Brid’s comic king passes away

John Cooper has passed away aged 72
John Cooper has passed away aged 72

A well-known comics artist who lived in Bridlington has died following a lengthy battle with ill health.

John Cooper, who was 72, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on Sunday 22 February at Scarborough Hospital.

He was widely acclaimed as a legend in the comic book world, loved for his huge and varied list of titles and publications including Johnny Red, 2000 AD, The Sun Newspaper’s Striker strip and many more.

Now tributes from friends, family and fellow artists have poured in to honour “one of the very, very best” in the industry, and “a lovely man”.

Garth Ennis, who is working on Titan Books’ revival of John’s original, ‘Johnny Red’, said: “John’s work on Johnny Red was a huge part of my comics-reading childhood; I recall his art on the strip just as fondly as I do Mike McMahon on Judge Dredd, Dave Gibbons on Dan Dare, or Ian Gibson on Robo-Hunter.

“I never actually met John, just spoke to him on the phone, but that’s only one of the regrets I have about his passing – he won’t get to see the forthcoming Johnny Red Volume IV, which will begin the collection of his run on the series.

“My condolences to John’s wife and family, and my thanks to one of the very, very best.”

At the age of 21, John left his job at a design studio in Leeds to go freelance. He first worked on TV Comic, drawing Agent 21 and later on Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90.

His colourful career saw him go on to work short periods with comic book giants Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

John Freeman, editor of British comics news website, Down the Tubes, said: “Although he worked for DC Thomson, drawing for titles as diverse as Bullet and Wendy, and on TV Comic, most of his work in the 1970s was for IPC/Fleetway. He’s perhaps best remembered for the strip ‘One-Eyed Jack’ for Valiant, and, later, Battle when the titles merged; and the World War Two strip ‘Johnny Red” which he took over from Joe Colquhoun.

“John will be much missed and the world of British comics is a lot smaller for the loss of another of its greats.”

Although John’s passion for his work took up a large portion of his life, his interests also branched out into supporting Bridlington RNLI and Hospital.

Andy Brompton, Bridlington RNLI’s spokesperson, said: “For many years John Cooper supported Bridlington RNLI with crews past and present getting to know John very well and some becoming good friends with him.

“He gave his art work to be used to help raise funds for the charity with one of his paintings being used for the RNLI’s popular Christmas cards. Many in the lifeboat service have caricatures of themselves done by John with a cartoon of a past crew on display in the boathouse.

“We have lost a good supporter and friend a great talent has gone and our thoughts are with his widow Lesley, family and friends.”

John’s stepdaughter, Claire Buttle, added: “He raised a lot of money for the RNLI’s boat, the ‘Windsor Spirit,’ which he christened with a bottle of champagne.

“He was a lovely guy and really genuine – he had a really dry sense of humour as well! I used to try and get him to come into school to do talks, but he never would.

“Now my daughter, Leah, has gone into art because he inspired her. He didn’t make his art for the money, he did it because he loved it. He deteriorated in recent years, but he made art right to the end.

“He had a saying that always stuck with me, I used to ask him ‘are you alright dad?’ He would reply ‘no, it’s everybody else!’”

John also donated much of his art to Bridlington Hospital and the nurses who worked there.

His widow, Lesley Cooper, added: “He was a fantastic husband. He didn’t have a bad bone in his body and I couldn’t fault him in any way whatsoever.

“He loved his dogs, in particular Trot. He also had five grandchildren including two in Newcastle he would call his ‘posh little Geordies.’

“He looked after his mother until she died – he cared for her as well as doing his art work. We always had people on the phone checking whether John had finished his work, or whether it would definitely be done in time.

“His best friend, Paul Fanshaw, would go for a pint with him, without fail every week. He and John met in the Telegraph pub 40 years ago and were friends ever since.

“Every Tuesday they would always go for a pint at the Marine Bar, up until Christmas last year when John was admitted to hospital.”

John’s funeral was held at the East Riding Crematorium in Octon on 6 March.