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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Steve Dillon (1962-2016)

Steve Dillon, the artist of Vertigo series' Hellblazer and Preacher who since 2000 has worked extensively for Marvel Comics, most notably on Wolverine: Origins and various Punisher titles, has died at the age of 54. His death was confirmed on Saturday, 22 October, by his brother, Glyn, who posted on Twitter (@glyn_dillon) "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." His son, Anthony, has said that Dillon passed away peacefully in his sleep.

Dillon had suffered bouts of illness in recent years but had turned himself around. He was a heavy drinker for many years—my only meetings with him were at the hotel bar during UKCAC, which he treated purely as a social occasion, never attending any of the scheduled programmes—but, according to Rich Johnston (Bleeding Cool), he had lately become teetotal and had slimmed down dramatically. "He still hit the bars, though now with a glass of lemonade, and remained the life and soul. He would always have a kind word to see me – but then that was true of everyone who came up to say hi."

Stephen Lloyd Dillon was born in London on 22 March 1962. His family soon moved to Luton and he attended Icknield High School where his talent for drawing comics led the 15-year-old Dillon to co-produce with school friends Neil Bailey and Paul Mahon a stripzine entitled Ultimate Science Fiction. His professional debut came in 1979 in the pages of Hulk Comic where he drew 19 weekly episodes of 'Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD' from the first issue and contributed a tale of the title character to the second. He was soon contributing to Doctor Who Weekly where he worked regularly with Steve Moore, with whom he created Dalek-killer, Abslom Daak.

His debut in 2000AD was with a 2-part Alan Moore yarn, which led to him working on 'The Mean Arena' (1981) and Judge Dredd, including work on the 'City of the Damned' (1984-85) and 'Oz' (1987) storylines. He drew Garth Ennis's Dredd debut, 'Emerald Isle' (1991), which marked the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration between the two.

A prolific artist throughout the eighties, he also drew 'Laser Eraser and Pressbutton' for Warrior (1982-83), 'Rogue Trooper', 'ABC Warriors', 'Tyranny Rex' and 'The Harlem Heroes' for 2000AD (1984-90), 'Dice Man' for Dice Man (1986) and 'Sharp', 'B-Bob and Lula' and 'Johnny Nemo' for Deadline (1988-89), which he helped co-found. His credits also include illustrating the book How to be a Superhero by Mark Leigh and Mike Lepine (1990) and work for the Comic Relief Comic (1991).

Although he made his US debut with a Doctor Strange story in 1988, he quickly became associated with Vertigo, working with Peter Milligan on Skreemer (1989) and Garth Ennis on Hellblazer (1992-94). When Ennis ended his run on the latter, the two created Preacher (1995-2000), about a troubled small town preacher possessed by a supernatural entity. The series was critically acclaimed but religiously controversial and while the comic sold well for a Vertigo title, the wider audience was only found as issues were collected in book form (nine volumes, 1996-2001; re-released in six volumes 2009-14).

For a decade, various attempts were made to turn the strip first into a movie and then a TV series at HBO. Eventually, in 2013, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin developed the character for a 10-part series for AMC with Ennis and Dillon as executive producers. The show was met with very positive reviews and a second season commissioned.

With Preacher concluded, Ennis and Dillon moved to Marvel to relaunch The Punisher (2001-03) under the 'Marvel Knights' brand and through various mini-series including Punisher Vs. Bullseye (2005-06) and Punisher: War Zone (2009). Ennis relaunched the character in 2004 under the 'Max' brand; after 75 issues the title was relaunched as PunisherMAX (2010-12) with Jason Aaron writing.

After a stint on Thunderbolts (2013), Dillon recently relaunched Punisher once again, with writer Becky Cloonan, and was also working on Scarlet Witch.

Dillon was in New York to attend New York Comic Con and had stayed on for a holiday. Divorced, he is survived by his former wife Marie and three sons.

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