Darwyn Cooke

Last updated

Darwyn Cooke
Cooke at the 2013 New York Comic Con
Born(1962-11-16)November 16, 1962
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedMay 14, 2016(2016-05-14) (aged 53)
Florida, U.S.
Area(s) Cartoonist, Writer, Penciller, Inker, Letterer
Notable works
Spouse(s)Marsha Stagg
(m. 2012–2016; his death)

Darwyn Cooke (November 16, 1962 – May 14, 2016) was a Canadian comics artist, writer, cartoonist, and animator who worked on the comic books Catwoman , DC: The New Frontier , The Spirit and Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter . His work has been honoured with numerous Eisner, Harvey, and Joe Shuster Awards.

Comics artist people who creates comics

A comics artist is a person working within the comics medium on comic strips, comic books, or graphic novels. The term may refer to any number of artists who contribute to produce a work in the comics form, from those who oversee all aspects of the work to those who contribute only a part.

Cartoonist visual artist who makes cartoons

A cartoonist is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is often created for entertainment, political commentary, or advertising. Cartoonists may work in many formats, such as booklets, comic strips, comic books, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, manuals, gag cartoons, graphic design, illustrations, storyboards, posters, shirts, books, advertisements, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and video game packaging.

Catwoman fictional character associated with DC Comics Batman franchise

Catwoman is a fictional character created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane who appears in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with superhero Batman. The character made her debut as "the Cat" in Batman #1, and her real name is Selina Kyle. She is Batman's most enduring love interest and is known for her complex love-hate relationship with him.


Early life

Darwyn Cooke was born in Toronto on November 16, 1962. [1] Cooke's father was a construction worker and later ran a union. Darwyn and his brother Dennis grew up in Nova Scotia.[ citation needed ]

Nova Scotia Province of Canada

Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime Provinces, and one of the four provinces that form Atlantic Canada. Its provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second-smallest of Canada's ten provinces, with an area of 55,284 square kilometres (21,300 sq mi), including Cape Breton and another 3,800 coastal islands. As of 2016, the population was 923,598. Nova Scotia is Canada's second-most-densely populated province, after Prince Edward Island, with 17.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (45/sq mi).

Cooke's interest in creating comics began after watching Batman starring Adam West. Cooke's grandmother saved some of his earliest drawings, at 5 years old, of Batman and Robin in crayon on construction paper, with Cooke keeping them after her passing. [2] He discovered comics as a child, but did not become passionate about them until he was a teenager.

<i>Batman</i> (TV series) 1960s American television series

Batman is a 1960s American live action television series, based on the DC comic book character of the same name. It stars Adam West as Bruce Wayne / Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson / Robin – two crime-fighting heroes who defend Gotham City from a variety of arch villains. It is known for its camp style, upbeat theme music, and its intentionally humorous, simplistic morality. This included championing the importance of using seat belts, doing homework, eating vegetables, and drinking milk. It was described by executive producer William Dozier as the only situation comedy on the air without a laugh track. The 120 episodes aired on the ABC network for three seasons from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968, twice weekly for the first two and weekly for the third. In 2016, television critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz ranked Batman as the 82nd greatest American television show of all time.

Adam West American actor

William West Anderson, known professionally as Adam West, was an American actor known primarily for his role as Batman in the 1960s ABC series of the same name and its 1966 theatrical feature film.

Cooke's desire to be an artist crystallized at 13 years old after reading a reprint of Spectacular Spider-Man #2, with Cooke purchasing markers and boards the day after reading the comic and attempting to copy John Romita's artwork. The following week, Cooke purchased Detective Comics #439, featuring the story "Night of the Stalker," and had found his calling. Cooke also recalled tracing panels of Will Eisner's The Spirit as a teenager. [3] He attributed the ability to develop his own style as a byproduct of limited entertainment choices, allowing him to focus on deconstructing the comics that inspired him. [2] His father, however, did not think that comics were a good avenue for a career.

John Romita Sr. artist

John V. Romita, often credited as simply John Romita, is an American comic-book artist best known for his work on Marvel Comics' The Amazing Spider-Man and for co-creating the character The Punisher. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2002.

<i>Detective Comics</i> title used for two American comic book series

Detective Comics is an American comic book series published by DC Comics. The first volume, published from 1937 to 2011, is best known for introducing the superhero Batman in Detective Comics #27.

