Appreciating the Work of Darwyn Cooke, an Artist's Artist


Master. Genius. An artist's artist. These are all terms that are all too casually tossed around to describe favorite artists.

Darwyn Cooke, though, checked all those boxes, and many more.

He likely wouldn't agree with any of them, but we'll forgive him that bit of humility. The fact of the matter is, we can all learn something about the art of visual storytelling from a close study of his work. With Cooke, the two disciplines of sequential storytelling and pure artistry/drafting went hand in hand. His best images weren't the best because he had a flashy style. While he did have a recognizable style, the images worked so well because they told a good story -- often one filled with hope or cheer.

An easy example of this came in the form of the month of covers he drew for DC in December 2014. They were reprinted in the "Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Darwyn Cooke" book, which I've been slowly reading over the last few months and is highly recommended.

Look at Superman saving a boy from a train:



We're just a few days away from the third annual Christie's auction (with the Daniel Maghen Gallery) of (mostly) Franco-Belgian comic art. As I have in past years, I want to look at some of the notable parts of this year's auction catalog.

Here's a link to the first auction's offerings, and here's an account of my trip to Christie's in New York City to see a gallery of art last year.

This year's collection has a lot of the same big names with a smattering of lots from names I've not heard of before, but who are probably big in Europe. As usual, the whole catalogue is available in print and PDF form, if you'd like to follow along.

Franquin gets the cover this year and a big set of opening lots. I love the page they show in Lot 22. There's a whole page devoted to a blowup of the bottom panel that bears a closer look. Take a look at that building the characters are in. There are almost no straight lines in it. The building has a life and a bounce of its own, and that's because it's not drawn with a ruler. It's really impressive.

The next lot, 23, features a pretty solid Marsupilami page with lots of Marsupilami's trademark tail wagging. I couldn't possibly afford it ($80,000 - $90,000-ish), but this will be one of the pages I keep a post-it note stuck on for easy reference in the future.

I don't know who Marc Hardy is, but the spread he gets on page 33 is very impressive for its ink work. It's a very loose and very rough looking job done with the inks that give the art character. There's a bit of frontal nudity in it, so I'll just direct you to check it out in the PDF instead of making me draw black bars on it for Pipeline...

Francois Schuiten has perhaps the coolest piece in the book with his homage to Franquin, drawing the cartoonist walking behind some of his creations, like Spirou and Marsupilami.

Schuiten's style is hardly in the same school as Franquin's, which is why this page jumps out so nicely. There are other more standard Franquin pages worth a look here, but this one wins it for me.

There are a lot of Moebius pages in the auction, but of particularly interest to my American readers would be this page from his "Silver Surfer" book he did with Stan Lee.

It's a "cheap" page at only $20,000 or so.

Once again, Herge has a big presence with an 18 page section of the book. While there is some Tintin original art, most of the lots from this section are early printings of "Tintin" books, some signed by Herge with sketches in them.

Philippe Francq gets five pages for "Largo Winch" art, including a cover illustration that's expected to go for 40,000 Euro, or about $45,000 American. If this auction were in America, I'd have to think the values for Francq's artwork and Moebius' "Silver Surfer" would be reversed.

The book wraps up with Albert Uderzo, and another "Asterix" page to raise money for charity. This page is from "Asterix and the Laurel Wreath," and it's a beauty. Lots of Asterix acting like Groucho Marx across the 11 panels here. It can be yours if you have six figures to spare. It's expected to land something in the $110,000 to $135,000 range, but I bet it goes for more.

I pulled out the album to see how this page looks in color with English word balloons and now I'm adding to this week's reading list. Just listen to the description on the back of the album:

"Chief Vitalstatistix rashly invites his brother-in-law to dine on a stew seasoned with Caesar's laurel wreath, so Asterix and Obelix must go to Rome to fetch those laurels. Hoping to get access to Caesar, they sell themselves as slaves -- but can they do a deal with the corrupt Goldendelicious to swap the laurels for parsley? If so, it will be their own Roman triumph!"

I'm in. That's a great comedic set up. It's been so long since I read that volume, it should feel like a new book all over again.

If you want a non-"Asterix" Uderzo page, there are three other lots that look to sell for a combined $30,000. Lesson to be learned: Character matters!

Next week, we'll see what some of these pages went for, and if there were any big surprises in the auction. There's usually one or two pages that sell at a much higher level than was expected. All it takes is two dedicated buyers interested in the same piece and things can go crazy.

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