Ron Smith (1928-2019)
Ron Smith was an English comic-book artist whose career spanned almost fifty years. Primarily producing strips for the two main publishers, DC Thomson and IPC Magazines, Smith was best known for drawing Judge Dredd for 2000 AD and The Daily Star.
Born in Bournemouth in 1928 Ron Smith studied to become an engineer himself, but this was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Enlisting as a pilot with the Empire Flying Training Programme, but he ended up flying mark 19 Spitfires. After the war he joined the Gaumont British animation studio and later the Amalgamated Press under editor Leonard Matthews. In 1952 he was hired by D. C. Thomson & Co. as an illustrator for boys' story papers like Hotspur, Adventure and The Wizard under editor R. D. Low. In 1972 he left D. C. Thomson's staff and went freelance, moving to Surrey, although he continued to draw for Thomsons' comics, primarily Hotspur, with other strips including "The Cowboy Cricketer", and "Nick Jolly".
In 1979 he began drawing "Judge Dredd" for IPC's 2000 AD, and during the early to mid-1980s, Ron Smith was by far the most prolific artist working on the character. Along with Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon he contributed to two of the character's most popular epic-length stories, "The Day the Law Died" and "The Judge Child". Among the more grotesque characters created by Smith was Otto Sump, Mega-City One's ugliest man, with Smith excelling himself in "The Otto Sump Ugly Clinic" depicting the horrific length citizens of the metropolis go to in making themselves look as physically repulsive as possible.
Smith was responsible for the majority of ugly-spin-off stories including "Gunge", "Who Killed Pug Ugly?" about an ugly pop star and "The League of Fatties" about over-eaters gone to extremes. Other Dredd stories, which featured Smith at the peak of his powers were the Pat Mills scripted "Blood of Satanus" where he more than effectively depicted a man's transformation into a blood-thirsty Tyrannosaurus rex, "The Hot-Dog Run" featuring a group of cadet Judges on a training mission in the Cursed Earth and "The Graveyard Shift", an extended narrative covering one typically crime-filled night in Mega-City One. He also co-created the anti-hero Chopper in "Unamerican Graffiti" and Dave the orang-utan who became Mayor of Mega-City One.
Smith also created some of the most memorable 2000 AD cover images, and produced a number of other strips produced for the comic, including "Rogue Trooper" and "Chronos Carnival". Smith also helped bring Judge Dredd and his world to a whole new audience each weekend when he was chosen to illustrate a weekly Dredd strip for the Daily Star newspaper, each story a complete vignette offering a bizarre slice of life in the future city. Smith went on to draw for other IPC titles, including M.A.S.K., Eagle, Wildcat and Toxic Crusaders before retiring in the 1990s.