DC Comics is paying tribute to late artist and writer Darwyn Cooke in the pages of Superman No. 8 in a two-part story titled “Escape From Dinosaur Island,” which arrives Wednesday on newsstands both real and digital.
Cooke, who was one of the most influential creators in the comic book industry, died in May at the age of 53, stunning fans and colleagues.
Superman No. 8 takes place on Dinosaur Island, a classic DC Comics locale that was featured in one of Cooke’s most well-known works, “DC: The New Frontier,” a critically acclaimed miniseries Cooke both wrote and illustrated for DC Comics in 2004.
The issue, written by series regular writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason with art from Doug Mahnke and Jaime Mendoza, will feature Superman and his young son, Jonathan Kent, as they are mysteriously transported to Dinosaur Island while working on a science project together in the Fortress of Solitude, and must try to find their way home.
Cooke’s “The New Frontier,” which gave a new audience to his popular vintage art style, told the story of DC’s most popular superheroes by setting them during the Silver Age of comics, from 1940s through the 1960s. Cooke opened the six issue miniseries with an adventurous tale on Dinosaur Island. It was a part of “The New Frontier” that stood out to many fans and was the most obvious choice for a setting that Tomasi and Gleason could use to pay tribute.
“We started to think about some way to just kind of tip our hat to Darwyn and the respect we have for him,” Tomasi told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “And what better way than to delve into New Frontier. We basically came up with this cool idea that we could have a lot of fun with and have a lot of emotional drama mixed in with it.”
Gleason never met Cooke personally, but he remembers experiencing his works for the first time, saying he always put aside anything done by Cooke to read and enjoy.
“[Darwyn Cooke’s] work really stood apart,” Gleason remembers. “He really was able to connect with people through his art and his work on so many levels.”
Tomasi recalls the first time he saw the pages to “Batman: Ego,” Cooke’s first project at DC Comics, being passed around the offices of the comic publisher, saying Cooke’s rendition of Batman was nothing short of “amazing.”
Tomasi and Gleason are no stranger to younger readers, having collaborated on “Batman and Robin,” featuring Damian Wayne, son of Bruce Wayne/Batman and the current Robin the Boy Wonder in the DC Comics universe. Tomasi said he hopes that younger readers who have followed him and Gleason to Superman because of the presence of Superman’s son, read issue eight and discover “The New Frontier” from their tribute.
“Maybe they’re opening up a Darwyn Cooke book and falling in love with it for the first time,” Tomasi said.
Tomasi says working on this issue, which also features super-dog Krypto alongside Superman and Jonathan, was a melancholy experience and that he couldn’t help but think about what the future could have held for Cooke’s comic book talents.
“I wanted to see so much more for Darwyn,” Tomasi said. “It was definitely [emotional], but at the same time we both had smiles on our faces knowing that we were doing this cool story that I know Darwyn would have really dug and probably really would have appreciated.”