I’d never read the Rocketeer. Back when I first learned about it, in 1990 or 1991, it was because Comics Scene had a feature on the movie. And I loved the movie (still do) but it never translated to me reading the comics. For a time, they were hard to find, but probably not back then. Though I don’t think there were any new Rocketeer after the movie… oh, there was one (thanks Wikipedia).
But anyway, even though I’m generally familiar with the story and some of the comic’s details, I’d never read it, until now.
Obviously, the art is beautiful. It’s hard to tell what Stevens liked drawing more–Betty or the Rocketeer. Only when he’s drawing Cliff’s adventures, out of helmet so to speak, is there any sense he wasn’t completely deliberate. It’s not just Stevens’s attention to detail, his panel layouts are amazing too. The comic’s always in motion.
The writing has some issues. Not many. There’s a lot of great stuff, like Stevens letting the exposition boxes do narrative chores (the rocket pack doesn’t get visually introduced when Cliff finds it, for example) or how Betty’s pretty much the only one with a lot of thought balloons, which turn the comic into a model’s self-reflections on how to properly navigate relations, romantic and business, with men.
However, Stevens writes the dialogue in a thirties Hollywood dialect, which distracts to say the least.
It’s a small quibble, however, and the Rocketeer is an excellent comic book.
Writer, artist and letterer, Dave Stevens; colorists, Stevens and Joe Chiodo; editors, David Scroggy and Cat Yronwode; publishers, Pacific Comics and Eclipse Comics.