He was a titan of the medium, and even though I know him mainly from his covers and his seminal DC: The New Frontier, even just those would be one hell of a legacy.
I first read New Frontier, strangely enough, while waiting in line outside of Midtown Comics for Justice League #1 on August 30th, 2011. From the first page I was blown away by how the book captured the Golden Age style like lightning in a bottle. Aside from his art, which is as timeless as the Dick Sprang-esque illustrations it evokes while bringing out an interior truth to these characters that cheap 50’s printing could never bring to the page; the story is a great reminder of why Superheroes still matter after all these decades.
I think that New Frontier overall describes itself best when Batman changes his costume because “[He] set out to scare criminals, not children.” Cooke understood that these characters are inspirational and aspirational. Superheroes express our optimism and hope. New Frontier is more than a title, it was a creed – that we could be stronger, go farther, and be better by embracing our differences and working together.
Whenever an artist dies we lose their potential to create, to entertain, and to inspire. But luckily for us we get to keep so much of them in the work they leave behind. Cooke leaves behind a legacy that doesn’t just reflect the best of himself, but some of the best of comics as a medium.
RIP Darwyn Cooke. And fuck cancer.