Retroactive: Darwyn Cooke 1998-2008 hardcover
Artist/Cover artist: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: Brandstudio Press
One of the hottest items at this past summer’s Comic-Con International San Diego was Darwyn Cooke’s new art book, Retroactive. It’s my understanding that the print run was limited to 1,000 copies and that Cooke sold out of the 500 copies he brought with him to the convention. I was unable to attend the San Diego con this year, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy thanks to my local direct-market comics retailer. I’m not usually one for comics art books. I tend to be more focused on the stories and characters in comics over the visuals. I’m a huge fan of Cooke’s work, though, so I decided to plunk down some extra cash for this retrospective of past projects and gallery of unseen or little-seen work. Retroactive is only 48 pages long, and I worried I might not feel as though I was getting my money’s worth when I decided to pick it up. Those concerns quickly faded as I began to thumb through its pages.
I was expecting the book to consist mainly of unpublished work — concept art for pitches that didn’t fly, rough sketches for better-known work and early efforts perhaps seen only by a select few. That didn’t prove to be the case entirely. There are a number of images I found here with which I was quite familiar, such as Cooke’s recent Heroes Con poster and covers for small-press books such as Spellgame and Comics Festival. Still, the oversized nature of this hardcover encourages closer examination of these images, and their inclusion didn’t lead to any kind of disappointment.