The 2000 AD staff confirmed Ezquerra's passing via a statement on their website Monday morning.
“It is difficult to put this into words, but we have lost someone who was the heart and soul of 2000 AD. It is no exaggeration to call Carlos Ezquerra one of the greatest comic book artists of all time, and his name deserves to be uttered alongside Kirby, Ditko, Miller, Moebius, and Eisner," the statement read, in part.
“Yet this doesn't really do justice to someone whose work was loved by millions and has had an influence far beyond the comic book page. From Judge Dredd to Strontium Dog, from Rat Pack to Major Eazy, Carlos has left us with a legacy of stunning and distinctive work that was and always will be 2000 AD."
Born in Zaragoza, Spain, Ezquerra began his career in his native country before transitioning to British publishers, and had a breakthrough when he began drawing the war strip Rat Pack for the ongoing title Battle Picture Weekly, and then moved on to the Major Eazy strip for the same pubication. Then, in 1976, editor Pat Mills and writer John Wagner asked Ezquerra to begin work on a new character: Judge Dredd.
Dredd, one of the most influential characters in the history of comics, first appeared in 2000 AD #2 in the spring of 1977, and while Ezquerra did not pencil that first story, he is the character's co-creator thanks to his ambitious and instantly iconic design work. The helmet, the eagle on the shoulder, and the vast cityscapes of Mega-City One all sprang from Ezquerra's brain, and he eventually returned to the character to draw some of Dredd's greatest tales from the 1980s all the way through to the 2000s.
Ezquerra drew thousands of pages of comics work throughout his career, from Dredd to the beloved bounty hunter series Strontium Dog (which he also co-created with Wagner) to his collaborations with writer Garth Ennis, including Bloody Mary and two Preacher specials. He did not have the same name recognition of Jack Kirby or Todd McFarlane or Jim Lee, but if you've read and enjoyed science fiction comics (or seen science fiction films) in the past four decades, there's a good chance Ezquerra's work informed and influenced what you love in some way. His art was like no one else's, and he will be missed.