Influential comic artist Steve Dillon, known for his frequent collaborations with writer Garth Ennis that included acclaimed runs on DC-Vertigo’s Hellblazer and Marvel’s The Punisher and, most notably, co-creating the seminal Vertigo series Preacher recently adapted for television on AMC, has died. He was 54, and his brother, Glyn, confirmed on Twitter that he passed away in New York City sometime this morning.
Born in 1962 in Luton, England, Dillon started his career in comics in 1980, providing art for licensed Doctor Who comics. But like many of his contemporaries, his career took off on the pages of British comic anthology magazine 2000 A.D. From 1981 through 1991, Dillon worked on some of 2000 A.D.‘s most iconic titles, including Rogue Trooper, Bad Company, and Judge Dredd.
Dillon would go on to become an important part of a generation of British and Irish comic creators recruited by DC Comics in the wake of Alan Moore’s acclaimed run on Swamp Thing and the enormous success of his Watchmen. Including luminaries like Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Glenn Fabry, and Northern Ireland-born Ennis, among many others, the output of this group in the 1980s and early ’90s expanded the range of acceptable topics as well as the quality of art and dialogue. Along the way, it established an adult audience for a medium that had long been dismissed in the United States as juvenile.
Dillon made his official debut with the publisher as an artist on the Skreemer miniseries in 1989, and the next year began a 15-issue run on the publisher’s Animal Man. In 1992, he was paired for the first time with Garth Ennis for a celebrated run on Hellblazer, the comic series featuring working class wizard John Constantine. For the next two years, Ennis and Dillon worked together on 24 issues, honing a macabre and blasphemous style of humor that they would fully realize the next year with their most famous creation, Preacher.
Running for 75 issues from 1995-2000, Preacher was instantly notorious, profanely celebrating American popular culture, blasting religious fundamentalism and governmental oppression, and celebrating outright blasphemy. Mining the decade’s obsession with conspiracy theories, Preacher gleefully pushed every button and social taboo it could, with Dillon’s bright, colorful art style perfectly matched to Ennis’ scripts. Depicting, and parodying, a litany of atrocities and horrors, Dillon’s art was essential in reinforcing the series’ bleakly comedic tone. But he was also adept at subtle characterizations, allowing the series to flip from the disgusting to the romantic and back again on a dime.
After years of attempted film adaptations, a television series based on Preacher debuted on AMC earlier this year with Dillon serving as an executive producer on the first season alongside Ennis. Series creators Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin are self-described Preacher fanatics, and as such Rogen and Goldberg paid tribute to Dillon as news of his death became public.
Dillon’s other credits include Punisher: War Zone, Ultimate X-Men, The Ultimates, and many others.
Read on for tributes from Dillon’s colleagues and admirers in the comics world.