Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dave Stevens (July 29, 1955 – March 10, 2008)

Dave Stevens (July 29, 1955 – March 10, 2008) was an American illustrator and comics artist. He is most famous for creating The Rocketeer comic book and film character and for his pin-up style "glamour art" illustrations, especially of model Bettie Page. He was the first to win Comic-Con International's Russ Manning Award in 1982.

Stevens was born July 29, 1955 in Lynwood, California, but grew up in Portland, Oregon. His family relocated to San Diego, where he attended San Diego City College for two years.

His first professional comic work was inking Russ Manning's pencils for the Tarzan newspaper comic strip and two European Tarzan graphic novels 1975 (he later assisted Manning on the Star Wars newspaper strip. He began doing occasional comic book work, including providing illustrations for fanzines (inking drawings by comic book veteran Jack Kirby 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 and The Godzilla Power Hour where he worked with comics and animation veteran, Doug Wildey. For the rest of the decade, he continued to work in animation and film, joining illustrators William Stout and Richard Hescox's art studio on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, working on projects such as storyboards for the Raiders of the Lost Ark film and pop singer Michael Jackson's Thriller video.

1982 saw the release of the first comics featuring Stevens' signature character and title, the Rocketeer. Those stories first appeared as a back-up in issue #'s 2 and 3 of a Pacific Comics effort from Mike Grell called Starslayer. The feature later moved to the anthology title Pacific Presents and then in 1984 became a comic book bearing the lead's name. The first adventure was collected in a single volume by Eclipse Comics . The second story was collected by Dark Horse as The Rocketeer: Cliff's New York Adventure .

The Rocketeer was a throwback adventure story set in a pulp fiction-informed 1930s pulp fiction with allusions to heroes like Doc Savage and the Shadow about a down-on-his-luck pilot named Cliff Secord that 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 comic book artists such as Will Eisner, Lou Fine, Reed Crandall, Maurice Whitman, Frank Frazetta and Wally Wood, Stevens, along with other non-mainstream artists such as Steve Rude and Jaime Hernandez was widely recognized as one of the finest artist's of his generation.

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 was directed by Joe Johnston and starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin and Timothy Dalton to a mixture of highly positive and lukewarm reviews, and a disappointing box office take. Stevens himself co-wrote the screenplay and was a hands-on co-producer of the film.

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