Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I first became aware of this when I saw a brief Warren Ellis post that broke the news but couldn't say for sure, and when I looked around on his website and Wikipedia, nothing was mentioned about it so I dismissed it...but now it appears to be official, as Mark Evanier and CBR have verified: the great DAVE STEVENS has passed away. Another tragic loss.

Of course, Dave was renowned for his retro-styled pinup art, at which he had few peers, and especially for his Bettie Page work. For me, though, it will always be for the Rocketeer, which came along in the early '80s at a time when I, at age 21 and facing young adulthood, had become disenchanted with the blandly illustrated perpetual long underwear fighting and melodramatic hand-wringing of Marvel and DC's output at the time...and was considering dropping my longtime comics reading habit. But comics from a new group of publishers- stuff like Flaming Carrot, Zot!, Aztec Ace, Love and Rockets, and even an oddball title from DC called Thriller re-energized my interest, and among the first and best of this bunch was Dave's Rocketeer- a stylish and superbly illustrated Pulp adventure pastiche that blew me away in a fashion that I hadn't experienced since Kaluta stopped doing The Shadow. It was simply breathtaking how retro, yet fresh, it was and even though the title kept jumping around from publisher to publisher, I never missed an issue. For a while, that was my ambition- to be able to draw, especially women, as well as Stevens did. I wanted my work to look like that so much it was ridiculous.

I had wondered what had become of him over the last couple of decades; he used to contribute covers and whatnot to various publications but hadn't seen any in a long time, and of course the Rocketeer had seemed to lose its momentum after the not-bad but disappointing box-office-wise film version. I had assumed he had moved on to other formats for his talents; commissioned paintings, that sort of thing. Apparently he's been seriously ill for a while and that accounts for a lot of his lowered profile.

Anyway, RIP, Mr. Stevens, and thanks.

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