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Jon B. Cooke (at URI 1980 to 1983)

Mad About Comic Books

Although Jon B. Cooke liked to read comics when he was young, he became passionate about them when he was 12 and living with his mother and younger brother Andy in Europe. When he ran out of comic books, he and Andy created their own.

While most kids eventually outgrow comics, Cooke, 52, never has. “Comics, put simply, can tell a story as passionately and with as much impact as any prose literature. When composed in expert fashion, the melding of word and visual create a unique experience, one as enriching and vital as any in books, film, painting, music—you name it,” says Cooke. “If you sit down and read Maus or Persepolis or Jimmy Corrigan with an open, critical mind, you might come away quite enlightened as to the experience and the possibilities of the form.”

Cooke credits URI with helping him find and meld his interests in journalism and history with a lifelong hobby. Specifically, his stint as editor “in the grungy, counter-culture offices of The Great Swamp Gazette in the Memorial Union basement, where, with the aid of equally manic cohorts and lots of coffee” the staff pasted together the student alternative publication.

Those skills would eventually lead to the creation of COMIC BOOK ARTIST, a magazine Cooke produced between 1998 and 2005. The magazine won five consecutive Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (the Oscars of the art form) for “Best Comics-Related Periodical,” sometimes presented by Eisner himself.

Cooke and his brother Andy produced an award-winning documentary, WILL EISNER: PORTRAIT OF A SEQUENTIAL ARTIST, which debuted at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. Many consider Eisner the most influential person in American comics. Learn more at montillapictures.com.

While maintaining a full-time job as art director in advertising and marketing, Cooke’s zeal for comics has never waned. He owns thousands of comics and an almost equal number of magazines, fanzines, and books on the subject.

— Jan Wenzel ‘87

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