It’s become a cliche to talk about the amazing artists that we’ve lost in the first half of 2016. I didn’t, and couldn’t, talk about Prince’s passing. Suffice it to say that he was my favorite musician, and had been for as long as I can remember. He’s the only celebrity whose passing brought tears to my eyes. But I’m not here to talk about Prince.
I’m here to talk about Darwyn Cooke, who shockingly passed away yesterday.
I came to Darwyn Cooke rather late. I wasn’t a reader of his earliest DC work. I never read the Brubaker/Cooke Catwoman. Batman: Ego had been out for years when I finally sat down and checked it out. When it comes to artists, I come from the John Byrne/George Perez school of awesome. That’s not to say that I can’t embrace a more cartoony style (obviously), just that when I was the MOST into superheroes, I wanted complex images with lots of line work.
I’m also not a student of the Rat Pack school of cool. I don’t have the same wild affection for Frank Sinatra that most of America does. Sinatra, Dino, and Sammy never really tickled my ear, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen any of their movies. I don’t dislike them, and indeed, I fully recognize how they shaped masculine cool, I just…never connected to them or their work.
I read New Frontier because…you know, I don’t know what prompted me to read New Frontier. I just did, and as soon as I finished it, I flipped back to the first page and read it again. Then I sought out the Parker books, driven by Ed Brubaker’s recommendations in Criminal, and the amazing style and storytelling that Darwyn Cooke brings to comics.
I still think that New Frontier is my favorite comic of the 21st century thus far. The first Parker graphic novel, The Hunter, is second. Quick, fast, and in a hurry, Darwyn Cooke made me understand what cool is and always has been. Hell, Darwyn Cooke made me want to do a different kind of comic.
Ever since Will and I hit our stride on Hunter Black, I’ve been yearning to find a way to get Darwyn Cooke to read it. I mean, when we were picking our brains to come up with a project to do together, and it was originally supposed to be an animation pitch, as some of you may know, I remember sitting at a taco stand with Will and saying, “I want to do a comic like Parker.”
When I think of where we got Hunter Black from, four things come to mind: Dungeons and Dragons, Samurai Jack, the creator-owned works of Matt Wagner, and Darwyn Cooke’s Parker graphic novels, but Darwyn Cooke and Parker are the biggest influences by far. I mean, our main character’s name his HUNTER Black. That wasn’t exactly intentional, but when I realized what I’d done in naming him, I thought it only fitting.
Anyway, I was saying that I wanted to get the comic into Darwyn Cooke’s hands. I even went so far as to reach out to Jimmy Palmiotti, knowing that he and Darwyn were close, but to no avail. It’s my understanding that Mr. Cooke was a private man, which is likely why most people found out he had cancer the same day that it killed him. To the best of my knowledge, he never read or even heard of Hunter Black.
Darwyn Cooke inspired the hell out of Will and me. He inspired our best and most ambitious work, and he did it by telling strong and stylish stories himself. Darwyn Cooke was the bastard child of Jack Kirby and James Coburn. He’s gone now, and the world, not the world of comics, but THE WORLD, is a lot less cool as a result.