George Khoury just called me with sad, sad news. Dave Stevens passed away yesterday, at a much too young age. Fans of course know him as the creator of the “Rocketeer”. I knew him as a guy who was always a lot of fun to talk to; a lifelong Jack Kirby fan, so we always had that in common the times we spoke. I don’t have to tell anyone familiar with his work what an incredible talent he was, or anyone who knew him personally what a nice guy he was.
My favorite memory of Dave isn’t exactly related to comics. We were talking by phone late one evening a few years ago, waxing about Kirby’s art, and I happened to mention how much chocolate I consumed working on each issue of the Kirby Collector. Dave mentioned that he grew up in Oregon, and as a kid, he used to wolf down massive quantities of a little-known regional confection called an “Idaho Spud Bar.” He said it looked sorta like a chocolate-covered potato; not the most appetizing image, mind you, but he assured me it was awesome, at least to a kid’s palette. Always looking for a new chocolate experience, I asked where I could find them, but he was pretty certain they’d stopped making them years ago, and it was only available in the Northwest then anyway.
I couldn’t resist helping out a kindred cocoa-spirit, so later that week, after several Internet searches, I tracked down a mail-order site that had Idaho Spud Bars for sale, and had a box sent to him. This was about a week before the San Diego Comicon that year, and when I got to the hall, I stopped by his booth, and we had a great laugh about the package he’d gotten in the mail. They must’ve still tasted pretty good to him, cause he’d already eaten the whole box before the Con (he didn’t even save one for me!).
Dave inked a number of Jack Kirby pieces that I’ve used in TJKC over the yearsâ€”many done as a teenager. My favorite was the centerfold of issue #19, of Captain America and Bucky in a WWII scene (you may remember the Kirby pencils from Steranko’s History of Comics Vol. 1). Nobody cared that he drew as slowly as he did, because the end result was just so astonishingly good.
He let us use a number of his illos and paintings in our mags over the years, and was a big supporter of what we’re trying to do for fandom. Most recently, he offered up an amazing Phantom Lady commission he’d done, as cover art for a book that’s in the planning stages.
I don’t really know what else to say about Dave. I hate that we’re losing so many comics greats, especially ones so young and so talented. Just look at this amazing job he did inking Kirby, while still just a teenager. Simply amazing.