Saturday, October 31, 2015

Who's the Best... Monster and/or Horror Artist?

Karen: Happy Halloween friends. Today we're talking about who's the best Bronze Age horror or monster artist. A lot of great names...Ploog, Wrightson, Colan instantly come to mind. Who's your choice for the top spot in comic book horror from the 70s/80s? And you can name others.

Bernie Wrightson

Mike Ploog

Gene Colan


Rip Jagger said...

The name that first comes to mind when I think of Marvel horror of the 70's is Mike Ploog, the artist who first drew Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider, Frankenstein's Monster, and some significant issues of Man-Thing. His Eisner-style was different and properly moody for the material.

At DC and Warren and elsewhere at this time was Berni Wrightson, doing bang up work on ghost stories and eventually even his work of love illustrating Frankenstein.

At Charlton there was Pat Boyette, the only artist I know who also directed a horror movie, The Dungeon of Harrow. It's not that good, but his artwork was ideal for atmospheric period horror which was popular at Charlton and later at DC. Boyette's people never fit in a superhero universe, but they were perfect for a gothic horror setting.

But my favorite horror artist is a guy who rarely gets mentioned -- Jerry Grandenetti! Grandenetti drew the best horror stories ever, full of motion and mood and possessed of a complete oddball weirdness that made them seem to be of another world. I loved it then and having since seen it in black and white am even more convinced of his greatness in this area.

Other honorable mentions are the awesome Alex Toth (for DC and Warren), Tom Sutton (Marvel, Charlton, DC, Warren), and Tony DeZuniga (Marvel and DC). Toth drew great ghost stories, Sutton was born to draw the works of Lovecraft, and DeZuniga is the best artist I've ever seen handle gothic romance.

I'm sure I am forgetting someone.

Rip Off

William said...

I'd personally pick Gene Colan. I thought his style was much more suited to the horror genre than the superhero stuff. Maybe that's why I never really warmed up to him as the artist on Daredevil. (Even though he is probably most closely associated with that character).

Edo Bosnar said...

Although I have a personal soft spot in my heart for Ploog (particularly since he drew some great Man-Thing stories, I have to say that for me the reigning master of horror comics is Berni Wrightson. He's so adept at drawing exquisite figures (both beautiful and grotesque) and intricately detailed backgrounds - he just has no peer in this, I think.

And since Rip mentioned a few other artists (great call on both Grandinetti and, especially, Sutton), I'd add both Val Mayerik and Frank Brunner as two other masters of the supernatural/horror genre.

Humanbelly said...

Gene Colan, Rip-- probably the other luminary certainly worth including. But he's such an apt crossover guy that you wouldn't automatically think of him as a Horror artist first, right?

I think Mike Ploog is my own sentimental favorite, too. Although sometimes his panels could get a little cramped-- his sequences a little crowded. Marvel Spotlight #4 (the third WWBN issue, before it got a solo title), though, has always been a particularly beloved favorite-horror issue for me. It looks great. . . it's wonderfully moody and gothic. . . there are horribly gruesome survivors of human experiments. . . and I'm pretty sure still leaves the worst of sights to the imagination. [And as a cool side note, IIRC the human experiments have some vague link to the search for the Super Soldier Serum-- Marvel's eternal, one-size-fits-all, Holy Grail McGuffin that launched a thousand plotlines!] His work had a wonderful spontaneity to it-- very much like he was drawing intuitively rather than with deliberation--- man, I was sorry to see him go ('way back then). What the heck became of him?


Anonymous said...
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Martinex1 said...

It is so hard to chose from the three initially listed, Ploog, Wrightson, and Colan. All so very different yet all so great. Rip makes a good case for others as well. Forced to choose, I' d probably say Colan but that could change daily.

I'd also like to mention Nick Cardy. Probably not an artist most associated with horror, but his covers on many issues of DC's "Tales of the Unexpected" are so great. Those are covers that made me buy books. His skeletons, ghouls, shadows, fear in the victims' faces are all so well rendered. I really like his work on these issues intermittent from about 119 to 135.

