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Dave Stevens

Dave Stevens

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Dave Stevens was an American illustrator
An Illustrator is a narrative artist who specializes in enhancing writing by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text...

 and comics
Comics denotes a hybrid medium having verbal side of its vocabulary tightly tied to its visual side in order to convey narrative or information only, the latter in case of non-fiction comics, seeking synergy by using both visual and verbal side in...

 artist. He is most famous for creating The Rocketeer
The Rocketeer
The Rocketeer is a superhero created by writer/illustrator Dave Stevens. The character first appeared in 1982 and is a homage to the Saturday matinee heroes of the 1930s and 1940s....

comic book and film character, and for his pin-up style "glamour art" illustrations, especially of model Bettie Page
Bettie Page
Bettie Mae Page was an American model who became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos. She has often been called the "Queen of Pinups"...

. He was the first to win Comic-Con International
Comic-Con International
San Diego Comic-Con International, also known as Comic-Con International: San Diego , and commonly known as Comic-Con or the San Diego Comic-Con, was founded as the Golden State Comic Book Convention and later the San Diego Comic Book Convention in 1970 by Shel Dorf and a group of San Diegans...

's Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award
Russ Manning Award
The Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award is an American award presented to a comic book artist whose first professional work appeared within the previous two years. It was named after comic book artist Russ Manning...

 in 1982, and received both an Inkpot Award
Inkpot Award
The Inkpot Award, bestowed annually since 1974 by Comic-Con International, is given to some of the professionals in comic book, comic strip, animation, science fiction, and related pop-culture fields, who are guests of that organization's yearly multigenre fan convention, commonly known as...

 and the Kirby Award
Kirby Award
The Jack Kirby Award for achievement in comic books was presented from 1985-1987 by Amazing Heroes magazine, and managed by Fantagraphics employee Dave Olbrich...

 for Best Graphic Album in 1986.

Early life and career

Stevens was born July 29, 1955, in Lynwood
Lynwood, California
Lynwood is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States of America. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 69,772, down from 69,845 at the 2000 census. Lynwood is located near South Gate and Compton in the southern portion of the Los Angeles Basin. Incorporated in...

, California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, but grew up in Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

. His family relocated to San Diego, where he attended San Diego City College
San Diego City College
San Diego City College is a public, two-year community college located in San Diego, California. City College is part of the San Diego Community College District along with San Diego Mesa College, San Diego Miramar College and San Diego Continuing Education...

 for two years, and attended the then-new annual San Diego Comic-Con (now Comic-Con International
Comic-Con International
San Diego Comic-Con International, also known as Comic-Con International: San Diego , and commonly known as Comic-Con or the San Diego Comic-Con, was founded as the Golden State Comic Book Convention and later the San Diego Comic Book Convention in 1970 by Shel Dorf and a group of San Diegans...


His first professional comic work was inking Russ Manning
Russ Manning
Russell Manning was an American comic book artist who created the series Magnus, Robot Fighter and illustrated such newspaper comic strips as Tarzan and Star Wars...

's pencils for the Tarzan
Tarzan is a fictional character, an archetypal feral child raised in the African jungles by the Mangani "great apes"; he later experiences civilization only to largely reject it and return to the wild as a heroic adventurer...

newspaper comic strip and two European Tarzan graphic novels in 1975 (he later assisted Manning on the Star Wars
Star Wars
Star Wars is an American epic space opera film series created by George Lucas. The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year...

newspaper strip).

He began doing occasional comic book work, including providing illustrations for fanzines (inking drawings by comic book veteran Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby , born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American comic book artist, writer and editor regarded by historians and fans as one of the major innovators and most influential creators in the comic book medium....

 among them) as well as creating the Aurora feature for Japan's Sanrio Publishing.

Starting in 1977, he drew storyboards for Hanna-Barbara animated TV shows, including Super Friends
Super Friends
Super Friends is an American animated television series about a team of superheroes, which ran from 1973 to 1986 on ABC as part of its Saturday morning cartoon lineup...

and The Godzilla Power Hour
The Godzilla Power Hour
Godzilla is a 30-minute animated series co-produced between Hanna-Barbera Productions and Toho in 1978 and aired on NBC in the US and TV Tokyo in Japan.The series is an animated adaptation of the Japanese Godzilla films produced by Toho...

where he worked with comics and animation veteran, Doug Wildey
Doug Wildey
Douglas S. Wildey was a cartoonist and comic book artist best known for his co-creation of the 1964 animated television series, Jonny Quest for Hanna-Barbera Productions.-Early life and career:...

. For the rest of the decade, he continued to work in animation and film, joining the art studio of illustrators William Stout
William Stout
William Stout is an American fantasy artist and illustrator with a specialization in paleontological art. His paintings have been shown in over seventy exhibitions, including twelve one-man shows. He has worked on over thirty feature films, doing everything from storyboard art to production design...

 and Richard Hescox in Los Angeles, working on projects such as storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1981 American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by George Lucas, and starring Harrison Ford. It is the first film in the Indiana Jones franchise...

and pop singer Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Michael Joseph Jackson was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. Referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records...

