I found out that Darwyn Cooke knew my name back in 2008, when he showed up on this blog and left a comment supporting my decision to burn a giant X-Men omnibus. It remains (and will remain) my favorite way I have ever met a comics creator. I had no idea how he found the blog, or whether he was joking or not about burning books--at the time, I remember being convinced it was some odd kind of joke. I had an email conversation a few days later, but even after I knew it was true, it still had that same feeling: that this couldn't be happening, and I wasn't allowed to be happy about it, because it was a lie, and the rug was gonna get pulled.
But it was true. And while we didn't speak very much, Darwyn and I did email each other a few times. We spoke mostly about a John Flynn movie called Rolling Thunder that I had fallen for pretty hard, and that eventually led to him asking me to interview him for a big article on his second Parker adaptation, The Outfit.
It was a lot of work, and I've never done anything quite like it since. I sat in my apartment in Brooklyn, talking to him on the phone for hours. He was funny, charming, and very smart: but most of all, he had a definite set of feelings and opinions about his work and the work of others, and it was exciting to hear that, to hear someone who wasn't concerned with pretending to like everything. I transcribed the conversation into an 15,000 word piece, found a home for it with Laura Hudson, who figured out a way to split it into seperate parts so that whoever it was that owned Comics Alliance at that time would have to give me more money, and we put it out there. I then got a chance to meet Darwyn when he came to New York for a book signing, and he took me out to dinner with Marsha and all his friends. He treated me like I was Gay Talese and he was Sinatra, and while the evening's performative qualities took a wear on both of us as the night went on, it was one of the few times in comics where the show we were all playing at felt like one put on by wry grown-ups as opposed to the dress-up games that stunted children so frequently play now. I lost my temper on one of Darwyn's dipshit synchophants, Darwyn needled him alongside me to defuse the tension, I went home embarrassed. We spoke a few more times, and that was it. I was proud of that piece of writing, and I think Darwyn was happy with how it turned out as well. We had another follow-up planned--the conversation we had on the phone that day went into many more subjects besides Parker--his feelings about Chris Ware, his thoughts on Batwoman, people he didn't like (people that I didn't like), but it never came to pass. I never did the work, and that night had burned me out. I didn't want to be Gay Talese, and I wasn't a good enough writer anyway. Instead I kept the raw mp3 recordings and promised myself we'd do it later.
We didn't speak much, but when there was a minor fracas over some comments I made about why the piece went to Comics Alliance instead of its original home, he stood up for me immediately. We caught up briefly, and that was it. Years passed. We decided not to carry the Watchmen books at Bergen, and word got back to Darwyn and Marsha, and I was too lost in my own head to realize how that might make them feel, something I didn't even pick up on until a few years ago, when we saw each other again at TCAF. I'm ashamed that I never reached out to him before I sat down on some useless MoCCA panel to say we were going to do that to a pack of assholes who didn't care about comics in the first place. In that moment, Darwyn deserved to be treated with more respect than I gave him. He deserved a heads up, even if I disagreed with him, because he had disagreed with me multiple times before that and had addressed it with me immediately. I apologized a bunch at, and after, that TCAF show. But a late apology really isn't worth that much. It isn't worth anything at all.
I am not part of his circle of friends, i'm not a close associate. But I will say that I saw him with those people, and I know that he loved them dearly, and they loved him right back. He was a funny smartass, and I think those are the best kinds of people in the world, and I think there are not enough of them. I wish I had done a better job of being the kind of person to him that he was to me. I will never forget the time I got to spend with him, and how much fun it all was.
Thanks Darwyn. God bless you too.