Well wishes to Darwyn Cooke

parker1I would like to send out some positive energy to the great artist Darwyn Cooke, who is apparently very ill. Sadly his wife announced today that he is “now receiving palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer.”

You comic book fans must know Cooke for a million things, but of course I know him as the man who since 2009 has been doing comics adaptations of my favorite book series, the Parker novels by Richard Stark. Although of course the change in medium requires a simplification merely by removing most of the words, Cooke (who received the blessings and input of Donald Westlake when he started the project) has been astonishingly faithful to the material. I love his clean, cartoony style, his bold use of shadows, his retro two-tone coloring and his appreciation for the graphic and architectural styles of the 1960s world he sets the books in. The man knows how to draw a good diner sign, and seems to have a catalog of the different types of faces you don’t see anymore.

I also think I must have similar tastes in Parker books to Cooke, because I love the choices he’s made of which ones to adapt. He started of course with The Hunter (the first one, and basis of POINT BLANK and PAYBACK). Then he skipped to The Outfit, possibly my favorite of the series, but he also included a prologue that’s a little mini-version of book two, The Man With the Getaway Face, so that he could include the fun fact that Parker got plastic surgery to hide his identity after The Hunter. And that way Cooke could completely change his character design after his first book.

Then Cooke went for my other possible favorite entry in the series, The Score, the one where they take down an entire mining town. I implore you to read the original novel, an epic heist story, but it’s also really cool to see Cooke’s visual translation, which is heavy on blueprints and diagrams.

Finally he did Slayground, which is one of my least favorite books in the series, but also the most ripe for this type of reinterpretation. The book has a great premise – Parker hiding in a closed amusement park being hunted while trying to recover a stash of money – but plays more like a recipe for what would be a cool action movie than a successful story in the Parker tradition. Therefore I really enjoyed experiencing it in a visual medium. (The movie starring Peter Coyote doesn’t count, because it barely has anything to do with the main part of the book.)

Finding artwork for this post led me to the fact that there are some hardcover editions of the original novels illustrated with Cooke paintings (that’s what the ad at the upper right of this post is for). I must’ve heard about that but forgot all about it. That erases any minor misgivings I had about people maybe using the comics as replacements for the great novels. I should pick those up.

Anyway, I’m very sorry to hear about Cooke and my thoughts are with him and his family. Thanks for all the beautiful pictures bud, you really know your lines and shapes.


This entry was posted on Friday, May 13th, 2016 at 11:13 am and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

16 Responses to “Well wishes to Darwyn Cooke”

  1. Well with one relative dying yesterday and then learning that another has terminal cancer and all the artists I like dying off, 2016 may as well take Cooke as well. Was a big fan of his comics particularly New Frontier and his run on The Spirit, not to mention is contributions to Batman The Animated Series and Superman The Animated Series. He also animated the opening to Batman Beyond so along with being a great artist with a unique style, he made one of the coolest and to this day unique openings to a show I’ve ever seen.

  2. Crushinator Jones

    May 13th, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Jeez, I saw the news and thought “Ah man, Vern loves Parker stuff, I wonder if he knows about this?” And you crushed it, of course.

    Don’t know what I can add to this, Darwyn Cooke is a genuine talent and this is a real crummy situation.

  3. I’m sorry to hear about your relatives, geoffrey. It’s not gonna help much, I know, but I hope you know you have friends here.

    I really liked Cooke’s Catwoman run. His redesign took away all the stupid pin-up girl stuff that made the character impossible to take seriously, and his drawing style really made you focus on her as a character and not a piece of eye candy. Some of the poses these guys would draw her in, yeesh. I stopped reading comics before he started his Parker run but I hope he pulls through. Parker needs to get out there in any medium he can.

  4. Terrible news. Big fan of Cooke’s work.

    Totally agree with Majestyk – his Catwoman run was great, and even included a Parker-esque character that made his eventual adaptation of Westlake inevitable. As good as most of the movies are, his series is by far the best transposing of Parker into a visual medium. New Frontier is also fantastic, and can’t recommend Cooke’s outstanding story for Spider-Man’s Tangled Web (#11) higher.

  5. I don’t know Darwyn well, and I don’t read a lot of comics, but he’s a friend of several of my friends, and always seemed like a cool and funny guy when I ran into him at parties. This is very sad news. :(

    I also really liked his take on Slayground.

