Artist and former San Diego resident Dave Stevens is probably best known for creating “The Rocket“, a comic strip that became a movie in 1991.
But Stevens did more than “The Rocketeer.” A new Comic-Con Museum The exhibit highlights his work by showcasing original comic book pages, publicity pieces, animation storyboards and unique artifacts from the late artist’s personal collection.
The Rocketeer – Trailer (1991)
Stevens died in 2008 at the age of 52. But his legacy lives on through fans and through the Comic-Con Museum’s new exhibit, “Dave Stevens and the Rocketeer: Art For Arf’s Sake.” This title makes sense if you know Stevens’ obsession with English bulldogs.
“When he created ‘The Rocketeer’ comic, he incorporated Bulldogs into the comic, and that was one of his absolute favorite things. He was just obsessed with Bulldogs, English Bulldogs,” said his sister Jennifer Stevens-Bawcum. “And the interesting, funny, quirky part about that is on one of the pages of the comic, the main character tries to give him some beef jerky, alluding to what would happen after the dog ate some beef jerky. And you almost wouldn’t notice it. but way down at the end, at the end of one of the chapters, the dog lifts his leg up on somebody else’s shoe. So, I mean, there’s just a lot of that. That’s so much of Dave’s humor. It’s absolutely his humor, just a little childish. He was the boy who never grew up for sure.”
Stevens was born in Lynwood, California, and moved to San Diego in the early 1970s. He began his comics career in 1975 by assisting veteran artist Russ Manning on the syndicated “Tarzan” newspaper strip. Stevens went on to work as an animation scriptwriter on such films as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the Michael Jackson music video “Thriller.”
Dave Stevens at Comic-Con
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Dave Stevens, 1982.
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Dave Stevens, 1986.
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Dave Stevens, 1991.
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Dave Stevens, 1993.
Stevens-Bawcum said his brother attended for the first time Comic-Con as a fan.
“I don’t know how he found out about Comic-Con, but I believe 1972 was his first Con and he started out as a geeky fanboy, super excited to see all his comic book heroes,” she said. declared. “And then he started bringing his own portfolio to these artists, and it continued from there. He was a volunteer for a while. He started designing some of the badges and some of the programs. So he maintains a long relationship with Comic-Con.”
He also found assistant mentors at the Con, such as comic book artist Silver Age Jim Steranko.
Stevens-Bawcum is one of the trustees of the Rocketeer Trust, which provided his brother’s art, props from his films and personal items for the exhibit.
“I loaned out about 60 works of art, plus all personal effects, all movie props that will be loaned out for the exhibit,” Stevens-Bawcum said. “When I first spoke to Chris [Ryall], who was kind of my liaison with the museum, he was like, “You know, do you have anything big that could fill the space? And I’m like, well, I have his office.”
Seeing the office where Stevens drew, painted, and created his art is thrilling for any fan. The exhibition also presents the diversity of his work.
“My goal was for the exhibit to be biographical,” Stevens-Bawcum explained. “So there are pieces that I loaned out when he was in elementary school, fifth or sixth grade from Spider-Man all through the 2000s, so towards the end of his career and his life .So I wanted a really broad spectrum of the art to show that Dave wasn’t just known for ‘The Rocketeer’ but he had so many other very varied styles.I wanted people to see the extent of her career.
The exhibit at the Comic-Con Museum offers a beautiful tribute from a sister as well as an impressive display of the artistry of Dave Stevens.