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Rocketeer

I saw earlier this week via Drawn that Dave Stevens died on Monday. He was 52.

He was an incredible artist, notoriously critical of his own work, and probably most remembered for The Rocketeer and his “good girl” pinup art, particularly Bettie Page. Many others have said much nicer things already (Heidi MacDonald, Mark Evanier, Gilbert Hernandez), so I just wanted to add how much The Rocketeer meant to me. I would’ve been a teenager when the film version of The Rocketeer came out. Released only a few years after The Last Crusade, it felt in many ways like a continuation of one of my major childhood obsessions: Indiana Jones (the other being Star Wars.. Lucas owned my childhood). The film sparked an enduring interest in the 1930s and Art Deco that led me to another great obsession, although this time in adulthood: Raymond Chandler.

Rocketeer GN It also started a somewhat embarrassing fascination with comic movie adaptations (I have a pretty terrible collection – just ask me), and set off an early interest in the themes that Mike Mignola processed into Hellboy many years later (it wasn’t that much later, but I didn’t read a Hellboy comic until 2003 or so).

And that brings me to Dave Stevens: around that 2003ish period, I stumbled onto the comic pictured to the left right. It’s a collection of the original comics by Dave Stevens, introduced by the similarly period-obsessed Harlan Ellison. To his credit, it feels like something written back then – everything about it is a loving homage to the architecture, machines and sense of adventure of the period. In reading through the book you can see that Dave breathed every minute detail of it, and the film where he acted as co-producer and had a cameo as one of the journalists after the “Rocketeer” appears, was so incredibly lucky to have his support and keen interest.

I didn’t know Dave Stevens personally, but I’m grateful for what he gave me.

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