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Bernie Wrightson (1948 – 2017).

§ March 20th, 2017 § Filed under obituary, swamp thing § 4 Comments

There are a lot of fantastic illustrations by Bernie Wrightson in those early Swamp Things, but this is the one I keep coming back to:


The strange perspective, the incredible detail, the full page reveal coming late in the story after we’d already seen the werewolf a couple of times…all combining to make this an image that impressed itself into my brain for all time. Funny that it’s a pic from this series that doesn’t even feature the title character, but this splash from #1 does take a close second in the “Bernie Wrightson Drawings I Think of When I Think of Swamp Thing” category.

But flip through pretty much any issue of Wrightson’s Swamp Thing and you’ll see no end of intricately-detailed illustrations, their impact diminished not at all by the cheap printing and yellowing paper. If anything, the impact is enhanced, the drawings made even more moody and mysterious by the decaying pulp on which they are presented.

Wrighton’s covers from the period are eye-grabbers as well, looking like nothing else on the shelves. This Lovecraftian critter on this House of Mystery clearly represents something that should be unnatural and repellent, but Wrightson’s linework makes it endlessly fascinating. You want to pick this comic off the rack and see just what’s going on here:


…And this cover here…where do you even begin? This was 1971, and Wrightson, in his early 20s, had only been in the comics business for a couple of years. And here he is, already creating images as perfect as this:


And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the man’s work. These drawings are all from the early years of his career…his impossibly-detailed Frankenstein work was still ahead of him. His “Captain Sternn” stories, both the short in Heavy Metal and the later mini-series (plus the related back-ups in Dreadstar. The Weird. Batman: The Cult. National Lampoon strips and illustrations. Tons of horror shorts for Warren magazines. The Hulk/Thing graphic novel. Batman/Aliens. The “Howard the Duck for President” button. The Spider-Man: Hooky graphic novel. The comics adaptation of Stephen King’s Creepshow, plus all the other illustrations he provided for King’s novels. Even Punisher comics…and much more, besides.

Saying “he was a great talent and he will be missed” doesn’t seem like enough. He embodied a particular aesthetic that took inspiration from horror comic artists and fantasy illustrators that preceded him, and formed it into something unique, something so his own that the term “Wrightson-esque” easily conveys its meaning. He didn’t just redefine the horror genre. He was his own genre.

So long, Bernie. Thanks for letting us see, for so many years, what your wonderful imagination created.

And you didn’t think I was going to let this go without at least one picture of Swamp Thing, did you?


 
 

images from Swamp Thing #4 (April-May 1973); House of Mystery #204 (July 1972); House of Mystery #195 (October 1971); Swamp Thing #6 (September-October 1973)

Dan and Bernie.

§ February 1st, 2017 § Filed under obituary § 3 Comments

Longtime comics artist Dan Spiegle has passed away, and his frequent creative partner Mark Evanier has an extended remembrance of the man and his work.

I met Dan Spiegle once. He had come into my previous place of employment a couple of decades back, trying (if I recall correctly) to find out if an art job of his that he’d completed for another publisher (which had gone under) had been published by someone else. I don’t remember the exact thing he was looking for, now, all these years later. My vague memory is that he had done something for Classics Illustrated, maybe, just prior to CI’s then-publisher First Comics going under, and was trying to see if someone else put it out. Not this issue, which was published, but, like, something much later in the run. Ah well, whatever it was, I don’t recall, but I did enjoy that brief time I got to speak with him and at least try to help him out.

What helped me recognize him right away was a couple of things: one, I’m pretty sure I’d seen a self-caricature or two of him around by that time, though trying to Google one up now didn’t turn up the picture I remember. Two, there was the then-recent “Famous Comic Creators” trading card set which featured the card pictured above. Those cards were handy mugshots for funnybook stars back in those pre-widespread common-use-of-the-Internet days.

Also, I should mention that Mr. Spiegle had a big, friendly smile. I can still picture just how happy a guy he seemed to be.

Anyway, I enjoyed Mr. Spiegle’s work over the years, as I’m sure many of you did as well. I think I first ran into his art in the back-up “Nemesis” stories from Brave and the Bold in the early 1980s, though I’m sure I’d seen it before. There was a strange one-shot story in the Omega Men run that still sticks with me after all this time. And should Mr. Evanier happen to read this, he can add me to the list of people who read Hollywood Superstars. The one series he worked on that I did not read extensively is his collaboration with Evanier on Blackhawk, which is one of those runs I always meant to get around to gathering and reading but never had the opportunity, unfortunately. I still intend to…the one or two stories I have read were great, and I certainly want to see more. I may have to wait for a reprinting, or a digital version, or for a full run to fall into my lap in a collection I purchase. Maybe someday!

