© Dave Stevens.
I didn’t know Dave Stevens, though I admired his art a great deal. I’d see him at his booth at the San Diego Comicon some years, always surrounded by adoring fans and beautiful women, handsome and smiling, having a great time. Made it hard to go up and say hello, but I did at least once. We had a mutual friend, Michael Kaluta, who would tell me about his visits with Dave in Los Angeles, which sounded like lots of fun. But I seriously doubt I was ever on Dave’s radar for more than a few seconds, which is understandable. We never worked together.
Dave’s largest single project was The Rocketeer, eventually published as two graphic novels, and I loved it, along with so many others. Sure, it took years for him to get that much out, but the work was so wonderful it was worth the wait. The Disney film of it was fun, though missing the more adult angles that gave the original a little more depth.
Other than than, I was mainly aware of Dave’s “good girl” or pinup art on comics covers and prints. The one above I found particularly attractive, but all his work is so excellent in every way, it’s hard to pick out one. A meticulous perfectionist, Dave apparently struggled to produce his work, but it never showed in the result. Every line seems natural and perfect, the design outstanding, even the lettering and logos he did were excellent.
There’s lots of work in this book I’d never seen, or not noticed, like these Comicon badges. Many commercial jobs he did were invisible, like storyboards for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, and early work assisting strip artists like Russ Manning. Many great pieces here you won’t see elsewhere.
The best part of this book for me, though, was reading Dave’s own words about his life and work. Through that I finally feel I got to know him a little, at least, and now wish I’d been able to know him in person. There were many things about his life I didn’t know. Sure, he had massive talent and many other things most people would love to have, but he also had difficult times battling self-doubt, distractions and ultimately the leukemia that took his life too early. This book is a fine tribute in many ways, with lots of words from friends and colleagues, much wonderful art. Dave’s own story is the part that makes me recommend it very highly. It moved me in a way much of his art (other than “Rocketeer”) usually didn’t, and is well worth your time.