Will Eisner American cartoonist

William Erwin Eisner was an American cartoonist, writer, and entrepreneur. He was one of the earliest cartoonists to work in the American comic book industry, and his series The Spirit (1940–1952) was noted for its experiments in content and form. In 1978, he popularized the term "graphic novel" with the publication of his book A Contract with God. He was an early contributor to formal comics studies with his book Comics and Sequential Art (1985). The Eisner Award was named in his honor, and is given to recognize achievements each year in the comics medium; he was one of the three inaugural inductees to the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.

Cooke attended George Brown College, but was expelled after a year. [1]

George Brown College

George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology is a public, fully accredited college of applied arts and technology with three full campuses in downtown Toronto, Ontario. Like many other colleges in Ontario, GBC was chartered in 1966 by the government of Ontario and opened the next year.


In 1985, Cooke left his family on his own for the first time in order to show his samples at DC Comics' New York City offices. The trip resulted in his first published comic book work as a professional artist in a five-page crime story in DC Comics' New Talent Showcase #19, which was coincidentally edited by "Night of the Stalker" artist Sal Amendola. [2] Economic pressure, however, made Cooke leave comics, as he was only paid $35 per page and produced one page a week. Deciding that comics was not an economically feasible job, Cooke worked in Canada as a magazine art director, graphic and product designer for the next 15 years. [4] He eventually established his own design studio. [1]

DC Comics U.S. comic book publisher

DC Comics, Inc. is an American comic book publisher. It is the publishing unit of DC Entertainment, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. since 1967. DC Comics is one of the largest and oldest American comic book companies, and produces material featuring numerous culturally iconic heroic characters including: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Nightwing, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Hawkman, Cyborg and Supergirl.

<i>Showcase</i> (comics) title of several comic anthology series published by DC Comics

Showcase is a comic anthology series published by DC Comics. The general theme of the series was to feature new and minor characters as a way to gauge reader interest in them, without the difficulty and risk of featuring untested characters in their own ongoing titles. Showcase is regarded as the most successful of such tryout series, having been published continuously for well over a decade, launching numerous popular titles, and maintaining a considerable readership of its own. The series ran from March–April 1956 to September 1970, suspending publication with issue #93, and then was revived for eleven issues from August 1977 to September 1978.

Sal Amendola is an Italian American comics artist and teacher primarily known for his association with DC Comics.


DC animated universe

In the early 1990s, Cooke decided to return to comics, but found little interest for his work at the major publishers. Eventually, he was hired by Warner Bros. Animation after replying to an ad for storyboard artists in The Comics Journal placed by animator Bruce Timm, with Cooke shocked that there were positions available. His successful pitch included 14 pages that eventually would be published in 2000 as Batman: Ego. [1]

Originally freelancing from Toronto, Cooke met his animation colleagues at San Diego Comic-Con and was approached about moving to Los Angeles full-time. Despite no desire to live in Los Angeles, Cooke moved there to take advantage of "an opportunity to be a part of something that was never going to come around again this way," the ability to associate with creators such as Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, and Eric Radomski. [2] Cooke worked as a storyboard artist for four episodes of The New Batman Adventures as well as a handful of episodes of Superman: The Animated Series . [2]

In 1999, he designed and animated the opening sequence for Batman Beyond . In contrast to most cartoon openings—which adapt music to a finalized group of shots—Batman Beyond's visuals were specifically cut to suit the music, after Cooke's successful pitch of the concept to Bruce Timm. Surprisingly, Cooke employed his personal Macintosh computer in his spare bedroom and Adobe After Effects for most of the animation, as opposed to Warner Bros.' resources. [2] [5] According to Cooke, the Batman Beyond team created a strong show in light of what he considered "kind of a disheartening mandate from the network," which wanted a show about the Batman of the future. [2] He believed the WB Network ultimately disliked the show's level of violence and prematurely ended the show once it could be syndicated. [2] Cooke then worked as a director for Sony Animation's Men in Black: The Series for a year.[ citation needed ]

In April 2014, Cooke released a Batman Beyond animated short celebrating the 75th anniversary of Batman. [6]

Justice League: The New Frontier

In July 2006, it was announced that Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics would release a series of direct-to-DVD DC Universe Animated Original Movies based on important DC comic books. Due to the adamance of DC's then-Senior Vice-President of Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, [5] the second film to be adapted was Cooke's DC: The New Frontier , produced by Bruce Timm.

