It’s been a few days since I heard about the passing of Steve Dillon, one of the artists I most strongly associate with my years reading 2000AD. I always liked his clean, minimalist style. His Dredd stripped the character down to his bare essentials – shoulderpads, helmet, chin and snarl. I could never really draw, but if I could, I would have wanted to have those clean lines and effortless use of white space. I’m not someone who tends to dwell on art. I want to take it in quickly and move the story on and in this respect, none of the other 2000AD artists could match him (except, perhaps, Steve Yeowell, whose art on Zenith is still some of my favourite B&W inked work ever, in any form).
I had one of the Titan collections of Judge Dredd (20, I believe) that had all its stories illustrated by Dillon. I still have massive affection Alabamy Blimps and the Fightin’ Feudin’, Feedin’, Flatin’ McCoys, as well as Big Mama with her hungry smile and jaunty bowler hat.
Although he went on to work for the American companies, I didn’t really follow his work there. He worked mainly on Preacher with Garth Ennis (a writer I’m really not fond of) and Punisher (a character I actively despise). Added to this, his art never sat well with me when rendered in colour. To me, it was always best in black and white, printed on the low-grade paper 2000AD used in the eighties and nineties. As well as Dredd, he worked on Tyranny Rex and Rogue Trooper.
One piece of work that I didn’t remember until the other day – and the thing that prompted writing this – were his illustrations for Leigh & Leipine’s How to be a Superhero (out of print, but available used from Amazon). I bought it when I was about 14 and devoured it again and again. The writing was pitched perfectly at a teenager who knew how silly superheroes were and still loved them anyway. Steve’s art was what set it apart, though, and seeing the clarity of his one or two page strips and illustrations raised it above other things I’d seen that tried to spoof the capes and costume genre.
And, yeah, all the faces he drew looked the same. But you could say the same about Charles Schultz, so shut up.
Thanks, Steve. You were great.