Creative Director, Toys & Collectibles
Ask any random person, and if they’ve heard of The Rocketeer, more likely than not they’ll refer to the 1991 Disney film. For us around here, however, as much as we enjoy the film, we love the late (yet still amazing to this day) Dave Stevens' original comic that the movie was based on even more. The high-flying adventures of Cliff Secord aka The Rocketeer, fighting gangsters and enemy agents, all while trying to balance his relationship with his gal, Betty, are the stuff of pure pulp joy.
Having already done several fantastic posters based on the comic, our friends at IDW (who shepherd the rights for the character, as well as publish the comic) asked us if we’d like to do anything else. My first instinct was to do a statue, but was a bit hesitant since there have already been some great ones in the past, and I wasn’t sure what we could add that was unique.
One evening, while mulling over the idea, I found this fantastic article on ComicsAlliance.com by Andy Khouri: The Passion of Dave Stevens, Master of Good Girl Art and Pop Culture Pioneer. It’s clear to anyone that’s read that comic that pin-up legend Bettie Page was a major influence on Cliff’s girlfriend, Betty. But what I didn’t know was what started as an obsession Stevens had with Page, would later turn into a friendship that lasted for years until Dave’s untimely death in 2008, with Bettie passing just a few months after.
I was inspired: a statue of The Rocketeer that also featured Betty - him at his most earnest and action-ready, and her with affection and whimsy. A fun juxtaposition, and having her in her swimsuit from the final page of the comic Stevens ever illustrated was just the added nod it needed.
I brought on designer Eric Sielbenaler to do some explorations of the concept. My one big note - NO FLYING. Seems obvious to make The Rocketeer fly, but I wanted to see if we could come up with something different. Here are some of those explorations:
A few of those I quite like, but it was felt they were a bit too “James Bond-y.” I think we could’ve worked a few of those into an awesome statue, but there was an image I came across that I couldn’t quite shake…
That’s a piece of fan art by Paul Roman Martinez. It had everything I wanted - earnest action, affection and whimsy (gotta love that shoe falling off!), and I could imagine the flames as a means to support the characters. So I contacted Paul, worked out a deal, and set back to redesigning our piece with Eric (adjusting the outfit, having her head turned towards the viewer, and adding a second “Oooh!” head for the switch-out exclusive). I guess The Rocketeer would fly after all!
Once approved by the licensor, I asked sculptor Trevor Grove to come on board. Trevor is a BEAST of a sculptor, and always brings his A-game to everything he does. Here are a few in-progress shots:
Some final shots of Betty:
And some shots of the final full piece. Note that we switched the rocket pack from the one in our concept. The one in the concept is the pack Cliff first gets in the comic. The one we ended up going with is the second pack he gets, after the first is damaged. We went with this one because it’s the one he mostly wears in the comic, and frankly, we liked it better. I love just how clean every detail came out, especially impressive since this was all sculpted traditionally.
Once done and approved, the sculpture was molded and cast expertly by Simon Garcia, and then off to the amazing Mara Ancheta for paint. A few behind the scenes of her process:
Here’s the final piece! The warmth and glamor the paint brought to the sculpture is perfect. Overall, this statue was a massively satisfying to work on. From fantastic art (both old and new) to work from, a tight design to guide, crisp and detailed sculpting, to the final touch of beautiful paint, I really hope this piece honors Dave’s legacy, even just a bit.
You can pre-order The Rocketeer & Betty Statue now!