Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I will be doing an Addendum to Dave... Visit my cartoon blog to see it in a few days.

When I was about 17 I got in touch with Dave Stevens while he was still living at his parents. I imagine I saw something of his art in some San Diego con related thing and was blown away by his perfect inking ability. He was friendly and even thought he was only an year older than me he was already a budding pro having been published in fanzines and having sent samples to Marvel something I hadn’t even dared to do yet.

He used to ink my bad pencil swipes for comic book store flyers that ended up in the comic book buyer’s guide. I never looked so good. I remember just being in awe of his initials, so perfectly realized from the get go. We inked some comic book jobs together; he and Bil Stout making me look good on my inking jobs for Russ Manning or Mark Evanier when we all did Tarzan comics for overseas comic markets. Often he would come by my studio at my parent’s house just to pass the time in our lonely profession.

When I moved to LA he soon followed and that’s where these photos were taken, he modeled for a horror story I did for Bruce Jones. Not only was he a brilliant artist, his writing ability helped him to grasp every emotion instantly. I’d show more shots, but as an overwrought horror story the other photos would be in bad taste at this point. As thin as Dave was he was in his prime for these shots as Paul Power, Jim Gomez, Dave and myself used to go to the YMCA in Hollywood and train our balls off. Dave wanted to gain weight and would train until he dropped, but then would eat like he was on a diet. We would always goad him to eat hamburgers and he would order tuna salad.

Dave dated my sister seriously for a time, a hook-up that I hoped would lead to marriage, as I couldn’t think of a better brother in- law, but I think he was determined to be a free sprit after his disaster of a first marriage. I never got whole lots of details about it, as Dave was very private about romance and deep personal feelings. He was open with his frustrations with himself and his artistic ambitions and we spent many an hour bitching out everything in the world. We went to concerts and worked at the same studios, He being the one who made great friends I being the one to fuck up and alienate everyone. I’m sure I embarrassed him, but he never lectured me, I lectured him and harangued guys he loved who I thought gave me a raw deal and he didn’t hold it against me.

Dave was slow, but steady with his art, always striving hard to do his very best. On the contrary, he always said he hated working, which used to piss me off, as his ability was so high I couldn’t imagine being down on myself if I had that kind of skill. His big regret is he just didn’t have enough art education as we lived through the time of anti- drawing when conceptual art ruled, there were good artists out there, but It didn’t seem like it to us. I think we both shared that trait that there was so much more to strive for, but you work, you live life and then whoops you’re out of time to achieve that greatness you can see in others, but inexplicably not in yourself.
I used to love dropping by Bil Stout and Dave’s studio on La Brea… that was a place that breathed art.
At the peak of his success Michael Jackson was stalking Dave to draw a comic book about him. One night when the studio phone rang Dave asked me to answer it and if it was Michael to say he wasn’t there. This high voice asked for Dave and I went into my best Cheech and Chong. Dave? Dave’s not here? “Can you tell him Michael called?” Michael who? ” He knows me.” Dave had to run into the other room once he saw where I was going. When I moved to New York to study art seriously our friendship became strained as distance and the very busy phase of his career blowing up with the Rocketeer movie. I stupidly took that stuff personally and after not hearing from him in a situation I thought was important. I decided to get mad at him for 20 years.

I heard rumors about a “blood thing” over a year ago but chose to not believe it. After some therapy for anger management, I decided to start calling some old friends I had beefs with and at least try and make amends. About that time I heard how very ill he really was and decided to get hold of him. I didn’t have his phone so I wrote him a postcard and he was gracious enough to call me. Immediately the years melted away and we had some great long conversations. When he was up to it we had a lunch or talked on the phone, but he would be down often and I wouldn’t hear from him for weeks. Last time I saw him he came to an art show of mine. He looked good considering and was in typical form at dinner. I called to thank him, but didn’t hear back. I’ve been really busy so I didn’t try as hard as I should have to stay in touch, my poor rational is he mostly let me see the good days so I let my guard down. I didn’t think it would happen so fast. I hadn’t processed how long he had been struggling with this thing and those criminals at Kaiser.

I avoided the career info already covered on other news sites, just let out a few random thoughts. If you love someone and have had a fight, please, please call him or her. I’m really happy we made peace, but so regretful of all those missed years.


Blogger Rich Dannys said...

Beautiful anecdotes & warm, heartfelt sentiments, Bill.. Thanks, for sharing them!

I can't remember how I got them now.. But I have some photocopies of those old Comic Shop flyers that you & Dave put together.. They're really beautifully done!

I'll be coming back to check out your posted Photos, when they're up.. Thanks!

10:32 AM  
Blogger Craig Zablo said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful and honest remembrance of a talented artist and more importantly a nice human being.

2:43 PM  
Blogger EL GRANDE said...

Wow Bill, that is wonderful. I was just sharing with my partner Elio about the death of SETH a year or so ago, and he shared a really wonderful story about his experience with him.

