On Saturday comics legend Bernie Wrightson passed away at the age of 68. Over the years his name had become synonymous with horror comics in a way few (arguably no) others have before or since. His detailed line work added a naturalistic element to his art which only heightened the sense of atmosphere. His imaginative creature designs mixed the humane with the grotesque, finding their best expressions in Swamp Thing (co-created with Len Wein) and his acclaimed adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Guillermo del Toro wanted to use Wrightson’s illustrations as the visual basis for a Frankenstein film). His contributions did crossover to superheroes from time to time, most notably in his art for Jim Starlin’s Batman: The Cult miniseries. So, as we extend our sympathies to Wrightson’s loved ones, we also remember the legacy he leaves behind.
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.
Honestly this selection should not surprise anyone. Ever since I first discovered Beasts of Burden, I have been a huge fan. The series tells the story of a band of dogs and cats who protect their town Burden Hill from nefarious supernatural entities. Over the course of a mini-series and several one-shots, writer Evan Dorkin has taken this fantastical concept and refined it into a compellingly humane narrative. What could have been fun one-off story (it all begin with the idea of writing a haunted dog house tale for an anthology) is instead something much deeper. Not that Beasts lacks levity, quite the opposite in fact. What makes it stand above every other comic this week is how well it blends the light-hearted with the poignant, all stunningly conveyed by Jill Thompson’s painted artwork.
At Nothing But Comics, we’re enjoying the series Harrow County. Written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Tyler Crook, the Dark Horse Comics series features the protagonist Emmy as she encounters the horrors that surround her rural farm. We were chilled by the comic’s unsettling rustic setting, and we were curious to know Bunn’s thoughts on why rural settings work so well in horror fiction.
Peter Milligan’s new Image series opens on a disorienting note which announces its genre blending. Artist Leandro Fernandez lays out the first two pages as a set of thin, rectangular panels, each of which offer a constricted view of the action. Fernandez also sticks with close-ups, providing only details of what is occurring. Cris Peter’s colors highlight the occasional feature, such as the yellow glow of skyscrapers at night or a bright green cat-like iris. Such an approach draws the reader deeper into the page, trying to sort out what exactly is happening. The bodies involved are unconventional (monstrous to use a less polite term), while their behavior appears to be more conventionally sexual in the nature. Next Fernandez pulls back for a full page view of the aftermath. The angle remains skewed, the atmosphere menacing, though the figures are now human. Scattered (and shredded) clothes litter the foreground. Milligan’s intentions to mix sex and horror are immediately clear. For those familiar with Milligan’s sizable body of work this should come as little surprise.