Year of the Artist, Day 32: Bernie Wrightson, Part 2 – Dreadstar #7
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Bernie Wrightson, and the story is “Devolutionary Dilemma!”, the back-up story in Dreadstar #7, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 1983. Enjoy!
Wrightson wrote and drew back-up stories in Dreadstar #6 and 7 featuring Aldo Gorney and Farquat, two comical characters that, as far as I can tell, never appeared anywhere else. His style is a bit more cartoony than we saw yesterday, but it’s still Wrightson. Let’s get to it!
Wrightson, like all good artists, is able to give his characters a lot of personality without using too much space, and he does it well with Farquat, the weird mechanical sidekick to Aldo, who’s the wizard-looking dude in Panel 2. Notice Farquat’s body language as he (?) tries to stop the devolution machine – Aldo wants to figure out how a common lizard can regenerate its tail, so he wants to devolve it so he can study it. Of course, he gets a phone call, so Farquat has to look after the machine. Just by the way he draws Farquat’s body, we can see how badly things are going. In Panel 5, the way he draws Farquat leaning forward and the few motion lines are enough to show his worry, and the way he splays his hands out as he rushes toward us in Panel 6 helps show his panic. Obviously, Wrightson uses pictograms to help convey what he’s thinking, but Farquat itself is enough.
Sometimes you don’t need to do much more than draw an imposing figure, and Wrightson gives us that here. Scooter the lizard has turned into a stegosaurus, and it’s not happy. Even though it’s just a drawing in one panel, Wrightson still does a nice job guiding our eye down its back along the row of spikes to Aldo and Farquat, who are skedaddling off the page. Everything pushes us that way, until we reach Scooter’s mouth, where he’s chomping on Aldo’s telephone (Wrightson hadn’t conceived of advances in phone technology, so this future features really old-fashioned telephones) while Farquat pulls Aldo out of the way. This small corner of the panel makes it more dynamic, and of course leads our eyes to the right and toward the next page.
Yesterday, I showed a sequence of panels where Swamp Thing comes toward the bad guy from the background, with Wrightson staying with the bad guy and making Swamp Thing bigger in each panel. He does a similar thing here, although this is a chase, so we get Aldo in Panel 1, and then Scooter smashing through the wall in the next three panels, with Wrightson drawing it larger in each panel. Instead of Swamp Thing slowly getting closer, he makes Scooter “bigger” by having him slowly crash through the small door and the metal wall, so that more of him is revealed (yes, he’s also coming closer, but more slowly than Swamp Thing was). Wrightson doesn’t forget Aldo – in Panel 2, his eyes are almost closed, so confident is he in the wall’s strength, and then his eyes slowly open as Scooter bursts through. Wrightson cleverly shreds the sound effects, too, so that the word “split” is actually split when Scooter smashes through the wall. As we’ve seen, Wrightson knows how to use cinematic effects to his advantage, but the destruction of the sound effects is all COMICS!!!!
I have nothing much to say about this except to point out that Aldo is flying in a statue that, in issue #6, he retrofitted into a spaceship, and he ejects Scooter into space through the statue’s boob. COMICS!!!!
So that’s a strange little story in the Wrightson oeuvre. It’s more cartoony than Swamp Thing, but it’s still in that style, for the most part. Next, we’ll head to the late 1980s, where his style gets a bit darker. Join me, won’t you? Or don’t. That’s cool. But don’t neglect the archives! They don’t deserve to be ignored!