Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Godspeed Darwyn Cooke

Darwyn Cooke, the Eisner award winning comic book writer and artist who also did substantial work in animation, died on May14 at the age of 53. The cause was lung cancer.

Darwyn Cooke was born on November 16 1962 in Toronto, Ontario. He grew up in Nova Scotia. As a boy Mr. Cooke read comic books, although he would not become a passionate fan of the medium until he was in his teens. His first professional work was a five page crime story entitled "The Private Eye", published by DC Comics in New Talent Showcase #19 (October 1985). Unfortunately Darwyn Cooke did not think he could make a living in the comic book industry. He attended George Brown College in Toronto for a year, then went to work as an art director for various magazines. Eventually he established his own studio.

It was in 1996 that he learned that Warner Bros. was looking for storyboard artists for both The New Batman Adventures and Superman: The Animated Series. He made a pitch to Warner Bros. that included work that would become Batman: Ego, which would be published in 2000. Darwyn Cooke would then spend the next several years working on various Warner Bros. animated properties. He was a storyboard artist on The New Batman Adventures, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and Men in Black: The Series. He directed episodes of Men in Black: The Series and designed the titles for both the the TV series Batman Beyond and Batman Beyond: The Movie.

Darwyn Cooke returned to comic books in 2000 with the publication of the graphic novel Batman: Ego. He worked on the first four issues of the new Catwoman title, launched with a cover date of November 2001. He contributed to 9–11: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers & Artists Tell Stories to Remember, Volume Two. In 2002 DC Comics published his graphic novel Catwoman: Selina's Big Score. In 2001 they published the limited series DC: The New Frontier. The limited series was a tribute to the Silver Age set in the Fifties, with Golden Age superheroes Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman encountered the new Silver Age heroes The Flash, Green Lantern, and The Martian Manhunter. DC: The New Frontier won the Eisner Awards for e Eisner Award for Best Limited Series, Best Colouring, and Best Publication Design. It also won the Harvey Awards for  Best Artist, Best Colourist, and Best Continuing or Limited Series. For DC: The New Frontier Darwyn Cooke won the Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist (Writer/Artist).

Darwyn Cooke wrote the one-shot Batman/The Spirit (November 2006), in which Batman meets Will Eisner's classic character The Spirit. In 2009 Mr. Cooke began adapting the Parker novels written by Richard Stark as graphic novels. These included Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter (July 2009), Richard Stark's Parker: The Man With the Getaway Face – A Prelude to The Outfit (July 2010), Richard Stark's Parker: The Outfit (October 2010), Richard Stark's Parker: The Score (May 2012), and Richard Stark's Parker: Slayground (December 2013). Over the years Darwyn Cooke contributed works about such DC Comics characters as Green Lantern, The Justice League, and Jonah Hex, as well as such Marvel characters as X-Force, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. He provided covers for everything from Weird Western Tales to Painkiller Jane.

Darwyn Cooke did further work in animation in the late Naughts. He served as a storyboard artist, character designer, and creative consultant on Justice League: The New Frontier (2008), which was based on his graphic novel.  He provided art for Batman Black and White episode "Here Be Monsters".

As both a writer and an artist Darwyn Cooke was very talented. What is more he had a wonderfully retro style that hearkened back to both the Golden Age and the Silver Age. What is more, he returned to comic books just when they needed him most. The Nineties saw a trend towards grittiness and darkness in comic books, with superheroes often being portrayed as being extremely flawed. Darwyn Cooke returned the characters to their original heroic proportions, looking to how they had originally been portrayed in comic books. Darwyn Cooke's eye for earlier times also proved useful in adapting Richard Stark's Parker novels. The artwork in the Parker graphic novels look as if they could have easily come from a classic film noir from the Forties or Fifties. Ultimately one could say that Darwyn Cooke simply made comic books fun again. Because of that comic book fans owe him an enormous debt.

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