Due to Cooke's obligations on The Spirit, Stan Berkowitz wrote the film, while Cooke storyboarded ten percent of the film, rewrote and polished dialogue, as well as provided art direction and most of the character design. [5] Cooke praised both Berkowitz and Timm for their ability to preserve many important character moments within the necessary shortening of the story to accommodate the film's runtime, [2] shifting the movie's focus specifically to the Justice League characters. [7] During the scripting process, Cooke intervened to preserve both Wonder Woman and Lois Lane's places in the film, which had originally been eliminated due to time constraints. [2] Without them, Cooke joked that "We might as well just rename this 'White Guys in the '50s,' because everything else is gone," describing the women as "the heart of the story." [5]

Cooke also admitted fearing for the film's outcome until he learned that his former Warner colleague David Bullock would be directing it, praising Bullock as "probably the only person in the world I would have picked ahead of myself to direct it." [2] He also credited his strong previous relationships at Warner Bros. with his comfort on the project. [5]

DC Comics

In the late 1990s, DC Comics art director Mark Chiarello discovered Cooke's years-old proposal for a Batman story while throwing out old pitches, and hired Cooke for what became the 2000 graphic novel Batman: Ego, [8] [9] marking Cooke's permanent move from animation to comics at 37 years old. [2] Described by Cooke as "What if Batman and Bruce Wayne were able to sit down and talk about what it is they do?", [10] the internal dialogue of Batman: Ego between Bruce Wayne and Batman was inspired by the 1981 film My Dinner with Andre . [2]


In 2001, Cooke and writer Ed Brubaker revamped the Catwoman character. They started with a four-issue serial "Trail of the Catwoman" in Detective Comics #759–762 in which private detective Slam Bradley attempts to investigate the death of Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman). According to Cooke, he and Brubaker bonded over the re-introduction of Bradley, [2] who first appeared in 1937's Detective Comics #1 and pre-dated the super-hero era of comics. The story led into a new Catwoman title in late 2001 by Brubaker and Cooke, in which the character's costume, supporting cast, and modus operandi were all redesigned and redeveloped. [11] Cooke would stay on the series until issue #4. In 2002, he would write and draw the Selina's Big Score prequel which detailed what had happened to the character directly before her new series. [12] Cooke regarded Selina's Big Score as the "single thing I did that I liked the most." [2] While developing DC: The New Frontier , Cooke also drew a short Catwoman back-up story within 2002's Just Imagine Stan Lee with Chris Bachalo creating Catwoman . [2] An untold story concept Cooke held onto involved the return and revenge of Catwoman's betrayed ex-lover Stark in a similar manner to the lead character of the film Point Blank . [2]

DC: The New Frontier

Cover to DC: The New Frontier #6 (Nov. 2004). DCNEWFRONTIER6.jpg
Cover to DC: The New Frontier #6 (Nov. 2004).

Cooke's next project was 2004's DC: The New Frontier, a six-issue miniseries which bridged the gap between the end of the golden and the start of the silver age of comic books in the DC Universe. Cooke began brainstorming The New Frontier after completing Batman: Ego and being steered by Mark Chiarello to do a Justice League story. [2] Preferring not to write a story tied to modern continuity or with short-term consequences, [5] Cooke quickly realized he had little interest in writing about the Justice League unless the focus was on "who they were before they became the Justice League." [2]

The story, set in the 1950s, featured dozens of super-heroes and drew inspiration from the period's comic books and movies as well as Tom Wolfe's non-fiction account of the start of the U.S. space program The Right Stuff and the novels of James Ellroy due to Ellroy's skill in weaving fictional characters into real history. [7] The major DC characters are introduced in The New Frontier in the same order that DC originally published them, even down to the correct month and year in the story's timeline. For the book's visual style, Cooke was inspired by 1950s advertising along with the works of Marvel Comics' Jack Kirby and Hanna-Barbera's Alex Toth. [7]

As Cooke formulated The New Frontier, DC's editorial board pushed major changes from Cooke's original concept including accommodations for DC Comics' present-day continuity; the mandated changes were undone by Paul Levitz, who allowed Cooke to preserve his original intent both by setting the story out of continuity as well as offering Cooke an advance payment on his work. [2] Cooke subsequently worked on Catwoman and Selina's Big Score before returning to work on The New Frontier.

