Friday, May 8, 2009

Uncle Bill's Barrel

"Uncle Bill's Barrel" is Bernie Wrightson's second published comic book story. It first appeared in the fanzine Graphic Showcase #2, dated Summer 1969. (Later reprinted in the book Badtime Stories) Another early Wrightson story, "A Case of Conscience," appeared in Castle of Frankenstein magazine the previous year. This early effort by Bernie shows the influence of Frank Frazetta as much of Wrightson's early work does. The shotgun wedding panel on page 7 looks like it could be from Frazetta's run on "Lil' Abner." But "Uncle Bill's Barrel" shows an already growing mastery of line that became one of the hallmarks of his work. It is a humorous story of moonshine loving backwoods zombie. Bernie attempts and pulls off some nice compositions such as the panel at the top of the third page. The body being pulled out of the water provides the immediate focal point of the panel. The rope and the figures pulling on it naturally leads the reader from left to right to the spectators in the foreground. The middle panel on page 4 nicely conveys the shock and explosion of movement as Bill's corpse leaps out of the coffin.

I recall reading somewhere that Carmine Infantino saw a set of negative photostats of this story which led to Bernie getting his first job at DC Comics. "Uncle Bill's Barrel" was a fine early effort by a then up and coming young artist already showing some of the trademark mannerisms and craftmanship that would make Wrightson's work so unique and captivating in the years to come.
















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