Nova Scotia

Canadian comic book artist Darwyn Cooke dies of cancer

Nova Scotia-based comic book artist Darwyn Cooke has died from an aggressive bout of cancer, his family confirmed Saturday.

DC Comics pays tribute to his superhero images that were 'direct and elegant, powerful and cool'

Cooke was a Canadian artist best known for his work with DC Comics. (www.darwyncooke.blogspot.ca)

Canadian comic book giant Darwyn Cooke died early Saturday morning in Florida from what his family calls "a bout with aggressive cancer."

The Eisner-award winning 53-year-old artist, who has lived on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore for the past 10 years, is best known for his DC Comics work.

He helped redesign the character of Catwoman and wrote and authored The New Frontier series and an adaptation of the Richard Stark Parker novels. 

Cooke died at 1:30 a.m. ET Saturday after entering palliative care Friday, his family said in an email from publicist David Hyde.

"We read all of your messages of support to him throughout the day yesterday," his family said in the statement.

"He was filled with your love and surrounded by friends and family at his home in Florida."

'I miss him already'

Condolences and memories flowed in online. The manager of Halifax's Strange Adventures Comix and Curiosities remembered making friends with Cooke, who he'd long admired. 

"I miss him already, but I'm incredibly grateful that I got to know him at all," Dave Howlett said in a Facebook post.

Darwyn Cooke drew this sketch for a fan at Free Comic Book Day at Halifax's Strange Adventures in 2010. (DarwynCooke.blogspot.ca)

DC Comics remembers 'true innovator'

DC Comics remembered Cooke Saturday as "one of our medium's true innovators."

"His takes on the most iconic heroes in the world were breathtakingly direct and elegant, powerful and cool," a statement on the DC Comics website said

"His were some of the most beautiful, fun DC superhero images we have ever seen."

'Simplistic brilliance'

DC Comics co-publisher Dan Didio wrote that knowing the "beauty and grace" of Cooke's art will last has helped with his personal sadness.

"He was both compassionate and combative, approaching everything he did with a tenaciousness and temerity that is now unheard of in a world afraid to offend," Didio wrote.

"The simplistic brilliance of his art and the natural flow of his storytelling not only elevated but enhanced all projects he touched."

Darwyn Cooke drew this and posted it on his blog. (DarwynCooke.blogspot.ca)

'Not without its challenges'

Cooke worked as a magazine art director with Music Express in Toronto early in his career. He got into animation after answering an advertisement from Warner Bros animator Bruce Timm, DC said. He first contributed to shows about Batman, Superman and Men in Black, before starting in print comics. 

Didio said working with Cooke was "not without its challenges," and the two sometimes went months without talking after arguing over a story.

"We always found our way back, drawn together by the common bond and friendship comics create," Didio said.

Darwyn Cooke was a frequent visitor to Halifax's Strange Adventures, which sold many of his works. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

'Generous and supportive'

After moving to the Canadian East Coast, Cooke took the time to meet Nova Scotians and mentor budding artists, friend Rachelle Goguen told CBC News.

"He was extremely generous and supportive and sweet to a lot of people," she said.

"It was easy to forget what a huge superstar he was in comics because he kind of made his life here very small."

A deluxe edition of Cooke's The New Frontier was released in hardcover last year. (DarwynCooke.blogspot.ca)

'Good at including people'

Goguen, who became friendly with Cooke through her work at Strange Adventures, remembered him as down-to-earth and "good at including people."  

He would invite visiting artists and fans for parties at his home in Sheet Harbour, N.S., she recalled. 

'Didn't act like a superstar'

But Cooke was met with awe and long lineups at large comic book conventions, Goguen said. 

"He didn't act like a superstar or big shot," she said.

"I've been really sad all day just thinking about the work that we're not going to see. He's not going to draw anything else. I'm sure he had projects that he was going to be doing — and that's really hard to process."

The family is requesting donations be made to the Canadian Cancer Society and Hero Initiative, a group that offers a financial safety net for comic creators. 

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