In Review: Steve Dillon Exhibition at the Panel Gallery

Review and photos by James Bacon

The Panel Gallery - Steve Dillon Exhibition (2022). Photo by James Bacon

The Panel Gallery in Northampton is currently showing a huge exhibition of work by Steve Dillon, and it’s exhilarating to see. Many of the pages are for sale.

Steve was an utterly brilliant comic artist, able to bring stories to life thanks to his natural talent, amazing skill and beautiful drawing; able to lead the comic book reader through difficult and exciting stories with consummate ease. As a person, he was pleasant and very generous to fans. His was a real loss to both the industry and the wider comics community, when he passed away in 2016.

Steve Dillon’s family have been fully involved with this fabulous exhibition, and were at the opening with Panel Gallery curator Jeff Chahal. They have shared some incredible art, and it is wonderful to see.

The Panel Gallery - Steve Dillon Exhibition (2022). Photo by James Bacon
The Panel Gallery - Steve Dillon Exhibition (2022). Photo by James Bacon
The Panel Gallery - Steve Dillon Exhibition (2022)
The Panel Gallery - Steve Dillon Exhibition (2022). Photo by James Bacon
The Panel Gallery - Steve Dillon Exhibition (2022). Photo by James Bacon

Indeed, I have to be honest, and say I was slightly overwhelmed by its sheer scale, comprising some 140-plus artworks in total. The Panel Gallery is a nicely sized space, but walking in to see a well lit wall of 21 framed pieces, for example, including what are for me, grail pieces, was truly stunning.

John Constantine, Hellblazer is well represented and a startling trio of images of John, cocky and defiant, ill and vomiting and in the throes of a difficult situation, perfectly capture this character, the pages on display all crucial to the character’s story.

John Constantine, Hellblazer by Steve Dillon
John Constantine, Hellblazer by Steve Dillon

Pages from “Rogue Trooper”, “Harlem Heroes” and “Judge Dredd” also give a flavour of the 2000AD work Steve did. I was personally taken by the fully painted comic pages for the Dredd story “Emerald Isle”, written by Garth Ennis, and Steve’s wonderful cover for Prog 727; a poignant image, which took me back 31 years to when it was published. The “Zenith” covers likewise, so bright but capturing a moment of action with brilliance, demonstrating the breadth that Steve’s art could encompass.

Doctor Who, Warrior, “Axel Pressbutton”, and Animal Man also feature. The Doctor Who work is accompanied by inked drawings of characters, perhaps as Steve refined their look.

Doctor Who by Steve Dillon
The Thing vs Hulk by Steve Dillon

Steve also worked for Marvel, starting at Marvel UK at the age of 16, and it was lovely to see a wonderful image of the Hulk fighting with the Thing, an unpublished X-Men page, possibly a try out page, and then, of course, moving on to his work on the likes of Wolverine: Origins and, of course, The Punisher.

Some incredible Punisher covers feature, and images capturing some very famous Marvel characters, from Spider-Man to Deadpool, with a nice number of pages on display.

There is a cleanliness to Steve’s work, pencils are barely visible in some cases, the strength and accuracy of the inked lines giving life brilliantly to characters.

Over 50 framed pieces at on view, requiring one to take some time, to consider the imagery and the work that has gone into the pieces, which look so well, so smartly laid out and paced perfectly.

As well as the pieces framed, there subsequently over another 90 more pieces in folders to browse through and enjoy.

As you can imagine, I was slightly surprised to see so many high-calibre pieces on display. It must have been quite a challenge planning out this awesome retrospective, but, working with Steve’s family, Jeff has certainly managed it.

I wasn’t expecting the vividness of Steve’s full colour work, or to see so many pages which capture scenes and moments that resonated with me personally so much. The number of full page splashes had me checking whether they were actually covers.

This is such a wide range, including pages which were obviously him working out or through ideas, as well as smaller images where he was possibly designing, or coming up with the concept of characters. It’s amazing to get a glimpse of this behind the scenes work.

Images that took my breath away included a tester page splash of Preacher, Jesse Custer having a slightly different style, and a promotional piece for Preacher, as well as key pages.

A Captain America full page splash, a John Constantine full page splash and the cover for Heartland, all were so impressive to see. The Six Pack covers were lovely, and much fun.

Captain America by Steve Dillon
The Punisher by Steve Dillon

The clarity of Steve’s line work, and his the ability, with a little bit of hatching, to give shape to body muscles and facial features, remains stunning. He had a very clean clear line style, using shadow sparingly, but cleverly when required, especially for darker moments in stories. The characters just stand out so much, the strength of the drawing and inking making them all look so good.

Steve’s family were at the exhibition launch event, and have helped create such a wonderful tribute to Steve. It’s a unique opportunity for fans to see a wonderful body of work, with seminal pieces, and crucial comics well represented, while allowing the privileged of being able to purchase some pieces, too.

I spent nearly three hours at the Gallery enjoying the art, taking it in, or, at least, trying to; and of course remembering some of the comics, the art appeared in, as well as seeing images that I had never seen before.

This is a wonderfully brilliant exhibition – and a must for comic book fans, a real privilege to enjoy. The welcome is warm at Panel Gallery, and I didn’t want to leave. An exhilarating and exciting exhibition, for sure.

James Bacon

Journey Planet 33 featuring Steve Dillon

• The Steve Dillon Exhibition runs until 9th April 2022 at The Panel Gallery, 3 Abington Square, Northampton NN1 4AE | Web: thepanelgallery.com | Tel: 01604 470100 E-Mail: enquiries@thepanelgallery.com

• James Bacon was co-editor of Journey Planet #33, published in 2017, which includes an interview with Steve Dillon, as well as articles from Michael Carroll, Padraig O’Mealoid, James Bacon, and extended looks at the art of Paul Neary and Steve Dillon, and is free to download here

One of many guest posts for downthetubes.



Categories: 2000AD, British Comics, Comic Art, Comic Creator Spotlight, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Events, Exhibitions

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1 reply

  1. I must check this exhibition out.

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