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Dave Stevens & The Rocketeer

July 12, 2011

Just a note, the second picture down would probably be considered NSFW by most HR departments, so scroll at your own risk.

I recently got rid of most of my comic book collection. It was a bit difficult, but as my son isn’t in to them and I didn’t have the time to re-read them, why hang on to them. So onto craigslist it went.

A few pieces I couldn’t bear to part with were my Rocketeer comics. The Rocketeer was created by Dave Stevens back in 1982. The comic is an homage to adventure stories of the 1930s and 40s, following the exploits of stunt pilot Cliff Secord (who looks a lot like Dave did in 1982) and a rocket pack he finds. Dave took about 3 years to complete the first story, after which he spent the next 6 years developing a movie and the comic sequel.

I bought the graphic novel below, which collected the original story, just prior to the movie’s release in 1991.

In the comic, Cliff’s girlfriend is a cheesecake model named Betty. Stevens modeled Betty after pin-up queen Bettie Page. The popularity of the Rocketeer comic, especially due to the page shown below, single-handedly revived interest in Bettie Page and helped spur a revival in pin-up illustration. Dave and Bettie became great friends as a result of the comic.

Needless to say, “Betty” the cheesecake model was changed to “Jenny” the aspiring actress for the 1991 movie released by Disney.

Cheesecake aside, Stevens art was gorgeous, lifelike, and full of rich details that recreated the world of 1938, which explained the long-gaps fans would have to endure for the next chapter.

The Rocketeer takes flight for the first time.

After the movie, Dave was able to go back and finally finish his first story of the Rocketeer. He also spent time illustration covers for other comics and other illustration work. Unfortunately, Dave was never able to complete any more Rocketeer stories. He contracted leukemia and battled it for a long time before succumbing to it in 2008. He was 52.

In 2009, the entire collection of Rocketeer comics was released in book form, reprinting all of Stevens’ comics and associated art. A new mini-series, The Rocketeer Adventures, featuring art and stories by other comic creators was also announced. The first 2 issues have been released as of this writing. They feature gorgeous covers by Alex Ross, with alternate covers reprinting Stevens own art. Beautiful stuff and a fitting tribute to one of my favorite artists.





Betty gets her chance to save Cliff with the rocket pack.


Gorgeous 2-page pinup by Geof Darrow (concept artist for the Matrix movies).

Back in June, Disney threw a 20th anniversary screening for D23 fan club members and had a Q&A with cast and crew afterwards. Maybe they will release an anniversary edition on Blu-ray.

Other fans have been influenced by the characters as well. This fantastic short appeared on Vimeo recently:

The Rocketeer 20th anniversary from John Banana on Vimeo.

Fans have also uploaded the entire movie, albeit in 10 minute chunks, on YouTube

art images via Comics Alliance

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