Horror Comics: "Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson"

Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson
Artist: Bernie Wrightson
Writers: Bernie Wrightson, various
Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Any horror fan worth a damn has seen Bernie Wrightson’s work. Wrightson is perhaps best known for co-creating Swamp Thing, but even if you’re not a comic book reader, you’ve likely come across his illustrations in Stephen King’s “Cycle of the Werewolf”, “The Wolves of Calla”, and in the restored edition of “The Stand”. Wrightson’s meticulous and loving illustrated edition of “Frankenstein” is a must-have for any follower of the genre.

“Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson” collects Wrightson’s most iconic work for Creepy and Eerie horror magazines, the bulk of which are from the 1970’s. Twelve of the thirteen tales are printed in black and white (as they were in the 1970’s), and it’s a real treat to see a talented artist showcase such a broad range of skills (in the introduction, writer and collaborator Bruce Jones describes Bernie’s amazing abilities as ‘effortless’). Some tales use gray markers, others rely on pen and ink, or brush strokes, and others are a merging of all of these forms. No matter what technique he chooses, Wrightson’s execution is masterful.

There’s certainly not a stinker in the bunch, but highlights include the infamous “Jenifer” (written by Bruce Jones, and later adapted by Dario Argento for the television series “Masters of Horror”), really fun adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cool Air” (featuring one of the best full page panels in horror comic history) and Poe’s “the Black Cat” and “The Pepper Lake Monster” (which features another fantastic full page illustration).

Wrightson is in a league of his own when it comes to creature design, and this volume perfectly illustrates that fact. We’re given a hideous succubus, monsters out of a boy’s nightmares, sea monsters, ghosts, Martian beasts, Man-Apes, and a myriad of dead bodies in various states of disrepair. All of them are totally original takes on familiar tropes, and it’s a testament to Wrightson’s vision that they hold up so well four decades later.

This is an excellent primer to Wrightson’s work in horror comics, and with a direct sequel to his illustrated version of “Frankenstein” rolling out this year from IDW (“Frankenstein Alive, Alive!”, written by Steve Niles, of “30 Days of Night” fame), “Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson” paired with “Frankenstein” will have you up to speed.

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