There are very few storytellers be they writers, comics illustrators or any number of artists that use their medium to create a narrative, whose greatest work would prominently feature a character named Arseface and have that work be as meaningful to it’s medium as Dillon’s Preacher is. But when you look across Dillon’s bibliography, it’s filled with comics just like that; stories that continuously pushed the margin’s of convention and expectations to find something honest and meaningful. Dillon passed away of a ruptured appendix on Friday, October 21st 2016 at the age of 54; and he would continue to tell these type of stories with his comics work up to the very end.
Dillon got his start at the age of 16 doing Marvel UK strips and Doctor Who comics before getting on the groundbreaking British anthology 2000 AD during the titles creative renaissance. Some of his peers that would work on the anthology in the same time period include comics greats like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis; while Dillon would illustrate for several of those sames writers in his career, his most prolific partnership would be found in the pairing with writer Garth Ennis on 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd Emerald Isle’s story arc. That pairing would be the inception for one of comics most prolific creative partnerships; including iconic runs on DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer, Marvel’s The Punisher and their most impactful creation; Preacher. The genius of Preacher cannot be overstated as it’s a singular work that could only be created in the comics medium. Preacher is a comic that continuously walked the line of overt bombast against the books profound mediations on love, family, freedom and the lengths that we must go to fight for them. Dillon’s art is deceptively simple from the perspective of his hard line and design. He has a distinctly angular style to his character work that was immediately recognizable but never duplicated and in Preacher, he used it for a versatile cast where with the simple shift by Dillon in a characters expression could completely alter the books trajectory. It was perhaps the perfect series for the artists unique talent and the book by which he would be remembered most for.
Because of Preacher’s immense influence, Dillon will always be known best for his work there and by proxy, his work with series co-creator Garth Ennis. But Dillon’s career didn’t begin or end with Preacher or any of his other Ennis collaborations. As mentioned above; Dillon would collaborate with iconic creators like Alan Moore on Miracleman and Warren Ellis on Global Frequency. After his initial run on Punisher with Garth Ennis; Dillon would begin his second life doing work for hire at Marvel comics. He would team with writer Daniel Way on several seminal properties and series including Wolverine Origins, Punisher vs Bullseye and Thunderbolts. He’d link up with Jason Aaron early in his time with the publisher for Punisher Max Volume 2; a creative high point for both writer and artist at the publisher and a fitting conclusion to the character Dillon helped re-establish with Ennis with a harrowing portrayal of mental illness and PTSD while also acting as both a tribute and modern contextualization to Frank Miller’s Daredevil. Additionally; Dillon had memorable guest contributions to Aaron’s Incredible Hulk & Wolverine; acting as one of the writers best collaborators before he’d become a titan of the industry for his Thor comics. In 2016; Dillon was back on The Punisher, this time with Becky Cloonen and creating one of his wildest comics yet. Always pushing his books to the very edge; Dillon’s Punisher with Cloonen felt entirely instep with his past work while still being like nothing he’d done on the title prior to this. That was the thing about Dillon; you always knew what you were getting but never quite how he was going to do it and he never stopped making comics with the same energy and passion that was felt across all his work. Dillon’s greatest contribution to the medium is Preacher; but it’s too his credit that he continued to give so much to comics long after that and because of his immense skill set, those comics stand up in their own right for their quality and creativity. Dillon passed away, but because of the central role his art played in so many great books, he’s never going anywhere.