1984: Berni Wrightson, Master of the Macabre

Berni Wrightson, Master of the Macabre (1983) #1-4, Berni Wrightson, Master of the Macabre (1984) #5 by Berni Wrightson et al.

The first four issues of this series was published by Pacific Comics. Eclipse took over when Pacific sank.

Bruce Jones (who has written a lot of horror comics, including some in this series) provides a page on introduction to each issue (except the final one).

The first two and a half issues are reprints from various Warren comics and are mostly written by Wrightson himself. Wrightson uses a number of art techniques, but the ones that survive the shrinkage and colouring best are perhaps the ones like this, with pen and brush and ink and simpler, lines.

But, man, nobody does a shouting man better than Wrightson. All that passion. All those lines. All that nice colouring by Steve Oliff for this edition.

And creeping horror, of course. Nice kitty!

Bruce Jones says that “Jenifer” (also from a Warren magazine) is his (and perhaps Wrightson’s) best-known work. And it’s true, it very memorable: It’s at least 30 years since I’ve read it, and even as forgetful as I am, I remembered that name.

And that face! So beautifully horrendous. In this colour version, it looks a bit like Richard Corben, I think?

It’s still a pretty horrifying tale, only let down by the O. Henry ending.

I think this was originally done in black-and-white washes, but Oliff manages to add colour tastefully.

Anyway, they ran out of Warren stories in the middle of #3, so the rest are from stuff Wrightson did in the late 60s and early 70s and published in places like Witzend and Badtime Stories.

Yes, Wrightson can do humour, too. Gruesome humour, but still.

Uhm… Uhm… Actually, I remember that page from when I was a teenager, too, and I wondered the same thing as now: Just what is the joke here exactly? Hm…  Oh!  Those are eyes instead of nipples on the breasts?  Perhaps it was clearer in the original black and white.

Some of the early stuff is horribly over-written.

And one single story has collaborative artwork: This one is with Jeff Jones and Alan Weiss. And Pacific decided to print this final issue on coated, shiny paper, which makes that blacks pop even more. Perhaps the entire series should have been like that…

And then we get to the concluding issue published by Eclipse, and it’s back to dull paper. And this issue has the earliest work, I think. It’s not as accomplished as the stuff in the earlier issues.

I mean, it’s not bad or anything, but it’s also let down by less crisp printing than the Pacific issues.

From an interview in Comics Journal #100:

ANDREW CHRISTIE: Let’s begin by talking about what you ‘ve been doing since last you spoke for publication in these page in 1982. The reprint series Berni Wrightson, Master of the Macabre came out from Pacific, and then from Eclipse. Was that your doing or Jim Warren’s? Did you get any money from Pacific on the deal? What did think of it?

BERNI WRIGHTSON: 1 wasn’t real impressed; that stuff was never intended to be in color.. I don’t know. I just didn’t think it looked so good. I did get paid.

CHRISTIE: Oh! That makes you unique.

WRIGHTSON: (laughter) I guess so, yeah.

Berni Wrightson continued to create comics for just about all comics publishers until he died in 2017. Many of the comics here seem to have never been reprinted anywhere else, which is very weird. Time seems over due to do a proper retrospective on Wrightson’s work.

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