Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dave Stevens (1955-2008)


Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens passed away earlier this week.

I never met Dave, and I don't have any funny or interesting stories to tell about him, but I loved Rocketeer. I loved the pulp inspired sensibilities and the ultra cool avaitor's outfit topped off with an Art Deco inspired streamlined helmet. I loved the criminally underrated movie that had a perfect cast. I loved the image of the Rocketeer atop the observatory with a Mauser in his hand (that he'd just taken from a KO'd Nazi naturally), American flag waving behind him. It felt to me like a character that had been around for decades, right along with the Phantom, the Shadow, Tarzan, and the Lone Ranger - an instant classic.

It's quite a tribute to Dave Stevens' talent that a character who only appeared in a handful of comics (five? six?) had such an impact, at least among comics fans. I know the general public probably couldn't pick the Rocketeer out of a line up, but he endures as an icon in the comics universe as far as I'm concerned. Even as I type this I can see the 3" high Rocketeer figure that has stood on one of my bookshelves the last 15 or so years - standing guard with his hands on his hips.

Click here to read a nice remembrance of Dave.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

steve,

that is a beautiful painting, and a fine tribute to dave stevens!

would you ever consider selling prints of that artwork?

-andy

thedanofsteel said...

Yes news of Daves passing was sad.

The Rocketeer, while I've never been able to find andy printed material, has always been in my top three comic book movies list - and I to feel it's criminally underrated.

It was so stylish in it's setting and just a great all round movie for any audience and we can ever tire of those kinds of stories.

Gaheris said...

The Rocketeer feels like it has always been around. wish they would have more Rocketeer comics. I loved the movie and Dave Stevens you will be missed. Fly high Rocketeer, Fly high!

Ron Marz said...

Nice piece and a nice tribute, Steve.

Hopefully see you at the NYC con next month.

drewgeraci said...

Great new painting and eloquent tribute to a genuinely gifted creator. I loved the Rocketeer movie also, more than most 'superhero' movies for the reasons you stated. This geezer remembers buying the few Pacific Comics in the '80's and seeing the future of comic books (the high quality story, art, printing and coloring)!

Stevan said...

Hi, Steve!
Loved the tribute and the painting to the incomparable Mr. Stevens. I have the 1st 2 issues of The Rocketeer from waaaay back. When the movie (you're right, TOO UNDERRATED!!!) was out, I was one of the privaleged ones that knew that it was 1st a comic book and I remember "educating" my friends on the original comic. I remember when we went back to my house, I whipped out those 2 issues. Aside from the 2nd feature in the book (by the immortal Steve Ditko) my buddies kept going back to The Rocketeer. It was like we just wanted to relive the film over and over again. I remember feeling how much his work had resonance and pure unadulturated wonder. I, like you, never had the opportunity to meet him. God, I can recall so many times that I wish I could. Now it will never happen, and for that I am almost as saddened as I am by his passing. I am a penciler seeking to get work with the mainstream publishers. This year I'm going to Wizard World Chicago to show my work around. I'm taking the memory of Dave Stevens' immortal legacy that he left with me. I've always been inspired and influenced by many, many artists who are already where I want to be. It's innovators like him that influence me and many others. And when those innovators pass this mortal coil, we can take solace in the fact that their lives meant more than something. Like Eisner, Kirby, Parobeck, Aparo, and countless others who've allowed us to embrace their work and bask in its beauty, Dave Stevens leaves behind the greatest truth of all...
...He captured our imaginations by utilizing his!
Dave Stevens:
HE WAS HERE.
HE GAVE US PASSION.
HE WILL BE MISSED.
---Steven J. Vasquez

Amna Umen said...

oh god this is so sad, the Rocketeer was one of my favorite movies growing up, and this was before I knew he was a comic hero. Wow this really makes me want to rewatch the movie.

By the way, I love the art. Before reading your post, i thought you were going to announce that you were going to be involved with a rocketeer story, i would have gone crazy.

Paul Neal said...

I can only comment as a fan and wanna be professional but I LOVED the Rocketeer movie. It has a really innocent and genuine quality that few films pull off. The comics had the same quality too, and the time and care that went into them was obvious. There was no bitterness or unpleasantness. I never even came close to an opportunity to meet Dave Stevens but I suspect from what I've read here that anyone that saw and appreciated his work had a clue as to the character of the man. He sounns like a gentleman.

I wonder if anyone will ever have the nerve (or the rights) to return to the Rocketeer. Would such a thing have Mr Stevens' blessing?

Fabio... said...

Chapeau...

Steve Epting said...

Andy - I can't sell any prints, since the character doesn't belong to me. Sorry.

Dan - Hunt down those comics. You won't be sorry.

Ron - Hope to see you in NY as well!

Stevan - very eloquent tribute. Thanks for posting.

Amna Umen - I'm not sure I would be the best one to do a Rocketeer project, but I would sure love to try.

Paul Neal -That's a good question. Part of me would love to see more Rocketeer material, but then I think that if Dave didn't want to continue the book, it should probably be left alone. Besides, my cynical nature tells me that it would probably end up being a disaster:)

Thanks for the comments everyone!

DW Evans said...

If I recall correctly, Stevens stopped working on The Rocketeer in expectation of seeing other artists carry on the mythos of the character. But unfortunately, as of yet, no one has.

Of course, I don't blame them cause it would be a tough act to follow.

James Sime said...

Thanks for sharing the amazing Rocketeer art, Steve!

Dave Stevens will always be one of my all-time favorite artists, and I count my blessings that I got to meet him a number of times and had the opportunity to tell him how much his work meant to me. He was one of the very first comic professionals I sought out to meet at my first comic convention and without a doubt, it was Dave's pure kindness that inspired me to feel confident to go up and talk to more writers and artists whose work I love.

I'd love to see new Rocketeer comics and keep the celebration of his life and work ever-swinging! But of course only if that's what Dave really wanted. What fan wouldn't want to see a Cameron Stewart/Darwyn Cooke/Pascal Ferry/Fabio Moon or a Steve Epting Rocketeer? That would be glorious.

James Sime said...

Thanks for sharing the amazing Rocketeer art, Steve!

Dave Stevens will always be one of my all-time favorite artists, and I count my blessings that I got to meet him a number of times and had the opportunity to tell him how much his work meant to me. He was one of the very first comic professionals I sought out to meet at my first comic convention and without a doubt, it was Dave's pure kindness that inspired me to feel confident to go up and talk to more writers and artists whose work I love.

I'd love to see new Rocketeer comics and keep the celebration of his life and work ever-swinging! But of course only if that's what Dave really wanted. What fan wouldn't want to see a Cameron Stewart/Darwyn Cooke/Pascal Ferry/Fabio Moon or a Steve Epting Rocketeer? That would be glorious.

James Sime said...

Thanks for sharing the amazing Rocketeer art, Steve!

Dave Stevens will always be one of my all-time favorite artists, and I count my blessings that I got to meet him a number of times and had the opportunity to tell him how much his work meant to me. He was one of the very first comic professionals I sought out to meet at my first comic convention and without a doubt, it was Dave's pure kindness that inspired me to feel confident to go up and talk to more writers and artists whose work I love.

I'd love to see new Rocketeer comics and keep the celebration of his life and work ever-swinging! But of course only if that's what Dave really wanted. What fan wouldn't want to see a Cameron Stewart/Darwyn Cooke/Pascal Ferry/Fabio Moon or a Steve Epting Rocketeer? That would be glorious.