Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dave Stevens, RIP

I was planning to post something about Gary Gygax's death, but hadn't gotten around to it, because what I had to say was rather complex and had to do with a lot more than Gygax himself. And then I just found out that Dave Stevens died two days ago.

I'll still get around to talking about Gygax in the context of Dungeons and Dragons sometime soon, but right now, I'd like to talk about Dave Stevens. Stevens was an awesome artist with a unique combination of talent and skill that stood out above his peers. He emerged as part of a wave of influential talents who burst onto the comics scene in the early 80's, guys like Steve Rude and Matt Wagner and Scott McCloud. But Stevens was the only guy who managed to write a wildly entertaining and influential comic while also illustrating it in a polished style unmatched by other artist-writers.

Gygax was like D.W. Griffith, in a way. He came out of nowhere with something that no one else had really put together quite that way, and if his final product was crude and his politics questionable, well, he still pointed the way for a host of other people who came in and improved on his pioneering work, people who could point back to him and say, "We would not be here if he hadn't come first."

Stevens, on the other hand, was a Frazetta. A guy so talented that we needed more than he could provide, so a host of lesser imitators sprang up in his wake, guys who mimicked him in style and substance, and since Dave was so slow, we were content with second-rate Stevens imitators, because that was better than nothing.

I met him once, at a comic con in Dallas. He was a nice guy, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was left-handed. I wish I had more than that. I wish I could tell a funny Dave story; I wish I could say more about him as a person than, "I loved his work. It entertained and inspired me."

But that will have to be enough, and frankly, it's probably more than enough.

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