David Scroggy is Vice President of Product Development for Dark Horse. He is currently overseeing Dark Horse's product lines for the high profile properties DILBERT, HELLBOY and Frank Miller's feature adaptation of WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT.

David has gratefully allowed us to publish what began as a private journal/email reflection of Dave Stevens, originally intended for his private circle.

It is with tremendous gratitude that we present:

Random Snapshots From My Dave Stevens Memory Album

by David Scroggy

Going to Denny’s across from the El Cortez at the 1975 San Diego Comic-Con late one night with magician/actor Patrick Culliton. We encounter our friend Dave Stevens, who obviously has decided for the first (and only, in my experience) time to get drunk. Very drunk indeed, as he was half in the gutter sort of half-hanging and half-leaning on a lamp post. We tried to cajole him inside with us so we could pour some coffee into him. He absolutely would not budge; mortified by the situation. He was still there when we left, but wouldn’t let us give him a hand.

Bringing in Dave to Pacific Comics, with the blessing and support of Bill and Steve Schanes. Dave wanted to do a strip about Rocket Man from the Commando Cody serials, who he had just done a nice illustration of. We were so young and clueless about licensing and intellectual property ownership - we thought the character might be in public domain, but weren’t really sure how to find out.

So Dave said he would play around with it and change it enough so that we wouldn’t get sued someday. He came back with The Rocketeer.

Going with Dave to Las Vegas when The Rocketeer was new to do a book signing at Lyn Pederson’s Page After Page store. Lyn’s dad Pete picked us up at the airport and took us around town, ensconcing us in a lavish two-story suite with a spiral staircase at one of the hotels. Lyn had arranged for a 1930’s vintage car to deliver Dave to the signing. Dave dressed up as close to Cliff Secord as he could - jodhpurs, boots, vintage pilot helmet. He stood on the running board as the pristine old car slowly approached the store. Quite a sight.

We also had a Bettie lookalike contest at the store, and to everyone’s surprise, some fan’s mom won. She had no idea who Bettie or The Rocketeer were, but she was a hottie and a good sport about the whole thing.

Discovering Thai iced tea at Dave’s suggestion at a little restaurant across from the Farmer’s Market in L.A.

Being given a “karma test” by my higher power one afternoon in the late seventies when, while waiting for my friend to get done with his ceramics class at San Diego City College, I wandered into an empty classroom where a drawing class must have just taken place. Leaning on the blackboard was what was obviously a successful completed assignment by a former student that was being used as an example. It was a big sheet of detailed pen & ink renderings of an M.C. Escher-like treatment of some ants moving through an elaborate spiral construction. The student had his grade (A+) scrawled on it in red by the teacher, and it was signed Dave Stevens. I was sorely tempted to lift it, but in an uncharacteristic burst of ethics left it behind.

Hiring Dave for what I believe was his first commercial assignment, which was an illustration for my then-girlfriend and now-wife Rosemary’s dress shop in Ocean Beach.

She sold a lot of the then-popular t-shirt dresses, so had Dave do a pen and ink drawing of a pretty girl wearing one, which was used in a print ad in the San Diego Reader newspaper. The price was $35.00 and we got to keep the original. I think Dave raised his prices after that.

Going with Dave to a stripper bar in San Diego one evening. He was quite enamored (obsessed was more like it) with an exotic dancer who went by the handle Jackie Brooks. Dave was coming down to San Diego to work on the coloring of The Rocketeer with fellow artist Joe Chiodo, and they would work late and Dave slept on the couch there. He would drag along anyone he could to see the estimable Ms. Brooks as often as possible.

After one of the preliminary dancers had finished, Dave, in the spirit of appreciation, said to the young lady that she had “a hypnotic bottom”. Unfortunately for Dave, she heard it as “hippo bottom” and nearly clocked him one. His flustered attempts to correct this impression had the rest of us in stitches.

Asking Dave and writer/artist Bruce Jones to come with me to Roz Kirby’s house one night in the early 1990’s. After Jack died, I kept in touch with Roz, and, with Mike Richardson’s support, created a portfolio of some of Jack’s unpublished original art that hung in their living room, which was signed by Roz and published by Dark Horse. We wanted to do an interview with Roz that would be excerpted for publicity purposes. The four of us sat around her kitchen table with a tape recorder going. One question led into another, growing increasingly loopy as Dave and Bruce tried to outdo each other with snappy patter. Once they were really warmed up, they had to remind each other that they were in fact supposed to be interviewing Roz instead of rehearsing a bit for the next Friar’s Club roast. I am not sure if the transcript of this session survives, but it was hilarious and touching at the same time.

