The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Memorial

Mon, June 4th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Scott Meaney, Contributing Writer

Friends and loved ones gathered at Cockrum's memorial
For most of us, reflecting upon a loved one's death is a somber occasion. Memorials are usually morose affairs packed with unspeakable sorrow and tearful goodbyes. So, you know you're in for something different when the bereaved widow shows up in an X-Men t-shirt and says words like "Bouncing Boy" and "Booster Gold." Friends of the late, legendary comic artist Dave Cockrum wouldn't have it any other way.

As our readers are no doubt aware, one of the greatest talents the world of comic books has ever known is no more. Dave Cockrum passed away in late 2006 due to complications from diabetes. His truly mesmerizing career has given us some of our most beloved characters and changed the face of the modern comic book landscape. Last Thursday, many industry titans gathered in New York City's Time Life Building to give Cockrum a star-studded send off. Chris Claremont, Joe Quesada, Al Milgrom, Ken Gale, Cliff Meth, Jo Duffy, Jack C. Harris and many more turned up to pay their respects to Cockrum.

According to DC President, Paul Levitz, this special ceremony has become something of a tradition in the comic community. Since Wally Wood died, they'd gather to share stories and pay homage to their fallen friends. Levitz thanked Cockrum's widow, Paty, for coming. Far from playing the sullen victim, Paty Cockrum was constantly adding her two-cents and cracking jokes throughout the ceremony.

Clifford Meth
The first speaker was Clifford Meth, a close friend of the Cockrum family. As one of the unofficial organizers of the event, he discussed Cockrum's intense love for comics. Meth described how his friend passed away wearing Superman pajamas wrapped in his Batman blanket. Ultimately he was even cremated in his Green Lantern Shirt.

Meth went on to describe how Cockrum's spirit seems to be alive and well, since several people claim to have seen him walking around. Meth even had a ghostly encounter of his own with Cockrum's spirit, who said he'd like to be remembered with a quote from Lou Gerig's famous farewell speech:

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth."

In addition to his own remembrances, Meth also shared the testimony of Marv Wolfman, who could not make it to the event. Wolfman remembered discussing science fiction films and Cockrum's resounding kindness.

Another speaker who could not be present was science fiction writer Harlan Ellison. Rather than being merely quoted, he recorded a full audio eulogy for Cockrum that was played over the room's loudspeakers. Ellison emphasized how everyone was going to say the same nice things about all Cockrum's successes, but these wouldn't be so wonderful without his failings. Harlan insisted he would bring the, "Bitter with the sweet, the reality with the legend, the shimmering with the schlock!"

Ellison poked fun at some of Cockrum's more outlandish and ridiculous creations. Ellison teased that no one would mention such characters as "Floppy Disk," "The Purple Flame" and "Round-Up Johnny: the Cowpoke of Justice." Through torrents of laughter, the room took the jibes in stride. It was clear to everyone that Ellison spoke out of respect and love. When the recording finished, Paty remarked how Ellison left out Snoot, the sentient pile of crap!

Next up, was Jo Duffy, who told about the office where Cockrum tirelessly worked. She explained how driven his love for art was and how Cockrum was constantly drawing.

Jack C. Harris explained that while he never worked with Cockrum, he had a great respect for him. He was pleased to be an editor at DC when they began returning artwork to the artists. Harris was in the position to give Cockrum back the very first art from "Superboy" and the "Legion of Super-Heroes."

Levitz added that though he didn't know Dave Cockrum well, he had adored his work. "He loved to draw and loved to tell stories. I liked his inventiveness. How many people in the comics field have created as many memorable characters as he had in 'The X-Men' alone?" Levitz added "If some cosmic plague every wiped out its [the X-Men's] multitude of members, Dave could replace them all without breaking a sweat."

Paul Levitz
After finishing his own speech, Levitz then read Roy Thomas' dedication. Thomas described Cockrum as a "human cornucopia" of talent whose passion kept him working until the end of his days.

Next, Chris Claremont stepped up to the podium. He praised his characters and described Dave's "Bouncing Boy" as a "gift to every overweight kid in America." A major theme of Claremont's dedication was Cockrum's seemingly endless drive and creativity. "No matter how often you asked, he would give you everything and then he would give you more," said Claremont.

Irene Vartanoff gave a short but sweet thanks to the crowd who came out to celebrate Cockrum's life. "This was a person of significance who had vast talents, and we appreciate him!" After a thunderous applause, Andy Yanchus described some of the innovative model kits Cockrum had created.

Ken Gale offered the crowd a strong reminder not to forget about loved ones when they are in the hospital. He remembered visiting Dave and understanding the crushing loneliness and boredom people feel in that situation.

Up next, Al Milgrom described that while he wasn't extremely tight with Cockrum, he always seemed to be following in his footsteps. When Milgrom was young, he saw Cockrum's work in multiple fanzines, which inspired him to get his professional start in comics. "A little light bulb went on in my head that there are guys out there doing this stuff, that can actually do it for a living."

After Milgrom finished, Levitz noted that Murphy Anderson wished he could be there, but unfortunately could not due to illness.

Cockrum's widow Paty completed the memorial. Like the rest of the speakers, it was a true celebration of Cockrum's life, rather than simply wallowing in misery. She asked the audience to excuse her voice, because "I have a cold and sound like The Godfather."

Paty described how she met her husband during Marvel's bullpen days and how much he loved his job. "With Dave, comics were always fun." According to Paty, he never stopped reading. One of his most recent favorites was the "Kooey Kooey Kooey" series, featuring Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. Cockrum thought this was one of the funniest things he'd read in years.

He also reveled in writing silly super-hero themed song parodies. Paty even sang a few bars of Dave's "It's Fun To Be In The JLA."

Finally, she described how she feels like her husband's ghost is still present in her home, comforting her and thinking up new stories. She thanked the folks who came out to pay homage to Dave Cockrum. Their outpouring of love and affection is solid proof that though he is gone, he will never be forgotten.

After the show, CBR spoke with Clifford Meth, who wanted to remind fans about the "Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute" book. Edited by Meth, it features lots of new and old art from Cockrum, as well as contributions from some of the biggest names in comics. 200 copies will include a rare signed and numbered drawing by Dave Cockrum, which is obviously pretty hard to come by these days.

"I really love being a part of this book," said Meth, "I've edited a lot and I've never been more proud of anything."

Proceeds are going towards a foundation in Cockrum's name, which will provide a grant to a needy and talented artist. To learn more, you can head to www.aardwolfpublishing.com.

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