's "Thriller
Thriller (music video)
Michael Jackson's Thriller is a 14-minute music video for the song of the same name released on December 2, 1983 and directed by John Landis, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jackson....

" video.

The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer was an adventure story set in a pulp fiction
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...

-styled 1930s (with allusions to heroes like Doc Savage
Doc Savage
Doc Savage is a fictional character originally published in American pulp magazines during the 1930s and 1940s. He was created by publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L...

 and The Shadow
The Shadow
The Shadow is a collection of serialized dramas, originally in pulp magazines, then on 1930s radio and then in a wide variety of media, that follow the exploits of the title character, a crime-fighting vigilante in the pulps, which carried over to the airwaves as a "wealthy, young man about town"...

 emphasizing the pulp tradition), about a down-on-his-luck pilot named Cliff Secord who finds a mysterious rocket pack. Despite its erratic publishing history, Rocketeer proved to be one of the first successful features to emerge from the burgeoning independent comics movement. Influenced by Golden Age artists such as Will Eisner
Will Eisner
William Erwin "Will" Eisner was an American comics writer, artist and entrepreneur. He is considered one of the most important contributors to the development of the medium and is known for the cartooning studio he founded; for his highly influential series The Spirit; for his use of comics as an...

, Lou Fine
Lou Fine
Louis Kenneth Fine was an American comic book artist known for his work during the 1940s Golden Age of comic books, where his quality draftsmanship became an influential model to a generation of fellow comics artists....

, Reed Crandall
Reed Crandall
Reed Crandall was an American illustrator and penciller of comic books and magazines. He was best known for the Quality Comics character Blackhawk and for stories in the critically acclaimed EC Comics of the 1950s.Crandall was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009.-Early...

, Maurice Whitman, Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta was an American fantasy and science fiction artist, noted for work in comic books, paperback book covers, paintings, posters, LP record album covers and other media...

 and Wally Wood
Wally Wood
Wallace Allan Wood was an American comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work in EC Comics and Mad. He was one of Mads founding cartoonists in 1952. Although much of his early professional artwork is signed Wallace Wood, he became known as Wally Wood, a name he...

, Stevens was widely recognized along with artists such as Steve Rude
Steve Rude
-Career:In 1981, Rude became widely known in the comics world when he and writer Mike Baron created Nexus, an independent science fiction comic book with a large supporting cast. For the series, Rude designed a dozen or so distinctive alien races, including the Thunes, the Amphibs, the Quattros,...

 and Jaime Hernandez
Jaime Hernandez
Jaime Hernandez is the co-creator of the black & white independent comic book Love and Rockets .-Early life:...

 as one of the finest comic book artists of his generation.

The first comic featuring Stevens' signature Rocketeer character was released in 1982. Those first stories appeared as a back-up feature in issues #2 and #3 of Mike Grell
Mike Grell
Mike Grell is a comic book writer and artist, known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Jon Sable Freelance.-Early life:...

's Pacific Comics
Pacific Comics
Pacific Comics was an independent comic book publisher that flourished from 1981-1984. It was also a chain of comics shops and a distributor. It began out of a San Diego, California, comic book shop owned by brothers Bill and Steve Schanes...

' Starslayer
Starslayer: The Log of the Jolly Roger was an American comic book series created by Mike Grell.-Publication history:Grell originally created Starslayer for DC Comics, but plans to publish it were halted after the mass cancellation of titles known as the DC Implosion. Instead, he offered it to...

series. For its next two installments, Steven's feature moved to the anthology
An anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts...

 comic title Pacific Presents #1 and #2. The fourth chapter ended in a cliffhanger that was later concluded in a lone Rocketeer comic released by Eclipse Comics
Eclipse Comics
Eclipse Comics was an American comic book publisher, one of several independent publishers during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1978, it published the first graphic novel intended for the newly created comic book specialty store market...

. The story then continued in the Rocketeer Adventure Magazine, with two issues being published in 1988 and then 1989 by Comico Comics
Comico Comics
Comico: The Comic Company was an American comic book publisher, headquartered in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Its best-known comics include the Robotech adaptations, the Jonny Quest continuation written by co-creator Doug Wildey, and Matt Wagner's Mage: The Hero Discovered and Grendel...

; a third issue was published six years later in 1995 by Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Comics is the largest independent American comic book and manga publisher.Dark Horse Comics was founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson in Milwaukie, Oregon, with the concept of establishing an ideal atmosphere for creative professionals. Richardson started out by opening his first comic book...

