Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Spotlight On: Dave Cockrum

Karen: We've frequently discussed the work of this fabulous artist, whether it be his outstanding early years on DC's Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, or his revival of the X-Men with Len Wein, and later, Chris Claremont. Cockrum was a wonderful costume and character designer, creating new looks for many of the Legionnaires that have persisted for years, as well as designing most of the original all-new, all-different X-Men. He created dozens of other characters' looks though, including the striking black outfit for Ms. Marvel. Cockrum was an artist who could handle big team books and do them well. He excelled at action, but also knew how to portray quiet moments. Although Cockrum did not have particularly long runs on any single book, he had memorable ones on the Legion and X-Men, and he also drew many covers for Marvel in the late 70s. His style is instantly recognizable.

Karen: Dave Cockrum passed away in November 2006. But he left an incredible legacy, one that we here at the BAB continue to delight in and will take the opportunity to discuss whenever we have the chance -like today. Please share your thoughts on the work of this talented artist.


William Preston said...

I first met Dave Cockrum at a hotel in New Jersey that was hosting a rather low-key comic convention. Besides the big dealer room, I believe the only thing they had going was Dave, who was parked, with Paty, in a niche just beside the main doors. For five bucks, he'd do you a pencil drawing; ten got it inked. I think I had him do Wolverine and Nightcrawler that day. (Another time, he did Storm and Iron Man, which I still have; I gave the other two to sons of a friend.)

Dave didn't seem bothered by those of us who hung around him as he worked. He was genial, and Paty joined in the light, jokey atmosphere. I was 15 or 16, full of questions, excited to talk with someone who meant so much to me. (He was still doing X-Men at the time.) At a convention held another time, at the Quakertown Mall (man, was that strange), he was situated within a circle of tables at the mall's middle, plenty of room to work, and propped up behind him was that big Starjammers spread he did for X-Men that featured riffs on his Legion characters. He good-naturedly joked about John Byrne, who was doing X-Men at the time.

He exemplified the vibe that Stan Lee had constructed about Marvel, the happy PR that masked all the labor (as with any job) that went on behind the scenes. Dave made comics seem like the best thing in the world, done by people who managed to capture the joy of storytelling and of doing something wonderfully well. He helped make my comics experience both more informed and happier. Peace on you, Dave.

Abe Lucas said...

William, thanks for sharing that story. Based on his extensive interview in The X-Men Companion Volume 1, I enjoyed Dave's sense of humor and his take on things in general. I always got the impression that he gave Nightcrawler his (Dave's, that is) own personality. I believe that Cockrum's initial run on X-Men is *still* underrated because of it being in the shadow of John Byrne's tenure. Cockrum's time on the book was nothing short of brilliant. That book had such an abundance of talent working on it up to and including the Paul Smith run.

Doug said...

I'd echo CK's praise for your comments, William.

I was grading my X-Men collection last night and was reminded how many covers Cockrum continued to do really long after he'd left the regular penciling chores. And like CK, I wonder if Cockrum's run on the book had been just a bit longer if it would be remembered as equal to Byrne's. Those first 15 issues (including G-S X-Men #1) Dave drew are pretty special.

And speaking of Cockrum's Legion makeovers, we should note that it was not he who put Cosmic Boy in that S&M monstrosity, but Mike Grell. Hoo boy...


Abe Lucas said...

I should also mention that Dave Cockrum's death has been one of the few that has affected me deeply, despite the fact that I never knew or even met the man, as I was genuinely saddened upon learning of his death, particularly the decline in health that he had to endure.

Cockrum's passing, along with that of Gene Day, reminds me of how tough the comic book business can be with the way these superb talents are often less well off than we imagine, but that's the nature of the business and I don't want to derail a tribute to Dave Cockrum by emphasizing that aspect of things, though it unfortunately comes to mind whenever I think of those two great artists. In the case of Dave, I have read that his wife was a staunch defender of his and loved and looked after him in every way.

Anonymous said...

Just wanna add my name to those who loved and respected his work. Even though I never met him like William, like millions of fans I always enjoyed his work, whether on LOS or the new X-men. He also seemed like a person who genuinely loved his work, and was a nice humble guy to boot. No one, not even Byrne, drew Storm and Nightcrawler quite like Dave the Dude. His drawings of these two remain my favourite renditions of these characters up to this day.

- Mike 'RIP Dave' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

Always good to talk about Cockrum, and thanks, William, from me as well for the Cockrum anecdote.
By all accounts, he was one of the sweetest guys around, and that makes his untimely passing all the more sad.
I'm also a great admirer of his work. He was really one of the great artists of the Bronze Age and after. And yes, I think that (together with Ditko) he was probably one of the best, if not the best, superhero costume designers.

david_b said...

I liked him on the few Avengers issues he did (GS Avengers 2, some others..), and I generally consider him one of the Bullpen Bronze mainstays, just another great name you loved watching for. Very competent work, not sure if I'd like him long-term, but to me was one of the preferred ill-in artists.

My one Cockrum LOSH issue was the nice Timberwolk story I picked up back in the day (ish 197, which you reviewed back in January 2013), just LOVED the art. Dave Cockrum was one of those artists that you could have draw either DC or Marvel and it felt very much at home, not like perhaps Adams on Avengers or Ross Andru doing Worlds Finest, where you felt like saying 'Hey, this doesn't look quite right.' LOSH 197 seemed bright, interesting, and certainly quite fresh for DC Comics at that time.

('Course I picked it up in the same '3 for 49 cent' bag as the now-classic Adams Batman 251 so that influenced my opinion of DC a lot as well.)

A truely classy gent and underrated artist.

Doug said...

David --

Great avatar, and congratulations again on your last promotion.

BUT -- I wanted to click on the image for the larger view, but there's a Cylon on your profile! Are you a secret Galactica enemy agent??


