Even for folks who are really important to me (but people who I don’t know) I’m not often personally affected by their deaths.  For some reason, though, comic book artist Steve Dillon has hit me pretty hard.

Maybe it’s because I recently finished watching the premier season of AMC’s adaptation of Dillon’s seminal work, Preacher, a comic he drew for Vertigo going on…  holy crap, fifteen years ago?

I was an absolute rabid comic book consumer throughout junior high and high school, voraciously sucking down nearly every single Marvel Comic in existence, and skimming off the top of the DC world as well.  I shudder to think just how much money I dumped into my local comic store throughout the late 80s and into the 90s.  Then I graduated and went to college, and still kept up to some degree, though it was tougher as a freshman without a car.  Still, I satisfied my love of comics with my friend Jerry (who is now an excellent independent comic artist!) and we fed off each other’s love of those super hero worlds.

Then I was engaged, and I moved to Massachusetts with my fiance, and while the comic shops were actually MORE plentiful down there, I felt like I had finally outgrown that world, at least somewhat.  But I clutched onto Preacher and never let go.  Preacher was my lone connection to the land of make believe for many years and even though I was no longer buying X-Men, Spider-Man, or even Captain America or Daredevil, I was buying Preacher religiously (no pun intended) and enjoying every moment of it.  I bought every individual issue, every trade paperback, and even bought a $200 statue, which at the time was an unbelievable luxury I could not afford.  I lived, ate, and breathed Preacher, and when it ended, so did my last grasp to comics (at least until Devils’ Due resurrected G.I. Joe a short while later, though I still have never jumped back into super hero land).

I’m not an especially religious person, but Preacher was a comic unlike any I have read before or read since, and much of that was due to the understated, yet evocative way that Dillon drew his characters.  They looked natural.  Real.  Normal.  They weren’t strapping spandex warriors, but thin people, fat people, normal people walking around with normal expressions.  It made the comic almost seem more real to me.  Through my evolution from nerdy, unpopular kid to young man engaged and starting a life of his own, Preacher was there, and an ongoing constant in my life.

Now one of the key creators is gone.

In truth, 2016 has been a cast iron bitch with deaths not just in the celebrity world, but in my own family as well, and by the looks of things, she’ll continue being a bitch right up until the very end.

Rest in Peace, Steve Dillon, I didn’t know you, but your work was a deep and engaging part of my life.