Celebrated comics artist/writer Darwyn Cooke passed away early this morning, after battling what was called an “aggressive” form of cancer. It was only two days ago that it was announced that he would be receiving palliative care.
Cooke, who was well-known for his retro-modern drawing style, highly reminiscent of old school comics artists such as Milton Caniff, Jack Kirby and Will Eisner, first began working in the comics industry in 1985, but to no discernible acclaim. He moved to Canada and worked as a graphic designer and art director for the next 15 years. However, he also returned to comics in the early 1990s and, though finding little success at first, was hired by Warner Brothers‘ animation studio to work as a storyboard artist for Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. He also designed the main title sequence for Batman Beyond.
DC Comics then approached him to work with them, releasing Batman: Ego in 2000. The next year, Cooke and Ed Brubaker began work on a retooling of the character Catwoman, which proved so popular that his new costume design is still being used to this day.
In 2004, Cooke’s next – and biggest – project for DC was the Eisner, Shuster and Harvey award-winning miniseries, DC: The New Frontier, a story taking place in the gap between the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, and told the story of the decline and resurgence of superheroes during the beginning of the cold war era. The richly-detailed story and art proved very popular with fans, and remains his best-known work. It was adapted in 2008 by Bruce Timm (whose art springs from the same direct influences as Cooke’s) for Warner Brothers Animation as Justice League: The New Frontier. Cooke served as story and visual consultant for the feature.
Following on the success of this, Cooke then wrote and drew a Batman/Spirit crossover, which led to a miniseries for The Spirit in 2006.
In 2009, Cooke began writing and drawing several adaptations of Donald Westlake‘s (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark) Parker novels. He produced five graphic novels featuring the character between 2009 and 2013.
His next projects were for the Before Watchmen comics project, writing and drawing Before Watchmen: The Minutemen and co-writing Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre with artist Amanda Conner.
His last known work was in 2014, in which he released a Batman Beyond animated short in celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary.
We here at Release the Kraken!!! are saddened by the loss of this distinctive and creative artist. On a personal note, his art reminded me of the days of yellowed and dog-eared comics that I would read as a child, with clean lines and the direct, unambiguous movement and action of their characters. His influences were evident, his art always a pleasure to peruse. The announcement only days ago of his illness, and its extent, came as a shock to us here at RTK. We join his friends, fans and family in mourning his passing.
Darwyn Cooke will be missed greatly as an artist and storyteller, and future artists will be hard-pressed to live up to his level of quality.
(Note: information for this story gathered from Wikipedia and other sources)