Friday, May 20, 2016
I first, unwittingly, learned of his talent when I saw the opening sequence for the Batman Beyond animated series. At the time, I was studying animation at School of Visual Arts and Batman TAS and Superman were a huge influence on me. Everyone was emulating Bruce Timm, and the style I chose for my art was no exception. Then came Batman Beyond. It was fast, sleek, and beautifully crafted. Shane Glines was killing it on character design and became another name synonymous with that show. Then there was that opening sequence! It was like nothing I had ever seen in an animated television series. From the start of that opener it was easy to tell that this show was going to be something else. We had to know who it was that designed that sequence! Of course it was Darwyn. I continued to worship Timm and Glines throughout college, picking up any art books they sold at cons or any comics they appeared on. I'm ashamed to say that I all but forgot about Darwyn Cooke. What did I know? I was a punk college kid. Then, after graduation, on my second outing to San Diego for ComicCon International I came across the super hero book that, if given half a chance, I always wanted to do. DC: The New Frontier. Low and behold, it was the guy that designed the BB sequence! Needless to say that one, maybe two pages in and I was blown away. I was instantly a fan, instantly hooked and Darwyn would stand tall as my favorite artist from that moment on. I quickly consumed any and all Cooke-related material I could find and hoped to one day meet the man.
I have been attending cons as a professional artist for ten years now and I have had the glorious opportunity of meeting some of my favorite creators whom I've admired since I was a kid. Hell, I've been lucky enough to have had a beer with many of them and even luckier to call some my friend. I even had the chance to sit down with Will Eisner (the man I consider to be the greatest comic creator of all time) by complete accident and chat for a bit; a year before he passed. As life often does however, my favorite artist, the man I wanted to meet more than anyone, seemed to always elude me. Then came Parker. I already knew from reading Darwyn's previous comic work that I was into a lot of the same things he was. Gritty detectives, '60's era and style, Rat Pack personas, super heroes who smiled and wore their undies on the outside, and martinis. Later, especially recently I'd read stories from those who knew him personally and noticed a lot of similarities between him and my father. The lessons to being a man that were passed down to me from my pops mirrored a lot of what I heard about Darwyn's code. It has only made me admire him more. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes... THEN CAME PARKER. Man, that was the icing on the cake. Once again Cooke was doing the type of book I always wanted to do and of course he was doing it better than anyone else could. I studied The Hunter until the spine almost gave out on it. Finally, while tabling at NYCC in 2010 I had my chance. Cooke was going to be signing at the IDW booth for the release of the second Parker installment, The Outfit. I left my table in artist alley, The Hunter and The Outfit (which I bought earlier that day) graphic novels in hand and raced through the crowds to get on line for that signature that had escaped my grasp for 6 years! Let me add this bit of side note. In the ten years of tabling at cons I had never once, not one single time, left my bought-and-paid-for table in artist alley to wait on a line to get a signature from anyone. I'm not trying to knock anyone who has or sound like a pretentious douche but I tend to stick my butt in my chair and get to work when I'm tabling at a con. The only time I get up is to use the restroom or visit a friend at another table.
So there I was, next on line to meet my hero. The only other time I felt like such a fanboy was talking to Eisner. At least that was a relaxed setting where we could chat. This was an assembly line and the booth folks were moving that line along. I would only have moments to say everything I wanted to say to this man. I handed him both books and it happened. He took his brush and in seconds whipped up a quick head sketch and signature in one book and added some colorful highlights to an image and signed the second book. And I sat there mesmerized. It was a couple of simple things but he made it look effortless. I sat there as a student and just watched, and said nothing. Then I was snapped out of my daze by the person working the booth, telling me to move on. I looked to Darwyn quickly and said "thank you, you're a huge influence on my work" and he looked up and gave me slight nod. I gathered up my books and left. That was it. I waited 6 years and that was all I could say? What a dork. As I walked back to my table, immersed in the new Parker novel I now had in my hand I reassured myself that I would get to meet him again, in a more relaxed setting, hopefully sitting at a table with other pros and having that martini. Heck, I knew guys that were close to him, of course I'd get the chance to meet him again. I had all the time in the world. He wasn't going anywhere.