Anonymous said...

Gene Colan for classic Universal/ Hammer-style horror, Mike Ploog for horror-action, Berni Wrightson for body-horror/decay... Hard to decide on just one Best! My gut says Gene the Dean as absolute master, but Wrightson gives him a run for his money.

My other pick for horror master is Richard Corben. There is something genuinely unsettling about the way he draws. No other artist can make a smile look so freaky.

- Mike Loughlin

RobAnderson said...

Happy Halloween, BAB folks! You pretty much hit the first three that would have come to mind for me. If I go by "most issues bought and read," it would have to be Colan. I had almost a complete run of TODracula, bought off the stands. But I have deep love in my heart for Ploog monsters, though much of his monster work I didn't see or read until years later. Wrightson's stuff is SO beautiful, but I read so little of it as a kid -- probably too scary, as he did draw one of the two comics that scared me most as a kid -- Swamp Thing #10, with all those freaky little creatures...

My own addition would be Val Mayerik. I loved just about everything he did in the 70's, but most especially some work in the late issues of Marvel's Frankenstein. (Though I loved his work in Man-Thing and on the Living Mummy, too...). Via a Kickstarter for an indy movie, I managed to get a small Frankenstein sketch from him recently and it's most prized. ;-)

pfgavigan said...


Alex Nino for me. I used to love those House of Mystery stories that he would do, those strange horror/sci fi hybrids. Usually one where the last panel consisted of the alien removing his humanoid mask in front of the helpless protagonist.

I guess another reason why I loved those was the sheer absurdity of somehow scrunching those inhuman features up and behind a mask of such life like proportions and texture that it could fool everyone around it.

Absurdity, that's an element that's been missing from comics for a long time. I think it's been substituted with a type of seriousness that borders on morbidity.



Redartz said...

A very Happy Halloween to one and all; and may your treat bags always be full (with no rocks...)!

For top choice, a see-saw balance between Ploog and Wrightson, but have to go with Bernie. His work has a beauty, and a dignity, along with a terrific sense of the macabre.

Ploog would be a very close second; like Edo and HB he is a sentimental favorite. His Man-Thing stories were among the first comics I bought, and were definitely the first of the horror genre (if you don't count Casper and Hot Stuff).

I applaud everyone's contributions, and have one more to add: not often associated with horror, but- Neal Adams. On the strength of his countless covers for House of Mystery and House of Secrets; covers that definitely grabbed your attention, and your coin. So many innocent children and dogs, about to wander unwittingly into a coven of eeeeevil.....

ColinBray said...

For overall impact on popular culture and imagination, Al Feldstein.

As an artist, Bernie Wrightson.

ColinBray said...
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Anonymous said...

Berni Wrightson, Gene Colan, Richard Corben... I can't really choose a best from that trio. They were/are all great - its a tie.

I find a lot to agree with in pfgavigan's comment, but while the mighty Alex Nino is a favourite of mine, he regularly worked in a variety of genres and I tend not to associate him with horror. Not that his House of Mystery stuff isn't really good, but his sf and fantasy stuff was even better.
You could probably say something very similar about Alfredo Alcala, who did some fantastic stuff in the Marvel black and white and DC horror anthologies.

Also, for anyone who read old British comics - Ken Reid, who drew Frankie Stein(:


Anonymous said...

On artists not usually associated with horror, I should also have mentioned Jack Kirby's work on the Demon. I'm a bit mad for 70S Kirby anyway, but even allowing for that there were some brilliantly hideous double page spreads in that series.

And seeing as Colin Bray mentioned Al Feldstein, surely Ghastly Graham Ingels also deserves a Halloween shout? (A bit before my time, though)


Anonymous said...

Most of my picks have already been mentioned...Colan, Wrightson, Corben, Ploog; what about Reed Crandall? Near the end, he kinda lost his touch, but his late 60s Warren stuff was classic.

