Steve Dillon was among those superlative UK-born storytellers who have incisively mined a fascination with American settings. And for that, we are especially all the richer.
From Neil Gaiman to Bono, the United States has been graced with a post-Lennon generation of artists and writers creatively drawn to the country’s shores, lured by both the bright, glaring glitziness and the dark underbelly of the American dream. And among the best visual practitioners in this vein was Dillon.
He died over the weekend in New York, said his brother Glyn Dillon, an artist and costume designer (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).
Thanks in part to Hollywood, Steve Dillon will surely best be remembered as co-creator of Preacher, Vertigo’s gritty, graphic-novel exploration of Texas-brewed religion (with a shot of Irish vampirism) that was adapted into the AMC series.
Preacher, of course, is just one fruit of the creative partnership begun a quarter-century ago between Dillon and the Northern Ireland-born comics writer Garth Ennis. In each other, over whiskey and conversation, they quickly sensed the elements required for inspired collaboration.
Ennis and Dillon first teamed on stories for the occult-detective DC/Vertigo series Hellblazer, which spawned the 2005 Keanu Reeves-starring film Constantine (a character more recently adapted for the Emmy-nominated TV series). The powerhouse duo also returned the Marvel character the Punisher to high popularity, kick-starting their collaboration with the 2000 miniseries.
Yet there was something about the Eisner-winning Preacher that gave Dillon and Ennis a particularly ideal canvas for creating a take on the eternal through the haunted landscape of the American West.
The comic’s titular character is Jesse Custer, a small-town pastor with redneck roots who, possessed by the creature Genesis, exerts mind control through the supernatural sermon. Ennis and Dillon created a world hard-baked in the Western genre (including Clint Eastwood films) and rife with mortal perils discovered across vast lands. (The comic titles included Proud Americans, Dixie Fried and Alamo.)
Steve Dillon was born in Luton, England, on March 22, 1962. He made remarkable artistic leaps in adolescence, and by age 16, he received a shot at drawing Hulk for Marvel UK.
He notably worked on the Judge Dredd character for the comic 2000 AD, and launched the comics magazine Deadline.
In addition to Glyn Dillon, he is survived by his parents, three children, a sister and two grandchildren.