A critically acclaimed, award-winning and veteran artist, Wrightson is considered one of the modern masters of horror comics art and is a legend in the field. He is perhaps best known for his seminal work co-creating and illustrating DC Comics' Swamp Thing in the 1970s and 80s, though he is still active in the field today.
Born in 1948 in Baltimore, Maryland, Wrightson received training in art from reading comics, particularly those of EC, as well as through a correspondence course from the Famous Artists School.
In 1966, Wrightson began working for The Baltimore Sun newspaper as an illustrator. The following year, after meeting artist Frank Frazetta at a comic-book convention in New York City, he was inspired to produce his own stories. In 1968, he showed copies of his sequential art to DC Comics editor Dick Giordano and was given a freelance assignment. Wrightson began spelling his name "Berni" in his professional work to distinguish himself from an Olympic diver named Bernie Wrightson, but later restored the final E to his name.
His first professional comic work appeared in House of Mystery #179 in 1968. He continued to work on a variety of mystery and anthology titles for both DC and its principal rival, Marvel Comics. In 1971, with writer Len Wein, Wrightson co-created the muck creature Swamp Thing for DC. He also co-created Destiny, later to become famous in the work of Neil Gaiman. In 1971 he also published BadTime Stories, a horror/science fiction comics anthology featuring his own scripts and artwork, each story being drawn in a different medium (ink wash, tonal pencil drawings, duoshade paper, screen tones, e.g., along with traditional pen-and-ink and brushwork).
Wrightson had originally been asked by DC to handle the art for its revival of The Shadow, but he left the project early on when he realized he could not produce the necessary minimum number of pages on time.
By 1974. he had left DC to work at Warren Publishing, for whose black-and-white horror-comics magazines he produced a series of original work as well as short story adaptations. As with BadTime Stories, Wrightson experimented with different media in these black-and-white tales: Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" featured intricate pen-and-ink work which stood in direct contrast with his brush-dominated Swamp Thing panels. "Jenifer", scripted by Bruce Jones, was atmospherically rendered with gray markers. "The Pepper Lake Monster" was a synthesis of brush and pen-and-ink, whereas H.P. Lovecraft's "Cool Air" was a foray into duotone paper. "Nightfall" was an exercise in ink wash and a subtle "Little Nemo in Slumberland" satire, and "The Muck Monster" a sequential art precursor to Wrightson's Frankenstein, with the Franklin Booth-inspired pen-and-ink style in evidence.
In 1975, Wrightson joined with fellow artists Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith to form The Studio, a shared loft in Manhattan where the group would pursue creative products outside the constraints of comic book commercialism. Though he continued to produce sequential art, Wrightson at this time began producing artwork for numerous posters, prints, calendars, and even coloring books. He also drew sporadic comics stories and single illustrations for National Lampoon magazine from 1973 - 1983.
Wrightson spent seven years drawing approximately 50 detailed pen-and-ink illustrations to accompany an edition of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, which the artist considers among his most personal work.
Wrightson illustrated the comic book adaptation of the film Stephen King-penned horror film Creepshow. This led to several other collaborations with King, including illustrations for the novella "Cycle of the Werewolf", the restored edition of King's apocalyptic horror epic, The Stand, and Wolves of the Calla, the fifth installment of King's Dark Tower series.
Wrightson has contributed album covers for a number of bands, including Meat Loaf.
The "Captain Sternn" segment of the animated film Heavy Metal is based on a character created by Wrightson.
He did production design for the characters the Reavers in the 2005 film Serenity.
Wrightson won the Shazam Award for Best Penciller (Dramatic Division) in 1972 and 1973 for Swamp Thing, the Shazam Award for Best Individual Story (Dramatic) in 1972 for Swamp Thing #1 (with Len Wein).
He has received additional nominations, including for the Shazam Award for Best Inker in 1973 for Swamp Thing, as well as that year's Shazam for Best Individual Story, for "A Clockwork Horror" in Swamp Thing #6 (with Len Wein). He won the Shazam Award for Best Penciller (Dramatic Division) in 1974.
Wrightson received the H.P. Lovecraft Award (also known as the "Howie") at the 2007 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon.
He resides in Los Angeles with his wife Liz.
- Bernie Wrightson's official website
- Comic Book Artist magazine Interview with Wrightson
- 2008 Comic Book Resources article on Wrightson
- Bernie Wrightson on Wikipedia