Comic Creator Darwyn Cooke Dies Following Fight With Cancer

The 'DC: The New Frontier' writer/artist died Saturday morning.
Darwyn Cooke/DC Entertainment
'The New Frontier'

Darwyn Cooke, the popular comic book writer/artist known for work on DC's superhero characters as well as a love of noir crime stories, died early Saturday following a fight with what was described as "aggressive cancer," The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. He was 54.

A statement from the creator's family released Saturday read, "We regret to inform you that Darwyn lost his battle with cancer early this morning at 1:30 AM ET. We read all of your messages of support to him throughout the day yesterday. He was filled with your love and surrounded by friends and family at his home in Florida. Donations can be made to the Canadian Cancer Society and Hero Initiative. Please continue to respect our privacy as we go through this very difficult time. A longer statement will come later today."

Cooke kept his battle with cancer private until a Friday announcement via a post titled "f— cancer" on his official website, in which his wife Marsha wrote that "with tremendous sadness" Cooke was "receiving palliative care following a bout with aggressive cancer." The extent to which the cancer had progressed was not disclosed, although rumors broke on social media Friday night that the creator had passed.

Cooke, whose résumé also included work with Warner Bros. Animation as a storyboard artist on the 1990s shows Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, became known in comics around the turn of the century via projects including Batman: Ego and a critically acclaimed revival of Catwoman with writer Ed Brubaker.

His breakthrough work was 2004's DC: The New Frontier, a reimagining of DC's Justice League and related characters set during the 1950s/'60s era in which they were created. Released in six oversized issues, the series won multiple Eisner, Harvey and Shuster Awards before being collected in multiple editions and adapted into an animated movie on which Cooke worked as consultant.

The project showcased not only Cooke's artwork — which combined influences from comic artists including Jack Kirby, Milton Caniff and Alex Toth with external aesthetics including mid-20th century advertising and graphic design — but also his writing, which offered a more human, warmer take on the iconic DC heroes than was appearing in the regular series at time of publication.

Following the success of The New Frontier, Cooke took on the task of reviving Will Eisner's 1940s pulp newspaper strip hero The Spirit in his first ongoing series of new stories since Eisner's time with the character. Defying expectations, Cooke's yearlong run on the series re-established the character as an ongoing concern as opposed to a novelty of nostalgia; following his departure, the series continued with DC Entertainment for another three years before being relaunched by Dynamite Entertainment in 2015.

Cooke, meanwhile, moved on to another high-profile project: adapting Donald Westlake's Parker crime novels (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark) to comics. Although the first of Cooke's adaptations, Parker: The Hunter, was published after Westlake's death in 2008, the author had been so impressed with Cooke's work that the project became the first adaptation of the character that was allowed to keep the character's original name; earlier movie adaptations had seen him renamed Walker (1967's Point Blank) or Porter (1999's Payback) because Westlake didn't believe they were faithful enough to the source material.

Following 2009's The Hunter, Cooke would go on to adapt three more Westlake novels: 2010's Parker: The Outfit, 2012's Parker: The Score and 2013's Parker: Slayground. During this period, he also created DC's Before Watchmen: Minutemen and co-wrote Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre with artist Amanda Conner. His most recent work was illustrating The Twilight Children for DC's Vertigo imprint.

The comics community has been offering tributes to Cooke via social media since the news broke of his illness:

In addition to his wife, Cooke is survived by his brother, Dennis.

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