One Fan's Opinion: Issue #65

Fri, December 1st, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Erik Larsen, Columnist

Aw, hell.

Dave Cockrum passed away.

Dave Cockrum died on Sunday, November 26, 2006, due to complications of diabetes.

That's not good news.

And the Internet is abuzz with the gory details. He died in Superman pajamas under a Batman blanket and wanted his body cremated wearing a Green Lantern shirt.

Now that is a true comic book fan!

For a guy who all but created nearly everything cool in Marvel's new X-Men (Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Mystique, and Thunderbird to start with, but he also designed the Phoenix and updated Cyclops), he sure did have a love for DC's classic characters.

There is, as you might expect, no shortage of disparaging remarks lobbed at the "House of Ideas" following Cockrum's death. Every article makes mention of the fact that Cockrum received no royalties from the "X-Men" films. And to the man on the street, that's pretty appalling. In the wacky word of comics, it's standard operating procedure.

Cockrum had to sue Marvel in order to get them to agree to a settlement and cough up a few bucks to help cover his medical bills. And that is a tragedy. It's inexcusable, really, that years after Siegel and Shuster got the shaft that there are still comic book creators that made substantial contributions to comic book companies that aren't sharing in their enormous profits in any way - often not collecting so much as a dime (much less comp copies) of the expensive, oversized hardcover books that collect their life's work. It takes a healthy heap of shame and a public outcry to make any of these bastards give anything to these poor men. It's disgraceful.

And it's situations like this that lead to the creation of Image Comics, by the way - a company where creators fully own and control their creations.

I met Dave Cockrum years ago. We chatted a short while at a comic book show on the East coast. And Dave seemed like a great guy. He was very gregarious and enthusiastic. This guy flat-out loved comic books.

I first ran across Dave's work on "The Legion of Super-Heroes" (actually it was "Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes") over at DC Comics. Dave was winding up his run and introducing cool characters even as he was getting ready to move on. I vividly remember ERG and his tragic death (and later, his triumphant return as Wildfire). Dave redesigned a number of the Legionnaires and it's his versions that I think of whenever I think of the Legion. Most other versions pale in comparison, actually. Cockrum's work on "The Legion of Super-Heroes" in the '70s redefined the team. Dave creating new costumes and designs that would last until artist Keith Giffen did his revamp in the 1980s. Cockrum left DC and the Legion in a dispute involving the return of his original artwork for "Superboy" #200. It was DC policy at the time to keep art - often giving it out to visiting fans or worse - destroying it. Dave went to Marvel and the X-Men.

At Marvel, Dave and writer Len Wein (under the direction of editor Roy Thomas) created the new X-Men, co-creating such characters as Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus (some of which had been designed by Cockrum as possible additions to the DC universe during his stay there - many were part of an Outsiders pitch - a proposed Legion of Super-Heroes spin off, as seen in the recent "Uncanny X-Men Omnibus"). These characters made their debut in "Giant-Size X-Men" #1 (Summer 1975), and were the heart of the team when the X-Men were re-launched with issue #94. Wein left shortly thereafter, plotting the first couple issues, and he was succeeded by Chris Claremont, the team's primary writer from then on. Cockrum's contributions to the team were (for lack of a better word) legion.

And it wasn't just the new characters that he added to Marvel's merry mutants - Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Mystique, Moira MacTaggart, Lilandra Neramani, Black Tom Cassidy, Caliban, Binary and the Starjammers - but the little things that helped define the team. Dave was the first guy to draw Wolverine out of costume and expose him as possibly the world's worst sufferer of hat hair.

I was there from the get go.

Yeah, I missed "Giant-Sized X-Men" #1 (I found it at a garage sale for a song a few years later), but I bought the X-Men with #94 and I stayed with the title up through the time Dave left in 1977 and after he was replaced by jocular John Byrne and right on through Dave's triumphant return in 1981 (I continued to buy it for years, actually - through numerous creative teams). Cockrum illustrated many of the covers on Byrne's run, incidentally, inked by Terry Austin.

Cockrum was born on November 11, 1943 in Pendleton, Oregon. His father was a Lt. Col. in the Air Force. He discovered comics at an early age, particularly the original Captain Marvel (which was still being published by Fawcett at the time) and Blackhawk.

Years later, Dave would contribute to both of his old favorites, drawing a Captain Marvel Jr. story in the pages of DC's "Shazam" revival as well as numerous "Blackhawk" covers and a couple of memorable short stories. Dave even co-created a Blackhawk like group (with writer Marv Wolfman) for "Marvel Fanfare" (issues #16 and 17) called Skywolf (whose name is owed to the Hillman publications' Blackhawk knockoffs from the fighting '40s).

Cockrum was all over the place. He left X-Men to create his own group, "The Futurians." He did a "Futurians" graphic novel for Marvel and later did several issues for an independent publisher, Lodestone. When Lodestone folded, Dave moved on, taking on various jobs for a number of companies, including DC, Valiant, Defiant and Broadway. Toward the end of his career Dave spent three or four years doing a book called "Soulsearchers and Company" with writer Peter David for Claypool Comics.

In January 2004, Cockrum moved to South Carolina after having been hospitalized for bacterial pneumonia. As his diabetes progressed, his drawings became limited. For a guy that loves to draw, that can be heartbreaking.

Dave Cockrum was a comic book fan through and through. Numerous comics throughout the '60s included letters in their letters pages penned by Dave Cockrum.

