Darwyn Cooke (1962-2016)

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Darwyn Cooke sketching at TCAF.

Darwyn Cooke was an award winning artist, born in Toronto, and celebrated for such works as Catwoman, Justice League: The New Frontier and Richard Stark’s Parker series. It was announced this past Saturday morning that he had passed on at the young age of 53 due to lung cancer. A huge shock to the community considering news of his illness was only made known the day prior by his wife Marsha.

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A quick portrait of Power Girl. I love the way Cooke defines her form by using the background.
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Another quick portrait. A few brush strokes here and there is all that’s needed to create this Wonder Woman profile.
Donald Westlake (AKA Richard Stark)
A rare look at Cooke’s versatility. A more realistic approach… a brush drawing of Donald Westlake, aka Richard Stark.

What can I say about Darwyn Cooke that we don’t already know. He leaves behind an incredible body of work that is admired and respected by peers and fans alike. Whether you like his retro style or not, he was extremely skillful at his craft, demonstrating a keen understanding of artistic fundamentals that reached beyond academic parameters to being inventive, perceptive and discriminating.

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A beautiful demonstration of Cooke’s understanding visual principles. The use of layers, shape and the rule of thirds. The almost theatrical lighting exaggerates the drama taking place.

I’m not someone who gravitates toward a style of work just for the sake of it’s “style”, however, when I first came across Cooke’s work, I was hooked by how smart it was. I found his work to be self aware in the sense that he knew he was cartooning but did so in an unashamed, celebratory way. As well, his sense of design was strikingly evident, his compositions very well assembled and structured, and all this really stood out for me.

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Cooke’s work tends to capture the optimism from the late 50’s and early 60’s.
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DC’s Trinity. Before and after colour.

The back issue market, being what it is, neglects great work but whenever I see Darwyn Cooke in the cheapie bins, I can’t help but pick them out. Over the years I’ve amassed multiple copies of his many known titles, which I’ll probably give away to kids who show an interest in art so that they can delve into his pages as a way of studying a master at his craft.

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A classic moment captured in comic form. The roar of the engine heightens the passion as the wind gently swirls through the hair and green skirt.

If you’re among the few who are not familiar with Darwyn Cooke, I encourage you to sample his work. At the very least, I think you’ll recognize the great care and effort he put into his work. It’s my misfortune that I never had the opportunity to shake his hand but the community remains richer for his incredible contribution.

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Charlie Kim
Charlie Kim is a designer who is currently transitioning into teaching. While working for various companies, he helped develop many international brands such as the Hong Kong Airport identity, Lenovo’s sponsorship program for the Beijing Olympics and Lavasa, a new city being developed in India. Locally, he's also worked on the 1998 campaign for the Canadian Opera Company, the Canadian Innovations stamp for Canada Post and the terrible Grand & Toy re-brand (hey, they can't all be winners). Charlie’s love affair with art and design all began with comics.
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3 Comments

  1. I always thought/hoped there would be more Darwyn Cooke/Ed Brubaker team-ups in the future. Cookes noirish art style suited many of Brubakers stories. Not to be I guess. 53 is way too young.

    Thanks for posting this Charlie.

  2. I never had the honour of meeting Mr. Cooke in person but for some reason, news of his passing really hit me. Maybe cause he’s from Toronto and I’m not to far from being 53 myself. In any case, I really love his work and I get chills every time I look through his books.

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