Although most notable for his work at for 2000 AD in the 1970s and 80s, his career stretches back to Deed-a-day Danny in 1949. In its early years 2000AD employed a mixture of well established artists as well as a range of exciting new talent. Of the former, Ron Smith is arguably the only artist to have successfully adapted to the comic's anarchic and iconoclastic style, while his contemporaries' efforts were phased out and the newer generation took prominence.
During the early to mid 1980s Ron Smith was by far the most prolific artist working on Judge Dredd. 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 (AKA "Judge Cal" or "Judge Caligula") and The Judge Child. When Bolland and McMahon moved to new projects other artists such as Carlos Ezquerra, Ian Gibson and Steve Dillon took over illustrating duties alongside the ever-dependable Smith who now became the strips's definitive artist.
Amongst 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 (although the first Fatty story was actually drawn by McMahon in a previous Annual). The "Get Ugly!" 2000AD cover has been used at least twice as a T-Shirt design. Other Dredd stories in which Smith excelled were the Pat Mills scripted "Blood of Satanus" where he more than effectively depicted a man's transformation into a blood-thirsty Tyranosaurus 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. Ron Smith also co-created the anti-hero Chopper in "Unamerican Grafitti" and Dave the orang-utan who became Mayor of Mega-City One.
He is responsible for some of the comic's most memorable cover images.
Ron 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's depiction of Dredd differed slightly from that of his contemporaries. While both Bolland and McMahon chose to draw features of the Judge's uniform such as his gloves, boots, shoulder armour and elbow and knee pads in quite an exaggerated over-size fashion, Smith's depiction of Dredd's pads were more modestly sized and understated in appearance. The chunky heavy-looking chain attached to Dredd's zip and name-badge was replaced by a thinner, lightweight chain and the badge itself was less prominent. His helmet too was smaller and tighter-fitting. The overall effect was to focus more on Dredd's actual figure which was seen to be lean and muscular whereas other artists tended towards obscuring his figure by overstating the body-protection. Dredd's lawgiver pistol was also smaller and sleeker than it usually appeared, especially in Smith's earlier work where it rarely resembled its usual self! Most significantly Smith usually drew Dredd with two boot holsters and two lawgivers, while others gave him just the one.
Another trademark feature was that Smith often drew a prominent picture of Dredd (normally just head and shoulders) at the start of the week's story, quite separate from the narrative itself; although not a technique exclusive to Smith, it was fairly uncommon in 2000AD at the time.
Despite the undoubted quality of his artwork and his standing in illustrating some of the most popular and influential Dredd stories, Smith has never received the same recognition amongst fans as his contemporaries. When Titan Books first started reprinting 2000AD stories in the early 80s, the Judge Dredd stories it focused were those created by Brian Bolland and Mike McMahon, artists who have always ranked at the top of fans' lists of favourite illustrators, awarding the pair volumes of their own work. Smith's work, on the other hand, was only seen as part of the extended storylines to which he contributed. Even Rebellion's current reprints of Dredd's stories feature brief descriptions of Smith on the biography pages, whereas other artists whose contribution and influence is not as great receive detailed paragraphs.
Comics work includes: