John Hicklenton

John Hicklenton © PA

"The stuff that I do is aggressive art ... I think that every human being, if we're honest, is fascinated with the power, viscera and beauty of violence, because of its purity. If you looked at my art, you'd think I was a psychopath, if you didn't know me. But I'm fairly all right."

John Hicklenton (1967 - 2010) was a British comics artist who became fascinated by the medium after encountering a copy of 2000 AD when he was twelve years old: "I literally gave my mates my football, went home and drew obsessively every day for eight hours." His obsession blossomed into an art style that paradoxically used finesse and attention to detail to produce savage, exuberantly violent pictures, characterised by scrawls and splatters of black ink that appeared about to surge off the page and stain the reader. Excoriatingly honest, his work seemed to tear the comforting veneer from the surface of life to expose the blood-and-guts of the dark reality throbbing and twitching underneath.

His career took off when Ron Smith saw a Christmas card the young college student had drawn for his daughter, was impressed by it and introduced Hicklenton to his agent. Having phoned Pat Mills asking for work because his mother told him to, Hicklenton worked on several strips for 2000 AD. His art for Tharg's Future Shocks is notable because he collaborated with two authors who went on to become fairly well-known, Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman.

However, it was when drawing Nemesis the Warlock that his talent expressed itself most memorably. The grotesque physicality of the semi-equine, semi-humanoid, wholly diabolical warlock had never before been so compellingly depicted, and it seemed possible to count every pore on the rage-twisted features of Torquemada, a slab of muscle animated by hatred of his foe — meat powered by menace.

Hicklenton drew other well-known 2000 AD characters, including Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd and Mean Angel, and also worked with Pat Mills on Third World War in Crisis.

In 2000 Hicklenton was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The documentary detailing his life with this "terrorist, medieval disease", Here's Johnny, was widely acclaimed, won two Grierson Awards and was praised by the British Medical Journal. Throughout his illness Hicklenton found comfort in his art: "I haven't got MS when you are looking at my pictures. I haven't got MS when I am drawing them. I am getting out a lot of rage through the pen."

On the day before he died Hicklenton finished 100 Months, a graphic novel he had written and drawn. He chose to end his life on March 19th 2010 at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland. Pat Mills broke the news of his death on the 2000 AD forums, praising him as "a great artist and a true hero."

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