Steve Dillon’s death is a massive loss for comics

This afternoon the brother of British comics artist Steve Dillon confirmed that his brother had passed away.

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That’s all the detail we have, and we should have now because the details are for friends and family. We don’t need to know anything else bar that the world of comics has lost someone who for decades had been lynchpin of British comics. Indeed, friends of mine who’ve known Steve for years are in mourning as this was utterly unexpected, and that this comes after he’s enjoying the financial rewards coming from the success of the TV adaptation of Preacher, which allowed him the freedom to do what he wanted is painful.

Like many fans I first saw Steve’s work in Hulk Weekly, the flagship title of Dez Skinn’s Marvel UK revamp, where he not only drew the Hulk, but a Nick Fury strip written by Steve Moore. He was 16 and this was 1979.

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These early strips are rough in places, but for a 16 year old to turn out such a high quality level of work with his own very distinct,clear style was extraordinary, so its no surprise that Steve was not only finding more work with Skinn at Marvel UK, but 2000AD leapt in to grab him. During this period he and Steve Moore created the popular Dalek killer Abslom Daak for Doctor Who Weekly.

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While for 2000AD, he worked on a variety of strips (including some Future Shocks with Alan Moore) before bagging the art duties for Judge Dredd.

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I loved Dillon’s Judge Dredd work. True it was smoother than Esquerra or McMahon’s art who I adored, but this was a crisp, clear Dredd who wasn’t boring which is what I found Brian Bolland’s too smooth Dredd. If you’re reading this with only knowledge of Dillon’s DC or Marvel work, then it’ll read like he was massively prolific which is because he was. During the same period he was also doing art for Dez Skinn’s Warrior and the Laser Eraser and Pressbutton strip, again written by Steve Moore. This I think is my favourite work of this early period of his career.

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He could have also been the artist for the return of Marvelman too as Alan Moore suggested him as a possible artist to Dez Skinn, who went for Garry Leach, but we did get a tease of what could have been in Warrior #4 where Dillon did draw a few pages of a Marvelman strip,

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Dillon had also picked up a reputation by now of being fast, talented and quick. He was also great fun at marts and conventions where you’d see him in the bar, and at the first big Glasgow comic convention in 1985 I had to try to find him from the loo when he was a bit too tired and emotional. Steve had a bit of a reputation as a drinker, though friends have said in recent years he’s come off the bevvy but let me make it clear here; in the 80’s and early 90’s there were a number of creators and fans in the British scene who could drink all night at cons and often did, myself included.

Steve though was a nice guy. Even when years later at a party in London for Deadline, the magazine he helped launch and edit,when I brought it up he laughed it off, thanked me, and bought me a pint.

By the late 80’s Steve’s work filled 2000AD, sometimes it was brilliant, sometimes it looked rushed, but it was there for not much longer as Steve was being courted by DC Comics, as were many other creators from the UK, but Steve took time to break. Skreemer was his first taste of DC Comics, but it remains still a sadly under-appreciated work.

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Then in Hellblazer #49 he drew a John Constantine Christmas story. Entitled Lord of the Dance and written by Garth Ennis it was a little bundle of joy for those who enjoyed the drink.

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Ennis and Dillon clicked as a creative team. Both liked going on the piss, both were from working class backgrounds and they started a run on Hellblazer from #57 that was magnificent. The pair then created Preacher for DC’s Vertigo imprint.

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Preacher was the perfect mix of Ennis and Dillon. As a comic it was probably DC’s finest comic of the 90’s and last year a television adaptation was finally broadcast which managed to capture some of what was in the comic. Sure, his superhero stuff was alright, but I always felt him wasted on spandex, as he was able to make pages of people just sitting around talking to each other seem extraordinary. Not in a flashy sense, but in a ‘I’ve managed to capture a truth’ sense, something few artists for Marvel or DC have managed to do in the last few decades.

