On October 1st, Carlos Ezquerra died. His importance to 2000 AD is beyond definition. Here we present images and testimony from creators to the pages of Zarjaz & Dogbreath. Many of whom would not be creators if it was not for Carlos.
“How to even begin writing this? How to put in words what Carlos Ezquerra meant to me? What he meant to comics?
What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions 2000AD comic?
It’s Judge Dredd, right?
While the name and the concept came from John Wagner and Pat Mills, everything else came from Carlos. Famously, Dredd had been envisioned as a near future gritty cop, but Carlos turned in an initial image with towering super skyscrapers and impossible looping highways. And history was made.
Now, you’d think that would be enough. To co-create one iconic British character and to draw it for the best part of 40 years. Not Carlos, though. He and Wagner went on to come up with Strontium Dog – for me the greatest comic character ever created.
I could go on talking about Carlos’ art and his contribution to comics. But really, his importance to the history of comics is beyond contestation. I saw someone describe him as the European Jack Kirby. That’s a perfect description.
Instead of that, I’d like to highlight Carlos’ relationship with the fans. He was always welcoming. Always warm. Always funny. Always patient.
And that patience extended to, for example, nerdy fanboys who published a fanzine when they emailed him with uber-nerdy questions about the minutiae of characters and their weapons and he’d mail them back a brilliant and thoughtful answer within a few minutes.
In summary: he was the best.
Farewell, Carlos. Thank you for all the comics.”
“It is hard to overstate the importance of Carlos Ezquerra’s contribution to comics, and any attempt to overview his work is bound to fail. Many of the most beloved artists trade productivity for quality and their reputation rests on a handful of strips. Others can take an existing strip to new heights, but have never designed a world from the ground up. Most 2000 AD artists have their period, where they burn brightly in the progs, before they are gone to greener pastures. Carlos stands alone as an artist who could turn out pages seemingly at whim, designed the most important character of the comic (and in Strontium Dog, arguably the comics second most important character) and never left.
While Spanish artists in the early 70’s could work for British comics from Spain through the agencies, Carlos packed up his bags and came to the source in 1972. Such a bold move was a good indicator of the character of both the man and art we would be treated to for decades to come.
It took very little time for Carlos to make a splash, and when head hunted by Pat Mills and John Wagner for Battle, his iconic work on “Rat Pack” and “Major Eazy” made him a natural go-to when 2000 AD was being developed. His futuristic designs for both the character of Judge Dredd and the City he would patrol inspired the editorial to push the story from the near future to the fantastical world we know and love – It is often said that the real star of Dredd is Mega-City One, but would that city have ever become half of what it is without Carlos’ inspirational outré design pushing the strip to greater heights?
By the time Strontium Dog came along, no one was doubting the ‘Carlos Method’, and the strip hit the floor running. “Grim flamboyance” was a phrase used in one of his obituaries, and I would struggle to beat that as a perfect summation of his genius –we often talk about how Dredd and Strontium Dog are stories that can be humorous, horrific, down to earth and fantastical, often simultaneously. Was there ever an artist more able to effortlessly match that range?
It was Strontium Dog that made me a lifelong fan of 2000 AD. The first strip I read in my first prog was the second part of “Bubo and the Bad Boys”, the infamous scene of the Deputy being roasted by the alien outlaws – That first page was all I needed to know I’d done the right thing switching from Dr Who Monthly! When I started collecting 2000 AD, it was initially only the issues with Strontium Dog that I was after. When I was collecting, I used to have recurring dreams that there were other Strontium Dog strips in comics like Warlord, and I would wake up anxious that there was a story I hadn’t read and disappointed that the story didn’t exist. But I would also be exhilarated at the fading images of Carlos’ art as imagined by my overworked mind and reassured that before long I would see the real deal from the man himself.
When I heard the news of his passing I was taking a break from painting the Fly’s Eyes Wagner miniature from Warlord Games Strontium Dog game. Earlier that day, I had used this as an excuse to dig out and reread “Journey Into Hell” in the original progs on the pretence of researching the right colours. After a frustrating morning attempting unsuccessfully to do some adulting, there was no better salve from the stupidity of the real world than a quick journey into Ezquerra’s stunning hellscapes. I was listening to the excellent Space Spinner 2000 podcast discussing how brilliant Carlos Ezquerra’s art was on “Stainless Steel Rat For President”. As I sat at my desk, I was surrounded by gronks of various sizes, watched over by the Re-Action Johnny Alpha figure, lined up in front of the complete Agency files.
Carlos and John Wagner had been due to attend the Birmingham ICE comic show in September, as well as a special screening of “Dredd” in the evening. Whilst Carlos had to cancel for urgent surgery, things had looked promising – Carlos had posted to his Facebook page suggesting the procedure had been a success. At the screening, John Wagner said that he had an idea for another Strontium Dog story, but first Carlos had to recover from his surgery and before that, they had revived an unused character “Spector”, which would be appearing in the Megazine. It is hard to take in that we will not see those strips – Carlos has been such a part of our lives for so long, that it was easy to take him for granted – dependable, professional, still creating at the top of his game, as indestructible and permanent as the characters he had created.
As I said earlier, it is hard to overstate Carlos’ contribution, because his contribution is not as an important part of 2000 AD, but as a fundamental ingredient, perhaps THE fundamental ingredient of the comic that changed the face of an entire Industry. Other great talents have come and gone through the doors of the Nerve Centre, and every one of them will be remembered as a friend of Tharg, there for a brief shining moment preserved in our memory. But Carlos was not just a passing friend, he was family, the lifeblood of the comic. For more than one generation of readers his incomparable and irreplaceable vision not only entertained but shaped the way we saw the world. His is a vision that will, like all truly great art, live on.”
