Do you know who Bernie Wrightson is?
Bernie Wrightson in 1972, when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, created for D.C. comics the character known as The Swamp Thing.
being a stupid kid at the time, I totally ignored his genius with pen and ink, ink and brush, and fascinatingly dense forests of intricate detail.
I didn’t really get it until he joined The Studio with Jeffery C. Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith (whom I idolized for his work on Conan.)
And while in college, consuming everything available by The Studio that I could find and afford, I fell in love with his deeply dark and brooding illustration work for a new edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Frankenstein had 50 illustrations by Wrightson that firmly established the fact that by drawing with black ink you could show in startlingly real ways the qualities of white light. That appealed to me both literally as a way to make beautiful art and metaphorically, as that last thing was what I was doing with my own life, drawing the darkness to get to the beautiful light.
Most of his work
was drawing monsters; werewolves, zombies, the creatures of H.P. Lovecraft, and numerous things from nightmares.
But it has a definite beauty of its own. Darkness, evil, and corruption brings out the quality of what is light, righteous, and pure. There is truth in approaching reality from the dark side of the equation.
Of course, he would also do work on heroes like Batman, because the darkness breeds its own defenders of justice.
I am not so much a fan of monsters as I am a believer of taming the monsters who beset us as we try to make a worthy life for ourselves. But I can definitely see where Bernie Wrightson has been doing exactly that with his brilliant pen-and-ink artwork. Sadly, he will be doing no more of it since we lost him in 2017. But it is a legacy he left behind that will make his light continue to shine forth from dark places for a long time to come.