March 13, 2008


Dave Stevens, 52; artist created 'Rocketeer' comic (Valerie J. Nelson, 3/13/08, Los Angeles Times)

In 1981, Stevens was working as a commercial illustrator when a friend asked him to contribute a story to another comic book. His "throwaway idea," as he called it, was a succinct ode to 1930s-style, pulp-fiction adventures and movie serials.

The comic -- in which a stunt pilot battles evil after finding a rocket-powered backpack -- became a cult success. A decade later it was made into the live-action Disney movie "The Rocketeer" with Billy Campbell as the title character.

In trying to explain the comic's popularity, author Harlan Ellison wrote in the introduction to the 1985 graphic novel "The Rocketeer": The comics "are hip-deep in the right kind of nostalgia . . . adventure and affection, melded in just the right way. . . . "

Disney was attracted to the story because it had "a clear heroic structure . . . an innocent guy stumbles on something and ends up saving the world . . . and it was a world we hadn't seen before," David Hoberman, then president of Touchstone and Walt Disney Pictures, told The Times in 1991.

The Art Deco look that defined "The Rocketeer" had preoccupied Stevens since childhood. He grew up saving photos of old planes, trains and buildings -- streamlined designs that were "so much more charming than the world I found around me," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1991.

Stevens served as a producer on the film, giving input on architectural details. He also designed the helmet that the Rocketeer wears in the movie.

Writing in The Times in 2003, Geoff Boucher called "The Rocketeer" comic "sexy, irreverent and snappy" and said the movie "had an Indiana Jones-like bonhomie."

The comic's square-jawed hero, Cliff Secord, bore more than a passing resemblance to the soft-spoken Stevens. The female love interest, a lingerie model, was drawn as a tribute to pin-up Page.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 13, 2008 10:09 AM

I liked the Rocketeer and I am surprised they didn't make another one (considering the fact that they make so many crappy sequels to crappy movies).

It wasn't as good as the 1st and 3rd Indiana Jones movies, but it was better than the 2nd.

Posted by: pchuck at March 13, 2008 11:01 AM

Good guys who were good, bad guys who were bad, action, fun - what more could a grown-up kid ask for?

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2008 11:10 AM