Darwyn Cooke 1962-2016

On Friday, Marsha Cooke, the wife of brilliant comics writer/artist Darwyn Cooke, posted on Cooke’s blog that her husband is receiving “palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer.”

Cooke died early Saturday morning. He was 53.

I mean, look at that cover.
I mean, look at that cover.

Known for a cannily cartoonish style that owed much to Alex Toth’s design sense, 50s magazine illustration and Jack Kirby’s dynamism, Darwyn Cooke is perhaps best known for the still-stunning 2004-2005 series “DC: The New Frontier,” a gorgeous, six-issue riff on the end of the end of the Golden Age of Comics and the start of the Silver Age, a reflection on post-World War II paranoia, McCarthyism and the start of the Kennedy administration.

It has superheroes, the Korean War, dinosaurs on an island, Cold War spies and a very kind Martian who learns English from watching TV, as one does. It also has some of the most beautiful and heart-lifting superhero art ever put to page.

It was made into a DC animated movie called “Justice League: The New Frontier” in 2008. It is a fun watch. But the book is better.

Cooke also adapted several of Richard Stark’s bullet-proof “Parker” novels into tough, elegant graphic novels.

A page from "Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter"
A page from “Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter”

Born in 1962, the Canadian native started his career as a designer in the Canadian magazine industry as an art director and designer, then working at Warner Bros animation as a storyboard artist on popular and critically regarded “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Superman: The Animated Series.”

“Batman: Ego” his DC Comics début, appeared in 2000, followed by a often-brilliant run with fellow noir nerd Ed Brubaker on “Catwoman.”

As much as any artist of his generation, Cooke’s work communicated the almost lizard-brain joy that comics can uniquely deliver. His pages are a masterclass in story-telling, his line direct and sure.

His most recent work was “The Twilight Children,” with Gilbert Hernandez (best known for “Love and Rockets”). It’s an interesting book, two masterclass comics storytellers working in concert, Hernandez loosely scripting for Cooke’s always-gorgeous art.

Cooke was also a beloved figure personally in an industry that can always use more. Here are a bunch of reflections from his peers. Here is an especially powerful one from writer Tucker Stone.

Cooke also kept a toe in animation. Here is his staggeringly-awesome opening credit sequence for “Batman Beyond.”

But in the end, I just keep coming back to his line, his eye for design, his elegant visual style. Indeed, I am looking at a bibliography and realizing that Cooke made zero bad comics. None. You can drop the needle on his output and find something rewarding.

Go ahead, Google his stuff. Wait for yourself to smile. You will.



Author: Joe Gross

Joe Gross has covered books, movies, music and culture for the American-Statesman since 2002. He tweets at @joegross.

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