Bernie Wrightson, co-creator of DC Comics’ movie-starring creature Swamp Thing, died after a battle with brain cancer. He was 68. His wife, Liz Wrightson, confirmed the news via her husband’s website this morning.
“It is with great sorrow that I must announce the passing of my beloved husband, Bernie. We thank you for all the years of love and support,” Liz wrote.
In addition to two feature films – the first directed by Wes Craven – the human/plant hybrid Swamp Thing character had its own self-titled TV series on USA Network from 1990-93.
Wrightson, born October 27, 1948, was known for his horror illustrations and comic books. His career began in 1966, working for The Baltimore Sun newspaper as an illustrator. In 1968 he showed copies of his sequential art to DC Comics editor Dick Giordano and was given a freelance assignment. Wrightson continued to work on a slew of projects for DC and Marvel Comics, then in 1971, he and writer Len Wein co-created the creature Swamp Thing for DC.
In 1982 Craven directed the horror film Swamp Thing, based on Wrightson and Wein’s character. The film told the story of how a violent incident with a special chemical transformed a research scientist into a swamp plant monster. The film received generally positive reviews and overtime became a cult classic. In 1989 a low-budget sequel titled The Return of Swamp Thing was released.
Wrightson also co-created Destiny, later to become famous in the work of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. After leaving DC Comics, he worked on 50 detailed pen-and-ink illustrations that accompanied a 1983 version of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, he drew the poster for the Stephen King horror film Creepshow, as well as did the illustrations for the comic book adaptation, and continued to work with King on Cycle of the Werewolf, the restored edition of King’s apocalyptic horror epic The Stand, and art for the hardcover editions of From a Buick 8 and Dark Tower V.
Comics characters he worked on included Spiderman, Batman and The Punisher, and he provided painted covers for the DC comics Nevermore and Toe Tags, among many others. Recent works include Frankenstein Alive Alive, Dead She Said, the Ghoul and Doc Macabre (IDW Publishing) all co-created with horror author Steve Niles, and several print/poster/sketchbooks series produced by Nakatomi.
As a conceptual artist, Bernie worked on many horror genre movies and well-known films including Ghostbusters, The Faculty, Galaxy Quest, Spiderman, George Romero’s Land of the Dead, and Frank Darabont’s Stephen King film The Mist.
He is survived by his wife, two sons, John and Jeffrey, and one stepson, Thomas Adamson.
Upon hearing the news, Guillermo del Toro, Joss Whedon and more Hollywood industry players sent their condolences.