Brett Ewins was never one of my favorite creators, but he was responsible for many of my favorite comics. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy his work — there’s something about his line that made his figures wonderfully flat and iconically “comic book”-y to me in a way that other creators couldn’t manage, from his Anderson, Psi Division stuff onwards — but outside of Bad Company, one of my favorite 2000AD strips of all time, his work never really appeared on anything that I fell in love with, if that makes sense.
But he did the bulk of Rogue Trooper strips when I wasn’t reading 2000AD, keeping the character around for when I’d return with Steve Dillon et al running things. And he did the first solo series for Anderson Psi Division (complete with some impressively blunt swipes from Brian Bolland’s Dredd work), another strip I’d adore after his departure — and, somewhere long after the fact, his version of Anderson has become my internal default for some reason.
And much more importantly, he was one of the creators/original editors for Deadline. I’ve spoken about this in the podcast, I think, but Deadline was one of those titles that saved me from walking away from comics when I discovered it. It was where Jamie Hewlett and Philip Bond made their names, as well as creators like Shaky Kane, Nick Abadzis, Glyn Dillon and countless others; it was where I first read Evan Dorkin and Love & Rockets, even if I didn’t quite get that latter one for years afterwards.
More than that, Deadline was a gateway to all manner of different things, for me (and, I suspect, many others; I’m fairly sure that early ‘90s comics like Revolver, with Rogan Gosh and Morrison/Hughes’ Dare come as a result of Deadline’s success, as are a bunch of Vertigo projects and so on and so on); I followed Milligan from Deadline to Shade the Changing Man. I followed Abadzis from Deadline to, years later, Laika, and Glyn Dillon even later to The Nao of Brown, all of which are some of my favorite comics ever. And I’m not sure I would have checked any of them out without Deadline. Without Brett Ewins.
(One of the strange things about Ewins’ career stalling out when it did, mostly due to illness, was that I don’t feel as if he ever really “broke through” in the U.S.; I’m imagining that many people reading this might be more familiar with his Skreemer mini-series from DC than anything else he did, which feels wrong. Without Ewins, you don’t have Gorillaz, you know?)
I never met him, I don’t think — it’s possible that I did at a Glasgow Comic Convention back in 1989 or 1990, but I don’t really remember and even if I did, I definitely wouldn’t have said anything beyond a mumbled, nervous “hello” — and he’s not even really someone that I could honest say that I’d paid a lot of attention to in recent years outside of reading, with some concern, about his health worries and run-ins with the law. (I didn’t even know The Art of Brett Ewins existed, although I now want to read it and feel ghoulish about admitting that.)
Reading about his death this morning, though, I felt both sad and grateful for everything that he’d given me, or at least helped me find, without knowing it. He might not have been a favorite creator, but he helped shape my tastes in ways that I still don’t understand.