Dave was one of Jack’s best inkers ever, as evidenced by his annual inking of Kirby’s contribution to the San Diego Comic-Con souvenir program book.

Once, when I was working at the Pacific Comics retail store, a collector named Mike Price came in. he had just received a Kirby pencil drawing he had commissioned from Jack re-creating the panel where Doctor Doom stands over the fallen Silver Surfer, with the Surfer’s cosmic power arcing between his iron-gloved hands. Mike wanted to see if I could locate Joe Sinnot for him and have him ink it. I persuaded him to instead have it inked by young Dave Stevens. Mike was very skeptical, but I talked him into it. I think Dave charged him fifty bucks, and not only that, did it on a vellum overlay on a light box so the collector could display both the original pencil and the inked version side-by-side. He did this, and had it framed. Magnificent! Now why didn’t I get one like that for me?

Watching Dave sketch in Kate Crabb’s book one night at a party at the Athens Market restaurant in downtown San Diego during Comic-Con. Dave seldom drew for fans other than a standard head shot of The Rocketeer, but this time Kate caught him at just the right time, and as a group chatted and had drinks, he slowly but steadily penciled a simply gorgeous glamour rendering of a pretty girl. It was fascinating to watch it take shape, and it is a companion in the file cabinet referenced above - why didn’t I get one like that for me?

There were innumerable conversations trying to wrest Rocketeer pages out of Dave. Like many editorial folks after me, I got pretty much nowhere. I tried everything. I cursed, pleaded, cajoled, threatened, appealed to his sense of logic and fair play, threatened suicide, advised, commandeered, pulled rank, rationalized, implored, tried bribery and exhausted my verbal and mental bag of tricks to no avail. Perhaps the most telling response was Dave is his whiniest mocking voice saying “Waaaaah…. I’m not on some fanboy’s feeding schedule…. I’m not their big tit.” It was interesting to arrive at Dark Horse ten or twelve years later and observe then-editor Bob Shreck going through the same routine trying to wrangle in the final few pages. That was one graphic novel that came at its own speed for sure.

Being a fly on the wall at the various stages of Dave’s Bettie Page relationship- discovery, pursuit, obsession and his eventual discovery and recognition of a muse, kindred soul and lifelong friend. Hearing of her small doings and large achievements. Deconstructing a wide variety of artists and sculptors attempts at depicting her, and hearing in detail how and why they all failed. Working with Dave on the Bettie Page dress-up magnet set, an elaborate and deceptively difficult illustration assignment that succeeded admirably and thankfully provided Dave with a small but steady royalty stream for several years. Getting a phone call from the great lady herself. She was concerned because Dave wasn’t returning her calls, and was worried about his health (he was sick for a long time). She called Dark Horse to see if we knew how he was. After a delightful 45 minute chat, I called Dave and discovered that he had indeed been returning her calls, but that she had turned the ringer off on her phone and wasn’t answering because she couldn’t hear him.

Early in Dave’s fascination with Bettie, he was kind of like a broken record with it. One afternoon he and me and Rosemary were eating at the legendary San Diego culinary institution The Chicken Pie Shop. Dave kept saying that our waitress kind of looked like Bettie. We didn’t quite see the resemblance the way he did, but he kept mentioning it. When she came over to see if we wanted dessert (you got dessert with your chicken pie dinner- what a good deal that place was), he asked her what they had. She looked at him and said “why don’t you try the ‘apple brown bettie’. Dave’s eyes widened as though it were some kind of cosmic convergence. We teased him for being silly.

Attending the Playboy Expo in LA with Dave, Jim Silke and Olivia. Standing there chatting with those three was like some kind of pinup art heaven.

Being the chauffeur in Portland for a group of artists in town for the now-defunct Dark Horse sponsored local comics convention. Dubbing themselves “The Lizard Men”, the group prowled our local old book stores with me at the wheel. It was Dave, Al Williamson, Mark Schultz, William Stout and Cam Kennedy. Such talk! And some of these guys were old enough to be your father.

