Picking up a copy of UK monthly Warrior from its first edition in 1982, with its Dillon-penned illustration of Laser Eraser and Pressbutton, I knew very little about the contents, but knew that the look of the characters were instantly engaging. I’d seen his work before and his name was one of the first that I knew and remembered – in an age (and at an age) where artists were often interchangeable and anonymous to their young customers. I had some artistic and design ability and a desire to illustrate. I didn’t have the temperament or skill for comics work but knew that if I did, I’d want to it to look something like Dillon’s art.
One of the first artists I ever met ‘in real life’ at a comic convention, Dillon was talented, self-deprecating and completely approachable to his fans (most professional comics types are at least some of those – but not always all three to such a degree). He could often be found in the bar, though in recent years had become tee-total, but was still just as approachable.
His work over the years, far too much to mention here in full, was distinctive without being derivative. Ultimately many people tried to copy his style but it was a unique fingerprint that adorned many a cover and thousands of inside pages in total (I even bought an original Rogue Trooper page of his art). He might have laughed at the idea of being considered a ‘veteran’ of the comics industry, but he was – and an important one. Well known for his sense of humour and an attitude that balanced the demands of that industry with a true sense of subversive fun, he often found himself working alongside equally irascible talents on edgy material. From his first professional work on the weekly HULK Comic, Judge Dredd (in the 2000AD title), the early days of Doctor Who Magazine (for which created the cult character Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer) founding the Deadline anthology (ahead of its time) and his mainstream work on the likes of the controversial ‘mature’ titles such as Hellblazer, Preacher (he was co-producer on the current tv adaptation from AMC) and Punisher – it all proved as popular as ever. .
Dillon was active as recently as the last week, tweeting as usual and with new comics hitting the stands and stores. He was due to attend the Thought Bubble event in Leeds in just a few weeks time, along with his brother, Glyn (a fellow artist and currently costume-designer on the untitled Han Solo film). As rumours of his passing began to circulate on twitter, Glyn and writer Warren Ellis both confirmed the news: Glyn said: “Sad to confirm the death of Steve, my big brother and my hero. He passed away in the city he loved (NYC). He will be sorely missed. Cheers x” , with Ellis adding: “I have it confirmed that Steve Dillon has died. He was a giant, and will be much missed”
“Steve Dillon was an enormously talented illustrator who, with Garth Ennis, created a cult classic comic we were so proud to bring to television with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Sam Catlin and our partners at Sony. He will be missed,” AMC said in a statement..
The cause of death is believed to have been a burst appendix, though he had not been in the best of health in the last year. He was only 53.
We send condolences to his family, friends and many, many fans.