Mike Wilson

J.A. Morris said...

I'm going with these guys in this order:Wrightson, Colan and Nino. I'm going with Wrightson because I was exposed to his Swamp-Thing stories by a friend at an impressionable. I'm in agreement with pfgavigan, a little more absurdity would be great to see in comics

david_b said...

Agreeing heavily with Ploog, but I disagree with William on Colan as s heroic artist. He brought a great sense of heaviness (perhaps feelings of burden) to both IM and DD in the '60s. You never quite knew what was lurking in the shadows, but his facial work was always etched with concern for guys like Stark and Murdock that heightened the suspense of any story.

I liked Colan on Doc Strange, but occasionally I found his Strange a bit overly-lush and pined for the old, more purist and austere Ditko layouts.

Humanbelly said...

Big ol' OT, but golly--

Doorbell rang only three times tonight for a total of 10 Trick-or-Treaters. And it's a perfect cool October evening out there. The Luigi (from Luigi's Mansion) costume I assembled for myself got a heart-warming reaction from those few that came-- but gosh I'm just so sad that this event has pretty much disappeared in our once-busy neighborhood. It was so much fun for us when the Littlebellies were. . . little, y'know?

Hmm-- is that a potential post for us sometime? Golden Age of Trick-or-Treating memories?


Anonymous said...

Happy Halloween everyone!

Hmm can't add much else to what everyone has already said here - loved Colan's run on Dracula and Ploog's work on Werewolf by Night, but to me when anyone mentions 'great horror artist' I automatically think of Berni Wrightson and Swamp Thing! Of course, once an artist is good his work will be good across the board, like Colan's DD.

- Mike 'putting garlic and crosses all around my room' from Trinidad & Tobago.

pfgavigan said...


Hey Humanbelly,

I go up to my mom's house every year to handle the Halloween duties for her. This year we had one hundred and twelve Trick or Treaters.

Every year I hunt down boxes of bulk comics on line to purchase and hand out. One of the parents asked why I always do that and I replied, "I'm not stopping with their teeth, I'm going for their brains as well!!"

In actuality, I couldn't think of anything that could go better with a bag full of candy than a comic book or two.



Edo Bosnar said...

PFG, if you had been around when I was a kid, I would have kept changing masks and coming back to your door to get as many free comic books as possible...

Humanbelly said...

That is a first-rate variation on the ol' T-or-T theme, pfg-- and I also applaud your industry in putting forth that kind of extra effort to make it happen. The three or four times we went when I was a kid, there was a lady who gave out little Halloween storybook pamphlets, usually with a Christian-themed message worked into them. It was kind of a neat diversion, I must say. Cheap little toys/trinkets with a Halloween/ghost/witch/etc theme? Pfft-- worthless, really. By the next morning, they were passe'--- time to start workin' on the Thanksgiving Turkey hand-tracing projects. . .

Golly, 112-- we may have gone that high possibly once or twice in the past 25 years. . . but the past five have simply been demoralizing (and I do a pretty darned fun, unique job of decorating our lawn in a kid-friendly way, I must say!). Perhaps it's a shifting demographic; perhaps the "hot" neighborhoods slowly migrate as the decades pass by. A friend of a friend had over 200 callers last night, she said.

HB-- the Lonely Ghost

Garett said...

Wrightson for me! Loved Swamp Thing-- great inking, layouts, everything. Colan's Dracula comes in a close second place, and Ploog, while I like him, comes a distant third to these 2 masters. Perhaps Bernie's inking is what pulls him away from Colan.

My band played a Halloween Bash last night. We went as Duck Dynasty (a show I've watched all of once), and we looked enough like ZZ Top that we had to play one of their tunes. Also pulled out some Halloween classics: Spooky, I Put a Spell On You, Monster Mash, Flying Purple People Eater, and Ghostbusters! Great fun!

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