We’re very sorry to report the death of prolific comics letterer Ellie deVille, best known for her work on many strips for 2000AD, but whose many credits included Judge Dredd Megazine, Sonic the Comic and more.
Ellie, who was taken suddenly, a victim to pancreatic cancer, died early on Christmas Eve. Her friend, Jenny Wackett, who pays tribute to Ellie here on downthetubes, tells us she was lettering for 2000AD right up until the end. Four weeks ago she finished her last piece of lettering from her hospital bed.
“I met Ellie through comics (she lettered a few of the comics I wrote, always impeccably, always on time),” writer Simon Jowett tells downthetubes, “but we became and remained friends, through good times and bad, thanks to the size of her heart, the generosity of her spirit… and her legendary capacity for partying.
“Ellie lived a life larger than the comics medium. A grand life. And, as she approached its end, she did so with style, grace and serenity. The world is a colder and less colourful place without her. But, even now, when her loss is still fresh and raw, it is impossible not to think of her and smile.”
“The main thing I will remember most about the amazing Ellie DeVille is that her door, her home, her heart was open to everyone, and all those that entered fell in love with her,” notes Jenny Wackett in her tribute, “whether you were strangers, work buddies, next door neighbours or faraway friends from India, Mexico and Japan. Everyone was welcome.”
“[She was] always the life of the party and the very soul of love,” commented her friend Todd Gesicht when news broke of Elllie’s death.
Letterers are the invisible glue that bind a comic, their work hopefully, melding script with art into a coherent attention-grabbing whole. By “invisible”, I mean that as a comics reader, if you notice the lettering, then the letterer has intruded, albeit unintentionally, on your appreciation of the comic.
That Ellie deVille was one of the best “invisible” comic letterers in the business for almost thirty years, is, for me, unquestionable. She brought her skills to bear on so many strips for British comics down the years, and wide ranging appreciation of her work is evident from the responses to news of her death, from both fellow comic creators and fans, who are understandably shocked to hear of her passing.
Ellie’s work for 2000AD (for that title, best known as Ellie de Ville), which began in the 1990s on “Tharg’s Future Shocks”, can be distinguished by her backwards Q, and by the fact that she spells ‘Sláine’ without the accent over the A.
Deeply saddened to read about her death, former 2000AD and Megazine editor David Bishop recalled first meeting Ellie in the early 1990s, and was delighted to get her lettering on the Megazine.
“A consummate professional, always ready with a smile and a witty aside,” he noted on Twitter. “A total gem, will be much missed.”
“I loved Ellie, whatta lovely lady,” another former 2000AD editor, Alan McKenzie, commented. “I used to mess with her credit in 2000AD, rendering it variously as ‘Ellie Devil’ and ‘L.E.D. Ville’ and so on. She always gamely lettered it that way…”
Along with Elitta Fell and the late Tom Frame, Ellie was also one of the most prolific letterers on Fleetway’s fondly-remembered Sonic the Comic from the very first Issue.
“In the world of lettering it’s hard to find someone who’s had a career as consistent yet eclectic as Ellie,” noted Rosie Knight in a wider tribute for Women Write About Comics to some of the women whose career in comics began before the arrival of the internet, posted a while ago.
Originally training as a teacher, her credits for various British and American publishers outside of 2000AD and the Megazine also include Accident Man, Aliens, Batman: Man Bat, Marvel UK’s Black Axe, Flex Mentallo, Heart of Empire, The Invisibles, the Judge Dredd/Batman crossover, Lucifer, Millennium Fever, The Minx, Propellerman, Revolver (on “Dan Dare” by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes), Ring of Roses, Savage Sword Of Conan, Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, Steed & Mrs Peel, Time Breakers, The Trenchcoat Brigade, Vermillion, Tank Girl: Apocalypse and Unknown Soldier.
Her friend, designer and photographer Steve Cook, describes Ellie as one of a kind in a brief Facebook tribute, and very much loved.
“What terrible news and a sad loss to the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic,” commented fellow letterer Jim Campbell.
“This is really sad news,” responded writer Ian Edginton. “She was such a sweetheart, so lovely and with a cracking sense of humour.”
“Ellie’s smile always lit up the room,” commented artist and writer David Hine. “A wise and lovely lady and a very much appreciated talent.”
“Ellie was a great letterer, and a lovely, supportive presence all throughout my time on the Megazine,” commented writer and editor Alan Barnes. “A proper star. Thank you for being never less than brilliant.”
“Shocked to hear of the passing of Ellie DeVille,” commented artist Phil Winslade.”I first met her at the beginning of my career in 1989-90 where she dispensed wisdom and encouragement on everything from lettering placement to how to behave as a comic artist. At various parties and pub sessions, Ellie and dear Tom Frame were like the godparents of us newbies giving support and insight. So when I started Lawless I asked for and was so pleased to have Ellie letter it. She was brilliant at what she did and her understanding of design and storytelling were without peer. Godspeed, Ellie.”
“God bless her memory,” commented former 2000AD editor Steve MacManus, which pretty much sums up how many, many feel.
Our sympathies to family and friends at this sad time.
• Donations in memory of Ellie DeVille may be sent either to the Marie Curie Hospice, Cardiff and the Vale, Bridgeman Road, Penarth CF64 3YR or donate at www.mariecurie.org.uk/donate
Our thanks to those who shared memories of Ellie deVille on social media, but in particular to Steve Cook, Simon Jowett and Jenny Wackett for their contributions to this feature at such a difficult time