So long, Dan…thanks for all the great comics, and I look forward to finally getting around to that work of yours I haven’t read.

• • •

In other comic creator news, as I’m sure you’ve heard, Swamp Thing cocreator Bernie Wrightson as retired due to health reasons, leaving him essentially unable to draw. You can read the announcement at his official site. That really is a shame that someone so talented is left unable to do what he does so well, and I very much hope that someday there’ll be improvement enough to let him back back to it. Best wishes to Mr. Wrightson and his family.

Carrie Fisher (1956 – 2016).

§ December 28th, 2016 § Filed under obituary § 2 Comments


I know Carrie Fisher was more than just Princess/General Leia. She was a gifted writer, a funny person, a mental health advocate, a dog lover, a heralded script doctor, a talented actor in roles beyond That Big One which made her famous, a survivor, and someone who just had no time at all for anyone’s horseshit.

She was something else, and I’m sure going to miss her.

So long, Carrie.

Asuncion.

§ December 12th, 2016 § Filed under obituary § 10 Comments

The morning of Saturday, December 10th, my girlfriend Nora’s mother, Asuncion, passed away at the age of 79 after an extended struggle with pulmonary fibrosis. She was surrounded by family at the time, chatting and joking up with them up until the end, when she simply closed her eyes, took a couple of final breaths, and departed.

She was the much-beloved matriarch of the family, and spent a lifetime raising, caring for, and sharing her love with her many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She will be greatly missed. If you can, please spare a brief thought for both her and those who grieve her loss.

I did it for the Chicks, man.

§ October 26th, 2016 § Filed under obituary, pal plugging, self-promotion § 7 Comments

hitherechickSo, about Jack Chick. On one hand, he seemed to be an always-present part of the weirdo comics landscape …his little religious funnybook pamphlets were just some strange thing we’d come across once in a while, in a variety of circumstances. I’d get them with Halloween candy as a kid. I’d see ’em at the local church neighbors attended. A neighbor of another friend “witnessing” to me (at me?) would press one into my hands. Some years back, my old high school friend and former coworker Rob would actively collect them, and a couple of his spares he’d pass along to me.

Nobody I knew took them very seriously. Well, maybe that one friend’s neighbor. But they were all amusing in some dark fashion…little morality tales of horror and death, all footnoted with Bible verses, where “bad” people were punished for doing shitty things to their fellow humans, and for not accepting the tenets of Chick’s particular interpretation of Christianity. That one booklet about the dangers of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons is a highlight, much parodied and mocked over the years.

Some of the images still stick with me…the “lake of fire” that I’m pretty sure was used and reused in many of Chick’s comics. The construction worker trapped in hell, wondering if he’d get to see his friends again, and being told he’d be alone forever. The dead fella being forced to watch all the sins he committed in life, aghast that he’d have to watch himself tell the filthiest joke. “No, not that joke, not here!” Usually the comics were crudely arranged and drawn, but there was that occasional moment of frisson achieved, sometimes more by accident than by design, but still there.

On the other hand, beyond the amusement value, mixed in with the sporadic positive religious message, were messages that were anti-gay, anti-science, anti-Catholic, anti-anything Jack Chick personally didn’t care for. That undermines the pop-culture jocularity a bit. True, these were in the usual ham-fisted style and thus hard to treat seriously at face value (though I know some folks did), but it still revealed the ugly undercurrent of ignorance. Even saying that would make me one of those sinners in these comics, shouting and sweating and exclaiming my bad points of view, while the even-tempered hero calmly explains why I’m wrong and surely going to hell.

Still, I felt that I should note Jack Chick’s passing. Something…unique, shall we say, has gone from the comics world, what could be described as an odd sort of “outsider” art aside from the fact that Chick’s tracts are probably some of the most widely-read pieces of the comics artform ever.

• • •

In other news: pal Tim, who wrote this lengthy essay that you should read if you haven’t already, has published his follow-up which I think you should read as well. Tim’s gettin’ back into the old blogging game somethin’ fierce, and if you’d like to help him out, he’s got one of those Patreons that you can throw some simoleons at if you’ve got a couple to spare.

I’ll be contributing myself in the next couple of weeks, as soon as I get through a month with the quarterly sales tax payment, car stuff, plus other big expenses, and by total coincidence here’s a link to my own Patreon.

That time Steve Dillon drew Swamp Thing growing some…herbiage for John Constantine’s 40th birthday party.

