matter what was going on with him personally. He was a self-taught artist who began working as an illustrator for the Baltimore Sun newspaper in 1966. Two years later he went on to produce his first published work in comics and by 1971 he started working on the Swamp Thing for DC Comics.


“He leaves behind a potent and phantasmagoric body of work.”

He lived a meager existence in NY doing what he loved best; drawing and creating twisted, graphic/horrific pieces of artwork. He worked on plenty of horror comics for DC comics in the 1970’s and those covers for comic books like House of Secrets, before leaving in 1974 to work for Warren Publishing. Bernie was also published in Heavy Metal, Epic Magazine and the list goes on and on. Like I said he was a very busy artist.

I think the work he did in the movies hardly gets notice. I loved the concept drawings that were done for the first Ghost Rider film, not to mention the mutated creatures he did for The Faculty. Bernie was great with the monsters and that’s why I have anointed him the king of the monster artists.

He will never be forgotten and his impressive body of work will live on. I know there are many artists who will say Bernie Wrightson inspired them to become artists just like him. He reached so many young imaginative minds over his career and I am proud to be one of the young minds he reached. He will always be the idol of mine who first introduced me to the monsters like Swamp Thing/Frankenstein and it only grew from there. My personal favorite will always be Spiderman: Hooky, since the graphic novel literally was a manual for monstrous mutations. Batman: The Cult and The Weird will always be my second favorites after that; just based on the ghoulish zombies attacking Batman and the strange crystal-like monster taking on the Justice League. Both are treasured series in my collection that I will never part with.

It’s a sad day, when one of your idols passes on, but the artist is no longer suffering from the disease that restricted him from doing what he did best; drawing monsters. On this day I say fare well to Bernie Wrightson and may you never be forgotten.

Kenneth Gallant, HMS

Back to the Meat Melt Menu!