Quick: The Rocketeer Deluxe: the complete adventures by Dave Stevens, 2010, 97816001055371.
I found this one at Fitchburg PL in the YA Adult section along with that Sherlock Holmes vampire story. I greatly enjoyed the Rocketeer film version when it came out. I am surprised that flick was not more popular. I did not know the story started as a comic. What's more, the story started out as an illustration.
Stevens was asked if he could fill six pages in the back of another comic. He did up a full page illustration, sent the page in, the publisher said, "Great!" and Stevens had to create a story around the illustration. The original comic seems to have certainly gained a lot of fans. Heck, there was enough demand to create this compilation and fill it with Stevens's original drawings so you can see the progression from rough sketches to final product.
Main character Cliff Secord is 28-years-old and working as a stunt pilot for an air show. A cops-and-robbers chase travels onto the airfield where Secord works. The crooks, thinking they've gotten away, escape to a hangar and stash a bundle in Secord's Bee Gee plan right before the cops nab the crooks. Secord recovers the bundle, unwraps it, and discovers a rocket pack and some paperwork. He calls his pal/mentor Peevy and asks Peevy to build him a helmet.
The rocket pack paperwork reveals the capabilities of the pack and show it is classified material. But, Cliff sees the rocket pack as a chance to make a bunch of dough and he is not giving it back to the government. He wants to earn some money because he fears his girlfriend, Betty, will dump him for the Hollywood types she consorts with. Before he can test the rocket pack Cliff makes an emergency flight so he can save another pilot in peril.
Anyway. I could list the whole damn story or just say that Cliff gets in trouble with both Nazis and the Feds. His Bettie Page styled girlfriend is kidnapped - even tied up like Page - and Cliff has to rescue her.
The film version did not stray too far from that story. But, this includes a follow-up story with Cliff following Betty to New York to stop her from traveling to Europe. Cliff gets involved with a Shadow-styled character and we learn more about Cliff's itinerant coming of age and life in the circus. Cliff fights gangsters, fights a goon, and meets up with a Mandrake the Magician type pal.
All great stuff with wonderful illustrations. Neat outfits, shapely women in tight outfits, action, clothes, rockets, guns, Nazis, weird planes.
1. I didn't know actor Thomas Jane is also a comic book writer. His foreword tells how he was such a huge fan of the Rocketeer as a teen that he bought jodhpurs, riding boots, and hunted down a brown leather jacket, but with "not as many buttons" as Cliff's. Jane "wore that damn outfit all the time."
2. Jane ended up being pals with Stevens. Stevens seems to have had a lot of artist admirers.
3. Bettie Page had retired in 1957 and says this comic's appearance in 1982 was what led to her reemergence. Stevens must have been a good dude because, unlike other people, he compensated her when using her image.
4. A bad guy is styled after Rondo Hatton - take a look, you'll recognize him.
5. I had a coffee table about airplane airplane history when I was a child and that book discussed the Bee Gee racing plane. I remember reading how it was very tough to fly and led to a few deaths. There is a Rocketeer fan page with a link to a YouTube video of the crash. That YouTubr video quality sucks and has an equally awful music track, these guys have the same thing.