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Family friend announces death of New X-Men co-creator - and creators reflect on his legacy...

By Matt Powell

Posted November 27, 2006  11:45 AM

Comic-book legend and visionary artist Dave Cockrum, 63, passed away in his sleep yesterday morning.

Clifford Meth, a close family friend of the Cockrums, announced the death of Cockrum yesterday.

“With a heavy heart, I regret to inform you that Dave Cockrum passed away this morning,” said Meth. “After a long battle with diabetes and its varied complications Dave died in his sleep early this morning. Dave's many creations—including some of the X-Men's staple characters—brought tremendous joy to his legion of fans. For three decades, he was a beloved fixture at comics conventions across the country where he would sketch for a pittance and encourage would-be creators. Those of us who knew Dave personally will remember him as one of the sweetest, jovial, most generous individuals in the comics industry. I'll miss my friend very much.”

Cockrum’s legacy is perhaps best recognized by his co-creation of the new X-Men—including Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus—from Giant-Sized X-Men #1.

“There are no details of services at this time,” said Meth. “Dave asked to be cremated, and his widow Paty is burdened with the news, so well-wishers are asked not to call. Email can be sent to:"


Yesterday morning, comic book legend and visionary artist, Dave Cockrum passed away in his sleep following a long bout with diabetes and its varied complications. He was 63.

Cockrum was perhaps best recognized for his revolutionary work in the 1970s on DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes and his co-creation of the Marvel’s new X-Men with Len Wein in Giant-Sized X-Men #1, and more specifically, Cockrum’s original creation of the X-Man named Nightcrawler.

To honor the life of Cockrum and influence on the industry, Wizard spoke with various creators about the legacy of Dave Cockrum. Here is what they had to say:

“Dave was a beloved guy; he had no enemies. He loved comics, fans, drawing, reading—that’s who he was. He had a genuine, childlike passion and enthusiasm for everything he was involved with.

Beyond his artistic contributions, Dave was the ultimate fan’s artist. He loved doing things for people. He was always at conventions drawing for people, not for the money or because he wanted the attention—just because he loved doing it. He helped jumpstart so many people’s careers. Aspiring comic artists would come over to him and show their portfolios, and Dave never had a discouraging word. It’s a huge loss for all of us—one of the fixtures of the comics community who died way too soon and still had so much more to contribute.”

Clifford Meth, writer and close friend to Cockrum

“The realization when I worked on X-Men was, first, they were going to cancel it, and then, that I had breathed new life into it. Dave Cockrum came on by and he continued to breath new life into it. He created new characters, he created [The X-Men’s] Nightcrawler and five different characters for the X-Men and essentially made it live again. We know what X-Men means to comic books today: It’s a big deal. You can say all the guys that came along afterwards made a big contribution, but the contribution wouldn’t be there to be made, if it wasn’t for the early guys who really turned it into something; and Dave is one of those guys.

Dave Cockrum’s work was a mix of Wally Wood and all the great romantic comic book superhero artists. He was like John Romita [Sr.], a standard bearer, for the comic book style. Dave’s style was unique, not many people imitated it, but it was one of those ‘homey’ kind of styles, that everybody liked and enjoyed, and it was really for the X-Men. [His work was] something that moved the X-Men forward and upward, and he created these characters that everybody loved. For a time it was ‘Dave Cockrum's X-Men.’ The X-Men is practically an industry. You could take the X-Men titles and everything about the X-Men and make another company. Who would be one of the founding fathers and creators? It would be Dave Cockrum.

Personally, Dave was kind of like Santa Claus. Nice to everybody. There are certain people that don’t say, ‘No,’ for whatever reason, they’re just happy people—glad to meet you and see you. You would never walk up to Dave and wonder whether or not he’s gong to have a frown for you, because he never would. He would always have a smile. He was one of those really genuinely nice people. We have more than our share of really nice people in the comic book business, I’m very happy about that, and Dave... he was one of the nicest.”

—Neal Adams, legendary Green Lantern/Green arrow artist and friend

“I have to say, when I went back and reread the early X-Men issues from [issue] 94 onward, seeing Dave Cockrum's work was a revelation. [John] Byrne had been my favorite X artist as a kid, and I hadn't looked at the original issues in nearly 20 years. But lo and behold, Cockrum was better. The darkness of his work really set the mood for everything going forward from there, and made these goofy costumes and characters feel really grounded and important. He was one of the best, and it's sad to see him go.

I do have a personal childhood memory of Dave, actually, too. The year
‘E.T.’ came out, Cockrum and Byrne were both at the San Diego Con, and I was a kid hanging around the artist area, eavesdropping, basically, for whatever I could learn. I distinctly remember the two of them talking about the movie and Cockrum asking Byrne if he had cried when watching it. I don't remember Byrne's answer, but I remember Cockrum saying, ‘I cried, man... It looked so real, and I've always just wanted to go out there so bad.’ I never forgot that for some reason, this superhero sci-fi artist who was so affected by a movie about life in space, and the idea of how much he wanted to be out among those stars himself.”

—Ed Brubaker, current Uncanny X-Men writer

“There are certain artists whom, when you find out you're going to be working with them, you just want to pinch yourself because you can't believe it. When Richard Howell recruited Dave for Soulsearchers and Company, that was one of those instances. Chris [Claremont] and Dave's X-Men is what brought me back into comics after I'd left them behind for many years, and to have the opportunity to see him illustrating the adventures that Richard and I were writing was quite simply a highpoint of my career.”

—Peter David, X-Factor writer and past collaborator

“Besides being a heckuva nice guy whom I enjoyed being around, [Dave] was so very important to the return of the X-Men in 1975. He was my first choice to helm their return, mostly because of his excellent work on The Legion of Super-Heroes, and he helped add so much to the mutants with his co-creation of Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus. He and his wife Paty… two of the truly nice people in the business.”

—Roy Thomas, legendary Conan writer and former E-I-C of Marvel Comics

“I've known Dave for nearly 40 years. I think I may have been the first to hire him professionally—or if not the first, very close to it—at DC to ink a story over Jim Starlin. That was early in 1970-71. And I had already known Dave for awhile. Later on, Dave and I, as well as another friend, worked together on the Aurora Comics model kit comic book inserts. We also did a number of stories at Marvel together, including two of my favorites, one an EC homage called ‘Good Lord,’ and the other a two-part Blackhawk homage which we called ‘Skywolf.’ We were both huge Blackhawk fans. Dave and I also worked on John Carter of Mars and many, many other features and short stories. Of course Dave's main claims to comics fame are The Legion of Super-Heroes and the new X-Men. Many of those characters started out as designs in his incredible sketchbook. Dave also created, wrote and drew his own feature, The Futurians.

I saw Dave a year or so ago at the Heroes Con in North Carolina. Dave had a son, Ivan, from his first marriage, and has been married to his wife of many decades, Paty, a writer, artist and colorist. They had met at Marvel when they were both on staff there in the ‘70s. Besides being a brilliant creator, Dave was probably the best costume designer I have ever known. His designs were not only clear, but perfectly thought out. For example, Dave designed Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, for me. That is definitely one of the great costumes. His Nightcrawler, Storm and others are examples of his creativity and range. But more than all of that, Dave was a wonderful guy and though I hadn't seen him much as we lived on opposite coasts, a good friend. He will be missed.”

Marv Wolfman, former New Teen Titans writer and close friend

For a look back at Cockrum's legacy and his battle with diabetes, click here for "Dark Days," originally published in Wizard #152.
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