Daniel Cooney is a writer, artist, and professor — all in the realm of comic books. His title “Valentine” concerns a female contract killer named Dana Valentine. It’s a book of intrigue and action that’s about as stylish as they come.
Cooney’s latest ‘Valentine’ collection is debuting at the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con, and will be available in stores July 28. ‘Valentine: Relaoded’ collecting issues 1–9 weighs in at 256 pages.
What even fans of the series may not know is that Cooney’s time in Santa Barbara as a younger man had an influence on his later comics-related output. Now a Bay Area resident and Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Cooney took some time out to talk with the SB Comics Examiner about his experiences and career.
SB Comics Examiner: When did you live in SB — and why did you come here?
Dan Cooney: I moved to Santa Barbara to attend SBCC right after I graduated high school in June 1988. Originally, my best friend, Josh and I were planning on moving to Los Angeles with another friend, but on the way down, we stopped in Santa Barbara to visit with his grandmother about six months prior to graduation. I’d never been to Santa Barbara before and instantly fell in love with the seaside town. The goal was to attend SBCC and go to UCSB or perhaps an art school in Los Angeles. What I couldn’t get enough of was the picturesque landscape of the hills and ocean-side community that Santa Barbara had to offer in addition to the rich artistic culture. I felt, “This is my kind of town.” For a kid right out of high school who grew up in the Sacramento Valley — Vacaville to be exact — I just never experienced anything like it at the time. I mean, hell, I was only 18 — what little travel I did up to that point, Santa Barbara was heaven. I lived in Santa Barbara for a brief time from 1988-1989. I was inspired to draw everything around me and loved the Sunday art fair on the beach. At the time, I was seriously considering going into comic books as a profession and there was a science fiction bookstore that carried comic books called Andromeda Books. I loved State Street and the energy emanating on just about any given day. Some of my old stomping grounds were eating at Dean-O’s Pizza, Morninglory Music, and the Granada and Arlington theaters. I loved going to those movie theaters, they were works of art to walk into and not like a box like most commercial movie chains.
SB Comics Examiner: So, what effect, if any, did living here in town have on your later decisions?
Dan Cooney: Santa Barbara helped solidify my decision to pursue being a comic book artist. As a student who was constantly distracted by the lifestyle of the city and its surroundings had to offer, I found my concentration on classes to be difficult. Sadly, I realized very quickly (within a year) that for me to continue to live in Santa Barbara comfortably and perhaps owning a home there one day, I had to leave and develop my skills elsewhere as a comic book artist. I struggled with various jobs I could be happy with and worked over 30 hours a week if not more to afford to live there while going to school. I learned a lot about myself that year in Santa Barbara and what I needed to do to live in a city that was quite really my first love of any place I’ve been to. I was a bit naïve to say the least when living on my own for the first time. I felt like I’ve been given a free pass to this beautiful playground to thrive in, but quickly discovered you have to earn the free time to enrich yourself and not take it for granted.
I returned home the following summer to earn extra money to put away from a college program for family at the company my dad worked for 30 years. I spent a few more summers back in Northern California before moving to New York City to attend The School of Visual Arts. I earned my BFA in illustration there and interned for Marvel Comics during my senior year. New York City helped me develop a mental toughness to stay true to what I wanted to do for a career; write and draw stories as well as teach what I learned to others in the field I loved so much. My impression of Santa Barbara was a city and the people who lived there as being a very refined culture. To this day, I always go out of my way to stop in Santa Barbara for a few hours to reminisce and enjoy some coffee before getting back on the road home after Comic-Con. When I think back to that year I spent there, I remember it fondly. It was some of the best times I had with my best friend Joshua Simon.
Thanks, Mr. Cooney, for sharing those memories! If any fans of great comics will be in San Diego for the con, please be sure to stop by Red Eye Press/Dan Cooney’s booth and check out ‘Valentine.’