Remembering The Life And Work Of Darwyn Cooke, 1962-2016
In a blog post on Friday, Darwyn Cooke’s wife Marsha announced that her husband had been undergoing palliative care following treatment for an aggressive form of cancer. It was confirmed the next day that Darwyn Cooke passed away in the early hours of Saturday, May 14, surrounded by friends and family at his home in Florida.
Cooke’s loss is felt throughout the comic book industry, not just as a creator and cartoonist, but as a friend, colleague and idol. Darwyn Cooke’s iconic and unmistakable style represented the very best the industry could offer, and the world is a much poorer place without him.
Cooke began his career in comics in the mid-'80s, but shortly left to spend most of the next decade working in magazines as a graphic designer and art director. He tried his hands at comics once again in the mid-'90s ,but was instead hired as a storyboard artist for the growing line of DC Comics cartoons headed up by Bruce Timm.
In the late '90s, DC Comics approached Darwyn Cooke about a project he had pitched previously, which eventually saw publication in 2000 as Batman: Ego. From here he worked on several projects at Marvel, including X-Statix and Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, but it was back at DC Comics that he truly made his lasting mark on the industry.
He joined forces with Ed Brubaker to revamp the character of Catwoman, first in a four-issue story in the pages of Detective Comics that became the lead-in to a brand new ongoing series for the character under the same creative team. Cooke’s redesign of Selina Kyle’s costume was instantly iconic and became the go-to look for adaptations, including the Arkham series of games and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
In 2004. DC Comics released what will undoubtedly be Darwyn Cooke’s most enduring and fondly remembered work, DC: The New Frontier. The series is set in the Silver Age of comic books, and follows characters such as Green Lantern, The Flash and Martian Manhunter as the world grows and changes to accept superbeings as part of everyday life, and the new costumed adventurers must work together to stop an ancient alien threat.
The New Frontier is remembered fondly for its hope and its optimism, and it’s a story where teamwork saves the day, but there’s so much more before the big fight in the final issue. It’s Wonder Woman’s boisterous joie de vivre; it’s The Flash’s purehearted good intentions; it’s John Henry’s indomitable spirit. The New Frontier represents all of our potential and reminds us that the world is worth fighting for.
A year later, Darwyn Cooke was one of the showcase artists featured in an issue of DC’s Solo, a series that put the spotlight on one artist each issue and gave them almost complete free reign. Cooke’s issue --- Solo #5 --- won the Eisner Award for Best Single Issue, and is well worth seeking out for his short tale about being inspired to become an artist.
After Will Eisner himself, Cooke will likely go down as one of the greatest creators to work on The Spirit, which ended up being his longest run on a comic as a writer and artist alongside frequent collaborators J. Bone and Dave Stewart. Cooke’s take on Eisner’s classic seies modernized the franchise in some respects, and remained fun, new and vital while paying reverence to what came before.
In 2009, Darwyn Cooke began adapting Richard Stark’s Parker series of stories for IDW, starting with The Hunter. Cooke’s interpretation of Parker brought the iconic criminal to life in a whole new way, his staging of Parker’s heists and fights were exciting and visceral and his use of a single color palette for each volume gave every installment its own identity.
In 2012, Darwyn Cooke was one of the creators that spearheaded DC Comics’ controversial new line Before Watchmen, several mini-series set before the events of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' legendary work. Cooke wrote the Silk Spectre series alongside Amanda Conner on art, and wrote and drew the Minutemen mini, which was hailed as the standout of the line.
In recent years, Cooke contributed several covers and variants for DC Comics, including a month dedicated to his art and style, in which he provided 23 variant covers depicting new and classic characters in his own unique manner. Just last year, he teamed up with the legendary Gilbert Hernandez for The Twilight Children, a creator-owned miniseries at Vertigo about a peculiar seaside town.
It is a tragedy for the entire industry to lose a voice and a vision as great as Darwyn Cooke, and our thoughts are with his family and friends in this difficult time. In his absence, hopefully we can retain the spirit and joy that was characterized his work, and be inspired to create our own and spread that joy in his honor.
DC Comics released a statement on Darwyn Cooke’s passing, which you can see here.
A Celebration of Some Of Our Favorite Pieces By Darwyn Cooke