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The Rocketeer: The Complete Collection | by Dave Stevens | IDW | 144 pages | $29.99

Comic book artist Dave Stevens's 1985 The Rocketeer was a compendium of everything the artist loved about American pop culture of the '30s and '40s. His hero, Cliff Secord, is less superhero than all-American daredevil, an ingenious, horny, daring young guy. Cliff is a pilot who, with the aid of supercharged jet packs, becomes the Rocketeer, foe of Nazi spies and other assorted creeps. His golden, aerodynamically designed mask/crash helmet is the only fantastic element to the Rocketeer costume. The rest — jodhpurs, riding boots, leather pilot's jacket — is strictly flyboy functional.

Stevens died last year at 52 of leukemia, but the complete Rocketeer has been compiled and recolored, according to his wishes, by colorist Laura Martin. (A more expensive deluxe set contains an additional 100 pages of sketches and artwork). The two Rocketeer adventures are like movie serials as you wish they could have been — with snazzier action, sleeker sets, and spice. This last element is largely thanks to Cliff's model girlfriend Betty, who, Stevens makes no attempt to hide, is based on Bettie Page, whom he befriended in real life. Cliff gets his jodhpurs in a bunch whenever his Betty poses for "art pictures." Of course, those are the photos that made millions of boys, like Stevens, fall in love with her, and his drawings of Bettie Page are visions of paradise — a casual, wisecracking, American paradise.

— Charles Taylor

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