This year is a bastard dog from hell in taking people who changed my art and craft. Bowie. Prince. Yesterday, Darwyn Cooke.
I fell in love with Darwyn’s art early on. Read an interview with him back when he was doing Selina’s Big Score. Loved everything he put out. To me, he was a perfect, wonderful anomaly. A cartoonist from an earlier… better era. An era where the craft was everything. Where did the work. You didn’t kvetch or whine. You pushed yourself to be better every. Goddamn. Time.
First time I met Darwyn was at SDCC in 2008. Comic Book Tattoo had just come out. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get everything done as part of the release promotions, and Darwyn came by the table to say hello to some of the creators who he knew who’d worked on the book. I said hello and he said the book looked great, and that brief exchange was the best compliment I received during the entire show. This guy is a master, and I knew by reputation that he didn’t offer hollow compliments or gladhanding. To me, he was a perfect, wonderful anomaly. A man who said what he meant. Who believed in the value of his words and didn’t offer them without intention.
Shit went sideways in my life, and I ended up unemployed for three years. I saw Darwyn at the Long Beach Comic-Con and couldn’t bring myself to go over to say hello to him and Marsha because I felt like I was the biggest failure in the world. I felt like I’d somehow “let him down” by failing. That’s how much his work, and his opinion meant to me. I couldn’t bear going up to him and saying to him “I’ve lost everything” when he asked me “What are you up to?”
A few months later, on Twitter, desperate for money, I offered a couple of the Artist Proofs of the limited edition for Comic Book Tattoo. Marsha DM’d me immediately, saying they loved the book, and they already had a copy, but wanted to buy one for a friend. Would that be OK? I admit I cried. I had met them in person once, was pretty goddamn sure they wouldn’t recognize me in a crowd, and yet that act of kindness and generosity made such a difference. To me, he was a perfect, wonderful anomaly. An old-school gentleman, who offered help and kindness when he saw the need.
The last time I saw Marsha and Darwyn was at Wondercon in 2015. Satu and I had a drink with Marsha and Allison Baker at the hotel bar. We laughed and talked, and I told Marsha how much it meant to me… that she and Darwyn had honestly given me hope when I had none… when they bought that copy of Comic Book Tattoo. Marsha dismissed it, saying it really wasn’t a big deal, and Satu and I said we’d come by Darwyn’s table later the next day and say hello.
The next day there was a crowd around his table, and he was busy, and we decided we’d come back later. We didn’t, thinking “We’ll say hello next time.”
To me, he was a perfect, wonderful anomaly, and now my heart feels crushed and broken, and life seems so fucking unfair.
Goodbye Darwyn. Thank you.