Saturday, May 14, 2016

Darwyn Cooke Merges With The Infinite - #RIPDarwynCooke

Just yesterday we heard that Darwyn Cooke had entered palliative care in the last stages of cancer, and by the time I went to bed, the internet was telling me we that we have lost Darwyn Cooke, comics artist and writer.

2016 seems intent on taking my favorite artists from the world before their time.

It seemed to me Cooke was properly appreciated by comics enthusiasts, and a favorite in the creator community as a solid guy.

His art is making its way around the internet, and you won't have to look far for the next 72 hours to see all of us posting our favorite pieces.  I'll focus here on his DC work and his work with Richard Stark's Parker novels.

Perhaps the best known of his works is DC's New Frontier, the Jet Age re-imagining of the origin of the Justice League of America, featuring all the mainstay players and some more-forgotten characters of the JFK/ pop explosion era of DC.  If you've never read it, it's available out there in print and digital.  And, it was adapted into a feature length cartoon film a few years back.

Cooke's art tilted toward iconographic cartooning, and fit no house style at DC, even as it clearly fit the aesthetic and mood of the DCU on the sunniest of days.  Both retro and modern, his style borrowing heavily from the pop-art style of late-50/ early-60's illustration, with the nuance of line to manage expression and convey more in a face than 95% of comics artists.

During an era when DC Comics and comics in general are on a swing back toward projecting a world view of fire, chaos, and gnashing teeth for all of their characters, Cooke still found a place in the comics world to show a DC Universe infused with hope.

The first book I remember picking up with his art work was the re-launched Catwoman with Ed Brubaker.  Sleek, sexy and tough as nails, this Selena Kyle exuded class and brains, and became the Catwoman of the last two decades, informing the Catwoman of Dark Knight Rises as much or more than any other take.

During his run on New Frontier, I was fascinated with Cooke's take on Wonder Woman as a woman with an imposing build to match her powerhouse stature and iron-willed attitude, and with a keen sense of justice.

This art is from his covers series from about 18 months ago, which I hope DC collects sometime.

And, of course, his Right Stuff take on Hal Jordan.

Cooke understood motion and action, page layout and in general - mastering technique and making it his own, more than earning his place as the best of the best in an era that wanted to put seams and ribs on character costumes.  Cooke got that it's about bringing icons to life.

His interpretation of the Superman Family was among my favorite.  When he went for a bit more realism, he allowed Superman's costume to fold and wrinkle, and in motion, he's a blue and red bolt.

His Supergirl captured the pre-Crisis joy of the character (something DC can't seem to wrap its collective head around in the comics, but gets over on the TV show).  And, hey, look at those super-pets!  Just look at 'em!

Ah, Lois.  In some ways, my yard stick for all artists taking on the Super titles.  I have no prescription for Lois' exact look, but I know an artist either gets her or doesn't by how she's presented, and Cooke captured Lois' spirit and coolness under fire in his first panel of her and Jimmy right there in New Frontier.

And, of course, the two panels that got me a wee bit choked up when I read it.  The first three or four times.

You can do a lot with the lines that make up eyes and lips.

And, damn, who wouldn't have read this take on the World's Finest comic?

I write up the Parker novels by Richard Stark whenever I finish one (I've still got about four to go).  But my interest started with reading that Cooke was going to put out some comic adaptations of the novels.  It was a pre-release interview that convinced me to pick up the first novel and read it, and... the rest is history.  I don't read book series, in general, but here I am, 19 or 20 books into the series.

Then, his work on the actual comics was absolutely stunning.  Not just in capturing Parker the character exactly as I'd imagined him, but in carrying the action using the best execution of cartooning and panel and page management of almost any comic in the last decade.  And there's 4 of the full length adaptations, and two short stories, I think.

Cooke went on to work with IDW to release a hardback edition of the first Parker novel, The Hunter, with book plate illustrations rather than a comic.  It's a hell of a package, and I recommend it.

We'll miss you, Mr. Cooke.  You were one of the shining stars in comics of the past 2 decades.  I hope the tributes today are indicative of the legacy you've left behind, and the appreciation we have for your work.

No comments: