The new documentary film Dave Stevens: Drawn to Perfection covers the life, times and untimely death of the illustrator best known for his creation, The Rocketeer. The movie is chock-full of interesting information about Stevens, and interviews with multiple friends, peers and family.
I was personally unaware of The Rocketeer until the release of the 1991 film, which I loved. It was the near-perfect blend of pulp-adventure, romance and science-fiction and is still one of the highlights in Disney’s catalog. But, I wouldn’t learn of The Rocketeer comic books and that they came before the movie, until several years later – and what an awesome discovery.
After reading the comics, I saw the film in a whole new light that made it even better, but at the same time made me long for what the movie could have been had Disney not stuck its fingers into it.
The Rocketeer comics are incredible and this new documentary illuminates the artistic genius behind it all. What a life and what a career this guy had. For instance, some of Dave Stevens’ first paid work included inking the Russ Manning Tarzan and Star Wars comic strips.
A self-taught artist, he worked for Hanna-Barbera, created story boards for Steven Spielberg films and for the Michael Jackson Thriller video. Stevens’ attention to detail and quality of work was the envy of his peers, including Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson and Jack Kirby.
Stevens is also known for having reintroduced the world to the classic pin-up girl, Bettie Page, by basing the Rocketeer’s girlfriend Betty on the voluptuous model. The film covers how the artist’s obsession with Page actually had him serving as her caregiver in her later years.
In addition to Bettie Page, the film covers several of the women who became the muse to Stevens’ illustrating endeavors, leading him to become one of the greatest artists of the female body ever.
Throughout the film, a haggard looking, pipe-smoking Thomas Jane (The Punisher, 2004) talks about Stevens. Apparently they were friends, but their relationship is never really explained. It is kind of an odd inclusion – although Jane does have some great insights and anecdotes.
Directed by Kelvin Mao, Dave Stevens: Drawn to Perfection is a straightforward and standard documentary film, but its interesting subject matter makes up for its rather mundane storytelling, especially if you are into The Rocketeer and comic book history.
Available on digital and on demand Dec. 2.