Dave Stevens, 1955-2008

Dave Stevens, the profoundly gifted comic book creator and illustrator, passed away on March 10th at the age of 52, after a long (and privately fought) battle with leukemia.

His life and work have have a profound impact on Bettie Page the person and Bettie Page the enduring icon. Falling in love with her photos and film reels, Dave honed his clean-lined style by faithfully bringing the then-"missing" Bettie to life on bristol board.

Eventually, he would incorporate her likeness in his title, THE ROCKETEER, as a character named "Betty", the girlfriend of the title's hero, Cliff Secord. A retro-pulp adventure about a boy who uses a jet pack to fight for justice, began modestly as a back-up in Mike Grell's STARSLAYER in 1982. THE ROCKETEER's fame snowballed, raising the profile of both artist and "model".

Dave's stunning renditions and interpretations of Bettie Page ( in ROCKETEER, scores of pin-ups and in the authorized BETTIE PAGE COMICS) created a legion of fans, priming the pump for Bettie's return to the public eye. Ironically, when THE ROCKETEER was finally translated to the big screen, "Betty" the character was deemed too hot for a Disney title, leaving Jennifer Connelly to play a re-named, toned down girlfriend to Billy Campbell's "Cliff".

If Dave's only contribution to Bettie's life was through the beauty and impact of his art, that would warrant eternal gratitude on the part of Bettie and her fans. However, once Bettie resurfaced, Dave was among the first to seek her out and compensate her for using her image without her (admittedly, impossible to attain) permission. Thereafter, he not only lobbied within the creative community to urge artists to do right by Bettie, he also became one of her few close friends and confidants, driving her to doctors appointments, the grocery store and the like.

Dave Stevens, the friend and the artist, will be missed by all who have been touched by him. Bettie fans, whether familiar with his work or not, should be profoundly grateful for the ways his humanity and genius have help cultivate Bettie's current popularity.

Read an in-depth interview with Dave Stevens in COMIC BOOK ARTIST, in which Dave discusses his entire career and his relationship with Bettie Page.

Hear snippets of an interview Dave Stevens conducted with Bettie Page.

Buy Dave Stevens products from Dark Horse.

Read scores of tributes compiled by Tom Spurgeon at THE COMICS REPORTER.

The following touching tributes discuss Dave on a personal level:

Mark Evanier (a talented writer in many mediums and a particularly erudite blogger on matters that affect comics, animation, film and TV)


Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News

Artist Rich Dannys

Mike Richardson, Publisher of Dark Horse Comics, provided a statement to COMIC BOOK RESOURCES

Learn more about Dave Stevens, courtesy of Wikipedia and his own official Dave Stevens site. The official site contains a tremendous amount of artwork and a list of nearly all his published work.


Anonymous said...

I first learned about the passing of Dave Stevens in Heavy Metal magazine. I was familiar with his graphic novel the Rocketeer, and not much else. At the time I read the graphic novel I did not know who Bettie Page was. As I grew older, I learned who she was and why the heroine in the Rocketeer looked so much like her.
Upon further reading of the Heavy Metal article, I learned that Mr. Stevens was a very close friend of Miss Page. It is amazing how everything works out, seeing as how the late artist was not only able to meet his "muse" but maintain a relationship. I can only imagine that Dave and Bettie are sharing a laugh in the next world right now.

RIP Dave Stevens & Bettie Page
Thanks for the artwork...and the art!

-Shaun Watson