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Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Headless Hero In Topless Bar

Dave Cockrum illustrated the first issue of X-Men I ever got, #107 (Oct. 1977) featuring the team versus an ersatz Legion of Super-Heroes in outer space.

Cosmic apocalypse, melodrama, mustachioed space pirates, a million characters running around punching each other--it was a perfect first issue for a six-year-old to stumble across, due in no small part to Cockrum, who really sold the insanity with a solid, downright trustworthy style.

By all accounts, he was a wonderful human being: a significant superhero artist, Vietnam vet, generous, kind, brave in the face of illness.

Too bad about the obit from AP, which--intentionally or not--serves to turn the guy's life and death into one of those ephemeral freakshow stories the media loves; a life reduced to a 5-second joke, headline as punchline:
X-Men illustrator dies in Superman pajamas

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) -- Wearing Superman pajamas and covered with his Batman blanket, comic book illustrator Dave Cockrum died Sunday.

The 63-year-old overhauled the X-Men comic and helped popularize the relatively obscure Marvel Comics in the 1970s. He helped turn the title into a publishing sensation and major film franchise.

Cockrum died in his favorite chair at his home in Belton, South Carolina, after a long battle with diabetes and related complications, his wife Paty Cockrum said Tuesday.

At Cockrum's request, there will be no public services and his body will be cremated, according to Cox Funeral Home. His ashes will be spread on his property. A family friend said he will be cremated in a Green Lantern shirt.
Who doesn't want to go surrounded by loved ones and the things he cared about? But this write-up makes it seem more than a little embarrassing. Admittedly, it's hard to read "63-year-old" and "covered with his Batman blanket" without wincing a bit. Yes, it's factual, but did that have to be the lede? For the vast majority of people reading this item at CNN or wherever, the obit will trigger a smirk. CNN exacerbates the geek angle, pulling the following from the wire copy as "Story Highlights":
NEW: X-Men illustrator dies at 65 in his Superman pajamas
NEW: The comic will be cremated wearing a Green Lantern shirt, a friend says
• Cockrum received no movie royalties from the "X-Men" films, a friend says
I'd have put his co-creation of the most popular comic book in the past 30 years ahead of what was printed on his pajamas, but that's just me. They might as well have run with "Biff! Zap! Pow! Holy Death From Diabetes Complications!"

Hey, fuck those guys if they thought this was funny.

I consider the Batman and Superman to be icons of bravery and generosity. If Mr. Cockrum looked to those fictional figures for strength as he faced down the big sleep, that's eminently reasonable and respectable.

Frankly, I'm glad these news stories pointed out what gave him comfort in his last hours.

I'm already trying to teach my daughter how to sing the Batman tv show theme.

I'd prefer to have my body hurled into the sun when I die, but cremated in a green lantern tshirt is pretty good.
I agree; about the story, and the desire for cremation by sun.

I don't know; looking back at my post, it's entirely possible that my reaction has far more to do with me than with the reporter's intent--but it just seems demeaning.

Thanks to me, "Batman" was my little sister's first word. (Not to mention the origin of her middle name "Gwen".)
Actually, Cole, I'm with you on this one. I'd certainly have mentioned the pajamas and the blanket if I'd been writing the obit, it's a nice detail and certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but making it the headline and the lede of the story, instead of, as you note, the fact that he co-created the X-Men, seems like going for a cheap laugh. "Plumber killed by exploding toilet" and the like. Not a fitting way to note the passing of the man who helped co-create some of the biggest characters in comics (and now film).
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