Lured to Marvel, Dillon drew a number of titles, from the Punisher with Ennis again writing, to Wolverine. Although his work was fine here, I wasn’t taken with it. It didn’t have that joy his other work had, and it felt odd seeing him doing material as mundane as superheroes though when he worked with Ennis (who despises superheroes) it worked a treat. Few creative teams have a spark where both feed off each other. Ennis and Dillon had that. That team is now never going to create anything new ever again, and a number of people who knew Dillon as a friend, or knew him through his amazingly long career and body of work are at a loss tonight as this is a loss. He had years left in him and 54 is no age to go these days.

So I wish well for his friends and family, and I extend a debt of gratitude for his work from those early days at Marvel UK to his recent success with the Preacher TV series.Thanks for the work Steve and thanks for the pint..

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What I thought of Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroz #2

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Garth Ennis isn’t one for being subtle or taking the piss where needed and the cover of this spin-off from his DC title, Section 8, shows John Constantine (a character who Ennis wrote and helped make his name on) in a wee bit of a state.

The splash page opening the book hammers the point home…

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Constantine over the last few years has been treated terribly as a character by DC. Pulled from Vertigo Comics (DC’s supposed more mature imprint) into the regular DC universe to regularly interact with superheroes and not just that, become a superhero himself. It’s a far cry from the character Ennis wrote decades ago hence why he’s now ripping the piss out of that, and his employers at DC.

It also features Dog Welder fisting his dead dog.

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This is Ennis showing his utter contempt for superhero comics while having a major dig at his employer for managing to fuck up one of their best characters via a series of dreadful editorial decisions and a series of poor creators who just don’t get what to do with Constantine.

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This isn’t Ennis at his best, but this is Ennis at his best taking the piss and it’s good to see some blows land on DC Comics from within as they bloody deserve a good hard kicking for the mess they’ve made of a character like John Constantine.

What I thought of Crossed +100 #18

Thoughts about #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9,#10#11#12#13#14#15, #16 and #17.

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Here it is, the final issue of Crossed +100. That confrontation between Robbie, the Crossed who passed as human and Future Taylor, the person who Robbie betrayed as well as her town who were massacred by the Crossed. In the middle is the Crossed child Future was bringing up as her own.

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Spurrier has a lot of plotlines to wrap up in this issue, which he does while letting the narrative flow but there’s still a feeling while reading this issue that things are a bit cramped, that in fact he’d planned a few more issues and this is cramming everything in. It doesn’t matter though as it works as we get Robbie’s history, as well as the raid on the Crossed stronghold playing out next to each other.

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We find out what Salt was planning for; a hybrid human/Crossed who just happens to be the child Future has been protecting. As all this plays out, Future’s lover, Mustaqba is sitting there with a knife in his guts slowly dying.

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As for the end, there is an ending, there’s also an opening for Future’s story to continue, should of course Avatar want that to happen but right now they’ve not revealed their plans for the Crossed AFAWK.

Crossed +100 has shown that these stories don’t have to be just tedious exercises in gore. rape and violence. That with a skilled writer at the helm a dark science fiction story can emerge with those elements there but they’re not what the story is actually about so there’s not a case where the story beats are just there to take us to the next grotesque moment. They’re there to help drive the story which in this case for now at least, is over.

What I thought of Cinema Purgatorio #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.

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A simply beautifully fearsome cover from Kev O’Neill welcomes us to issue 4 of Cinema Purgatorio and a very disturbing King Kong inspired story from Alan Moore and O’Neill.

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In this strip Moore has Kong speaking the words of Willis O’Brien, the animator who brought Kong to life, and this creates a weirdly unsettling feeling. It’s a narrative that ends up playing out just as unsettlingly as Moore’s previous Cinema Purgatorio stories.

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Next up in Garth Ennis’s Code Pru we find out more about our paranormal-Americans, or monsters as we’d know them. Turns out most of them are just like us when it comes to getting a little bit of help.

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As for the Pokemon Go that’s never going to happen, Keiron Gillen’s Modded is vying with Moore’s dark stories of cinema in terms of my favourite strip here.

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A More Perfect Union finally sees American civil wars soldiers and giant ants do battle at last.

