Darwyn Cooke, the artist and writer who made a name for himself in mainstream comics with a retro style and a belief that more comics should be aimed at the children’s audience the industry had left behind, died on May 14. The day before, his family released a statement that he had entered palliative care after undergoing treatment for an “aggressive” cancer.
Cooke – who was based out of Nova Scotia’s South Shore – originally entered the industry in 1985, but detoured for several years to work as an art director and graphic designer. In the 1990s he was hired to work on new Batman and Superman animated series for Warner Bros., and in 2001 was hired by DC, along with Ed Brusker, to revamp the character Catwoman in the pages of Detective Comics. Their four-issue storyline was critically acclaimed. More acclaimed was his solo work for DC, DC: The New Frontier, a six-issue mini-series set in the 1950s and featuring most of DC’s classic Golden and Silver Age heroes. The series went on to win Eisner, Harvey, and Shuster awards, and in 2008 was adapted into an animated movie. In 2009, IDW began publishing Cooke’s adaptions of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels, which Westlake had written under the name Richard Stark.
In a 2015 interview with Q&Q, comics artist Michael Cho (Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes, Drawn & Quarterly) called Cooke a master. “He’s one of the best cartoonists working today. He’s fundamentally strong and has a unique voice.”