Scores of tributes are pouring in from the comics community following the death this weekend of artist Steve Dillon, the co-creator of “Preacher” and one of the defining artists of Marvel’s “Punisher” and Vertigo’s “Hellblazer.” For those who knew him, or had met him even once, and for the many more who admired and were inspired by his work, two themes emerged: first, his friendliness, good nature and powerful humor, and second, his astonishing skill as a storyteller from a young age.
“Storyteller” is the word that’s used, even more than artist. His influence upon a generation of illustrators, both peers and up-and-comers, was substantial. On Twitter after his passing, Frank Miller described Dillon as “one of our best quiet dramatists,” while fellow “Punisher” artist Mitch Gerads wrote, “Steve Dillon was a master storyteller. ‘Preacher,’ ‘Punisher,’ all of it done with so much exceptional skill + magic. We lost one of the greats.”
But writers also praised Dillon’s storytelling power, citing its influence on their own work. Kieron Gillen, describing Dillon’s death as an “enormous loss,” characterized the artist as “one of the most gifted comic storytellers I’ve ever seen.” Scott Snyder also called Dillon a “master storyteller — brilliantly immersive, true original.”
“I can think of few works that had a bigger impact on me than ‘Preacher,;” Gerard Way wrote on his Facebook page. “Some of the themes, and in some cases titles (although slightly altered), ended up in [My Chemical Romance’s] ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge.’ For a time, as an intern working at DC Comics in NYC back in the day, I used to be the one to photocopy Steve Dillon’s work for editor Axel Alonso as it would come into the office. I remember learning so much about storytelling from simply absorbing and marveling at Steve’s work. And being such a huge Preacher fan at the time, it was a real treat to read the story this way.”
Dillon’s “pages were as fluid as camerawork, as efficient and composed as theater,” Warren Ellis told The New York Times.
Born in 1962 in London, England, Dillon’s comics career began at age 16, contributing to Marvel UK’s “Hulk Weekly.” He was a regular in many U.K. comics magazines, including “Doctor Who Magazine,” the anthology “Warrior,” and of course “2000 AD,” where he drew “Judge Dredd,” “Rogue Trooper” and “Bad Company.” With artist Brett Ewins, Dillon founded the influential “Deadline” magazine, an indie take on the British anthology formula, which introduced to the world Jamie Hewlitt and Alan Martin’s Tank Girl and premiered titles by Peter Milligan, Philip Bond and more.
Dillon’s best-known works, though, are his hugely influential collaborations with writer Garth Ennis on “Hellblazer,” “Punisher” and their original series “Preacher,” recently adapted to television for AMC. The writer-artist team infused their work with a dark, conspiratorial humor, rich characterization, and complex morality.
Dillon passed away in New York, City where he’d recently attended New York Comic Con, of a ruptured appendix. He was 54. His legacy will continue through young writers and artists who discover “Preacher” for the first time.
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