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Lastly, The Vast comes lumbering at the reader with more giant mutated monsters.

cinemapurgatorio21After four issues the stories are settling down. My favourites are Moore and O’Neill’s weird strips alongside Modded, with Code Pru coming up next. The other two strips are fine but I’ve grown to not be too bothered if they end, I’d be pissed off if we lost Moore and Gillen’s material, plus it’s always great to read new Garth Ennis. As we head into issue five things are looking good for hopefully a lengthy run of this wonderfully varied anthology title.

What I thought of Crossed +100 #17

Thoughts about #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9,#10#11#12#13#14#15 and #16.

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Here we all are at the penultimate issue of Crossed +100. Things moved quickly last issue as it felt like Si Spurrier had to compact some storylines up so #16 felt amazingly fast paced and #17 starts with Future leaving her friends and having a daydream..

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Future has some guilt issues to work out.

So, while on her way home she’s intercepted by Bailey, who knows that Future knows the location of Salt’s followers and would quite like it so he and his men can raise it to the ground.

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Future reluctantly gives Bailey the information he needs, but in telling him the details she reveals her own talent for war and that scares her.

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Future spends her remaining time returning home trying to work out exactly what it is that she’s missed, which seeing as we’re coming up the final issue will be something enormous and terrible.

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War is coming but Future has her own drama to live out as the uninfected take on the Crossed for what may be the final battle one way or another. Next issue is the final issue then Avatar are being coy about what’s due next from them in regards Crossed. There’s still a Garth Ennis story due (which I’d presumed would be in Crossed:Badlands #100 but it isn’t) so the idea isn’t going away but it does need some quite serious quality control, Crossed +100 excepted.

Next issue is the final issue. By then we may have a better idea.

What I thought of Cinema Purgatorio #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.

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There’s something very Blue Jam about Alan Moore’s work for the increasingly interesting Cinema Purgatorio. All his stories so far have had a trippy, dark, horrific feel but are still funny in a twisted way very much like that series was so if Moore is drawing influence from Chris Morris I’m not complaining. In this issue we have Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill  sort of coming back to superheroes, albeit one in an 1930’s type serial. It’s unsettingly funny.

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Next up is the Garth Ennis strip, Code Pru, which is bloody, messy and monstrous this issue as it takes a bit of inspiration from Alien for this episode’s monster.

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As for Modded,it’s barring Moore’s strip, it’s the best of the comic.It’s best enjoyed thinking this as a kid’s cartoon but with more blood.

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A Better Union is an odd little beast set as it is during the American Civil War and is a mix of historical war comic with some giant ants.

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While The Vast treads some old ground but does so well.

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Cinema Purgatorio has settled into a nice pace with all the strips hitting a good head of steam. Only Max Brooks’s Civil War strip needs to really get going otherwise it’s all good stuff that is worth looking at even if you’re not an Alan Moore completist.

What I thought of Cinema Purgatorio #2

Thoughts about #1.

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The second issue of this promising anthology title again starts with Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s opening story which centres round the stars of a old Roman epic who realise they’re on a film set and more. It’s an unsettling little tale and more subtle than the first issue’s more visceral story from the pair.

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Next up is Garth Ennis’s Code Pru, which after dealing with vampires last issue move onto another classic monster.

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This episode expands on the world Ennis has created where classic monsters are real, and suffer bigotry and beatings from the police who despise them. It’s not especially hard to work out the analogy Ennis is spinning here.

Next up is Keiren Gillen’s twister take on Pokemon, Modded. This is a fun, and utterly bizarre strip that fits what Moore’s trying to do with the entire Cinema Purgatorio idea perfectly. It’s also gloriously fucked up.

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As for the Max Brooks American Civil War story, A More Perfect Union, that takes an odd turn after nearly two episodes of building up what looked like a historical war story into something else.

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As for The Vast written by Christos Gage it still remains the weakest story in the comic though it’s still a decent read.

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Cinema Purgartorio is proving itself to be a successful anthology title, with Moore and Gillen’s stories in particular standing out as being odd things that probably wouldn’t work outwith of this comic. A couple of the stories need beefing out a bit but none of them are truly terrible as is often the case with anthology titles, and I’d recommend jumping on board now while the chance is there.