Doug said...

By the way, that black and white image of the old and new X-teams never looked better than wrapped around a series 2 Slurpee Cup!


david_b said...

Oh, Doug, you slay me sir..

No, not typically comfortable with my own ruggedly handsome looks (at least 'the women find me handy', as Red Green says..), so switched to my vintage Galactica DVD series box. It's obnoxious on the DVD shelf, precisely why I like it.

Funny as it is, I'm actually getting a vintage Galactica warrior uniform tailored for some convention cosplay next year.. NEVER owned a pair of motorcycle boots, but recently purchased the exact model they wore in the old series ('70s Italian SIDI Full Bore boots). Man those are fricken' huge to put on.., nothing like my ol' combat boots. Oy.

david_b said...

Incidentally, I never read that Iron Fist issue depicted. What kind of suit is Wolvie wearing..??

Was that in the story inside, or was it some early outfit alternate idea..?

Doug said...

David --

That Iron Fist story (reviewed by Karen a few years ago -- link should be in the library) is a blast! The suit Wolverine is wearing was taken from his adversary in the big X-Men/Imperial Guard brouhaha in X-Men #s 107-108. I think the dude's name was Fang.


Erik J Kreffel said...

I was just reminiscing today about Mr Cockrum, weird synchronicity with BAB. I'm too young to have read X-Men when Dave's first foray was published, but since his passing I've really grown to love his style and appreciate what his talents brought to Marvel and comics in general. It's a shame that he never had another series run at Marvel after The Futurians.

Mr Cockrum is definitely a god in the Marvel pantheon of greats.

Karen said...

I'm late to the party today -darn job! It's nice to see the appreciation of Dave Cockrum's work, and William, thank you for sharing your story about meeting him. Everything I've heard about him has always been positive. He seemed to truly enjoy his work and put so much of himself into it. I do wish we had gotten more of his work on Avengers -the little we did get was fantastic. His covers were always a treat. I'm very happy that we can continue to celebrate his legacy here.

Humanbelly said...

And I'm totally in agreement with the earlier point that, by almost any measure, that first Claremont/Cockrum run on X-Men was comic book storytelling at its finest-- an absolute gem of a run. At the time, I couldn't imagine comics getting any better-- yet it was the one instance where a brilliant run was actually succeeded by a run that literally redefined what we could expect from the genre. . . one that could be considered a "Best of All Time". Man, tough draw for poor Mr. C.

Like Sal Buscema, Dave seems like he could be relied on to draw pretty much any character and have them look "right". And like George Perez, he was able to work in an almost undetectable level of caricature into the characters faces so that everyone was recognizable even when clad in their civvies. There are just not many artists at all who have been able to achieve this. Even John Buscema was capable of falling into stock faces when he was doing particularly inspired work. I wonder if, like Perez, it's because Dave had a sense of proprietorship or even paternal pride for the characters he was drawing? When you like your characters, maybe it becomes second nature to draw them as true individuals.

Hey, the Slurpee cup picture? Wasn't that also in an issue of FOOM at one point--?


Humanbelly said...

BTW David--
Can you refresh us which level of colonel you've risen to? My late father-in-law retired at that rank where his next promotion would put him at general, but my wife wasn't sure if that was full-bird or something else.

Man, if we can fast-track you up to General that would TOTALLY make us the highest-falutin' comics blog in all of PuppetLand. Need us to put in a good word, or anything?


david_b said...

HB, you're too kind. Yes, I'll be at the rank of your late 'father-in-law'. I've passed the promotion board, but am waiting to find a vacant job position for 'full-bird' at my unit, so I can actually pin the rank on and get the 'big bucks'. The US Senate already confirmed me, again just waiting on an opening. With my current strategizing regarding my recent separation, I'm being smart and timing it out, of course..

I have absolutely NO interest at all in going for General. I'd need to spend some $$ to finish my Masters and a few other things, plus the politics..? Forget it. With what will be 33+ years in 'This Man's Army', I'll be just fine as Colonel.

Not a day goes by that I don't ponder about just how proud my Dad would have been.

But, life is frickin' awesome, with special thanks to our Bronze Age Babies community.

Anonymous said...

Woo hoo!!! Day late. As some of you may remember, I am currently trying to scan my comic collection into a digital format. As life would have it, yesterday I was not only working on my X-Men issues but in the 90s to boot. After working for about an hour, I pulled some out and read them. To echo HB (again) Mr Cockrum sure had the flair for characters out of costume. He does Kurt's face! Remember his image inducer for when he's out in public!?! Wolverine tearing Jean's dress!?! I was surprised at how often he had people smiling.

Not to be someone who tells a man how to chew his cheese but if we're serious about showing the other blogs who's the boss, I would suggest we first trounce any and all blogs that have to do with yarn. Then scrapbooking. And baking. Then we consolidate our holdings and talk about uniting all blogs that deal with pop culture of the 70s and 80s. Make sure we have access to at least one major seaport and solid communications..... clear lines of supply.

The Prowler (went straight into darkness, out over the line, yeah straight into darkness, straight into night).

Abe Lucas said...

There's something about Cockrum drew women that had a Jack Kirby vibe to it. I see it to some degree in the Ms. Marvel splash page pictured here and in the way he rendered Storm and Phoenix. You all may find this ridiculous but I've always thought that a real-life "Kirby Woman" is the in-her-prime Rene Russo with her strong jaw and flowing hair. A Kirby/Cockrum woman all the way.

Now line up and tell me how ridiculous I'm being. ;)

Murray said...

I can't claim you're wrong, C.K., but it's a specialized sort of observation.

Now you have me on the topic, I'm thinking your favourite actress fits the bill as well or not better than Ms. Russo. Katherine Hepburn.

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