Bernie Wrightson, famed comic book artist, died Sunday after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 68.
Wrightson was known as one of the most prolific horror illustrators of all time, co-creating the DC comic book monster Swamp Thing, which was adapted by Wes Craven into a cult horror classic in 1982.
Wrightson began his career at the age of 18 as an illustrator for The Baltimore Sun. Two years later, he became a freelance artist with DC Comics, spelling his name as “Berni” in his professional work to distinguish himself from an Olympic diver that shared his name. Though he later restored the “e,” the nickname “Berni” stuck for the rest of his career.
In 1971, Wrightson had his big break when he co-created Swamp Thing with writer Len Wein. He left DC three years later to start a career in horror art, becoming known for his vivid takes on scenes from tales by H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. His magnum opus was a set of 50 ink illustrations he created to accompany an edition of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” released by Marvel.
Wrightson also drew his own interpretation of famous comic book characters like Batman, Spider-Man, and The Punisher. His work on mainstream superhero comics includes one of the darkest Batman tales ever told: Jim Starlin’s “The Cult,” in which Batman is captured and brainwashed by an army of Gotham’s homeless whose leader, Deacon Blackfire, also attempts to assassinate Commissioner Gordon. With Batman missing and the police chief attacked, martial law is soon enforced upon Gotham.
Wrightson collaborated with many famous writers, including Neil Gaiman, who paid tribute on Twitter this morning.
As it comes to all of us, the end came for the greatest that ever lived: Bernie Wrightson. My North dark star of youth. A master.
Wrightson is survived by his wife, Liz, two sons, John and Jeffrey, and a stepson, Thomas.