Sad news in the comic book world as it’s been reported today that artist Steve Dillon died in New York City at the age of 54.
Dillon leaves behind a widely-respected body of work, from his time in England to his work here in the states for both Marvel and DC. His work on both Punisher and Hellblazer includes some of the most iconic moments for the characters in those books, working with his frequent collaborator, writer Garth Ennis.
But for me, I will always be grateful to Dillon for his work on Preacher, which he co-created with Ennis.
The tale of a Texas preacher imbued with the Word of God, searching for a creator that quit his creation, was a sensation in the 1990s, a benchmark series for the Vertigo imprint at DC Comics. The story ran for 66 issues (plus some specials) – the number of books in the Bible – between 1995 and 2000. Ennis’s wonderful words combined with Dillon’s uniquely expressive art style made Preacher one Vertigo’s most iconic comic books.
Preacher is easily-identifiable for it’s hyper-violent imagery, with its protagonist Jesse Custer punching and kicking his way around the country and around the world, or his pal Cassidy, an alcoholic Irish vampire who would frequently sink his fangs into an unwitting human meal, and Dillon’s art style played well with the carnage throughout the tale. But what sometimes gets overlooked when discussing Preacher is the softer moments, the character-building scenes and the love story between Jesse Tulip.
The second collected edition, “Until the End of the World,” was one of the first comic book stories to bring me to tears, as Jesse recounted to his erstwhile girlfriend Tulip his screwed-up childhood, being raised by his gran’ma and her bodyguards, Jody and TC, after his father was shot and killed in front of him. Jesse’s father’s advice to his son surely stuck with any fan of the series.
These moments, already touching through Ennis’ words, become absolutely heart-wrenching with Dillon’s art. I can’t imagine Preacher with anyone else sketching the characters out.
For close to two decades, there was talk of adapting Preacher to live action, either as a big budget feature film or on television. Earlier this year, Dillon and Ennis got to see their work come to life when AMC debuted the new Preacher series with Dominic Cooper as Jesse. Joseph Gilgun, who plays Cassidy, looks like he popped out of one of Dillon’s pages and on to the screen.
Dillon’s family hasn’t released many details about his death, just that he passed away recently in New York City, but losing such a talent at the age of 54 is simply devastating. His work will surely be missed by his fans as much as the person himself.