While for most The Rocketeer was just yet another goofy super-hero movie made in the glut following the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, for a number of fans (like myself) it was one of the most faithful page-to-screen translations ever done to date, but even that couldn’t compare to Dave Stevens’ comic. When I read the first Comico Rocketeer issue in 1989, it was the first time I’d ever seen such amazing and gorgeous artwork in a comic. Every panel was flawless, and drawn with the dreamy 50’s style of a full-blown Vargas painting.
It was also the comic that introduced me to Bettie Page, as her likeness was the sole inspiration for the book’s heroine (and Cliff’s love interest), and of course the character’s budding modeling career gave Stevens ample opportunity to throw down some old-fashioned good girl pin-up action. In fact, it’s not too much of a stretch to state that it was The Rocketeer (along with Dave’s pin-up art) that brought Bettie Page back into the public consciousness, as a number of Bettie Page themed works popped up after her debut in The Rocketeer.
Stevens’ obsessive devotion to detail meant that his work was far and few between (and The Rocketeer officially ended after Disney bought the film rights), but I’m sad to think we’ll see no more as Dave Stevens died on Monday after a lengthy battle with leukemia at the age of 52. So I’ll raise my glass to the man who kick-started my interest in the pulp comics from the 40’s and 50’s, as well as giving me a healthy appreciation of the good-girl pin-up style of old.
G’night Dave Stevens