272 pages $40
It has been a while since I had a big fat art book to review here. I’m very pleased this is the one that I get to do next. Since Stevens died in 2008 from complications due to Hairy Cell Leukemia, there has been an increase demand for his work, and IDW has been the one much of it has come from.
In 2011 IDW released The Complete Sketches and Studies, a compilation of the four convention sketchbooks he did in the 80’s. With those original books now long since unavailable, and in some cases REALLY expensive to get, this book was a dream come true for those of us on a budget. This is an even more impressive book than that fabulous volume. Starting with the covers, this book has most of the covers that Stevens did for the various publishers through his career. Shot whenever possible from the original art, this looks amazing. There are only a few full color pages here and they are a nice contrast to the black and white with blue line pieces here. The pages that are shot from the originals reveal detail that I could have never seen on the final printed books, some of which I fondly recall from back in the day. Also revealed are hints to the methods used to produce the pages themselves, touches that were never meant to be seen by the public, but are invaluable in understanding an artist of Stevens’ caliber.
The middle section of the book is the stories section. Some are not complete, as they are only there as a taste of work done early in his career (like the Star Wars pages he inked for Marvel), while others are the complete stories. These in particular show just how amazing his panel to panel work was. He did not do very much panel to panel work beyond his own Rocketeer creation, but what is here is beautiful. The Rocketeer stuff is not included here as it was already presented in another volume, but it is not missed here as the included works are representative of every facet to his style.
The final section of the book is the pin-ups section, and OH. MY. GAWD!! These are unbelievable. As known for his mainstream good-girl art as anything else in his career, I have to confess that I had largely forgotten about the number of fetish art style pieces he had done over the years. Selections from Verotik in particular are a real treat to see again after all these years. The final section is more like a bonus; it is the con program covers and miscellaneous art done for various shows and events from early in his career.
There is one warning I would issue here for anyone thinking about picking this book up; the page formatting has some minor issues. There are a few pieces spread over 2 pages, or as gatefolds. This causes some of the art to be lost in the binding. The selections in these instances are of a mixed source quality, so the loss is something of a mixed bag. It is not a horror, but it does detract from about a half-dozen or so works. This has become enough of a concern that as of this writing, Amazon has pulled the listing from their direct page, but you can still get it from some of their partners.
This book cannot hope to include everything. Rights and ownership issues aside, there would just be too much of his work to have in a book like this. Additional volumes would ultimately dilute the special nature of this volume. This is the best possible selection of the best possible sources from the entire career of a master artist, and this package is a fine addition to the bookshelf.