Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus—to fans of the recent X-Men movie trilogy, these names are very familiar. Before bursting into action on the big screen, however, these super heroes were ideas in the mind of comic book artist Dave Cockrum. Cockrum created these characters and a number of others in the mid-Seventies, and breathed new life into a struggling series for Marvel Comics. He died in November of complications from diabetes at the age of 63.
In the early 80’s, Dave Cockrum and writer Chris Claremont were the dynamic creative duo working on Uncanny X-Men. I hold them personally responsible for my hard-earned paper route money going into the coffers of the local comic store every month. Cockrum’s drawing was always crisp and kinetic, and the characters he created gripped this 11-year old boy’s imagination. While I could not know it at the time, mentally placing myself within Dave Cockrum’s comic world is a skill that aided me with the Ignatian-style prayer that I embraced later in life. Cockrum catalyzed my imagination and helped me lay the groundwork for being more free and creative in my spiritual practice.
As a young boy, I struggled with anxiety, especially on Sunday nights as I tried to fall asleep anticipating another school week, plenty of homework and other grueling (to a kid) responsibilities. To ease myself into sleep, I developed a prayer in my imagination in which I lifted a black orb from my chest, representing my stress and worry, and placed it in Jesus’ hands. I was always able to fall asleep soon after that. No one advised me to pray in this manner, it just came to me naturally. Undoubtedly, after devouring Dave Cockrum’s comic book artistry for most of Saturday afternoon, my imagination was primed and ready for God’s grace to work.