In the epic world of 2000AD, Carlos Ezquerra was something of a legend.
The Spanish-born artist worked mainly on British comics and lived in Andorra – an incredibly interesting part of Europe. Undoubtedly, he is best known as being the co-creator of Judge Dredd.
Ezquerra started his career based in Barcelona, drawing westerns and war stories for Spanish publishers. In 1973 he got work in the UK market through agent Barry Coker. The UK was a popular market for Spanish artists as the exchange rate meant the work paid well, but Ezquerra moved to London to be near the work, settling in Croydon with his wife.
In 1974, Pat Mills and John Wagner headhunted him, through Coker, to work for the new IPC title Battle Picture Weekly. He drew “Rat Pack” inspired by the film The Dirty Dozen, the strip, written by Gerry Finley-Day. However, his commitments elsewhere meant he couldn’t draw it full-time and other artists were also used. In 1976 Battle editor Dave Hunt convinced him to commit full time to the title and he drew nearly 100 episodes in the next two and a half years.
He was asked to visualise a new character, future lawman “Judge Dredd”, for the science fiction weekly 2000AD, prior to its launch in 1977. His elaborate designs displeased the strip’s writer, John Wagner, but impressed editor Pat Mills, and his cityscapes persuaded Mills to set the strip further into the future than initially intended. But Wagner (temporarily) quit over ownership issues and Ezquerra followed him when the first published appearance of the character was drawn by another artist, Mike McMahon.
In 1978 he and Wagner created “Strontium Dog”, a sci-fi western about a bounty hunter in a future where mutants are an oppressed minority forced into doing such dirty work, for Starlord, a short-lived sister title to 2000AD with higher production values.
Starlord was later merged into 2000AD, bringing “Strontium Dog” with it. Ezquerra was almost the only artist to draw the character, until 1988, when writer Alan Grant decided to kill him off in a storyline called “The Final Solution”. Ezquerra disagreed with the decision, and refused to draw the story, which was instead illustrated by Simon Harrison and Colin MacNeil.
In 2000 Wagner and Ezquerra revived “Strontium Dog” based on a treatment Wagner had written for an abortive TV pilot. Initially, stories were set before the character’s death in a revised continuity, but 2010’s “The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha” brought Johnny back from the dead.
Other 2000 AD strips he drew included Fiends of the Eastern Front (1980), a vampire story set in World War II, written by Gerry Finley-Day and adaptations of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat novels, with the title character once again resembling James Coburn. In 1982 he returned to “Judge Dredd” to draw “The Apocalypse War”, a seven-month epic which he drew in its entirety. He has continued to draw the character semi-regularly, handling the whole of “Necropolis” in 1990, “Origins” in 2006-7, and many others.
Ezquerra has also collaborated numerous times with writer Garth Ennis on Bloody Mary, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, War Stories, a Hitman annual with artist Steve Pugh, and two Preacher specials (The Good Old Boys and The Saint of Killers miniseries) for DC Comics, and Just a Pilgrim for Black Bull Entertainment.
In 2009 his son Hector inked his pencil work for Strontium Dog: Blood Moon. He occasionally used the nom de plume “L John Silver” for work such as 2000AD’s “The Riddle of the Astral Assassin!” prog 118, and ABC Warriors, progs 134-136.
Ezquerra was 70 and was diagnosed with lung cancer 10 years ago.
Scott Snowden is MyM’s US Editor. Follow him on Twitter.
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