He loved comics and he loved science fiction. At one point Dave took a break from the X-Men to ink Gil Kane's pencils on the premiere issue of Marvel's "John Carter, Warlord of Mars." And Dave loved Star Trek! I can recall him drawing in NCC 1701 onto the license plate of a car crashing through an overpass (which was shaped suspiciously like the Enterprise itself) that Hulk was downing on a cover of the "Incredible Hulk" (it was #207, if memory serves me) sometime before illustrating Marvel's adaptation of "Star Trek the Motion Picture" which heralded the return of Kirk and company.

I remember buying an issue of "Ms. Marvel" that Dave drew (#20). Dave came on board and gave her a terrific new costume that has been her mainstay ever since. It's been with her longer than her moniker, actually.

Dave was a prolific and popular cover artist in the 1970s. He drew covers on everything from the "Fantastic Four" to "Marvel Team-Up" to "Spider-Woman" to "Omega the Unknown" to "Nova" to "Iron Man" to the "Human Fly" and "Werewolf By Night."

The titles that Dave has contributed to in one form or another is staggering: "Aardwolf," "Action Comics," "Adventure Comics" digest, "The Amazing Spider-Man," "Atom," "The Avengers" (both regular and Giant-Sized - Dave drew the death of the Swordsman and the origins of Immortus and Kang), "BAMF!" "The Dave Cockrum Treasury," "Batman, "Battlestar Galactica," "Best of DC Digest," "Big Bang Comics" (featuring a Legion-like group and a certain Savage Dragon), "Bizarre Adventures," "Blackhawk," "Bring Back the Bad Guys," "Captain America," "Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty," "Captain Marvel" (this time Marvel's Captain Marvel - not Fawcett's or DC's), "The Champions," "Classic X-Men," "Creepy," "Daredevil," "Dark Dominion," "DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest," "The Defenders," "The Destroyer," "Doctor Strange," "Doctor Who," "Dracula Lives!," "Eerie," "Elvira," "Mistress of the Dark," "Essential X-Men," "Fantastic Four," "Fantastic Stories," "Futurians" (which he wrote and drew), "Ghost Rider," "Giant-Size X-Men," "G.I. Joe Special Missions," "Green Lantern," "Green Lantern Corps Quarterly," "Grimmax," "Harbinger Files," "Hawkman," "Howard the Duck," "Human Fly," "Incredible Hulk," "Invaders," "Iron Fist," "John Carter, Warlord of Mars," "Justice League America," "Justice League of America," "Justice League Quarterly," "Kid Colt Outlaw," "Legion," "Legion of Monsters," "Magneto Ascendant," "Marvel Classics Comics," "Marvel Comics Presents," "Marvel Fanfare," "Marvel Graphic Novel," "Marvel Holiday Special," "Marvel Masterworks," "Marvel Novel Series," "Marvel Premiere," "Marvel Saga," "Marvel Super-Heroes," "Marvel Super Special," "Marvel Team-Up," "Micronauts," "Monsters Unleashed," "Ms. Marvel," "Mystery In Space," "New Teen Titans" (Giveaways and Promos), "Nightcrawler" (which he wrote and drew), "Nova," "The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe" (and the Deluxe Edition), "Omega the Unknown," "Peter Parker," "The Spectacular Spider-Man," "Power Man," "Power Man/Iron Fist," "Power Pack," "Prime," "Punisher: Bloodlines," "Rampaging Hulk," "Rawhide Kid," "Red Sonja," "Ripley's Believe It Or Not," "ROM," "The Savage Land," "Secret Origins," "The Sensational She-Hulk," "Sgt. Fury," "Shadow State," "Shazam," "Silver Surfer," "Solo Avengers," "Soulsearchers and Company," "Sovereign Seven," "The Spectacular Spider-Man," "Spider-Woman," "Star Studded," "Star Trek," "Star Wars," "Superboy," "Superman" (#248

was his first professional story), "Super-Villain Team-Up," "Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes," "Tarzan" (at Marvel), "Teen Titans," "Thor," "Thunder Agents" (Wally Wood's from Deluxe Comics), "Turok Dinosaur Hunter Yearbook," "The Uncanny X-Men," "Vampirella," "Vigilante," "Warriors of Plasm: Home for the Holidays," "Weird War Tales," "Weird Wonder Tales," "Werewolf By Night," "Who's Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes," "Wonder Woman" (1st Series and 2nd), "Wonder Woman Secret Files," "World's Finest Comics," "X-Men," "X-Men/Alpha Flight: The Gift," "X-Men Classic," "X-Men in the Savage Land," "X-Men Special Edition" and "X-Men Spotlight On: Starjammers."

And somewhere out there is the "Wrath of the Comet," which was to have come from DC/Impact. It was penciled, but never published.

And then there are the fanzines, which include: "Alter Ego," "The Amazing World of DC Comics," "Comic Book Artist," "The Comic Reader," "Comics Interview," "Comics Journal," "Etcetera," "Fandom's Finest Comics," "Fan's Zine," "Fantastic Fanzine," "FOOM," "Jinnia Clan" fanzine, "Legion Companion," "Marvel Age Pizzazz," "Sense of Wonder" and the "X-Men Companion."

Dave Cockrum was a major player.

We lost a giant, folks - a guy who forever changed the world in which we live. A hell of a fan, a hell on an artist, a hell of a writer, a hell of a creator and a hell of a human being.

He will be missed - and he will be remembered.


Photo from "Sci Fi & Fantasy Models" #36. 1995 Anthony Taylor

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