Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Rocketeer Falls

Not the best of news to greet you when you're not feeling all that hot yourself. via Mark Evanier:

"...Illustrator Dave Stevens, best known for his "good girl" art and The Rocketeer, died [Monday, March 10] following a long, wrenching battle with Leukemia...The Rocketeer made Dave's reputation and also spawned a resurgence of interest in fifties' figure model Bettie Page, whose likeness Dave used for the strip's heroine."
The Rocketeer was one of the books that that got me back to reading comics in the `80s, and was, I think, the first independent - published by Pacific as I remember - comic book I ever bought. Stevens, as Mark and I'm sure all other obituaries will note, was not prolific by any stretch of the imagination, but he was one of the best illustrators ever to work comics in my opinion. Sadly, from Mark's report, producing The Rocketeer wasn't particularly rewarding for him... at least financially. I had heard he had moved from comic books to the more remunerative movie storyboarding, including, I believe, the storyboards for one of the Indiana Jones movies. Mark notes that he also did private commissions. Would that I had had the money to commission a Dave Stevens work.

Stevens was also directly responsible for the resurgence of interest in `50s pin-up gal Bettie Page and would later, as Evanier reports, become friends with Page.
"Bettie Page who, though once thought deceased, turned out to be alive and living not all that far from Dave. They met and Dave became her friend and, though he was not wealthy, benefactor. Deciding that too many others had callously exploited her likeness, Dave voluntarily aided Ms. Page financially and even took to helping her in neighborly ways. One time, he told me — and without the slightest hint of resentment — "It's amazing. After years of fantasizing about this woman, I'm now driving her to cash her Social Security checks."
Stevens was 52.

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