Sunday, November 26, 2006

The uncanny Dave Cockrum (1943-2006)

Sad news today...

Dave Cockrum, the comic artist who co-created (with writer Len Wein) the modern version of the X-Men — including such beloved characters as Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus — died this morning following several years of diabetes-related ill health. He was 63.

I still vividly remember the day in 1975 when I first laid eyes on Cockrum and Wein's revamped mutant heroes, in Giant-Size X-Men #1. (The comic book was giant-size. The X-Men, for the most part, were not.) It was in the base exchange at Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines, to which my parents and I had driven down from Clark Air Base on a shopping jaunt. (Interesting side note: Like myself, Cockrum grew up as a military brat — his father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force.)

As a major fan of the original X-Men — whose book had been reprinting stories from the '60s for several years — I was excited by the team's return to first-run adventures, but initially disappointed to discover that the "All-New, All Different" X-Men now included only one of my long-time favorites (field leader Cyclops). I was soon won over by the new cast, especially Storm — the first black superheroine I could remember seeing.

The new artist was already known to me, as Cockrum had been the regular penciler on another favorite series, DC's Legion of Super-Heroes, for a year and a half before joining Marvel and X-Men. Therefore, I was familiar with Cockrum's dynamic pencils and his distinctive fashion sense — Storm's costume shared several features in common with the uniform Cockrum drafted for the Legion's Saturn Girl. (In fact, it's fair to say that Cockrum was one of a very few comic creators whose character costume designs were instantly identifiable, even when drawn by another artist.) At least one of his new X-Men, as it turns out, was a carryover from Cockrum's earlier series — Cockrum had originally developed Nightcrawler for use in Legion.

In addition to his X-Men work, Cockrum cocreated Starjammers, a spacefaring series spun off from X-Men. He also drew covers for numerous Marvel books throughout the late '70s and early '80s, as well as projects for DC and other publishers.

Cockrum's deteriorating health prevented him from doing more than occasional work in comics in recent years. Fans of a certain age, however, still praise his classic work on Legion and X-Men, and of course, the incredible characters he helped bring to life.

Dave Cockrum's passing closes yet another chapter on the comic saga of my youth. He was a giant-size talent (yes, pun intended), sadly robbed by illness of many opportunities to create even more memorable art. Now, he's gone too soon.

My sincere condolences to Dave's wife Paty, and his family and friends.


1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger MCF offered these pearls of wisdom...

Very sorry to read this. I became a fan of his in the late 80s or early 90s, thanks to Classic X-men reprinting his stuff from the 70s. 63 is too soon. Sad news indeed.

7:47 PM  

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