The Art And Life Of Dave Cockrum by Glen Cadigan (book review).

I have a slight vested interest in ‘The Art And Life Of Dave Cockrum’ by Glen Cadigan because he’s used some of my original cover designs I own that Cockrum did in the mid-1970s. I should point out that they miss some of the blue pencil he regularly added gags and such to them. The one from X-Men # 112 close-up on Wolverine notes him saying, ‘Mama!’

This book does what it says on the box although not necessarily explains why Cockrum did some things, like joining the United States Navy for 8 years. Cockrum’s father was a Air Force colonel might have something to do with that although as both he and his brother joined up to different forces. He was also a letter hack to both DC and Marvel Comics for ten years as well as contributing art to various American fanzines. He was also responsible for nudging a costume change with their colours for the Doom Patrol. Reading about his life, it was inevitable when he left the navy that he would want to become a comicbook artist and a lot of polishing and a little help from Neal Adams to break in at Warren Publications that got things started.

The proportion of his work on the Legion Of Super-Heroes where he revised their costumes and technology is a lot less noted here compared to his work at Marvel. Seeing the number of characters he designed, including Mystique and Black Cat, and still used in their costumes today shows an important legacy and, as shown later in the book, took a while to impress on Marvel’s legal team. I would correct something that the unused cover design for the unpublished Ms. Marvel # 24 was finally used in the 1990s ‘Marvel Super-Heroes’ comic cover and finally printed the story although couldn’t find it on-line although it does look like its been used twice.

I hadn’t realised that his ‘Futurians’ graphic novel had got to three printings and was the most successful of their owner owned Marvel GNs. Its just a shame that more material wasn’t printed through various problems shown here. Alex Ross does the introduction and an exquisite rendition of Quetzal.

Of an important note to me is Cockrum’s diabetic health. As a Type One diabetic myself, we are always told that it isn’t the diabetes that will kill us but all the complications around it. Objectively, I was surprised he was treated as a Type Two when he had such a high blood sugar from the start rather than Type One and put on insulin. Reading as his health deteriorated over the years might not make pleasant reading but was and certainly an important part of his life.

Seeing how early comicbook artists, even from the 1970s, get discarded by the Big Two as new artists come in still reflects what happened to even earlier artists so I wasn’t surprised by that. One can only hope that those who contribute like Dave Cockrum to characters and costumes get a better deal in the future.

A significant point was Nightcrawler was an important character in his life and pretty much his swashbuckling alter-ego. It was a significant point that Nightcrawler was around long before the X-Men that became a legal point that got ensured Marvel were over a barrel when they should give the Cockrums a lifelong stipend.

I’ve focused on a lot of elements not related to Dave Cockrum’s art in this book simply because they are important and all comicbook creators should note if they are in or entering the business to learn from. Remember it is a business and get some business acumen or advice. Cockrum’s art and design really speaks for itself. I had a quick word with writer Glen Cadigan when he wanted to use more of my collection and he says he has enough art for another book. Let’s hope there is and see what was missed.

This book has a lot going for it and a sweet-bitter read that will draw a tear to your eye when you get to 2006 and Dave’s death. Cockrum’s art speaks for itself with a lot of rare material here. Don’t miss getting a copy.

GF Willmetts

September 2022

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 159 page illustrated softcover. Price: $27.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-113-4. Direct from them, you can get it for $27.95 (US))

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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