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I Was a Good Dave Stevens "Good Girl"

I have a piece of Dave Stevens art that hasn't been seen by anyone but me in over 20 years until about two weeks ago. It's a layout Dave drew for me for the cover of Space Vixens in 3-D, a book of Dave's short comics stories reproduced in anaglyph 3-D by Ray Zone. (Anaglyph is the kind of 3-D viewed with the iconic red/blue glasses.) I think it's about time to share it.
I first met Dave Stevens at a con in Houston, Texas, in 1984. Dave was that hot new guy in comics, because Rocketeer had come out of nowhere and gotten comics fans, good girl art fans, and Bettie Page fans excited. I was still cosplaying, and I stopped and talked to him at least once when I was dressed as a Plexus Ranger from Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!. (This cosplaying will be important in about three or four paragraphs.)   

(I don't have any pictures of myself in that costume, but here's one of me as Doris from "Vampire Hunter 'D'", taken at a friend's place on Halloween 1987.)

Sometimes people say Dave was born a little too late, I think he was born just in time to make sure pulp had a chance to be new. (When I visited him in Santa Monica in 1988, and was looking at all the things he had crammed in his teeny apartment, I found a badge a friend had made for him; it said, "Dave Stevens: the answer to the question where are all the new old hacks coming from.") Pulp and pinups were sure new to me, and Dave's work didn't look like anything I'd ever seen. His girls were pretty, his colors were gorgeous (he colored his comics art on photostats using markers, Q-Tips, and, well, spit (he said)), and Dave was absolutely the best artist working in comics in the 80s, hands down.

I loved Dave's art, and was a frustrated model (I'd done a little work in high school), and I wanted to be in one of Dave's pinups. So, I did what I've done a lot in my comics career, I just asked for what I wanted. Maybe I asked Dave if I could model for him in 1987, when I saw him again at the first San Diego Comic-Con I went to, or later when we were corresponding. (With letters sent with stamps. Only people who didn't want to be able to pay their rent used email in 1987, Compuserve was often spelled "Compu$erve" for a reason.)

On June 24 or 25, 1988 (twenty-two years and eleven months ago), Dave sent me this letter with the Space Vixens in 3-D layout:

(A "Jackson" was old-fashioned slang for a $20 bill. Dave also used the vintage slang "pins" to complement my legs, "Great pins!" The lettering jobs were how I planned to make money in comics and network at the same time. It was working for Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai, Stan was lettering the Spider-Man daily newspaper strips and drawing Usagi. This plan worked out okay for me, even though I was never even remotely as good as Stan.)

Here's the layout Dave sent with the letter and the Jackson:

(Dave Stevens, graphite and ballpoint pen on vellum. Right-click and open in a new tab to see a larger image.)

The reason my cosplaying ability was important was because I had to cobble together approximations of the costumes in the layout for the photographs so Dave had a better idea of how what he drew would drape and fit over an actual body. I made them from pieces of costumes I still had around (I quit cosplaying at conventions in 1985 because I wanted to be taken seriously as an aspiring comics professional) and my own clothes. My now-ex shot the photographs; we took them on the balcony of our first apartment, and yes there was about as much to my costumes as in Dave's layouts. We were careful and fast shooting those pictures! 

I had huge hang-ups about how I looked in then (thanks to my ex and my ex-family, sad but true), so I only looked at the photos long enough to make sure they were in focus and sent them on to Dave.

Eventually, Dave mailed me a copy or two of Space Vixens in 3-D:

(photo by Robert G)

I modeled for Dave a couple more times after that, but nothing we shot was ever used in finished art, and I never saw the pictures. I did, at Dave's urging, take self-portraits and have myself photographed and preserved the pictures. He bought me a nice album when I saw him in Long Beach in 1990, just before he went to shoot The Rocketeer movie, to make sure I did. He said I would be glad I took and saved the pictures, and I didn't believe him, but I did it anyway, and he was absolutely right.  

To this day, it's peculiar to look at this art and see myself looking back. In fact, it's more peculiar now than then, maybe because Dave has passed on and his chapter in comics and pinup art is closed. It's also kind of amazing and wonderful to realize I had the privilege and luck and chutzpah to model for and be the friend of one of the greatest pinup artists that has ever lived.

Across time and space, thanks, Dave, for letting me be part of your life and work. Mwah!


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 25th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
What a great story! The girl on the cover does look like you. I never noticed. I had known Dave for about 20 years, and he never asked me to pose for him. I will be writing and drawing a new Rocketeer story, though.
May. 25th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
Ha! Well, I asked him! Maybe if you had asked him you'd have your youth preserved!

You're doing a Rocketeer story, too?! I told the editor I wanted to do a story and got a "No thanks"! Man. I think I'll ask again!
May. 25th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
This is a terrific story -- thank you for sharing! :)
May. 31st, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!
May. 25th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
Fantastic story. As with any of his covers, I remember that one vividly. Thank you so much for sharing that.
May. 31st, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
You're most welcome. (How ya been?)
May. 25th, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC)
I love this story so so SO much. I have that comic in my collection, as well as a couple of other 80's pieces that he very obviously based on your face- I look at them and go "that's Lea!!!"

I posed for Dave the second to last San Diego I saw him at (mid-to-late 2000's), just in his hotel room in my black satin fringed Moschino flapper dress. At the time, I had the Louise Brooks bob (but hot pink), and he was working on a Louise portrait series and needed reference. He was incredibly particular about the poses, but was so clear with his instructions, it didn't feel like work at all. I don't know if he ever finished the pieces I posed for, but just the fact that I was able to pose for him at all was like a granted wish.

I didn't know him as long as you did, but I miss him too. He really was one of the nicest people I ever met in comics. I can't even look at my art books without tearing up still. Dave made every girl feel like she was the prettiest girl in the world.
May. 31st, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
Particular about poses but fun? That was Dave!
A guy who can make a woman feel like she is beautiful exactly the wat she is is too rare, but at least they're out there!

I felt much better after writing this, missing Dave a little less, and appreciating the times we had together more.
May. 25th, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Lea, this is an absolutely wonderful story. I've been having a rough day but this was something that made me feel a lot better. Also great photo!
May. 31st, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it brightened your day!

Isnt that photo somethin'? I worked so hard on that costume, it was made entirely from stuff I had on hand. The bra and shoulder pieces are real leather, I had to hand-punch every last hole and hand sew them. Then, I glued myself in with spirit gum to make sure I had no wardrobe malfunctions. I'd been dancing earlier the evening this picture was taken.
May. 31st, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC)
That's really impressive. My fiancee does cosplay (though nowadays she is focusing more on photography) and it always impresses me the amount of craft, skill, and care that go into her work. It impresses me even more when she can make something out of whatever fabric and material is lying around her room!
May. 25th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
How totally cool.
May. 31st, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it was/is. I did appreciate how much until I wrote it all out.
May. 30th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
AWESOME! I remember that cosplay! To me cosplay will *always* be cool XD I love that cover, too. Dave sure drew beautiful women :) Thanks so much for sharing this! *Peace*!
May. 31st, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
You're welcome!
Jun. 23rd, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
Dave Stevens rules
Been trying to track down a nice copy of 3-D Zone 16. Now that I've seen this artwork, even more! What an incredible artist.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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