Dave Stevens is a comics artist and illustrator who was most active in comics in the 80’s. He’s best known for his character The Rocketeer, which was made into a movie by Disney in 1991.
He is also know for his pin-up type drawings of women, in a style that is sometimes called “good girl art” (or “cheesecake”), an approach and attitude that are distinctly retro and not at all politically correct. Of course, that’s what makes it fun.
His approach to comics was definitely from another time as well. The Rocketeer has a deliberate 1940’s pulp sensibility, taking its cues from radio serial adventure stories and pulp characters like Doc Savage. Stevens’ approach to pen drawing also has a deliberate nostalgic feel in its attention to fine line and detail, as does much of the cover art he did for various comics titles in the 80’s and 90’s.
He seemed to have a particular fascination with Bettie Page, a famous pin-up model from the 50’s, and he used her as a model for his female lead in The Rocketeer comics stories (played by Jennifer Connelly in the movie adaptation). He has done a number of pin-up style drawings of her and started a sort of mini Betty Page revival during the time he was still active in comics. He has since moved on to work as a storyboard and production artist in Hollywood.
The story as I heard it is that Stevens had to halt publication of The Rocketeer when the legal department one of the big comics companies (which shall remain marvelously unnamed) that seemed to have a “sue whenever possible” attitude, sued Stevens over the character of The Rocketeer, claiming a trademark based on a single appearance of some minor backup characters in a single issue of an obscure title. They had the power to make life difficult for an individual artist and the small publishers who were publishing The Rocketeer, so publication had to cease and Stevens had to quit comics and do better paying advertising work to pay his legal bills.
The issue was resolved when he made the movie deal with Disney, who had a much bigger and badder legal department than the big bad comic company, so the big bad comic company had to put its tail between its legs.
I bring this up only to make a point. We may see the hard work artists put into developing and nurturing a character or property, and even be aware of some of the difficulties they face in getting published, getting acceptance and finding some way to make a living in the process, but we don’t always see the whole story.
The entertainment industry is throwing money at congress and congress is responding with laws that give large entertainment conglomerates more and more power over entertainment properties. There is a temptation to think that strict copyright laws benefit individual creators, but I believe that is largely an illusion.
It’s worth the attention of all illustrators, cartoonists, comics artists and anyone involved in creative endeavors to take an active interest in what’s happening to the control of entertainment properties and the means of distribution, including the publishing industry and the Internet.
But I digress. Dave Stevens’ story has (I presume) a happy ending and his art from the 80’s is still a treat, particularly if you get lucky enough to find a copy of the out-of-print Rocketeer collections: “The Rocketeer special edition” and “The Rocketeer: Cliff’s New York Adventure”.
Note: The sites linked here contain sexually suggestive images and nudity. Avoid them if you’re likely to be offended.