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Saturday, May 14, 2016

R.I.P. Darwyn Cooke

Darwyn Cooke left the party today.  Like too many creative people this year, he was shown the door by cancer, far far sooner than should be possible.
If it's possible that as a comics fan you don't know Darwyn's work, you really should make an effort to seek it out.  My personal favorites are his adaptations Donald Westlake's Parker novels, but his other work is equally fantastic and influential on comics and films.  Darwyn was an artist's artist, with a skill and style to be as much envied as admired.
Darwyn's passing hits me particularly hard because he was a contemporary of mind.  I don't mean that my skill is anywhere near his (and maybe never will be), but that he was from my city, and a little more than my age, and someone who's work I respected but could also just speak to without sounding like a fanboy.

I've had the good fortune to meet Darwyn on several occasions, whether it was behind a table at one of our local conventions or just hanging out at Strange Adventures comic shop.  He had an undeniable celebrity but wore it well, being open to approach by young artists and fans, and generally just a good person to talk with.  Although I did not know him extremely well, he always seemed to me to be more interested in the art of comics than in the status his celebrity conferred.  He was a craftsman in the finest sense of the word.

Fortunately, my favorite story about Darwyn comes from personal experience.  To tell it, let me show you one of my favorite things. 
I have a sketchbook that I take to comic conventions with me to commission work by the artists I meet who are open to that sort of thing.  It's got work by some famous names, and some people you've probably never heard of.  It's also got this.

This drawing came from meeting Darwyn at Hal-Con a couple of years ago, where he was signing some books at the Strange Adventures table.  I asked if he would do a sketch, and offered to pay for one.  He said he wasn't really doing much sketching that day, but would do a quick one, and wouldn't charge for it.  He took my sketchbook and knocked out the drawing in, literally, less time than it took me to ask for it.
Just look at that.  To my mind, it's the perfect convention sketch.  The artist's style is immediately recognizable, even without his signature.  You can immediately identify the character, who is drawn in a way that references one of the finest works to come out of comics in recent years, "New Frontiers".  And all executed in seconds. 
I have never seen a more precise example of an artist who has his craft down cold. 

The comics industry is going to miss Darwyn Cooke.  I know I'm going to miss ever seeing another one of his Parker adaptations.  Selfishly, I'm going to be sorry that I didn't get a chance to have my copy of "Slayground" signed. 
I'm going to miss seeing Darwyn around.

Good night, Darwyn Cooke.  Thanks for everything.

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