Monday, November 27, 2006

Jerry Bails & Dave Cockrum

It's been a horrid few days. First the man who can rightly be considered to be the founder of comic book fandom as we know it, Dr Jerry Bails, passed on in his sleep. That was a huge blow to me personally. I'd never met Jerry but I had corresponded with him via email, as had thousands of others, and like the others Jerry took the time out to make me feel pretty damn special. His is a loss that will reverberate around the world, but I think that Jerry would have taken it all in his stride and just laughed it all off. He was one of the last of the nice guys and I'm gonna miss him dearly. Roy Thomas is planning a tribute issue of Alter Ego - fittingly as Jerry founded AE - and when more details arrive I'll let people know.

The hits just keep coming though. This morning I woke up to the news that Dave Cockrum has also passed away. Dave was more than just a mere comic book artist - without him the X-Men as we know it might not exist. Dave created Storm and Nightcrawler and had a hand in the creation of Colossus and indeed helped shape and create the team as a whole, working with the likes of Len Wein, Roy Thomas and Chris Claremont. Dave also gave readers a huge amount of joy with his stylisations on DC titles such as the Legion Of Superheroes, where he created some of the most memorable costumes ever seen in that title. He came up through the ranks, first as a fan and then as a pro, and was more than good enough to hold his own with anyone. Sadly he fell out of favour, art wise, in the early 1990s along with some other brilliant artists as the focus fell more towards the flashy art of the likes of Rob Liefeld - all glitter and no real talent. Storytelling went out the window in those days and Dave never really recovered from the blow.

Dave had been sick since 2004 when he was struck down by a combination of diabetes and pneumonia. For a while there it looked very touch and go, but Clifford Meth came to Dave's side and went to work. Despite the negative efforts of a few colossal morons, Meth managed to organised a tribute book, along with an art auction and more importantly managed to negotiation (with Neal Adams by his side) a sizable settlement from Marvel Comics which recognised not only Dave's work, but also finally gave him creator credit for the Nightcrawler character. The settlement from Marvel enabled Dave to see out the remainer of his life in relative peace and comfort and it's not any exaggeration to say that without Meth Dave might not have had that time. It's also a reflection of the respect that Dave had in the industry when you see the wide range of artists and writers who contributed to the benefit book: Neal Adams, Dave Sim, Alan Davis, Michael Netzer, Josef Rubinstein, John Byrne, Will Eisner, Alan Moore, Jerry Ordway, Gene Colan, Dick Ayers, John Cassady, Frank Brunner, Sal Velutto, Bob Almond, Bob McLeod, Walt Simonson, Tony Isabella, Joe Quesada, Roy Thomas, Jim Lee, Mike Grell, Herb Trimpe, Stan Lee and many more. Some of those artists have sworn never to work for Marvel, or on Marvel characters again, and yet here they all were drawing the X-Men characters that Dave had brought to life.

In his time Dave worked with some of the giants of the industry. You'd not find anyone who has a bad word to say about the man and one who worked with him on several projects, including the X-Men, Josef Rubinstein, had this to say, and I think it sums up everything I've ever heard about Dave perfectly;

"For those of you who didn't know Dave, he was a sweet, witty and jovial guy which matched his young Santa Claus looks. It was always fun and easy to work with Dave and on his pencils. He would write very funny notes on the edges of the pages I was inking that would make me laugh out loud. He once wrote, "Now I'm drawing a close up of Wolverine because Rubinstein likes to ink them". Not incredibly funny, but as I said, sweet. I'm sure it was tough for him and his wife Paty to be struggling with bills while seeing his characters making millions for Marvel, but I hope the settlement they came to with Marvel gave him some comfort the last few years of his life. "

Sadly it was the diabetes that finally struck down Dave. Emails of condolence can be sent to the Cockrum family at this email address: magnetorampant@yahoo.com

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