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Ron Smith Judge Dredd

A Judge Dredd pin-up from 2000 AD

Ronald George Smith was born in Bournemouth in 1924, the son of a structural engineer. He studied to become an engineer himself, but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. Smith enlisted as a pilot with the Empire Flying Training Programme, and ended up flying Spitfires. He was demobbed in 1947, and joined the Gaumont British animation studio,[1] alongside future comics artists Mike Western and Eric Bradbury.[2]

After Gaumont British's parent company, the Rank Organisation, went bust in 1949, Smith found work drawing comics for the Amalgamated Press under editor Leonard Matthews,[1] starting on Knock-Out with humour strips like "Deed-a-Day Danny"[3] and "Young Joey".[1] His first adventure strip was an adaptation of the Burt Lancaster film The Flame and the Arrow in 1951.[4] More adventure work, including "Ryan of the Redcoats" and adaptations of the western films Buffalo Stampede and The Last Outpost for The Comet, followed.[1]

In 1952 he was hired by DC Thomson as an illustrator for boys' story papers like The Hotspur, Adventure and The Wizard under editor R. D. Low. Smith was now married with a child and no longer wanted to live in bomb-damaged London, so Thomsons bought him a house outside Dundee, where they had their headquarters, paid for from deductions from his wages. He also drew for their girls' comics Bunty and Judy.[1]

In 1963 he was sent to South Africa by The Scotsman newspaper to find Jeannie Stewart of the anti-apartheid group Black Sash, who had been sending the paper material but had been stopped by the South African authorities. Because his passport gave his profession as "artist", rather than "journalist", it was felt he would arouse less suspicion. He found her and, after going on safari in the Kruger National Park to maintain his cover as a tourist, was able to bring some material back for the paper.[1]

In 1972[5] he left DC Thomson's staff and went freelance, moving to Surrey,[1] although he continued to draw for Thomsons' comics, primarily The Hotspur. Strips he drew included "The Cowboy Cricketer", and "Nick Jolly", a fantasy story about an eighteenth century highwayman brought forward in time by well-meaning aliens to fight the sinister arch-villain Simon Death on his robotic, jet-powered horse Bess. He pushed for Thomsons to publish superhero strips, and was eventually given the go-ahead to create "King Cobra",[1] who first appeared in The Hotspur in 1976[6] and ran until 1980. Other titles he drew for include humour titles The Topper, The Dandy and The Beezer, and boys' adventure titles The Victor[2] and Warlord, for which he drew "Drake of E-Boat Alley" and "Codename Warlord". He also did some uncredited work for Marvel Comics in the USA.[1]

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".

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 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 went on to draw for other IPC titles, including M.A.S.K., Eagle (1982-1994), Wildcat and Toxic Crusaders before retiring in the 1990s.[1]

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Michael Molcher, "Brush Strokes of Genius: Ron Smith Part One", Judge Dredd Megazine #288, 15 September 2009, pp. 16-22
  2. 2.0 2.1 Steve Holland, "Ron Smith cleared of abuse charges", Bear Alley, 12 June 2009
  3. Ron Smith on Lambiek Comiclopedia
  4. Steve Holland, "Comic firsts: Ron Smith", Bear Alley, 13 November 2007
  5. Ron Smith: Artist, Victor/Hornet Comics, January 2012]
  6. King Cobra at International Hero

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