“2000 AD” magazine have announced that veteran British artist Ron Smith has died. He was 94 years old.
Ronald George Smith was born in Bournemouth in 1924. He served with the Royal Air Force as a Spitfire pilot during the Second World War, and afterwards worked at the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation’s animation studio. When Gaumont-British’s parent company, the Rank Organisation, went bankrupt in 1949, Smith found work at Amalgamated Press (later known as Fleetway), illustrating comic strips for the humor magazine “Knockout.”
After working on promotional adaptations of Hollywood adventure films like The Flame and the Arrow and The Last Outpost, Smith was hired in 1952 by publisher DC Thomson to illustrate boys’ “story papers” like Hotspur, Adventure and The Wizard. He drew for girls’ comics “Bunty” and “Judy.” After two decades at the publisher, he went freelance, but continued working for them, illustrating adventure stories, superhero strips, and humor titles. He also took on uncredited work for Marvel in the US.
He began illustrating Judge Dredd stories for “2000 AD” magazine in 1979, becoming the character’s most prolific artist during the early 1980s. With Dredd co-creator and writer John Wagner, Smith created popular recurring character Otto Sump, aka Mega-City One’s ugliest man. Smith, Wagner and Alan Grant also began the “Judge Dredd” strip that ran weekly in the Daily Star newspaper in 1981. Other titles Smith drew before his retirement in the 1990s included “The Transformers,” “Zoids,” “M.A.S.K.,” “Eagle,” “Wildcat” and “Toxic Crusaders.” Smith was married twice, and had four daughters. He suffered from Parkinson’s and was living at a care home in Leatherhead, where he passed away in the early hours of the morning.
Several artists and writers, including Jock, Jamie McKelvie, Al Ewing, Rob Williams, Jamie Matheson, and P.J. Holden have paid tribute to Smith online. “2000 AD” editor Matt Smith said, “Like Carlos Ezquerra, his style was uniquely his own – you never mistook a Ron Smith strip – and he filled his panels with comical grotesques, his Mega-City One full of living, breathing loons. Capable of amazingly detailed work – check out his episodes of Block Mania, where he dealt with thousands of rioting citizens – and professional to a fault, it’s no wonder he was one of Tharg’s regular go-to Dreddguys. A ‘2000 AD’ legend, he will be greatly missed by fans and fellow creators alike.”