Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On The Death of Dave Cockrum

Comic book artist Dave Cockrum passed away Sunday at his home in South Carolina, and while I mourn his exit, I really appreciate the way the 63-year-old sauntered away. He was suffering from complications from diabetes, but news reports have made note of his demeanor too:

Wearing Superman pajamas and covered with his Batman blanket, comic book illustrator Dave Cockrum died Sunday. ...... in his favorite chair at his home in Belton, South Carolina ...

At Cockrum's request, there will be no public services and his body will be cremated, according to Cox Funeral Home. His ashes will be spread on his property. A family friend said he will be cremated in a Green Lantern shirt."

Sounds like a pretty fine way to go to me.

I guess there's some eternal youth quality to comic books, and it has been a business with highs and lows and now CGI effects can bring the fierce and furious action to the screen which has existed in simple pen and ink illustrations for generations. Certainly in many X-Men stories, heroics isn't just a aspect of fantasy - it's about personal struggles within and with friends and foes alike. The illustrations of artists like Cockrum and many others are uniquely American images, provoking drama and humor and acts both human and superhuman.

Dave was typical of many artists who worked for both big publishers, DC and Marvel, and it was his work with Len Wein to re-invent the X-Men franchise in the 1970s which brought him real fame, creating the characters of Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Phoenix, Mystique and others. That's his cover for the relaunch of the X-Men. Much of his design work became the model for all those characters now on the silver screen and in the current run of X-books.

And, like many other artists, he found that his work did not bring any royalties and was in something of a financial crunch in his later years. Marvel and DC both came around eventually.

A history of his work is here, some info on his struggles to receive pay is here, and there are tributes here, and a great gallery of his sketches and drawings here.

Comic writer and friend Clifford Meth writes about Dave's passion for his work and deep appreciation for his fans. He'd go to fan conventions without being paid, would sign autographs for free too. Dave even offered a comic fan from Tennessee to come and visit him in South Carolina even as his health was failing. Meth says:

If it hadn't been for the burden of his illness, he would never have even mentioned his missing royalties to anyone. For companies that take advantage of that sort of guy, that's a ready-made sucker, a patsy. But for Dave Cockrum, it was about getting on with life. He was happy to have created what he created, to have found a career drawing comics. He never verbalized any regret about his chosen field. At least not to me, and I was his pal. Dave never considered the road not taken. "What else could I have done?�" he�d say. "I love comics!�"


  1. Anonymous5:22 PM

    Hello Joe,

    As I admitted before, I'm new to this blog thang.

    Nevertheless, as a novice, the impression that I'm getting is you can spout a mixture of egregious errors and pure bullshit, write a couple of blogs one reecey cups and other crap, them move on.

    Is that the way this blogworld works?

    If you don't correct yourself publicly, I'll tell your readers, Joey, that you were wrong about alleged bungling of easements for the Colgate plant.

    You were wrong about the city of Morristown's use of eminent domain.

    You were wrong about the ownership and auction of the Morristown College campus.

    And you had the audacity to taunt anyone who had the audacity to correct your blatant errors.

    You wouldn't want me to call bullshit on you, right?

    Write a couple of entries about peanut butter cups and a dead cartoonist, and all will be well.

    No need to correct errors. Is that an example of the "new media"?

    Don't work, Joe, please don't work. You're where you need to be. And don't make any phone calls to verify the crap you publish here. You're where you need to be.

  2. yes, newbie - comments go in the posts in which that thread of discussion relates.

    back in that thread, here's what i wrote:sorry, that's right - the city did NOT own the MC property, though they were fervently seeking a huge amount of back-taxes due, and did turn down an offer to buy the property some years back when the asking price was, i think, about $3 million ... and it was the untimely death of one of the purchasers of the property this year which led to the auction." though i do beleive the death occured after the auction. the property has been mentioned as part of so many developmental ideas in the last 8 or 10 years, and regardless, the property was mentioned as another example of a muncipal use of eminent domain for commercial development, which as i have said already, is a tatctic which is under heated debate since the Kelo decision from the Supreme Court.

    the facts regarding eminent domain conflicts are likewise in that previous post's thread.

    and more than once i have made factual errors on this blog and i have corrected them, and admitted mistakes.

    but you aren't reading here with any comprehension, rather simply with much anger and personal attacks.

  3. Well, things are popping over here at Cuppa's.
    Wait until Anonymous sees your film write-up tomorrow.
    One question, if this person is anonymous, how will Joe know when Anonymous actually calls him out and then know who Anonymous actually is when the deed is done if an Anonymous comment is left without attribution?
    No glory to call the big bad Cuppa out when one doesn't sign their name to it and get the credit, but that's just me.
    Keep fighting the good fight, Joe.

  4. Yeah, Newscoma - it is astonishingly disrespectful of such a great American talent like Dave Cockrum for anonymous trolls to wipe their feet all over his memorial post.
    but, newbies and cowards, they is all god's chil'ren too, i guess.

  5. Anonymous8:03 AM

    Well, i clicked to leave a message regarding Dave Cockrum's passing, but what a surprise, eh? Joe, i can't imagine you making someone angry, lol.

    Still, i must say that Cockrum was a great talent, seemed like a good guy, and will be missed. May he rest in peace, with thanks for his contribution towards making the fantasy that much better.

    Hang in there Joe.

  6. Paige -
    Me? Make someone angry? I think it was more of sheer confusion on the newbie's part, 'cause yeah, one post is on one topic and then the next is on another, and that idea seems to perplex the anonyomous newbie types. I understand.
    It is a new media.
    and thanks for reading Paige.

  7. Anonymous1:50 PM

    I had not heard of Cockrum's passing till I read this. I remember his work well,he revitalized X-Men like no one else.He was a giant among artists. Iused to own a comics shop back in the 80's and met him once briefly at a con (I used to go to a lot of cons and met quite a few artists and writers). I have always loved comics and guess I always will. Still a F.O.O.M.

  8. James - i haven't heard a F.O.O.M. reference in a long time!
    and it took Marvel a few days, but they have an excellent write-up about him and his work: