A Tribute to John Hicklenton, Written by Pat Mills; Along with a Gallery of Breathtaking Hicklenton Artwork


Last week, John Hicklenton, a British artist, best known for his work in 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine, passed away at age 42, after a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis.

Pat Mills, who was very close friends with John Hicklenton, has written a incredibly moving tribute to John, which is set to appear in next month’s Judge Dredd Megazine (#296). Pat, and Rebellion, have kindly given me permission to share this tribute here.

Pat has also supplied me with tons of fabulous artwork by John Hicklenton, which I have peppered throughout the tribute. In order to see a full gallery of the images, please scroll to the bottom of the page, where you will be able to see them in their full glory.

Here’s Johnny

Pat Mills looks back at the  career  of the extraordinarily  talented John Hicklenton who sadly passed away on Friday 19th March 2010.

bw-1 A year or so ago, I showed some of Johnny’s pages from Judge Dredd  - ‘The Tenth Circle’ to my co-creator on Requiem Vampire Knight,  artist  Olivier Ledroit.  He looked at them  in awe and exclaimed. “How does he sleep at night?!”  If you’ve seen ‘The Tenth Circle’, you’ll know what Olivier means.  Actually,  I took it  as a compliment as Requiem  is  also  pretty dark. And  Johnny slept very well .  His art might be disturbing for some, but never for me , for reasons which  I think 2000AD fan  Jonathan  Fisher has  summed up best , “John’s work is subversive, sublime and perverse yet beautiful  and intriguing.”

For me, Johnny  is the Jimi Hendrix of comic artists. Easy viewing comic  “muzak” he’s not.  His grotesque  images bear comparison with Gerald  Scarfe and  Ralph Steadman and are not for the squeamish.  Yet his  elegant  thin line work  has much in common  with Aubrey Beardsley.  Internationally rated  by artists such as  Moebius,  let me take you now on a  brief tour of some of  his  creations.

front_cover Johnny’s first work was a  future shock written by Neil Gaiman. (Curiously, the only story of Neil’s that 2000AD ever published). Johnny sent it to me and on the basis of this and other grotesqueries, I asked him to draw Nemesis.  He at once brought a scary organic  sensibility to the Warlock and a psychotic look to Torquemada . This psycho-look  he recreated later in the Inspector Ryan stories from  Third World War.  The racist deranged  Ryan was conceived by my co-writer Alan Mitchell and Alan brilliantly directed Johnny on the story,  choosing  Angela Kincaid to colour  it which she did beautifully  without destroying   the artist’s black  line, a common problem  with colorists.   Many regard the Inspector Ryan series  as his   finest work and certainly they did in Europe.   It was  reprinted in graphic album form in German, French and Dutch editions in an elite masterwork series.   But never in the UK, alas, although I hope reader requests might persuade Rebellion to follow suit one day.

dredd-head-poster Then there was our Zombie World:  Tree of Death saga  for Dark Horse USA  – about a Satanic cabbalistic map  based on the London Underground map  which brings  demons into our world.  It was  reprinted recently  in the collection “Winter’s Dregs”.   (Johnny is credited as Johnny Deadstock after the band he was a part of.)   We went to the catacombs in Kensal  Green Cemetery to research the story and had an  enjoyable Goth day out wandering underground  amongst the Victorian caskets wondering,  “What if…?”.  The black comedy results include exploding coffins  with a zombie stuck to  the ceiling.  The demons featured are also  brilliant – my favourite is a wolf  with a huge distended belly elevated high above us  on tripod-like legs.

The German publisher Extreme , backed by   top German band Die Arzte,  also  loved Johnny’s work .  They said they wanted  extreme,  so  we produced  the graphic novel  Torturer for x-face-poster-final-copy them set in Cathar France.  This  was a return to the demonic   Inquisition world  Johnny first captured in  Nemesis.  His  range  of demons seems  inexhaustible.   Many of them have appeared in his Judge Dredds  and especially in ‘The Tenth Circle’ when  Dredd visits Dante’s Inferno.  Reproduction problems  may not have shown  this  story   to best advantage but  I think that’s being looked into now.  And who else but Johnny could create   man-mountain Hungry Jacko?  X Face?  Or  Darcagis, the demon with stakes through his eyes?  And the triple George Bush bleeding oil?   I always regretted that Johnny never drew my recent  Dredd story “Birthday Boy” about a villain with  candles stuck in his  face and body. If he had,  it would have become  as memorable as Pinhead.

Johnny started a biographical novel based on his multi- award winning  documentary about his fight against MS.  (www.heresjohnnyfilm.com ) . It was great,  but then he decided to write 52 and draw  a  fantasy story  instead  as his final work : 100 months. He completed it just last week.  More about  100 months , Pandora and  two other Johnny classics – Bedlam and  Fearteachers -   another time, other than to say they are all  fabulous and worth an article to themselves.  Once again, it’s other countries that often  seem to recognize his talent  : 100 Months first  sold to two countries in Europe, although I’ve  just heard a UK publisher has  also picked it up.

But 2000AD was always his first love.  His wonderful partner Claire  told me, “Please know that Johnny, my beautiful Johnny, was funny, wise and brave to the last - just as he was every other day of his war. The day before ‘D-day’ he wrote the afterword for Sláine and drew 2 wonderful sketches to sit alongside it.”   Clint Langley and I  intend to feature these sketches  and words  in a future Sláine volume dedicated to Johnny.

Sleep well, my dear friend.

Pat Mills March 23,  2010.

Image Gallery

Related posts:

  1. John Hicklenton Passes Away After a Long Battle with Multiple Sclerosis
  2. Pat Mills’ Requiem Vampire Knight Receives an English Translation by Panini UK, and Mills Signs at Forbidden Planet on September 19th
  3. John Cassady’s Gorgeous Cover for Planetary #27 + Page 18 Coloured Artwork
  4. Trade Review - Defoe, Vol. 1: 1666 by Pat Mills and Leigh Gallagher
  5. Sneak Peek at Artwork From Two Upcoming Judge Dredd Stories Illustrated by Guy Davis and Dylan Teague!


One Response to “A Tribute to John Hicklenton, Written by Pat Mills; Along with a Gallery of Breathtaking Hicklenton Artwork”
  1. Anthony Whalen says:

    A great influence to me with artworks that have inspired me along the way. My heart felt condolence. John Hicklenton r.i.p

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!