Carlos Ezquerra, legendary co-creator of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and many more all-time classics for 2000AD has died, aged 70.
One of the all-time greatest comic book artists, the Spanish illustrator was one of the titans of 2000AD but had recently been fighting a second battle with cancer, which had forced him to reluctantly cancel UK appearances, hoping to be back in action next year.
Sadly, it was not to be.
“Carlos was without a doubt 2000AD’s greatest artist, and, indeed the premier artist of British comics,” Pat Mills told The Guardian after his death was announced. “He was also a great guy to hang out with and he had a fabulous dark sense of humour. We will all miss him hugely.”
“Not only a great artist and character creator but was a true, loyal and good friend,” commented writer Alan Grant, on social media. “We spent many happy holidays and comic cons in the company of Carlos. He was truly a true gent, a good friend and a comic genius. Out thoughts are with Conchita and family.”
I never worked with Carlos directly, but in all my dealings with him about possible projects and at events, he was always generous with his time and never lacking in enthusiasm for comics.
Originally from Zaragoza, Carlos, who was born in 1947, began his career in Barcelona, drawing westerns and war stories for Spanish publishers. Breaking into the UK market on romance titles like Valentine and Mirabelle, he was head-hunted for the new IPC title Battle Picture Weekly where he drew “Rat Pack”, “Major Eazy” and “El Mestizo”.
In 1976, he was asked to create a new character, the future lawman Judge Dredd, for a new weekly science fiction comic called 2000AD. Thanks to his enduring partnership with John Wagner, Dredd was to become one of the world’s most recognisable comic book characters, with Carlos there to apply his inimitable style to some of the biggest stories in the strip’s history, such as “The Apocalypse War”, “Necropolis” and “Origins”.
Thanks to Dredd as well as his co-creation of Strontium Dog, created for Starlord in 1978, his adaptation for 2000 AD of Harry Harrison’sStainless Steel Rat, and thousands upon thousands of comic book pages, Carlos was lauded by readers and creators alike.
Modest and unassuming, Carlos was nonetheless a legend whose contribution to the global comic book industry cannot be understated. His distinctive style – characterised by breathtakingly dynamic, high-energy storytelling and the distinctive ridged thick inking that outlined so many key moments – was instantly recognisable.
Outside of his work in the British comic book industry, Carlos worked with Garth Ennis on a number of projects for US publishers, including Preacher spinoffs The Good Old Boys and Saint of Killers, as well as original concepts Bloody Mary, Just a Pilgrim and Adventures in the Rifle Brigade.
In 2013, Carlos was the guest star of the Salón del Cómic de Zaragoza received the Aragon Comic Grand Prize in recognition of his entire career in 2014. The Organización del Cómic de Zaragoza has announced an initiative to publish a Tebeíco del Salón special edition in December in time for its annual festival, paying tribute to Carlos.
Despite a brush with lung cancer in 2010, he continued to work and, although the cancer returned this year it was believed he was recovering well. His sudden death is a profound loss not just to 2000 AD but to the comic book medium.
“It is difficult to put this into words, but we have lost someone who was the heart and soul of 2000AD,” a statement, on behalf of the staff at 2000AD reads. “It is no exaggeration to call Carlos Ezquerra one of the greatest comic book artists of all time, and his name deserves to be uttered alongside Kirby, Ditko, Miller, Moebius, and Eisner.
“Yet this doesn’t really do justice to someone whose work was loved by millions and has had an influence far beyond the comic book page. From Judge Dredd toStrontium Dog, from Rat Pack toMajor Eazy, Carlos has left us with a legacy of stunning and distinctive work that was and always will be 2000AD.
“He has been one of the pillars, producing the same dynamic, enthralling and arresting art we always loved him for. We thought we had many more adventures to come from the master, so we are devastated to discover we were wrong.
“Our most profound condolences to his family, his friends, and to the generations of readers who knew instantly they were reading a Carlos Ezquerra comic book.”
Jason Kingsley, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Rebellion, said: “It is hard to put into words the influence Carlos’s work has had on me over the years. He may be physically gone from us, but the huge legacy of his creative abilities lives on. My personal condolences to his family.”
A fuller tribute will be published here in due course. My sympathies to Carlos family, friends and all those who worked with and knew this truly inspirational comics creator at this time.
• The Organización del Cómic de Zaragoza has announced an initiative to publish a Tebeíco del Salón special edition in December in time for its annual festival, paying tribute to Carlos – read the news item here