I’m pooped, friends. I’ve been working around the clock on a number of projects, not the least of which is The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute. The book will be late. There was no avoiding it. But as Jim Reeber, Aardwolf Publishing’s president and publisher put it, “This is the most important book we’ve done. It’s got to be perfect.” We’re hoping to have it to you by mid-July.

This week, there’s good news, bad news, a contest, and an offer you can’t refuse?

The good news is Jim Lee just joined The Tribute. In the eleventh hour, he sent me an exquisite rendering of The Futurians, the one property that Dave Cockrum still fully owns (and one we suspect you’ll be seeing a lot more of soon).

“Dave Cockrum will always be the artist who brought The X-Men to life to me,” Jim told me. “Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, John Byrne?all phenomenal artists who made their mark on the merry mutants, but it was Dave who made The X-Men work when so many others previously failed. His work had such energy, vitality, sensuality that it?forgive the cliché here?leapt right off the page! It was explosive, mesmerizing, so three-dimensional. And where would we be without his incredibly imaginative trend-setting designs? The X-Men, The Legion of Super-Heroes, Ms. Marvel, John Carter, The Shi’ar, The Futurians… The list goes on and on.” Jim concluded with this salutation: “From one of your biggest fans?thanks, Dave, for bringing to life whole new worlds and whole new galaxies for us to play in.”

Paul Levitz phoned me last week. The good folks at DC were cleaning out Julie Schwartz’s desk when they came across one of the many fan letters that Dave Cockrum had written to Julie four decades ago. At the time, Dave was a sailor stationed in Guam; as usual, Dave included with his letter a fully rendered, full-color cover “suggestion” that he hoped Julie would consider using. It was a mock-up for The Flash. And it was lousy. Just plain awful. I have it right here. If Dave ever screws with me, I’ll publish it.

Of course, eventually Julie did use two of Cockrum’s cover suggestions. The first one was on Green Lantern #36, the first crossover between the Golden Age and Silver Age Green Lanterns, as re-rendered by Gil Kane; the second time up was a Hawkman cover (does anyone know the issue # ?) for the story “The Shrike Strikes at Night” as rendered by Cockrum’s future teacher Murphy Anderson. Julie even sent Cockrum the originals after the books came out. Two gorgeous, twice-up Silver Age classic original covers. Now how cool is that?

Cockrum told me he sent in a helluva lot of those cover suggestions during those halcyon fan years before Big Julie finally bit on one and used it. Apparently they got better over time. They must have. Either that, or Dave just wore the old man down.

Either way, there’s two lessons in this, amigos: 1) Perseverance pays off and 2) Don’t screw with me if I have something to blackmail you with.

The bad news is that Dave Cockrum sold both of his valuable, original covers when he needed money to pay the mortgage. Indeed, he practically gave them away. That’s shit and no toilet paper. So I’m asking all of you a serious favor: If you ever come across one of these chestnuts, let me know right away. I’d like to buy them as present for my pal.

The contest is this: Jim Lee got me thinking about Cockrum’s long-lasting characters and Jack Kirby’s pantheon, and I’m trying to come up with a list of other character creators and their designs. There’s Steve Ditko’s Spidey villains; Wally Wood’s designs of Daredevil’s red costume and his T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents; Johnny Romita’s Wolverine and MaryJane and The Kingpin; Neal Adams’ Deadman and Havok and Polaris and? You get the idea. So anyway, the contest is this: Email your lists to cliffordmeth@yahoo.com and I’ll send you a signed copy of Aardwolf #1. I’ll also compile these lists and publish them here in a few weeks, and credit all of you who help out. And the person who offers the most help will get a fee, signed bookplate-edition (signed by Neil Gaiman and yours truly) of The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute.

Finally, the offer you can’t (or shouldn’t) refuse: While they last, you can purchase these signed bookplate editions of The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute signed by either Neil Gaiman and I or Walter & Louise Simonson by sending $38.00 (postage paid) to sales@aardwolfpublishing.com. Please specify which bookplate you’d like (Gaiman/Meth or Walter/Weezie). If you’ve already purchased the book unsigned, just say so and send only $5.00 for the bookplate, which will be added to your order. There’s only a few dozen of each, so act fast!

Make sure to check out the newly minted Cockrum Tribute site, too!

© 2004, Clifford Meth

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