Last weekend in New York, comic book artist Steve Dillon passed away. Dillon, famous for his landmark work on series such as Preacher, was 54. Dillon’s work also included DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer, Garth Ennis’ Hitman, and Wolverine: Origins.
Anyone who read the books Dillon illustrated knew what a tremendous talent he was. Preacher, a genre-bending exploitation classic, was my first introduction to him. The world he drew in those pages was one of limitless possibility. One moment, you would watch angels and demons do epic battle, the next, two characters reminiscing about their glory days over a cigarette and a glass of whisky. His work was a unique blend of the real and surreal, and Dillon was an expert and creating the intersection between the two.
Recently adapted for television, Preacher has stood as a hallmark of Americana-satire in pop-culture. Dillon, a British native, came at Americana imagery with a ferocious, twisted take on the meaning behind our national symbols. The Saint of Killers (a take on Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name) stands as one of the most iconic villains/anti-heroes in all of comic book history.
His run on Punisher, “Welcome Back Frank,” features some of the anti-hero’s most incendiary moments. Dillon drew inspiration from the noir shadings of artists such as Frank Miller, but never regressed into imitation. You could always tell when you were reading a Steve Dillon book because there was nothing else that looked quite like it.
Dillon was an unapologetically vulgar when it came to his artwork, always using shock value to its maximum effect. He had power in his use of the pen, able to illustrate a visceral universe somehow full of both violence and grace. It was a world we lost ourselves in, our eyes devouring every inch of his craftsmanship, and a world that will continue to live on as new generations discover his tremendous body of work.