FOUR GENERATIONS. That’s what you’ll find represented in The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute. Four generations of superlative artists and writers. That is assuming you’re using the traditional standards of what a generation is. If we measure it by Alvin Tofler’s yardstick, there might be eight generations. Or sixteen. By any indicator, a significant lineup. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive one. The people who’ve assembled to make this book possible are the giants of the comics industry. And they’re all there to pay tribute to one man.
It’s not because Dave Cockrum is one of the most important character designers in comics’ history (although after Cockrum and Jack Kirby, how many others can you name?) And it’s certainly not just because he revamped and rejuvenated and enormously popularized both The Legion of Superheroes and Uncanny X-Men. It is way beyond his ability tell a terrific story in just 20 pages and keep you coming back month after month. Nosiree. It’s not just about his work.
It’s about Dave.
The nimshul of a conversation I recently had with DC Comics president and publisher Paul Levitz best sums it up. We were chatting about this book and the unfortunate fact that Dave’s illness was the catalyst that spurred it on. “Lots of industry veterans have been sick or in trouble,” said Paul. “But I’ve never seen a response like this. Dave’s one of those rare guys that everybody genuinely likes.”
It’s true. It’s not about Dave’s illness. Nor is it about the additional financial pain that the illness cost him. It’s about Dave. Pure and simple, it’s about a guy who transformed himself from the ultimate fan?comics incarnate, if truth be told?to the ultimate fan’s favorite in just a few short years.
Dave’s pantheon of creations have held up for three decades. That’s 210 dog years. A lot of water under the bridge. A lot of comics and readers and changes in the industry, and two seriously high-grossing X-Men films. And in all that time, for richer or poorer, Dave has remained essentially the same super-amped, enthusiastic comics fan he once was in those halcyon days of the Silver Age. When he’s healthy, you’ll still find him drawing Wolverine busts for a pittance at conventions, like the one he did for me at the first MarvelCon in ’75. You’ll still find him on internet message boards having “serious” discussions with fans about some super-doer’s motivation or particular prowess. And he still can’t resist redesigning every character he sees.
But the best case in point was the little episode he recently went through, if you can call four months of his life in the miserable Torquemadaesque confines of the Bronx V.A. Hospital?and two of those weeks on the critical list?a “little” episode. We spoke nearly every day while he was in that hellhole. On some days he shared the bad news; on others, the worse news. But sometimes I had news, too, and on one particular day it was news that Marvel had come through with some serious cash for our wounded sailor.
After I hung up with Dave, I called Neal Adams, my fellow architect of the Marvel settlement. “So how did he take the news?” Neal asked.
“Well, he was pretty happy,” I said. “But nowhere near as excited as when I told him Will Eisner had contributed to the tribute book.”
That’s Dave Cockrum, folks. The greatest fan you’ve ever known.
Neal Adams & I will be co-hosting “The Dave Cockrum Tribute Art Exhibit” at MOCCA (The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) on July 1 in NY City. The exhibit will feature all of the work that has been contributed to the tribute book. There will likely be other artists on hand so mark your calendar? Then, in August, Heritage Comics will be auctioning off all of the donated art at WizardWorld in Chicago. Fear not: You’ll also be able to bid on Ebay.
If you haven’t ordered The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute, please visit www.aardwolfpublishing.com now. Don’t be a numbskull and wait until it’s sold out. Contributors now include:
Al Bigley, Alan Davis, Alan Moore, Ben Templesmith, Bob McLeod, John Cassaday, Charles Barnett, Chris Claremont, Dave Gibbons, Dave Sim, David Mazzucchelli, Diane Duane, Dick Ayers, Ed Hannigan, Frank Brunner, Gabriele Dell’Otto, Garcia Lopez, Gary Frank, Gene Colan, Giorgio Comolo, Harlan Ellison, Herb Trimpe, Jean-Jeacques Dzialowski, Jerry Ordway, Jim Berteges, Jim Valentino, Joe Kubert, Joe Quesada, Joe Rubinstein, Joe Staton, Joel Adams, John Romita, Jon Bogdanove, Rafael Kayanan, Kia Asamiya, Len Wein, Louise Simonson, Maggie Thompson, Marie Severin, Mark Bagley, Mark Evanier, Marv Wolfman, Mercy Van Vlack, Bill Messner-Loebs, Michael Netzer, Mike Deodato Jr., Michael Kaluta, Bob Wiacek, Mike Pascale, Neal Adams, Neil Gaiman, Pablo Marcos, Peter David, Randy Bowen, Roger Stern, Roy Thomas, Sal Velluto, Bob Almond, Sam Keith, Sergio Aragones, Stan Lee, Steve Lieber, Steve McNiven, Terry Austin, Terry Moore, Thomas Derenick, Todd Nauck, Tom Palmer, Tony Isabella, Walt Simonson, Will Eisner, Robin Riggs, and Travis Charest.
© 2004, Clifford Meth