. Stevens' extensive background research and meticulous approach to his illustrations contributed to the long delays between Rocketeer issues. The first completed story line was then collected by Eclipse Comics
Eclipse Comics
Eclipse Comics was an American comic book publisher, one of several independent publishers during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1978, it published the first graphic novel intended for the newly created comic book specialty store market...

 in a single volume called The Rocketeer (ISBN 1-56060-088-8); the second story line was collected by Dark Horse as The Rocketeer: Cliff's New York Adventure (ISBN 1-56971-092-9).

IDW Publishing
IDW Publishing
IDW Publishing, also known as Idea + Design Works, LLC and IDW, is an American publisher of comic books and comic strip collections. The company was founded in 1999 and has been awarded the title "Publisher of the Year Under 5% Market Share" for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 by Diamond Comic...

 announced a hardcover edition collecting the entire series for the first time, due originally in October 2009. Dave Steven's The Rocketeer, The Complete Adventures would contain all-new coloring by Laura Martin
Laura Martin
Laura DePuy is an award-winning colorist who has produced work for several of the major comics companies, including DC Comics, Marvel Comics and CrossGen.-Career:...

 who was chosen by Dave Stevens before his death. The book finally appeared in December of that year in two separate states: A trade hardcover edition with full color dust jacket
Dust jacket
The dust jacket of a book is the detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that hold it to the front and back book covers...

 and a second, more lavish, deluxe edition (ISBN 978-1-60010-537-1), limited to just 3000 hardcover copies. The deluxe edition sold out almost immediately upon publication, but IDW announced a second printing.

Stevens began developing a Rocketeer film proposal in 1985 and sold the rights to the Walt Disney Company, which produced the 1991 film The Rocketeer
The Rocketeer (film)
The Rocketeer is a 1991 period superhero adventure film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and based on the character of the same name created by comic book writer/artist Dave Stevens. Directed by Joe Johnston, the film stars Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino...

. The film was directed by Joe Johnston
Joe Johnston
Joseph Eggleston "Joe" Johnston II is an American film director and former effects artist best known for such effects-driven movies as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, The Rocketeer, Jurassic Park III, the period drama October Sky, The Wolfman, and Captain America: The First Avenger.- Life and...

, and starred Billy Campbell
Billy Campbell
William Oliver "Billy" Campbell is an American film and television actor. In television, he is best known for his roles as Rick Sammler on Once and Again, as Det. Joey Indelli on Crime Story, as Jordan Collier on The 4400, and as Dr. Jon Fielding on the Tales of the City Miniseries...

, Jennifer Connelly
Jennifer Connelly
Jennifer Lynn Connelly is an American film actress, who began her career as a child model. She appeared in magazine, newspaper and television advertising, before making her motion picture debut in the 1984 crime film Once Upon a Time in America...

, Alan Arkin
Alan Arkin
Alan Wolf Arkin is an American actor, director, musician and singer. He is known for starring in such films as Wait Until Dark, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Catch-22, The In-Laws, Edward Scissorhands, Glengarry Glen Ross, Marley & Me, and...

 and Timothy Dalton
Timothy Dalton
Timothy Peter Dalton ) is a Welsh actor of film and television. He is known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill , as well as Rhett Butler in the television miniseries Scarlett , an original sequel to Gone with the Wind...

. Stevens co-wrote the screenplay and was a hands-on co-producer of the film. It received a mixture of highly positive and lukewarm reviews and disappointing domestic ticket sales. Dave Stevens always felt that a majority of the problem was that the movie poster and promotional graphics were over-stylized, vague, and didn't convey to people what the film was all about.

Later life

Following The Rocketeer, Stevens worked primarily as an illustrator, doing a variety of ink and painted illustrations for book and comic book covers, posters, prints, portfolios, and private commissions, including a number of covers for Comico
Comicó is a village and municipality in Río Negro Province in Argentina....

's Jonny Quest
Jonny Quest
Jonny Quest is a media franchise that revolves around a boy named Jonny Quest who accompanies his father on extraordinary adventures. The franchise started with a 1964-65 television series and has come to include two subsequent television series, two television films, and a video game.-1964–1965...

title and a series of eight covers for various Eclipse titles, which were also published in the form of large posters. Much of his illustrations were in the "good girl art
Good girl art
Good girl art is found in drawings or paintings which feature a strong emphasis on attractive women no matter what the subject or situation. GGA was most commonly featured in comic books, pulp magazines and crime fiction...

" genre. He also returned to art school to study painting.

Following several years of struggling with leukemia
Leukemia or leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases...

, which caused a gradual reduction in his artistic output, Stevens died on March 11, 2008 in Turlock, California
Turlock, California
Turlock is a city in Stanislaus County, California, United States, part of the Modesto Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 Census, Turlock had a population of 80,549, up from 55,810 at the 2000 census, making it the second-largest city in Stanislaus County.-Geography:Turlock lies in the...


