SFcrowsnest

Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson (book review).

When I learnt that Bernie Wrightson had died in March, I decided I really ought to look at some of work and what’s available on the market. I was never much of a fan of ‘Swamp Thing’ so opted for this volume, ‘Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson’ from 2011. Actually, it should be called ‘Creepy And Eerie’, as Wrightson contributed to both. There are 6 stories from ‘Creepy’ and 7 from ‘Eerie’ spread from 1966-1982. After these, there are frontispieces from said title with your favourite uncle and cousin.

From the introduction by writer Bruce Jones, Wrighton is one of the few people to leave publisher Jim Warren speechless when he looked at an earlier version of the pages of ‘The Black Cat’, and told that was what he did at sixteen and showed him a second version. This is also the first story in this book. As Jones points out, Wrightson could draw anything. Looking at the art within, he’s not exaggerating. Wrighton also inked two Carmine Infantino stories and although you can spot both styles, it’s easy to spot that he doesn’t overwhelm the penciller.

Picking out favourites is a lot tougher. The Infantino/Wrighton story, written by Bill Dubay’, ‘Dick Swift And His Electric Power Ring’ will twang your heartstrings, playing between the reality of a dying body and his fantasy world with a beautiful twist in the end.

I was surprised at some of the styles that Wrightson chose for the stories. ‘The Pepper Lake Monster’ is full of texture for the swirling water. In other work, like ‘The Laughing Man’ a liberal use of wash. With ‘Ruben Youngblood: Private Eye!’, exquisite texture to the clothes and a lot of patience with a ruler. You can almost feel the writers stepping up to the mark, knowing that they will get beautiful stories from their artist.

Me looking at Wrightson’s work in art mode, I couldn’t help but notice how he shades his characters’ eyeballs, truly making them more ball-like from under rather than the shade created by the eyelid. Not all the time, granted, but once you start looking, they do pop up…literally. Another trait is Wrightson’s art becoming the vehicle for the story. You take it all in as one than get distracted by it. Good artists will impinge on the eye without you realising it and Wrightson could do that. Once you finish this book, recall some of the imagery in your mind’s eye and see if I was right. The fact that Wrightson did so many scary stories is because he can make you draw sympathy for characters and frighten you at the same time. You’re going to be sorely missed, Bernie.

GF Willmetts

September 2017

(pub: Dark Horse, 2011. 139 page graphic novel hardback. Price: I pulled my copy for about £10.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59582-809-5)

check out website: www.darkhorse.com