Sunday, March 30, 2008
Pulp dreams dissipated
From today's paper, sad news about the death of the guy who perfected pen and ink nostalgia for imaginary corners of the twentieth century.
Dave Stevens, 52, Artist Who Created the Rocketeer, Dies
By GEORGE GENE GUSTINES
Published: March 30, 2008
Dave Stevens, the comic book artist and commercial illustrator who created the hero the Rocketeer and was famous for his ’50s-pinup-style renderings of women, died in Turlock, Calif., on March 10. He was 52.
The cause was complications from treatment for leukemia, said William Stout, a friend and colleague.
In 1982, Mr. Stevens created the Rocketeer as a backup feature in a Starslayer comic book published by Pacific Comics. Mr. Stout said that Mr. Stevens’s inspirations for the comic were a combination of his love of the 1930s, early aviation, the film-serial hero Commando Cody and Bettie Page, the 1950s pinup model, on whom he based the hero’s love interest, Betty.
“The Rocketeer was a throwback adventure story set in a pulp-informed 1930s about a down-on-his-luck pilot named Cliff Secord — with girl troubles, naturally — that finds a mysterious rocket pack,” wrote Tom Spurgeon, a comic book critic, on his Web site, comicsreporter.com. Mr. Spurgeon wrote that the “Rocketeer proved to be one of the first sensations of the independent-comics movement.”
Mr. Stevens was born on July 29, 1955, in Lynwood, Calif. The future comic book professional “began, like all of us, as a fan,” said Mr. Stout, a production designer in the film industry.
As an amateur, Mr. Stevens would contribute drawings to the program book for the San Diego Comic Convention, now known as Comic-Con International. His first professional work came in 1975, as an assistant to the artist Russ Manning, whose pencils he inked on the daily and Sunday newspaper comic strip “Tarzan.” Mr. Stout had previously been working with Mr. Manning.
“He came up to me, as a fan, to show me the work he was doing for Russ,” Mr. Stout recalled. “I looked at his work and thought I’d never get my job with Russ back again. He was fantastic right from the start.”
In 1977, Mr. Stevens was hired by Hanna-Barbera to work on some of its animated shows, including a “Super Friends” and “Godzilla” series. In the 1980s, he branched out to storyboard work for films (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) and videos (Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”)
Then came the Rocketeer.