Cooke employed non-linear narrative that increasingly tied together toward the conclusion, likening the approach to films like Memento , Pulp Fiction , and The Limey . [2]

Cooke placed a significant focus on Green Lantern Hal Jordan, intending to illustrate "why the character was cool" in light of the character's dramatic changes in the 1994 "Emerald Twilight" story arc, which he regarded as a wholly out-of-place gimmick for Jordan to merely boost sales. [2] To be accurate regarding Jordan's role as a United States Air Force pilot, Cooke spoke with two fighter pilots as well as fellow comic writer & artist Mike Allred, who had previously been stationed in Germany while serving in the Air Force. [2]

While clarifying that he did not approve of John F. Kennedy's personal flaws, Cooke cited Kennedy's 1960 "New Frontier" speech—which both inspired the title and concluded the book—as "the first time [the promise of modern America] was ever properly articulated." [2]

For 2006's collected Absolute Edition of the series, Cooke proposed including up to 48 additional pages, later negotiated down to 13 in order to hit a 400-page page count. [2] The additional material provided more backstory for The Flash and J'onn J'onnz, as well as the Suicide Squad on Dinosaur Island. [2] Cooke admitted surprise at this deluxe edition being released so soon after the original release due to retailer demand, citing a three-year wait for an Absolute Edition of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen . [2]

In a 2014 interview, New Frontier co-editor Chiarello named the book as the work he was the most proud of his involvement in, calling it "as pure a comic-reading experience as any comic that's ever been published." [13]

Other projects

Solo #5 (Aug. 2005), featuring Slam Bradley. Cover art by Cooke. Solo-5.jpg
Solo #5 (Aug. 2005), featuring Slam Bradley. Cover art by Cooke.

In 2004, Cooke also contributed to DC's artist-centric anthology project Solo . His issue (#5, Aug. 2005) featured several different stories in different styles with a framing sequence featuring Slam Bradley, and was originally intended by Cooke to be his final mainstream comic before other palatable DC projects pulled him back. [14] In 2006, Solo #5 won an Eisner Award for "Best Single Issue."

In November 2006, Cooke and writer Jeph Loeb produced a Batman/The Spirit intercompany crossover. [8] This was followed in December by an ongoing Spirit series written and drawn by Cooke. At the time, Cooke considered The Spirit "the most exciting and horrifying offer I'd been made in my career," [2] and later described himself as "incredibly reluctant to step into [Spirit creator Will] Eisner's shoes," [5] despite it "paining him" when he was younger that he might never professionally draw the character. [3] Cooke also expressed regret that he—while having met Will Eisner in the past—never got to consult with Eisner specifically for The Spirit; [5] Eisner had passed away in 2005. Along with adding new characters such as Ginger Coffee and Hussein Hussein, Cooke revised Ellen Dolan and Ebony White, [2] in particular discarding White's exaggerated blackface-inspired appearance and dialect. In June 2007, Cooke and J. Bone won a Joe Shuster Award for "Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Artists" for their work on Batman/The Spirit, and Cooke won "Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist" for his work on The Spirit. [15] Despite intending a second year of the series, Cooke announced at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con that his run on The Spirit would conclude after one year, after artist J. Bone had to step down, and an editorial reshuffle at DC moved editors Scott Dunbier and Kristy Quinn from the book, believing that resulting quality would not be up to his standards. [2]

Darwyn Cooke also wrote the first six-issue story arc of the Superman monthly series Superman Confidential , [16] which debuted on November 1, 2006 and featured stories set in Superman's early career. As Cooke developed the plot with artist Tim Sale, he realized he had no creative hook for a Superman story until discovering that, surprisingly, none had been told regarding the character's early fear and uncertainty at the limits of his invulnerability. [2] In June 2007, Cooke was awarded the Joe Shuster Award for "Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Writer" for Superman Confidential. [15] Feeling more comfortable with human characters like Catwoman and Batman, Cooke nonetheless had pitched one other unrealized Superman graphic novel around 2002 in collaboration with artist and future Justice League: The New Frontier director David Bullock. [2]

In 2008, Cooke collaborated with Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray on an issue of Jonah Hex out of a desire to work with the pair, write a Western story, as well as craft a cliché-breaking tale for Hex set within Canada. Cooke playfully made fun of American conventional wisdom that Canadian weather was always a blizzard, but accepted the premise as a central plot element. [17]

Cooke was the writer/artist of Before Watchmen: Minutemen and the writer of Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre in 2012–2013. [18] After originally being pitched to author the entire Before Watchmen series, Cooke was able to reduce his commitment to only two books, eventually accepting the project after successfully conceptualizing the Minutemen series. [14] Cooke did not view Watchmen as "the Holy Grail" of comics, nor did he feel concerned about original Watchmen author Alan Moore's opinion on the Before Watchmen series, but he did initially turn down the project for two years out of concern that his work would not measure up either to the original book or its reputation within the comics industry. [14]


