Dave Stevens: The Early Years

Dave Stevens: the early years.
Dave went to high school late 60s/ early 70s in Portland, Oregon and it was there that he met the Heralds, Rosie and Luana.

A FEW HIGHLIGHTS as recollected by Rosie Herald
My sister Luana (Dave called her Lu) & I went to Madison High School in Portland Oregon and met Dave Stevens there in the late 1960’s. We attended a HS Pancake Breakfast and they had a Art Display in the cafeteria. On the last 2 sided panel with little visibility we discovered a Marvel “Yellow Jacket” piece, being comic book fans (Big time), I tracked the artist down. It was Dave & he was in the home room next to mine. I yanked him out into the hallway & introduced myself, my sister met him a bit later. We quickly all became great friends.
High School (or at least ours) was a pain for a wanna-be artist. Our teachers only pushed for Fine Arts style, No options for Commercial type artists. Nothing for cartoonists, or anything. Dave would not give up (Thank God) and kept doing what he liked. The art teachers were an unhappy snooty lot. Dave’s outlet for his creativity was the Drama Dept. & doing their poster & program artwork and the High School Newspaper doing Covers, Cartoons & misc. art.
Dave’s family lived close, so my mom would drop him off after school at times. The first time we visited his house we met his dad who was attending a bible college to become a minister, his wonderful mother Carolyn and his little brother Danny. We got the tour … His drawings, his art supplies .. typing paper, pencils, flair felt tip pens & markers. The best thing was his Drawers full of “Creepy Crawlers”, the vacu-form wiggly creatures & bottles of Goop. He was a true Monster-boy.
We were Dave’s main outlet for comics & goodies as he was on a very cheap budget (what budget? at that age). Pretty much whatever Dave wanted he got either for free or super cheap, even way after he moved to California in the 1970’s. Luana gave Dave alot of vintage paper Advertising, etc. for his first Art morgue .. the beautiful pre 50’s Car Ads, Ads Illus. by Hal Foster, Pin-ups, etc., Not to mention all the Sunday pages. Neat Vintage stuff. At some point Luana sent Dave a Billboard size Movie Poster for “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” By Frazetta with Large size babes. I learned later from Bil Stout that was in their Art Studio because Dave’s Mom (beautiful but tough) wouldn’t let him hang in his room. I laughed .. should have seen that one coming. My sister would have be crushed.
After Dave & His family moved to California, Luana & Dave always kept in touch .. long distance phone calls (very spendy), Letters and Audio cassette tapes back & forth .. and of course His “Want-Lists”. I still run across items as I sort through personal old stuff. My sister Kept everything Dave ever gave or sent her. I remember in the 1970’s she actually cut-up our #1 Comic Price Guide & Made Dave the ultimate Jack Kirby Checklist, as he wanted to get Kirby titles, when he was working for Jack. Every Comic Boy I ever knew who wanted to draw for Comics copied the style(s) of their Favorite Artists .. Dave did alot of early pencil sketches (Animals, Girls, Movie Serials, Sci-Fi.) inspired by Frank Frazetta’s style really early on, among others. When looking at various pieces he drew You could see how fast he was improving considering how little help he could get without attending a real art school. Towards the end of his life Dave was still known for taking art classes to keep learning.
“THE ROCKETEER” MOVIE … Dave was so busy working on the Movie .. Painting Menu Signs & hands on help he didn’t have time to shop for Merchandise. I started checking out Portland Stores (Portland known to get regional items). Sears, JC Penneys, Fred Meyers, etc. Yep … Portland was getting stuff when other states were not. Toys, Clothing, Bedding .. and Dave wanted it. So I shopped for him. Unfortunately, by the time the Movie opened you could see problems with Disney. It appeared that the minute Disney got all their money back .. they pulled the plug on Franchises, Merchandising, TV Advertising, etc. Items were being marked down with sale prices. Weird as the Movie just started getting up steam. Dave told me that Because of Bad Feelings between the Director & Disney, something said made Disney Mad & they said you are only as good as your last movie .. and that was that. I was told that Fossil Watches actually made less “Rocketeer” watches than advertised, BullDog Cafe Cookie Jars Stopped Production, View Master Packets sold off in mass to a Company back east. A Total shame.
PS: My sister Luana & my Mother opened “Old Weird Herald’s” Nostalgia Shop in 1970, my sister was straight out of High School. It was Portland’s First real Collectibles & Comic Book Store. My Mother bought a table at the 2nd SDCC, eventually we bought the 1st Overstreet Comic Price Guide which you had to buy from Jim Overstreet, custom comic bags & was the first store here to treat Comics as Collectibles. Luana started a Comic Book Club too, “The Portland Alliance of Fans” or “P.A.F”, the Shop was the meeting place. Some of the Boys included Artist Chris Warner, Randy Emberlin, Kerry Lockner & others. That all led to local small “NOVA” Mini Comic Book Conventions and eventually she put on Larger 2 Day Conventions with Big Name Guests which cost alot & at times hard to get Guests. She managed to Get the Likes of Jim Steranko & others .. she re-discovered Golden Age Comic Captain America artist Alex Schomburg & Basil Wolverton who lived in the area. She paid to fly up Dave a few times so he could attend these Conventions & at shows as a guest.

When George Wallace (“Commando Cody” Serial actor) was Signing Autographs at the Hollywood Collectors Show, Dave had me go over & get a signed Photo for himself. Wallace was not a happy camper, when I told him who it was for … He was kinda nasty as He said Dave had stolen “His” Character and created “The Rocketeer”. Needless to say .. I jumped in there & explained that when Dave was a kid he grew up watching old serials on TV & idolized the whole Flying Guy thing .. Like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and of course Him as “Commando Cody”. George finally softened up about the whole thing .. But imagine the attitude he’d been carrying around. I am sure he was also paid so little for his work on those serials too, maybe a real sore spot. Dave Got His signed Photo & was very happy, but was crushed when he heard the story. Later Dave’s sister sold it for hardly anything & she never knew the story.

Comic book artist/illustrator Dave Stevens born 1955, died 2008 at the age of 53.

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