Regular readers of this blog will already know that i’m more than just your average fan of pin-up and comic book artist Dave Stevens. I’ve already featured the excellent biography Brush With Passion and The Complete Sketchbook & Studies on this very website, and he’s also been part of my Artist Spotlight feature. My hunt continues for the holy grail of Dave Stevens books, The Rocketeer Artist Edition, and i’ll be first in line for it’s second printing which is scheduled for early 2013. So until then can my Dave Stevens habit can be satisfied by Covers & Stories, published by IDW this September?
This large, hardcover book follows the format set by Sketchbook & Studies and features a huge amount of work completed outside of his most popular creation, The Rocketeer. It all starts off with an affectionate introduction by fellow comic book artist Adam Hughes, which leads onto a section of cover art from books such as Alien Worlds, The Shadow, Jonny Quest, World of Wood and more the adult fare, Cheval Noir and Venus Domina.
Next is a collection of interior art under the heading of Stories, featuring an unusually cartoony Kosmo Cat, Tarzan, Star Wars and the Moebius inspired Aurora. It’s in this section in particular that you get a glimpse at Dave’s earliest work and a sense of how his style was influenced by his peers and had changed and progressed over his career.
Finally it’s a section titled Pin-Ups and More, with the infamous Bettie Page taking centre stage along with DC characters Catwoman, Dolphin and Phantom Lady. There’s also a large collection of work produced in collaboration with Jack Kirby featuring a host of Marvel characters and Dave’s own lesser-known projects and one-off commissions. A host of San Diego Comic-Con ads and an elaborate Bettie Page Dress-Up Set close the book on an epic collection of some of the finest comic book artwork available.
Regardless of the target audience or subject, the quality of Dave Stevens’ work is always inspirational, which makes it all the more special to see the work so brilliantly reproduced from high quality scans of the original art, added to which are examples of all stages of his drawing process. From his first draft ideas, unused concepts, blue pencil drawings, unfinished ink work and fully rendered paintings, it’s all here for us fans to enjoy and learn from. Scattered throughout the book are enlarged, close-up shots of selected pieces which are well worth spending some time with. One of which is the Marilyn Monroe Crossfire #12 cover from 1985, a masterpiece of comic art and one that I have personally spent a lot of time trying read and gain some tips in line weight, use of sold blacks and feathering.
Until I can get my hands on The Rocketeer Artist Edition this will be my favourite book of Dave’s work so far and one that i’ll come back to whenever I need my fix from one of the greatest comic book artists to have ever lived. Dave Stevens’ work, for me, is literally as good as it gets in the comics industry and this collection is testament to a brilliant career sadly cut short and essential for any comic art fan.