Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In Memorium: Dave Stevens

Well-respected artist, Dave Stevens has passed away at the age of 52 from complications of leukemia, which he had battled for many years. Stevens is best known for his creator-owned character, The Rocketeer, which was first published as a backup in Mike Grell’s Starslayer in 1982. Stevens’ unique art style was heavily influenced by pulp artists of the early part of the 20th century, but it merged the pulp sensibility with a modern sensibility. Stevens’ first professional comic work was inking over Russ Manning’s pencils for the daily Tarzan comic strip starting in 1975. Dave often worked on movie storyboards or animation, yet still provided popular covers in the 1980's for Comico’s Jonny Quest series and others. The Rocketeer originally appeared in small installments throughout 1982 to 1995, and was made into a film in 1991 by Walt Disney Pictures. The comic book version had caused a resurgence in 1950's pin-up queen Bettie Page.

As a big fan of his limited comics work, I feel very fortunate to have met Mr. Stevens once, when he took a break during the actual shooting of the Rocketeer film [ I believe in 1990] to appear at a Parts Unknown convention in Greensboro, North Carolina. I drove a long way to that weekend show, primarily to see Dave Stevens, even though the other guests weren't really nothing to sneeze at: Will Eisner, Murphy Anderson, Al Williamson, Marie Severin, Joe Orlando, etc. Quite a line-up!

Dave was cordial and well-worth the journey, I purchased one of his many fine prints, which I still have signed by him, and he generously drew a sketch for me of a little alien character, "Unk" from his Aurora short story in Pacific Comics anthology Alien Worlds. Sadly that piece was stolen from me in recent years.

Condolences go out to his family, close friends and hundreds of fans, who've lost this great talent and fine person.

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