  6. This fucking sucks. Cooke’s one of my all-time favourites, both as an artist and a writer. The PARKER adaptations are excellent, and he does amazing things with the medium that really obvious but genius, like how with SLAYGROUND, he includes a foldout brochure of the park, or how one of the heists from THE OUTFIT is depicted as a story from a true crime magazine. I really recommend his “BATMAN- EGO AND OTHER TAILS”, as it’s a great collection of his Batman stuff, including the aforementioned Catwoman story he did that’s a pure heist story.
    There’s a digital comics sale of his stuff at Comixology, if anyone’s interested, and includes most of his big hits.

  7. Shit, I hate to hear this. I only knew Cooke from his Parker books, but I was very impressed with those. I love the way he drew Parker’s hands. The novels always emphasized how murderously big they were, and he really showed that in the art. No mater what happens, I hope this period for him is as painless as possible.

    I’m also sorry to hear of your personal losses, geoffrey.

  8. This is sad news indeed. I love his work on Parker.

  9. I’ve read only a few of the Parker-books, and been wondering which one to go for next. Went straigt to Amazon to pick up THE SCORE after reading this, saw the Kindle edition at 70% off, and bought it with one-click. I opened the Kindle, waited for the download, only to discover I had bought the Cooke adaptation. Surely a sign? Anyhow, getting the novel too, and saving the adaptation till later. I’m unfamiliar with Cooke’s work, but I’m very intrigued after reading this.

  10. OMG Stu that is absolutely terrible news. I had just re-read that run of THE SPIRIT that he did for DC recently too as well as put someone one on to the Absolute version of his NEW FRONTIER when asked to recommend a definite Justice League story for them before the movie dropped next year. I also recently gifted his last project for DC (THE TWILIGHT CHILDREN) to an ex girlfriend of mine for her birthday.

    So this is pretty devastating news to hear. Especially now that we know that he won’t finish his Parker adaptations which I agree are exceptional. The comic book industry is really going to feel this one for years to come. My condolensces to his family for the loss and my thanks to the soul of Mr. Cooke for the great comic book memories over the years.

    To cancer I once again say: “Fuck You Asshole!” and “Up your nose with a rubber hose.”

  11. Thank you for the kind words. I’m not going to front and pretend I was close to either relative but it still comes as a shock and I learned a while ago how weird and sad it is know someone (who one may take for granted) just isn’t there anymore and isn’t coming back. Suddenly you remember or come up with a whole bunch of stuff you want to talk to them about.

    That said this thread isn’t about me, it’s about how awesome Cooke was. I too dropped out of the comic book reading game, but Cooke was on my very short list of authors I’d go back and pick up a copy of whatever new work he put out. I misspoke and said he animated the opening to Batman Beyond but actually he designed (he was a storyboard artist for Bruce Timm’s Batman and Superman cartoons at the time).

    -I love that now dated-as-get-out techno song but at the time IT WAS THE FUTURE

    For Batman’s 75th anniversary he made a short for Beyond:

    "Batman Beyond" - Darwyn Cooke's Batman 75th Anniversary Short (Official)

    A brand new short from artist Darwyn Cooke returns fans to the world of Batman Beyond as Terry McGinnis' futuristic Dark Knight faces his most formidable foe...

    -it’s basically a minute long fan-service reel but when you don’t even have a minute-and-a-half, you may as well make it ‘cool’.

    I know this place isn’t the best for cartoon talk but others way more knowledgable than I already got his comic book work covered. I also want to concur that his Catwoman story was great. I already ordered his Parker adaptations as I’ve been meaning to check those out for a while now.

  12. I didn´t care for THE SCORE-the novel. But I might pick up Cookes version just to see how he has visually translated it. I might like his version of the story better

  13. Somehow I had missed that Batman Beyond short. Plenty of the obituaries focused on how bright and optimistic his work could be, which is true enough. But the Parker adaptations can be pretty grim. He was able to adapt his style to whatever tone he wanted, which is one of the many reasons why he was such a great artist. He’ll be missed.

  14. Cookes New Frontier is basically the sole reason I give a fuck about DC universe at all. I was a complete marvel devotee and I ended up with a copy of that from the library I think. And fuck man it’s just… perfect in every way.
    His Wonderwoman in that is what turned me from not giving a shit about Wonderwoman to buying every issue of the Brian Azello, Cliff Chiang new 52 wonderwoman comics. It turned me into a flash fan, it turned me into a fucking martian manhunter fan. It turned me into a fan of the fucking losers for gods sake. It’s seriously as close as I think you’ll come to the perfect super hero story.

    Fucking gut wrenching loss. The man was a true genius.

  15. Will do. Was just thinking about reading a book

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