By Keith Sharp
Comic book genius and former Music Express and Metallion magazine art director, Darwyn Cooke passed away Saturday morning in Florida after succumbing to a bout of aggressive cancer. His wife Marsha posted in a blog May 13th that the 53-year-old Cooke had been placed in palliative care and he died the following day.
Writer and artist for The New Frontier series who also adapted the Richard Stark Parker novels, Cooke, an Eisner award winner, moved to Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shores 10 years ago.
Noted for redesigning the Cat Woman character for DC Comics, Cooke was also acknowledged as one of Canada’s top comic book illustrators who’s distinctive style was lauded as being a throwback to the distinctive illustration style of the early 1950’s.
Yet it was while working as a bus boy at the Madison Pub, in Toronto’s Annex in 1984 that Cooke first came to the attention of Music Express publisher Conny Kunz. “All the Music Express staff used to hang out at The Mad, we used to conduct some of our key interviews with rock stars at that pub, so we got to know Darwyn,” noted Kunz. “He told me he was a budding illustrator and asked if he could show me some of his work. On one of our lunchtime visits, he pulled out a folder and revealed that he had taken a recent issue of Music Express and totally re-designed the whole book. I had to admit that his re-design was much better than the original layout, and as our current art director was about to leave, it was logical that Darwyn be given the job.”
Cooke not only quickly stamped his own mark on Music Express as the magazine progressed from being Canada’s national music magazine to its rapid expansion, first on to U.S newsstands, via a distribution agreement with Warner Distributors and then into all Musicland/Sam Goody stores in 1986 as ME was recruited as the official in-store magazine for that Minneapolis-based retailer.
Yet his crowning illustrative achievement was as the art director of Metallion magazine, a hard rock mag designed as a North American version of England’s successful Kerrang publication. Under Cooke’s direction, Metallion, established in early 1985, developed almost a comic-book style which introduced editorial characters like Stunner Krunch (Lenny Stoute). Sadly, Metallion only lasted two years, but during that time, Cooke left his mark with a totally innovative design style.
Cooke advanced to pursue his comic book aspirations and in a very brief time, established a reputation as a top notch writer and illustrator.
Darwyn Cooke will be fondly remembered by all ME alumni and will be sadly missed.