By Michele Brittany, West Coast Correspondent
At the top of the hour for the Saturday panel titled “Spotlight on Carlos Ezquerra,” a Comic-Con organizer announced that he had the honor to present Ezquerra with the Inkpot Award for Achievement in Comics Arts. The acknowledgement reaffirmed the artist’s involvement in comics for 45 years. After the presentation, PR & Marketing for 2000AD’s Michael Molcher provided a brief introduction to Spanish artist Ezquerra, who is probably most known for his visual work on Judge Dredd and Johnny Alpha from Strontium Dog.
Ezquerra stated that as a boy, he did not have all the modern devices and games to entertain himself on his free Sunday afternoons, so he looked forward to reading comics. By the latter 1960s, like other Spanish artists before him, Ezquerra went to the United Kingdom, seeking work. Having left a fascist Spain, he cherished the independence and freedom he had in the UK. While many artists headed to the United States after gaining some comic experience in the UK market, Ezquerra was hesitant because he knew that he did not like to have bosses dictate to him.
Ezquerra initially worked on romantic comics and Molcher asked why. Ezquerra responded that aesthetically they were more advanced than other genres out there. He was also heavily influenced by films of the time. He was fortunate that he had caught the wave of more dynamic drawing styles that was blossoming at the time. He said that he developed the fastest pen in comics because he would average approximately 24 to 28 pages per month.
Eventually, he met John Wagner and Pat Mills. They had the idea for a story about a judge in the very near future. They had some descriptors in mind: a New York City policeman dressed in black, rides a motorcycle and is an executioner. Ezquerra was given the film Death Race 2000 to watch and glean inspiration. He returned with a judge of a future society that wore a black uniform with big sculpted armor since he would need to be recognizable from far away. Ezquerra chose the eagle because it was an American, Roman and Spanish (on the flag) symbol. He used a Spanish coin pattern for the badge. Executioners of the Middle Ages wore hoods that shielded their eyes, so Ezquerra used that same concept for the helmet. For the motorcycle, there was only one to look to: the Harley Davidson. Ezquerra designed a motorcycle with wide handle bars and big fat tires that created a menacing presence. One last detail that Ezquerra included was that the gun hung low on the judge’s hip so it was easier to draw and shoot while on the bike. And that was the birth of Ezquerra’s Judge Dredd.
Wagner hated the judge, calling the design a “Spanish pirate” but Mills’ reaction was much more positive and hence, he changed the timeframe of the story to accommodate Ezquerra’s character. Molcher interjected that in Judge Dredd, Ezquerra broke all the rules of character design in comics because the judge was very distinctive and had an intricate uniform.
Ezquerra completed the initial story and unfortunately the Judge Dredd episode was censored for being too violent. It was scrapped and another artist was brought in, who used many of his elements, to the point of lifting and putting them into the new revised episode. Ezquerra walked away from Judge Dredd, but he eventually returned. Ezquerra and Wagner still complete the significant story arcs of the judge. As Ezquerra relates that he and Wagner have been working together so long that they are very in tune with each other.
Ezquerra worked on another strong character: Johnny Alpha from the series Strontium Dog. He stated that Johnny Alpha had a singular focus, but he was more human than Judge Dredd. There were some copyright issues that led to the ending of the series, which Ezquerra was unhappy about. A different artist was used and consequently their relationship suffered.
If you look at his bibliography, Al’s Baby seems like a departure for Ezquerra and it is, but he stated that he really enjoyed doing comedy. The story of a guy named Al, who has ties to the mafia, becomes pregnant. The story relates all of Al’s experiences that a woman would have during pregnancy, such as food cravings. The story ran in the Judge Dredd Megazine in the early 1990s and in 2000AD in 1997. Ezquerra likes comedy, but unfortunately, it wasn’t popular.
More recently, Ezquerra has been working with Garth Ennis, whom he describes as a great writer. He also said that they connect well creativity on projects, so they have worked together on several books over the years.
Molcher mentioned that Ezquerra found out he had Stage 3 lung cancer that necessitated that one of his lungs be removed (2010). He nodded and said that a trip to the Himalayas would be difficult now, which got chuckles from the audience. Did Ezquerra have any plans to retire? He said no. He strongly felt that comics and drawing were an integral part of his life and part of his base existence. He said he hopes to be buried with a pen in his hand.
Event photos were taken by Michele Brittany.
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer and editor of James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy (McFarland & Company) as well as the forthcoming book Essays on Space Horror in Films, 1950s – 2000s. Read her reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage and space horror genres via her blogs at Spyfi & Superspies and Space Horror Films. Follow Michele on Twitter: @mcbrittany2014.