(Image: Vertigo)

Variety is reporting that Steve Dillon, the comic artist best known for co-creating Vertigo’s massively successful Preacher with frequent collaborator Garth Ennis, has died.

Like so many members of the “British Invasion” that swept American comicdom in the 1980s, Dillon got his start drawing for Doctor Who Magazine and the venerable pulp of 2000 AD. The latter paid tribute to its late artist on Twitter today, showcasing his talent for intense, almost grotesque emotion with one of his old Judge Dredd covers.

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In the late ’80s, Dillon made the move to the States to work for DC Comics. After bouncing between a few different projects (Skreecher, the post-Grant Morrison Animal Man), Dillon was placed on Hellblazer, depicting the supernatural adventures of chain-smoking magus John Constantine. While working on the Vertigo title, Dillon fell into sync with its then-current writer, Garth Ennis, setting off a collaboration that would define both men’s careers for the next decade.

(Image: Vertigo)

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After their run on Hellblazer came to a close, Ennis and Dillon began working on a sprawling, violent, darkly comic road trip called Preacher. Across 66 issues, Dillon and Ennis used disaffected holy man Jesse Custer to explore issues ranging from American masculinity to John Wayne to the nature of religion. (They also made an absolutely tremendous number of dick jokes, showcasing Dillon’s skill at using pauses and reaction shots to sell a gag.)

Preacher’s Herr Starr, admiring his new scar. (Image: Vertigo)

After years of attempts, Preacher was adapted into a TV series this year on AMC, spearheaded by Seth Rogen. Rogen went on social media today to express his condolences for Dillon’s death:

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After Preacher finished up its run in 2000, Dillon and Ennis both moved over to Marvel. There, they took on The Punisher, with the pivotal Welcome Back, Frank transforming the character from a grim-and-gritty laughingstock back into a figure of menace, pain, and power. Eschewing superhero trappings, the series redefined Frank Castle as lone wolf and soldier, with a single goal: kill every criminal in his path.

(Image: Marvel)

Not that it was uniformly dark:

(Image: Marvel)

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Dillon would work on The Punisher off-and-on for the rest of his career; he reunited with Ennis in 2009 for a six-issue run of Punisher: War Zone, and was one of the artists on Becky Cloonan’s current run on the character. One of his last published pieces of work, meanwhile, brought him back to his very first collaboration with his long-time partner: a cover for Sixpack And Dogwelder #2 (written by Ennis), featuring John Constantine being menaced by the two deranged “heroes.”

(Image: DC Comics)

Dillon was 54; his death was reported by his younger brother, cartoonist Glyn Dillon, earlier today.

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