Famed artist Bernie Wrightson has passed away after a prolonged battle with brain cancer. The news was announced overnight by his wife Liz via Facebook. In January Wrightson had announced his retirement due to complications from surgeries.
Wrightson is best known as the co-creator (with writer Len Wein) of DC’s Swamp Thing. Wrightson had a long involvement with DC’s horror titles and it is in that genre where he leaves his deepest legacy. Outside of comics, he is most renown for his contributions to an illustrated edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In addition, he collaborated on several projects with author Stephen King.
To observe that “war is hell” is so commonplace now, it has pretty much passed into the realm of tired cliché. It does not help that its sentiment is often cited equally by doves and hawks, the latter extolling the visceral virtue of combat. Violence is a difficult subject to represent, as even the most seemingly clear-cut anti-violence message can be twisted into something laudatory (as Stanley Kubrick was repulsed to discover with A Clockwork Orange). Indeed, there is a line of thought which states that all war films, regardless of intentions, are ultimately pro-war, as it is impossible to put combat on screen without glamorizing it. (This reviewer would extend such analysis to many supposedly “moralistic” gangster movies). For his new graphic novel Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash, Dave McKean successfully avoids many of these pitfalls. He accomplishes this by almost entirely skipping the battlefield sequences, concentrating instead of the more intimate emotional toll of warfare for the fallen and survivor alike. The result is a moving mediation on the true cost of war.