Monday, May 16, 2016

The Final Frontier!

Darwyn Cooke has passed on. Darwyn Cooke broke the mold by embracing the template which made it. Let me explain.

When I got my mitts on The New Frontier it was as if I had discovered the DC Universe all over again. Here was a beautifully rendered version of the familiar but done with panache and style, with sufficient familiarity to warm the heart but with ample freshness to quickn the curiosity. We met old friends who were at once what we thought they were, and yet unlike anything we'd encountered before. The story blends the heady adventures of the Atomic Age and Silver Age of DC Comics with the zeitgeist of the Cold War 50's and 60's, the space race as imagined in The Right Stuff, with a dash of Lovecraftian ancient evil at its darkest core. Darwyn Cooke got me to see these heroes, both super and otherwise with new eyes with an art style which blended the best of Kirby, Wood, Toth, and others. And he made appreciate them as if I were a fan for the first time. It's hard to ask more than that of a creator and I want to thank Cooke for that gift.

So many well-done series are entertaining at time and even well crafted, but sadly most recede into the memory as new entertainments take the stage. Not so The New Frontier, it lingers in the imagination. In six oversized issues Cooke reconstituted the DC Universe, creating a lovely alternate universe origin for the Justice League of America and for the Silver Age itself. The heroes are firmly realized men, women, and other who come together to save a world which is in need of saving. They battle an enemy greater than any one of them, but which can be defeated if they are willing to sacrifice their individual needs and ignore their prejudices and fears to serve to a greater cause. That's heroism distilled, and Cooke refined it in this delightful story.

The story was redefined and distilled yet again when the saga was adapted to animated form, my favorite DC cartoon yet. Alas much of the complex and convoluted story had to be dropped to make this movie work, but nonetheless we get an entertaining event with the core concepts intact.

I recently took a close look at the Justice League of America and had plans to include The New Frontier in that run of posts, but simply ran out of time. I did though pick up the two trade versions of the story and spent yesterday reading them through, revisiting one of the best stories ever told in the DC Universe. Then I watched the movie version a few times, one time listening to Cooke himself explain how the shots were selected and developed. It was a day well spent with one of the finest artists of his generation.

Thanks Darwyn. Rest in peace Mr.Cooke.

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  1. Thanks for this, Rip.

    I well remember Kennedy's New Frontier and was witness to the beginnings of Green Lantern and the JLA as well as the racism and other social issues that Cooke touched on in this series.

    DC: the New Frontier seems to be a love letter to the Silver Age, and love is the key to its endurance. This is not the sort of comic that the guys in Marketing would come up with; it's more the vision of a fan who had dreams about comics from childhood.

    I recently watched a video of one of those Kirby tribute panels where Cooke was a guest. He was a guy who loved what he did and it showed.

    1. I agree completely. Well said.

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