Deadline is reporting that cartoonist, writer, and Eisner-winning comic book artist Darwyn Cooke has died. Best known for his work with DC Comics, Cooke’s much-celebrated clean style and skills as a graphic designer helped him quickly rise up the ranks of the comics world, lending his talent to some of its most high-profile characters.
Cooke broke into the superhero world in the 1990s, after a 15-year stint working as an art director and designer for Canadian magazines. He got his break when he was hired as a storyboard artist on the much-beloved Batman: The Animated Series, by animator Bruce Timm (with whom he shared a sense of strong, simple design and love of square-jawed heroes). Cooke worked on a number of entries in the DC Animated Universe over the years, including Batman Beyond, which he returned to in 2014 for a short celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary.
From there, Cooke moved into freelance comic book art, working for both DC and Marvel. While working for the latter company, he made regular contributions to the anthology title Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, with a particularly cartoon-y take on the company’s beloved wall-crawler.
Eventually, Cooke was put together by DC with writer Ed Brubaker, with the two tackling a revamp of the Batman character Catwoman. Cooke worked on the title for four issues (and a later prequel book), before moving on to what’s largely regarded as his magnum opus: 2004’s DC: The New Frontier.
Written, penciled, and inked by Cooke (with colors by Dave Stewart), New Frontier is a love letter to the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, showing the meetings between earlier heroes like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, and later-comers like Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and The Flash. Cooke won his first Eisner Award—named for comics legend Will Eisner—for the series; he’d earn another one in 2005 for a follow-up story to the book.
Not long after, Cooke started working on his own version of Eisner’s most famous character, The Spirit. His revival of the blue-suited, domino mask-wearing crimefighter ran for more than a year with DC, after kicking off with a one-shot crossover with Batman, written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Cooke.
Cooke continued to take on new projects up through 2014, adapting Richard Stark’s Parker novels, and taking the lead on DC’s prequel series Before Watchmen. (He talked with The A.V. Club’s Oliver Sava about the project back in 2012.) As recently as 2015, he was still providing covers for some of DC’s comics, including an issue of Superman/Wonder Woman, which ran in February:
According to a blog post made by his wife last night, Cooke had been battling an aggressive form of cancer for some time, and was receiving palliative care. He died this morning, at the age of 53. The family has requested that donations be made to the Canadian Cancer Society and The Hero Initiative, which helps comics creators in need.