Speaking of “such talk”, there was no stopping Dave and former Comic-Con President Richard Butner when they got going. For two reasonably erudite guys, their immature and incredibly crude rapid-fire banter was unbelievable. And it never stopped - they cracked each other up. Oh Yaaz. This style of repartee continued when Dave was in William Stout’s art studio on La Brea in LA. Only this time the willing foil was painter and studio mate Richard Hescox. They were a couple of sick puppies once they got started.

Dave did a hilarious strip of himself and Butner at the Comic-Con masquerade, which was published in the 1979 Comic-Con program book. It reflects the tone described above pretty accurately. I posted it on my office door this week.

Dave was very patient. One of the finest pieces he ever did for Pacific was a lushly-rendered cover of Sheena. It was really one of his best jobs ever. Imagine our consternation, not to mention Dave’s, when it turned up missing. We tore the place apart but couldn’t find it. Dave was not only convinced that it was stolen, but positive he knew who had done it - a freelance colorist who was around at the time. Dave tried to convince me that we should burgle this guy’s house and find it. He wasn’t kidding. Imagining us getting shot or arrested, I was able to defer this scheme, but it always gnawed at Dave.

He kept his eyes open and twenty or more years later it finally showed up on ebay. Dave got the right kind of legal help this time, and to his immense satisfaction regained the original, which he sold for a very handsome sum. And he was right all along - the thief was just who he suspected.

Going for a sumptuous dinner with Dave, Rosemary and our niece Kristin to Plainfield Mayur, a posh Indian restaurant in Portland situated in an old Victorian house.

Dave never bragged, and although he met lots of famous people, he didn’t talk about it very much. But you could kind of pry it out of him if you were persistent. I recall him telling about working on the Raiders of the Lost Ark storyboards, working out of a bungalow somewhere in Hollywood. They were auditioning actresses for the Karen Allen role, and Dave’s drawing board was situated where he could look out of a window and see the candidates, a parade of gorgeous ingĂ©nues, approach the place for their meetings. He had a favorite, who didn’t get the part, but certainly enjoyed observing the process.

He also described working with Michael Jackson, doing storyboards for him for his star turn in the Jackson’s “Victory” tour. He would drive out to Neverland every day, and Michael and him would work on the project - just the two of them. Michael would demonstrate his dance moves and Dave would draw. At the time, Michael was probably the biggest star in the world, but to Dave it was just another job.

Listening, in more recent years, to Dave explain why he had gone back to art school because “he couldn’t paint”. While this sounds kind of ridiculous, he was quite serious and worked hard to learn figurative oil painting. He emailed me some of his oil painting head studies, because he said he “didn’t have the skills to do bodies”. They are stunning, in my opinion, but Dave was hypercritical about his own work and savage about most everybody else’s. His dedication to his craft was inspirational, and when I encounter some hot shot “flavor of the month” practitioner who is enjoying a little popularity and has his art skills in an arrested state while his ego hypertrophies, I think of Dave’s refusal to rest on his laurels and just shake my head. I hope these oil pieces are in the big Stevens art book that is coming together, because they deserve to be seen.

Toward the end of 2007, I worked on my last project with Dave. We made one of our "syroco"-style 1940's-looking statuettes of the Rocketeer. Dave was very involved, at least via phone and email. Some days he wouldn't respond when he was too wiped out, but most of the time he would, and was as fussy as ever.

We'd speak a little bit about his situation, but he wasn't real forthcoming after a point, although we did talk about his treatment (awful) and prognosis (not good). One moment that sticks with me is that he wanted us to photograph the statuette so it could be included in this big art book (as yet unpublished), that he was desperately trying to see to a finish before he croaked. We still hadn't worked out all the details to his satisfaction, and I told him I wanted it to be just right before we took pictures of it. I said: "C'mon, Dave... we're not on a deadline." He said: "Well, I am!".

Thanks to David Scroggy for this wealth of warm memories for us all to enjoy. Thanks as well to Joel Beren of Ozone Productions for making this possible.

If you have any personal memories of Dave Stevens, especially as they pertain to his relationship with Bettie Page, please EMAIL THE BETTIE PAGE BLOG!


Rich Dannys said...

Tremendously engaging read, with all of these lovely Dave Stevens anecdotes & remembrances.. Well done!

And "Thanks!" for linking to my own Blog.. Dave was indeed a generous man, who will be sorely missed!

Bettie Blogger said...

Agreed. Thanks for your great post! You're quite a good artist, yourself.

Body Art Tattoo said...

I woul say awesome body art artist...thnks!