It comes with great sadness to report on the passing of one of the great writers and artists Darwyn Cooke has passed away. This came not long after his family made a public statement on his recent arrival to a palliative care center to receive treatment for an aggressive form of cancer. The tragic news came from the blog Almost Darwyn Cooke. His passing occurred at around 1:30 a.m., and Cooke was surrounded by friends and family in his home in Florida.
Cooke’s portfolio included many works that came to signify why it is we read, cherish, and idolize superheroes. Cooke worked for several comic book imprints, but his seminal works were within the DC pantheon. These works included taking on Will Eisner’s legendary character, The Spirit, a Batman/Spirit miniseries, Before Watchmen, and his most famous and revered work, DC: New Frontier. New Frontier, heavily inspired by the look and feel of the Silver Age of Comics, was even adapted into an animated film by DC.
Though the aesthetics of gritty and hard-hitting stories have been the current vogue of comic book series, it is important to remember why it is we look up to heroes in the first place. His use of vibrant colors in contrast to the blackness of night captured the very essence of good versus evil that has defined superheroes everywhere. They remind us of the potential we have to achieve dreams and goals we would never dare to try to accomplish.
Though we will never face a sentient island bent on wiping out all of humanity, costumed robbers, or meta-humans waging battle throughout the city streets, we still use these figures as the golden bar of who we want to be. Darwyn Cooke perfectly captured the majestic quality of what makes these heroes heroic.
No matter how terrible the enemy, how little there was of a chance of victory, or the cost to save another life, you knew these heroes were going to do what was needed to save the day. And you were rooting for them from the first splash page to the final fin of the story. That was all the result of Darwyn Cooke’s incredible ability to connect us with his characters, both in his writing and his artwork.
His stories did not shy away from controversial discourse, and he did not hide how these heroes were flawed. Even his darkest stories had a rough beauty to them. You could never turn your eyes away from the page as the story unfolded. Yet, even in the darkest of times, you never lost faith in the protagonist. They were the guiding light in a dark storm, and in those special moments in time, they were even real, for that brief, yet beautiful space of time.
Darwyn Cooke’s passing is a terrible loss to comic book fans, artists, and those who simply love a good story. He was and always will be, in my opinion, one of the exemplary craftsmen of sequential art. Our hearts, our condolences, our prayers, and our sorrow goes out to his friends, colleagues and family.