Sunday, November 26, 2006

The news is all over the Comics Blogosphere today: DAVE COCKRUM has died.

Now, you may be asking yourself "Why does JB have those panels from some old Legion of Super-Heroes comic featured above, when it's plain to everybody that Cockrum's main claim to fame was as co-creator of the All-New, All-Different X-Men back in 1975?" And here's why. Because that was the first place I ever saw Cockrum's work, and still is the place I liked it best. His X-Men was fine, and his usual excellent instincts about costume design and interesting layouts were in full flower when he did those books so long ago...but I won't lie: when he was replaced by John Byrne, I thought it was a change for the better. Byrne's art in the 70's was more dynamic, and I just plain old liked it more. I was 17, whaddaya want? After he stopped doing X-Men, I also felt like he stopped growing and advancing as an artist, to the point that his return to X-land in the 80's just looked lifeless and quaint, as did all of his subsequent work. It was a shame, but that's the way it goes with artists sometimes, even those more storied and accomplished than Mr. Cockrum was. Anyway, that cover at left was for Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #201, which featured the Miracle Machine as the menace, and introduced (IIRC) Wildfire and (perhaps a little less auspiciously) Infectious Lass and Porcupine Pete to Legion lore. I picked this up off the spinner rack at the Ben Franklin Five and Dime in beautiful downtown Horse Cave, probably at about the same time I got the second Spectre appearance in Adventure Comics, Ben Franklin only recently having started carrying DC comics after decades of Gold Key merchandise. Anyway, I quickly fell in love with the amazing costume designs of these characters- some of the established Legionnaires even had groovy-looking new togs, and it was like a breath of fresh air to the previously Swan-stodgy Legion. So I set out to get as many Cary Bates/Cockrum SatLSH back issues that I could, through mail order or just being lucky enough to get them off some other magazine stand (no internet in 1974, remember, and no comics shops in those prehistoric days). Anyway, I eagerly picked up #202, and then came #203, featuring the "Wrath of the Devil Fish" story, which in my less-than-authoritative opinion is among the best things he ever did, art-wise. Then...#204, and Mike Grell. No more Cockrum. Whahoppen? Well, Mr. C went on to Marvel in a dispute over original art or somesuch, and left me and my Legion jones with what I considered (still do, to this day) a vastly inferior illustrator. So, I bailed on the LSH and turned my attention to his new effort, Giant-Size X-Men #1, which I bought off the magazine rack at Caverna Drugs for a whopping seventy-five cents. And now we come full circle to what I wrote earlier in the paragraph.

And now he's gone. RIP Mr. Cockrum. Too many of the old guard are bowing out too early.

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