“Carlos’s art was an integral part of my growing up. Everything he ever had a hand in just exploded off each and every page and pulled me right into the centre of the action, refusing to let go until the end. He was like no other artist before or since: everything about his work was – and is – unique, and I’d spend hours drinking in every page, marvelling at the sheer brilliance in his storytelling. So, thanks, Carlos, for all the joy and excitement you’ve brought me down the years. Rest in peace.”
“Like so many fans of 2000 AD, I have enjoyed Carlos Ezquerra’s work for over 40 years. I was hoping to finally meet both Carlos and John at a convention in Birmingham a few weeks ago. Alas it was not to be. My thoughts, love and best wishes go to his family and friends. I choose to honour his memory by rereading his work starting with Strontium Dog. I will wallow a little in the nostalgia it will surely evoke, and shed a ‘manly’ tear when I think no one is looking. Goodbye Carlos.”
“When I first met Carlos Ezquerra, in Wales of all places, I was living through a pretty dark period and almost didn’t go – but was persuaded that I had to because of the “Supersquirrel Undefeated” get well comic. They say you should never meet your heroes but Carlos, whose art has been part of my life for longer than I can remember, was a twinkling tuft of pure joy. He hugged me, and called me his friend, and drank with me, and we talked, and we laughed, for hours. That afternoon I took a significant step on the road out of my darkness and I shall never forget it. I loved Carlos for his art, which I told him, and I adored him for making me feel so damned special, which I wish, I wish, I wish I’d told him.
Farewell, Carlos, from a proud friend.”
“I couldn’t claim to have been a mega-fan to the extent that others are, but his work was, over decades, consistently great and highly recognisable – as his, and as 2000AD, and, by extension, as what generations of readers came to understand as modern British comics. There are very few creators who can be viewed as having helped define a whole culture, but I think Carlos is one of them.”
“I was 8 and all my friends at school had this new comic called 2000 AD. Instantly it was the talk of the playground with its hyper violence and futuristic ideas. I badgered my folks to get it for me. And they did.
Soon there was a future lawman called Judge Dredd. I wasn’t instantly taken with him but then The Cursed Earth happened. McMahon and Bolland’s double whammy was seismic for our collective school consciousness. You were either in McMahon’s camp or Bolland’s.
The hits didn’t stop Cursed Earth launched immediately into The Day the Law Died. Closely followed by Judge Death then the Judge Child. Within the space of 244 issues, just shy of 5 years we also had Death Lives and then Block Mania to name but a few.
By now some of my school chums had given up on the galaxies greatest comic and had moved on. But me and my mate Martin were putting pen to paper with our own spins on Tharg’s mighty heroes and villains. Even my older brother got in on the act (although he much preferred Rom Space knight and Micronauts) adding scripts and his own art.
Our styles were definitely heavily biased to either McMahon or Bolland.
But then prog 245 happened. 25 weeks of global decimation. Full on action. The cold war writ large across the future. And all skilfully rendered by one man.
I’d seen his name in the prog here and there.
Stainless Steel Rat was entertaining but Carlos style grabbed me more on Fiends of the Eastern Front. Moody, dark and menacing.
And then it was prog 245.
Apocalypse War. To say I was blown away was an understatement.
Carlos’ clear storytelling made this THE highlight of the weekly prog. Carlos’ lines were sketchy but full of energy. You could feel that furious energy bristling in every image. Blocky outlines making key moments jump out of the page and almost punch you in the face.
It’s difficult to explain to anyone how just thinking about some of the 1000 plus strips Carlos produced just takes me back to my younger self. The thrill and excitement pouring over those punk images. The endless potential, the untampered imagination that anything was possible. And even the impossible could be made real by Carlos.
As well as the utmost admiration I have for Carlos line work it’s his sheer workman like output that I’m in awe of. Carlos was a creative genius and a complete workhorse.
I drifted away from comics at some point, well, certainly 2000 AD and my next brush with thrill power was Necropolis. The Dead Man had caught my eye. A bit of a different, slow burn strip for 2000 AD. That hoodwinked the readers into the nightmare that was Necropolis.
And there he was again, Carlos Ezquerra. The lines more assured. The emotions and expressions more nuanced. The action just MORE. And all rendered in colour from subtle to garish to suit the pace and situations happening.
Carlos’ influence was beyond huge.
A true legend who will be missed. It’s been said more eloquently by others but thank you KING CARLOS.
You will never be forgotten.”
“In every possible way, Carlos was a titan of comic book art. His style, brimming with confidence and wild imagination yet crystal clear in its storytelling, was truly irreplaceable. Muchas gracias por todo, maestro. Se lo va a extrañar.”
“Carlos Ezquerra’s creations have been a fixture in my life from a very young age. John Wagner’s grim humour found a perfect match in Carlos’ colourful pop-brutalism. A true giant, who will be deeply missed.”
“The world is a poorer place without Carlos in it, but the legacy he leaves behind is truly amazing.”
“Every page of Zarjaz or Dogbreath that you hold in your hand would not be here if it wasn’t for Carlos. His work inspires me every time I see it; from the sweeping organic landscapes to the reality of his figurework. A Carlos Ezquerra page is instantly recogniseable. His effortless storytelling lifted everything he drew. Few artists could do more with simply- ‘Dredd, grim.’”