Remembering Dave Stevens, Ten Years Later

Posted: March 11, 2018 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Note: None of the images on this page belong to me and I’ve sourced them from elsewhere on the web.

It’s been a good ten years since Dave Stevens, maybe my favorite comic book artist, passed away. He quietly fought a losing battle with leukemia and was laid to rest relatively young, at age 52

. Stevens1

It’s interesting to let that sink in. Ten years is an awful long time, but it’s impressive when anyone’s impact is still felt so long after they’ve passed away.

StevensCover

Dave Stevens is perhaps best known as the creator of The Rocketeer, the pulp adventures of jetpack-wearing stunt pilot Cliff Secord, which itself is perhaps best known for its underrated and unfairly maligned 1991 film adaptation. The Rocketeer began its pop-cultural life as a back up feature in Pacific Comics’ Starslayer. The Rocketeer stories, heavily influenced by pulp magazines and pulp adventure films like King of the Rocket Men, The Rocketeer was immediately popular among Pacific’s readers,  The Rocketeer in itself is a fantastic legacy to leave, but Stevens’ influence in pop culture in fact reaches much further than this.

StevensRaiders

Even outside of the Rocketeer, Stevens had some considerable comic book and film industry credentials. Veteran comic artist Jack Kirby (co-creator with Joe Simon of Captain America*) encouraged Dave early on. At one time, Stevens worked for animation giant Hanna-Barbera, and in the 1970’s he eked out a living inking Russ Manning’s Tarzan and Star Wars comic strips. The last of these would prove somewhat prophetic, as Stevens would find himself as one of the storyboard artists for Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as John Landis’ video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller not long after.

Stevens is also noted for his revival of “good girl” style pinup art in the Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren mold. The most interesting wrinkle to this part of Dave’s life was his role in returning 50’s pinup model Bettie Page to public prominence. Stevens had modeled Cliff Secord’s girlfriend on Page in the Rocketeer comics (right down to the first name) and did a number of pieces based on Page’s likeness. As luck would have it, Page (who had slipped into obscurity and was thought by many to be dead) was alive and living not too far from Stevens.  The two became friends, with Stevens helping Page out financially, as well as assisting her in arranging for her to receive payment from the many that had been using her image without compensation. Page would pass away exactly 9 months after Stevens, on December 11th, 2008.

StevensBetty

Stevens, though never a particularly prolific artist (he had a perfectionist streak regarding his own work), has a far reaching influence. IDW has published additional “Rocketeer Adventures” by a new generation of writers and artists, as well as kept Stevens’ original work in print. Current artists in the comics industry like Alex Ross and Adam Hughes have taken inspiration from Stevens’ artistic style. Disney has discussed ideas for a new Rocketeer film (though it seems to have fallen by the wayside). And of course- Bettie Page and her hairstyle are being ripped off to this day. Stevens2

*Coincidentally, director Joe Johnston who, like Stevens had worked on Raiders of the Lost Ark, directed both The Rocketeer and Captain America films.

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