Matt C: We lost one of the true geniuses of the comics medium today. There will be much written about Darwyn Cooke over the next few days, and most of it will be far more eloquent and affecting than anything I could put together, but I couldn't let his passing go without comment.
Although I enjoyed his first foray into comics, Batman: Ego, it wasn't until the former Batman: The Animated Series storyboarder illustrated the Slam Bradley back-up feature in issues #759 to #762 of Detective Comics that everything clicked into place for me. His style was very distinct, a retro-tinged approach that worked just as well at evoking noir tropes as it did with more classic, Silver Age pop art visuals, but it did so in a way that felt resolutely modern. It acknowledged the past as opposed to being stuck in it. That Bradley tale led straight into Cooke's brilliant collaboration with Ed Brubaker on Catwoman, where the artist redesigned the look of the character that's still being used today. A few years later he wrote and illustrated DC: The New Frontier, his masterpiece, and one of the greatest works of superhero literature, which followed the birth of the DC Universe in the 1950s in a way that was smart, joyful, exciting and iconic.
His run on The Spirit and his adaptation of several of Donald Westlake's Parker novels were other highlights, and his contributions to the Before Watchmen project were arguably the only things that made it a worthwhile endeavour. And then there was his cover work, a continuous succession of gloriously vibrant images, culminating in December 2014 when he produced 23 outstanding variant covers for DC's superhero line.
If anyone ever asked me who my favourite comics artist was, Darwyn Cooke would be my response. He was a unique and tremendous talent, one whose absence will be felt for a long time to come, but whose influence on the medium will endure for as long as people read comics. He will be missed.