Vertigo editor Shelly Bond encouraged Cooke to produce a collaborative work. Cooke proposed Gilbert Hernandez as the writer, believing Hernandez would not be interested. [19] Their collaboration, The Twilight Children , takes place in a Latin American fishing village and mixes elements of science fiction and magic realism. [19] The lives of the villagers are disrupted by a sudden increase in supernatural activity and an influx of suspicious investigators. [20]

Marvel Comics

While preparing for DC: The New Frontier and before creating Selina's Big Score, [2] the success of Batman: Ego led Cooke to Marvel Comics freelance work such as X-Force , Wolverine/Doop and Spider-Man's Tangled Web . [8]

Cooke later had a falling out with Marvel and then-Senior Editor Axel Alonso [21] after Marvel solicited and praised his business plan for the Marvel Adventures children's line, yet subsequently passed it onto other creators without the company's communication or his involvement. [14]

IDW Publishing

In July 2009, IDW Publishing published Cooke's Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter , an adaptation of the Donald Westlake novel, The Hunter , the first of four Parker novels Cooke adapted for IDW. The second, The Outfit, was released in October 2010, The Score was released in July 2012, [8] [22] and Slayground was published in December 2013, [23] with Cooke handling the entire art direction and physical design. [3]

Image Comics

In January 2015, Image Comics announced a three-part fully creator-owned project by Cooke entitled Revengeance, originally intended to launch June 2015. [24] Compared by Cooke to Mickey Spillane's I, the Jury , [14] the psychological thriller and dark comedy had been tentatively titled Thunder Bay, [2] and was to be set in Toronto in 1986. [14]

Cooke initially pitched the art duties to Tim Sale, but decided to take them up himself after an unsuccessful five-year wait for Sale's availability. [14] Revengeance, however, remained unreleased at the time of Cooke's death in 2016.

Personal life

Cooke married Marsha Stagg in Las Vegas, Nevada in November 2012 and lived in western Florida. [1]

His personal favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz , which he described as "the first movie to scare me [and] ignite my imagination." [17]


On May 13, 2016, Cooke's wife announced on his official blog that he was battling an "aggressive" form of cancer, stating, "It is with tremendous sadness that we announce Darwyn is now receiving palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer. His brother Dennis and I, along with our families appreciate the outpouring of support we have received. We ask for privacy as we go through this very difficult time." [1] Cooke died the next morning on May 14, 2016. [25] [26] [27]

Comic creators such as Dan DiDio, Brian Michael Bendis, Gail Simone, Jimmy Palmiotti, Ed Brubaker, and Mark Waid expressed condolences, reminisced on working with Cooke, and made recommendations of Cooke's works to fans. [28]


Upon Cooke's passing, DC Comics issued a statement describing Cooke as "one of our medium's true innovators," comparing his "bold, direct style" with Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, and Jack Kirby. [29]

Cooke acknowledged himself as difficult to work with, [17] a trait that was ultimately recognized as beneficial by his comic book industry peers. Artist Cliff Chiang noted that Cooke's uncompromising nature "opened doors for lots of us." [28]

Awards and honors

Cooke won thirteen Eisner Awards, eight Harvey Awards, and five Joe Shuster Awards for works produced for DC Comics and IDW Publishing, primarily for DC: The New Frontier and Richard Stark's Parker. In a 2007 interview, Cooke admitted to—while appreciating them—not paying much attention to awards. [2] However, upon winning his first Eisner Award in 2005 for DC: The New Frontier, Cooke did feel gratification for his pursuit of comics as a career and understood that he was genuinely on the right path. [2]

Eisner Awards

Mainstream comics can be engaging without having to go down the grim 'n' gritty road. I've tried to create books that remind us that stories should entertain, not stunts or character assassination. [...] I've done my best to remind us that superhero and adventure comics weren't always the greasy affair they've become. It is by definition a hopeful genre aimed at the young at heart, and those are the stories I've tried to tell.

— Darwyn Cooke, Comics Journal #285 [2]

Harvey Awards

Joe Shuster Awards


As penciller or writer/penciller

Backup stories as penciller

As writer

Cover work

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  12. Manning "2000s" in Dougall, p. 262: "Darwyn Cooke was both writer and artist of this hardcover graphic novel...A fast-paced heist set immediately before Selina's second ongoing series, this tale explained how Selina had enough money to embark on a new life as a crime fighter."
  13. Greenfield, Dan (July 21, 2014), Mighty Q&A: DC's Mark Chiarello — One of the Most Popular Guys in Comics, 13thDimension.com, archived from the original on August 17, 2017, retrieved June 5, 2016
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Further reading