Bettie Page, the Marilyn Monroe of the fanboy community, passed away on December 11. Though she was once the most popular pin-up model of the 1950s, Page dropped out of the public eye for decades, adding mystique to her legend. Like most geeks of my generation, I learned about Bettie when cartoonist Dave Stevens "cast" her as the Rocketeer's girlfriend in his comic book of the early '80s. In the years following, her photos, as well as contemporary artists's renderings of her likeness, became obligatory among the comic book set. By the mid-90s, you could find more "Bettie Pages", in bondage gear and trademark bangs, than Batmen and Darth Vaders at Dragon Con. (Personally, I thought it was a huge improvement over the comic conventions of old.)
Page herself, it turns out, was unaware of this comeback for some time. Sadly, her later years included bouts of schizoprenia and at least one period of knife-wielding breakdowns. But she did manage to secure decent management and cash in on her revival before her death.
Like so much "erotica" of the '50s, Bettie's modeling is pretty silly by today's standards. She was far too adorably cute to be taken seriously as a dominatrix, and her posing, often on tiptoes, grinning like a euphoric Maytag model, was awkward. But such was the style of the time, when porn women looked less like untamed savages and more like...well, your mom. Bettie looked like she could just as soon serve Hi-C and birthday cake to a kindergarten class as crack the whip on a naughty Congressman. I suppose this made her the Complete Woman to the men in the gray flannel suits.
In any case, her distinctive look made her an American icon. I feel certain that, long after the strutting Evangelistas have retired from the catwalk, dorky teens will still be wearing Bettie Page t-shirts, reminding us of a bygone era more dignified than our own.