§ October 24th, 2016 § Filed under obituary, swamp thing § 2 Comments

hellblazin63
As I’m sure you’ve heard, Steve Dillon, artist of Punisher and Hellblazer, as well as the co-creator of Preacher, passed away over the weekend at the much-too-young age of 54. I’m sure I’d come across his work before this, but it was his run on Hellblazer (with writer Garth Ennis) that I really began to notice and appreciate his work. As I said on my post about his passing on the store site (where I scanned and posted a Preacher sequence that I particularly like), he had a very clean, uncomplicated style that managed to convey huge amounts of detail and wide ranges of emotion. In a way, his style reminds me a bit of Jaime Hernandez’s, particularly in his later work (as opposed to that slightly rougher-edged, but still wonderfully expressive, artwork on view in those panels above).

He was a wonderful artist, and judging by some of the tributes I’ve seen on Twitter, he seemed to be a pretty darn good guy as well. I mean, look at this swell Scarecrow he drew for a little kid.

My most sincere condolences to his family, friends and fans. So long, Steve.
 
 

image from Hellblazer #63 (March 1993)

Tim Durkee (1976 – 2016).

§ September 2nd, 2016 § Filed under obituary § 1 Comment

One of my fellow Troublemakers over at Trouble with Comics, Tim Durkee, passed away this week. Alan David Doane has posted a remembrance over at the site that I hope you’ll take the time to read.

Tim’s last contribution to TwC was this convention report, which went up only days before his passing. Of course, you should check out his other posts on the site as well.

I didn’t really know Tim beyond what he wrote for the site, but clearly he loved comics, loved the community, and loved writing about both (even if either/or didn’t quite live up to his standards!). I’m glad he had the opportunity to share his thoughts on this industry, and sorry that he had to leave so soon. My condolences to his family and friends.

So long, Tim.

Gaspar Saladino (1926(?) – 2016).

§ August 5th, 2016 § Filed under obituary, swamp thing § 2 Comments

Gaspar Saladino was the letterer’s letterer, providing logos and text for many a comic book for several decades, for Marvel and DC, and designed logos for all the 1970s Atlas books (such as this great one for Grim Ghost), and many, many more.

And of course he created the logo for a comic book series of particular importance to me:

swampthinglogocvr6
And also did the lettering within, designing the distinct balloons for both Swamp Thing’s thoughts and his rare vocalization:

swampthing6panel
He was a great talent, and an essential part of the look-and-feel of those early Swamp Thing comics. He’ll be missed.

Mark Evanier has an obituary (he mentions that there’s some question to Saladino’s actual birth year, hence the question mark in this post’s title), and Todd Klein has an overview of some of Saladino’s early DC work (parts 1 2 3).

So long, Gaspar.

Jack, Richard, and Jerry.

§ July 29th, 2016 § Filed under obituary § 4 Comments

As I’m sure you may have heard, Jack Davis, “MAD‘s Maddest Artist,” passed away this week at the age of 91. Now, I loved MAD, and I loved the work of Jack Davis both there and in the other EC Comics (this is probably my favorite horror cover of his). If you remember, a few years back a rumor briefly went around that Mr. Davis had passed away, and I had a tribute post ready to go. I held off posting ’til I had confirmation, and of course it turned out he was fine. But, not one to let a little bit of work go to waste, I posted it anyway, because why not celebrate a great talent while he’s still with us? We should do that more often.

So, here’s that post, with plenty of links to samples of his work. Like all of the man’s art isn’t permanently embedded in our collective consciousness anyway.

Another comics artist passed away this week: Richard Thompson, creator of the strip Cul de Sac. Unfortunately, his strip ran at a time when I wasn’t really paying attention to the comic strip world, beyond archival reprints of other older strips. I’d seen his work, of course, and always made the mental note of “I’ve got to dig into his material,” but never got around to it. What I’ve seen of it, though, has always impressed, and it’s clear from the outpouring of grief at his loss just how much love and respect he had earned. In a way, I’m sort of lucky…I still get to discover how wonderful his talent was, and that excitement of being exposed to a new great work is still before me. This time, I will seek it out, and not just put it on the back burner.

Also passed away this week is one of the stars of the Babylon 5 television series, Jerry Doyle, who played Garibaldi. He was the down-to-earth, sardonic voice that grounded all the alien warfare and ancient prophecies and other sci-fi shenanigans…sort of a gruff “everyguy” that you couldn’t help but like, even as the character went through some dark places. The creator of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski, wrote this funny and touching tribute.

As much as I want to write “enough already, 2016,” I’m going to point you to pal Andrew who has some smart words on what Achewood so accurately calls “the only game in town.”

THE CHAMP.

§ June 3rd, 2016 § Filed under obituary Comments Off on THE CHAMP.

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from All New Collectors’ Edition #C-56 (1978) – by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Terry Austin

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