Queen Bettie: The Artist’s Muse

As I’ve mentioned previously, fine artists and comic book artists in the 1970s and 1980s were largely responsible for rediscovering Bettie Page’s modeling work, decades after she’d retreated out of view. Comic book folks really elevated Bettie to the iconic status she’s enjoyed ever since.

Artists Robert Blue in Los Angeles and Olivia de Beredinis in New York City each began painting Bettie Page in the late seventies. At the same time, small presses started publishing collections of Bettie’s camera club sessions, introducing her to a whole new fan base. Throughout the eighties, this small cult following grew in stature. Greg Theakston started his fanzine The Bettie Pages in 1987, publishing tales and photos from throughout Bettie’s camera club days.

Dave Stevens’ Betty, from The Rocketeer.

Legendary artist Dave Stevens is particularly crucial to Bettie’s ascension because his work reached an audience that was growing in the eighties: the comic book direct market. Starting in 1982 you could walk into a comic book shop and find Bettie, or a version of Bettie, in the pages of comics. That was the year Stevens launched The Rocketeer, writing and illustrating the titular hero’s pulp-inspired adventures. As any student of pulp will tell you, any pulp hero worth his salt needs a sexy female companion. For the Rocketeer’s Cliff Secord, Stevens created Betty (with a “y”) to fill this role and modeled her look and personality on Bettie Page. This effectively made Bettie a comic book star, eventually leading to her own line of comic books featuring the various fictional misadventures of the actual Bettie Page. Many of these comics continue to be published today.

Olivia de Beredinis has now spent decades painting gorgeous pieces inspired by Bettie.

Throughout the eighties, comic book readers, fanzine collectors, and small press aficionados grew Bettie’s cult into even larger numbers. De Beredinis has said she began seeing young woman show up at her gallery shows sporting Bettie’s famous bangs and wearing seamed stockings and stilettos. Some even had Bettie tattooed on their bodies. After the eighties, Bettie fandom only exploded even more into the mainstream.

Bettie dressed as Vampirella has to be one of the most epic geek mashups of all time. Art by Olivia de Beredinis.

In the nineties, and with the help of an agent, management company, and lawyers, Bettie was able to harness this newfound popularity and recoup some of the profits from her likeness being used on merchandise. Today her estate ranks among the top-earning for dead celebrities. Bettie’s once-in-a-lifetime talents—scorching hot sex appeal, intuitive and organic performance skills, and unmatched charisma in front of the camera—are among the many reasons she’s become such a cultural icon. Another would have to be the small but passionate cult of fans in the seventies and eighties who recognized these talents and helped propel Bettie to the forefront of popular culture.

Here’s a small gallery of Bettie-inspired art. Each of these artists beautifully captures what makes Bettie such a star.

Olivia de Beredinis

Dave Stevens

Armando Huerta

Holy [BLEEP], Huerta’s “Anesthesia” piece is about as staggeringly sexy as the age-old sexy nurse trope has ever been.

Joseph Michael Linsner

Linsner has drawn some extremely sexy covers for Bettie comics this century.

Eric Stanton

Stanton illustrated a series of “fighting women” bondage cartoon strips for Irving Klaw’s publications, and even worked on camera club photo shoots with Bettie.

Assorted artists

Scott Chantler
Enrique Torres
Jaime Hernandez
Nick Poliwko
Paul Jaworski
John Royle
Illustrated by yours truly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s