I was extremely saddened to hear of the demise of former Marvel writer Steve Gerber yesterday… It’s always disheartening to hear about the loss of a creator you really enjoy, but to find out about it after a really wonderful day (spent time with the daughter, went out for my wife’s birthday party, played Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution before reading my brand new All-Star Comics Companion until I went to bed) made it that much more unpleasant.
When I think about what made me REALLY love comics, a lot of things come to mind: Carmine Infantino’s art on “The Flash.” G.I. Joe #1. Reprints of the Legion in “Adventure Comics.” But one theme that keeps recurring is the work of Steve. The Defenders issue where Nighthawk’s brain is transplanted into the body of a deer. The quest to find all ten issues of Omega The Unknown. Every word out of the beak of Howard The Duck. And the wonder of wonders, the fact that a major comic book company actually named a comic book (with a seemingly straight face) “Giant Size Man-Thing.” Ask the next woman you see if she wants to see your giant-size man-thing, and see what you get.
Steve’s characters were the disenfranchised, the losers, the also-rans, the people like me who wondered how the heroic, square-jawed types ever pulled it together long enough to iron their capes. Gerber is the only comics professional whose autograph I sought out and value (He signed my copy of “Fear #19” with his name and a large “Waaagh!” and I treasure the damned thing to this very day.) We had a long conversation about Howard, The Defenders, Sludge, and this new comic he was working on called “Hard Time,” and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t as interesting, infuriating and brilliant as the work I’d loved years before.
I’m saddened to think that we may never see another Space Turnip, another Kidney Lady, another Ruby Thursday, or find out what Gerbs had intended the wrap-up of “Omega” to be. Marvel recently brought back no less than THREE of Steve’s signature creations (Foolkiller and the new OtU series are still running, while the latest Howard mini just wrapped up) and are preparing to revamp the Defenders one more time, which should tell you all you need to know about the workability of these concepts. Steve Gerber will be missed as an writer, as an innovator, and especially as a proponent of creator’s rights, and my thoughts go out to his friends and family for their loss.