These artists touch our lives in so many amazing ways. I don't know what the world would be like without these creative minds. Any of us can only hope to be remembered so well after we pass.


7:49 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

As I said Rich Dave fixed them into something. He did that with eveyone he inked.

9:26 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

it was easy really, I just wish my memory was better, to many blunts back in the day.

9:28 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

Thank you Craig, yeah he really was a gentleman.

9:30 PM  
Blogger BoneDaddy said...

I have a few friends that I get along with/frustrated by, thanks for sharing this.

7:00 AM  
Blogger tonypetersart said...

Joe Chiodo told me about Dave's death yesterday. Sorry to hear about it. Death has a way of bringing us to some introspection and our reaction to it often says as much about ourselves at those who were lost. Your statements here are articulate, warm, and insightful. Thanks for sharing.

2:32 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

thanks BG-- someone said grudges are like taking poison to try and kill the person your angry with.

2:46 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

thanks Tony, you're one of the good ones, man.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Brian O. said...

It takes a lot of courage to write as honestly as you did here. I don't know you nor did I ever know Dave Stevens outside of the work you two have done. I've a brother who hasn't been keen about talking to me for seven years. Your perspective on friendship, anger and remorse has been the most motivation I've had to reach out to my brother. I can't thank you enough for being so candid.

My condolences to you.

4:46 PM  
Blogger mark, a writer said...

Hey, Bill,

You probably don't remember me. Amanda and I were keping company around when you were doing Ren and Stimpy.

I met Dave at the ComicCon one year and found him gracious with an amazing twinkle in his eye. I've been a fan of The Rocketeer ever since Amanda introduced me to the comic and of course, the movie. Sad to lose such a talent. I recently lost a good friend at the age of 30 to unknown causes and can say with no uncertainty that it's a brutal shock to suddenly lose a friend unexpectantly. To not be able to talk to them, smile with them...nearly unbearable.

Dave's work will live beyond him. At the end of the day, that's a lot more than most can say.

Beautiful, thoughful blog entry. Thanks.

Mark Sevi

5:00 PM  
Blogger Jenny Lerew said...

Oh, Bill-what a beautiful piece of writing this is.
Don't be so hard on yourself-it sounds from your description that Dave wouldn't be...of course it's well-nigh impossible not to regret the lost times but the miracle is your reconnecting and enjoying each other's friendship again. I'm sure he loved seeing you and hanging out for the time that you did lately.
Really, in the end all we've got in this life are these gossamer threads of connection with one other.
Many thanks for the personal view of a great artist. He'll be missed by so many that didn't know him personally but loved him through his art.

7:11 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

I don't know about courage Brian, It had to come out. But thanks nice of you to comment.

7:40 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

Hey Mark,

I'd have to see you in person, I'm better with faces and voices than names. 30 is really rough. I small blessing was I knew it was coming and Dave was so brave about it. That does help a little.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Jeff Mahorney said...

Just wanted to say thank you for sharing that Bill. Beautiful sad story and one for me to think about in my own life.

7:18 AM  
Blogger william wray said...

Thanks for your generous thoughts Jenny. Yeah I know Dave never had a beef in the first place it was all in my mind. My expections got the better of me.

7:31 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

thanks Jeff nice to you to comment.

11:52 PM  
Blogger TJ said...

From the heart, Man, sorry.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Laraine Armenti said...

Your comments about growing up in the anti-drawing era really struck a chord. I have similar feelings of regret. It's inspiring to read about your career and to see the wonderful paintings you're doing now. I'm sorry for your loss. Thanks for showing your work online.

6:16 AM  
Blogger william wray said...

thanks TJ and Larain!

5:51 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

thanks TJ and Larain!

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can tell that one was from the heart. So sorry for your loss William. Perhaps a future painting of yours will tell the story with different words.

1:35 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

thanks Robin, I just had a dream I wrote into a short comic book story that I think was a unconscious goodbye to him. Some recent paintings not yet posted have been a little dark...

12:13 AM  
Blogger jim Sullivan said...

Hi Bill --- We've never met, but we both illustrated some stories for Pacific/Eclipse in the early '80s and I always enjoyed your work. Dave Stevens inked a short story that I pencilled for the 3D version of Alien Worlds. My pencils were very tight and soft and I was concerned that something would get lost in the inking --- until I saw the the finished job, which looked at least 10 times better than my originals. As you astutely observed, I never looked so good. I only spoke to Dave a few times; we were going to collaborate on another story but that fell through due to his busy schedule. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, though. He was endowed with great talent and richly deserved the success he achieved.

I had no idea that Dave had passed away until yesterday when I came across the news in an online bio. Needless to say, I was shocked and deeply saddened. I very much enjoyed reading about your friendship with Dave --- well done.

Some ears ago I heard someone describe a prodigiously gifted scientist as a 'silver thrush amongst the pterodactyls'. I think the metaphor applies to Dave Stevens as well.

Thanks again for sharing. --- Jim Sullivan

8:16 PM  

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