Today the comics community at large mourns the passing of legendary artist Carlos Ezquerra whose work co-creating Judge Dredd with writers Pat Mills, John Wagner and Alan Grant for 2000 AD defined that magazine through over 40 years of publishing and coalesced the modern British comics movement. The news broke today via Ezquerra’s Spanish publisher ECC Comics. He was 70.
“In the last weeks, postoperative complications aggravated Carlos Ezquerra’s health condition,” wrote ECC Comics in a translation of a note posted on their website today. Ezquerra was a cancer survivor, who had an operation in 2010 and managed to bounce back from the diagnosis.
Ezquerra was born in Zargoza Spain and lived in Andorra, though he reportedly got his start working for an English publisher in Barcelona. It is said that he was one of the first Aragonese artists to move to the Catalan capital. There he found work with 2000 AD, the weekly British sci-fi comic magazine that celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.
His work developing the seminal character Judge Dredd was something of a departure from his prior portfolio of Western and Romance comics. Judge Dredd appeared in the second issue of 2000 AD in 1977, and Ezquerra’s energetic line would go on to inform that character, as well as the magazine, for decades to come. Ezquerra also created Strontium Dog for 2000 AD sister paper Starlord with John Wagner in 1978. He also worked with Garth Ennis many times, including on the Preacher: Saint of Killers miniseries.
Ezquerra understood the impact of his science-fiction work extended beyond its “thrill power,” a term 2000 AD fans use to describe the magazine’s unique energy. Speaking on the popularity of Johnny Alpha, who he co-created for Strontium Dog, Ezquerra told Judge Dredd Magazine in 2010: “I think it is so popular because he is a very human and complex character, and the issues he tackles are very much alive in our society: racism, segregation, individuality against corporations.”
The artist also had a reputation for his avuncular nature, often talking to fans extensively and as if they were already known to him. When asked in an interview for a 2000 AD fanzine in 2014 about his legacy, Ezquerra responded: “unfortunately I discover too late in life my real vocation was to count clouds on a tropical beach with a Margarita in my hands.”
Fans, creators, and fans-turned-creators due to Ezquerra’s influence will no doubt raise a Margarita in his honor tonight to mark the passing of a man whose extensive body of work was apparently only out-classed by his generous nature.