“Isn’t that glorious?! It’s indescribably beautiful! It reminds me of the Fourth of July!” That was spoken by Ralphie’s father, Mr. Parker (Darren McGavin), in reference to the infamous “Leg Lamp” from the movie A Christmas Story.Those words came to me instantly when I first saw the photo of the newBettie Pagestatue from Dark Horse, a world leader in comic-book publishing and licensed comic material. How did Bettie get into the comics? Dave Stevens made her a character in The Rocketeer.(Well, he fashioned a character, the Rocketeer’s girlfriend, after her.
Stevens’ career began in 1975 in the newspaper comic strip business and quickly progressed to storyboards in the movies. The Rocketeer debuted in 1982 and by 1995 Stevens was working withDark Horse Comics. After the 1991 Disney production of a “Rocketeer” movie, starring Timothy Dalton, was less than a box office success, Stevens returned to illustrations. Much of that period is covered in a retrospective book, Brush with Passion—The Life and Art of Dave Stevens. Stevens eventually crossed trails with Bettie Page and they became friends. It has been reported that he helped her financially and also with legal issues regarding use of her images. Stevens died on March 11, 2008 at the age of 52 after struggling with leukemia.
Kent Melton is a sculptor of animation character models (maquettes) for the Walt Disney Company. By 1992 he had developed an enviable reputation and was called upon to be a sculptor for Disney’s porcelain-based “Classics Collection.” It was there that he produced the award-winning Wicked Witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as well as the 10th anniversary sculpture depicting Mickey Mouse—as a sculptor. With these accomplishments, it’s no wonder that Melton was chosen for the Bettie Page project. Melton knew Stevens and was obviously enthused about the project: “Dave and I talked frequently about how female anatomy should work in sculpture. When I started to sculpt, it felt almost as if Dave were there guiding me. The piece came together quickly, almost as if we’d rehearsed it over the years.” Stevens’ illustration was inspired by an old black-and-white photo from the “Klaw” archives, which has now morphed into the beautiful statue.
What has sparked the current interest in a 1950′s glamour icon? Some would argue that she’s never lost popularity. Certainly the influence of Dave Stevens and The Rocketeer have been factors. Is there a general feeling of nostalgia among Baby Boomers turning gray and longing for the past that fuels the interest? Is the availability of BP apparel or the recent interest from Hollywood more cause—or effect? Now another movie is on the horizon, Bettie Page Reveals All (no release date yet).
Stevens wasn’t the only notable artist with an interest in the lady with the black bangs. In the late 1970′s, artist Robert Blue produced several paintings. In 1996, Karen Essex and James L. Swanson wrote an authorized biography with a foreword by Page herself. Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend includes over 500 photos—many of them in color. It should come as no surprise to discover a wealth of information about Bettie Page on numerous websites such as this one. [Special thanks to Herb and Patti in Chicago for research assistance.]
Dark Horse Comics has produced and marketed over 150 licensed Bettie Page items. The new statue premiered at the Toy Fair back in February and will be available worldwide on August 18, 2010. It will be available from Amazon on August 25. From the press release: “The statue, which will be a numbered, limited edition (quantity still to be determined), stands approximately thirteen inches from base to top, and comes prepainted and presented in deluxe packaging. Also includes an oversized certificate of authenticity reproducing the Dave Stevens illustration that inspired it.”