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March 13, 2007

Remembering Arnold Drake

The American comic book writer Arnold Drake, an award-winning script writer and a co-creator of some of the comics mainstream's quirkiest concepts, passed away after a short battle with various ailments discovered after a neighbor brought him into the hospital as the month turned. He was 83 years old.

imageAfter (I believe) serving in the military and studying journalism in college, Drake was drawn into the circle of writers used by DC Comics, and began freelance work on various titles, specializing in shorts that appeared in the company's various anthologies. His greatest achievement was in creating or co-creating extremely offbeat titles for the very strait-laced publisher: The Doom Patrol (a team of outsider superheroes whose secret origins were as much about disfigurement than augmentation), Stanley and His Monster (a boy and his probably-not-imaginary friend) and Deadman (a dead superhero whose power of possession was a twist on superpower wish fulfillment even older kids could appreciate). He even provided one such concept a few years later to competitor Marvel Comics, the Guardians of the Galaxy (science fiction genocide survivors).

Drake was also a generally quirky and interesting comics writer, both at DC, Marvel and later Gold Key, and on his bigger stages did as much as anyone to keep a generation of comics readers' interest in what had previously been a throwaway children's medium. He won two Alley Awards in 1967 for the Deadman series. Drake also scripted movies, plays, and educational material in his long career.

The writer recently came back on the radar for many comics fans and modern industry members through his convention appearances and his support of and activism for forgotten and unappreciated writers. Drake himself was the first recipient of the Bill Finger award designed to bring attention to just that group of people. No stranger to industry activism, Drake had been among those creators no longer employed by DC in 1968 after demands for health insurance fell on deaf ears. Talking to Drake at these shows, the last of which he attended was the 2007 New York Comic-Con in late February, one got the idea that Drake was intrigued if not outright touched on some level by the crowds and excitement and intense interest on display at such events. A longform comic co-written by Drake while a student, It Rhymes With Lust, one of the first books that could be described as a graphic novel and would still be recognized as such, is scheduled to be re-published by Dark Horse this year.

Mark Evanier wrote a much more lovely remembrance from which this post drew a few facts, and writer Matt Fraction remembers Drake through his work.
posted 4:18 am PST | Permalink

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