Personal life

Artist Laura Molina, with whom Stevens had a romantic relationship in the late 1970s, used him as the subject of her Naked Dave
Naked Dave
Naked Dave refers to a series of paintings created by Laura Molina, inspired by her relationship with illustrator and Rocketeer creator, Dave Stevens. A five-month long relationship between the artists ended in early December, 1978 after she miscarried their child at 11 weeks...

 series of paintings.

In 1980 Stevens married longtime girlfriend Charlene Brinkman, later known as horror film scream queen
Scream queen
A scream queen is an actress who has become associated with horror films, either through an appearance in a notable entry in the genre as a frequent victim or through constant appearances as the female protagonist...

 Brinke Stevens
Brinke Stevens
Brinke Stevens is an American actress, model and writer.-Life and career:Born in San Diego, California, Stevens has studied several foreign languages, including Esperanto, and gained a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology from San Diego State University and a Master of Science in Marine...

; their marriage ended in divorce just six months later, but she later modeled for her ex-husband.

Two characters that show up in the Rocketeer stories were based on personal acquaintances of Stevens: the "Peevy" character on cartoonist Doug Wildey
Doug Wildey
Douglas S. Wildey was a cartoonist and comic book artist best known for his co-creation of the 1964 animated television series, Jonny Quest for Hanna-Barbera Productions.-Early life and career:...

 and the sleazy "Marco of Hollywood" character on real life glamour and porn photographer Ken Marcus
Ken Marcus
Ken Marcus is an American photographer, known for his glamour photography with Penthouse and Playboy magazines. For over 30 years he has produced hundreds of centerfolds, editorials, album covers, and advertisements. His work is shown in galleries, published in books and magazines...


Stevens was an admirer of 1950s glamour and pin-up model Bettie Page
Bettie Page
Bettie Mae Page was an American model who became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos. She has often been called the "Queen of Pinups"...

. He modeled the look of the Rocketeer's girlfriend after her and featured her image in other illustrations, which contributed to the renewed public interest in Page and her career. After discovering that the retired Page was still alive and lived near by, Stevens became friends with her, providing both personal assistance and helping to arrange financial compensation to her from various publishers for the use of her image and reprints of her glamour and pin-up photos.

Death and legacy

At the time of his death, Stevens was working on a career retrospective collection of his work to be titled Brush with Passion – The Life and Art of Dave Stevens from Spectrum Publishing. That book was finally published by Underwood Books in 2008.

His work has had a significant influence on comic book and fantasy illustrators, among them Adam Hughes
Adam Hughes
Adam Hughes is an American comic book artist who has worked for companies such as DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros...



"Dave had more artistic integrity than anyone I've ever known. He always marched to his own drummer whether it benefited him financially or not. He turned down many lucrative job offers — including a monthly pin-up assignment for Playboy offered by Hugh Hefner as a replacement for their regular Alberto Vargas feature — when they didn't jibe with his own highly personal vision of what he should be doing. As a businessman, Dave often drove his close friends nuts. We'd watch in astonishment at the riches passing him by." – William Stout

"Dave was truly one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life... and was certainly among the most gifted. Our first encounter was at Jack Kirby's house around 1971 when he came to visit and show Jack some of his work. As I said, Kirby was very encouraging and he urged Dave not to try and draw like anyone else but to follow his own passions. This was advice Dave took to heart, which probably explains why he took so long with every drawing. They were rarely just jobs to Dave. Most of the time, what emerged from his drawing board or easel was a deeply personal effort. He was truly in love with every beautiful woman he drew, at least insofar as the paper versions were concerned." – Mark Evanier

"Well, I do expect a lot of myself. I'm a harsh critic because I know what I'm capable of. I have hit those occasional peaks amongst the valleys, but the peaks are so few-things like genuine flashes of virtuoso brush inking, like I've never executed before or since-I can count on one hand the number of jobs where I've been able to hit that mark. The same with penciling. Sometimes it just flows, but more often than not, it's pure physical and spiritual torment just to get something decent on paper. I often get very discouraged with the whole creative process." – Dave Stevens

Selected works

  • The Rocketeer, Eclipse books (1990). ISBN 1-56060-088-8
  • Just Teasing, Ursus Imprints (1991). ISBN 0-942681-12-6
  • The Rocketeer: Cliff's New York Adventure, Dark Horse (1997). ISBN 1-56971-092-9
  • Vamps and Vixens: The Seductive Art of Dave Stevens, Verotik (1998). ISBN 1-885730-10-1
  • Dave Stevens: Selected Sketches and Studies, (Vols. 1–4), Bulldog Studios. No ISBN
  • Brush with Passion: The Art and Life of Dave Stevens, Underwood Books (2008). ISBN 1-59929-010-3
  • Dave Steven's The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures, IDW Publishing (2010).

External links