More on Mr. Gerber.

§ February 12th, 2008 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on More on Mr. Gerber.

I’m going to guess that just about every internet outlet attached to comics is going to have something to say about Steve Gerber’s passing today, if they haven’t said their pieces already. And I’m not surprised, as Gerber was one of the most unique voices in comics writing.

Of course, his greatest creation is Howard the Duck, one of those comic characters, like Plastic Man, like Charlie Brown, that has never been handled as well as when it was in the hands of its creator. Indeed, Howard was Gerber’s four color avatar, and other writers attempting to give Howard life just plain did not fit. Alas, that title’s legacy of satire, parody, and just plain strangeness has been muted by the long shadow cast by the Howard the Duck movie, but slowly people are again recognizing the greatness of this series, and what was lost when the creator and his creation were kept apart.

Howard sprang forth from Gerber’s other major Marvel work, Man-Thing, which at first glance appeared to be a more straightforward horror title, but still had its moments of satire and offbeat humor. In fact, through most of Gerber’s work, there’s a feeling of Gerber taking things about as seriously as they needed to be…he can turn on the horror or the drama when he needs to, but just as quickly he can hit you with a scene that has a feeling of “can you believe this? I’m writing it, and I can barely believe it” — but doing it in such a way that you didn’t feel like the characters or situation were being mocked.

Speaking of “turning on the horror” — just a few short months after I started this website, I posted a brief appreciation of one of my favorite comics, Gerber’s terrifying Phantom Zone mini-series. I followed up on that post with a more detailed overview in my guest writer gig at The Horror Blog a couple of years back. So, please, I invite you to check out those posts for more about Mr. Gerber.

So, Steve Gerber.

He gave us Howard the Duck.

He gave us the Howard the Duck album issue, an illustrated text piece with Gerber’s ponderings on his life and work and the universe…

…Where he also gave us a Las Vegas showgirl and her pet ostrich fighting a lampshade, which many years later became the Vertigo mini-series Nevada.

He gave us Doctor Bong. Dude, seriously, he gave us Doctor Bong. Who else could have? Who else would dare?

He gave us the Man-Thing series (and most of the preceding Man-Thing run in Fear), picking up from Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway’s introduction of the character to take it into bizarre and frightening, and simply weird, directions.

He gave us “Kid’s Night Out” from Giant-Size Man-Thing #4, easily one of the greatest and most affecting comic books ever published.

And yes, since someone’s gonna bring it up, I suppose he sorta gave us Giant-Size Man-Thing, too. I’m pretty sure he claimed at some point that wasn’t an intentional double-entendre, and it’s not like he created Marvel’s “Giant-Size” line. Still lots of good readin’ in those GS-MTs, though.

He gave us Omega the Unknown, a coming-of-age story disguised as a superhero comic.

He gave us Sludge, yet another take on the Man-Thing/Swamp Thing/man-become-monster genre, and still managed to keep it fresh and entertaining.

He gave us Wundarr, a parody of Superman who eventually became, sort of, Marvel Jesus.

He gave us Stewart the Rat, which could have been just an attempt at getting lightning to strike twice with another Howard-esque avatar for Gerber, which…well, okay, it was, but still managed to stand on its own.

He gave us Destroyer Duck, one of the most unsubtle, but still very funny and pointed, comic books I’ve ever read.

He gave us the Mandrill. Hey, I like the Mandrill.

He gave us a new and interesting take on Dr. Fate in Countdown to Mystery, still being published even now.

He gave us much, much more than I’m mentioning here, and I’m sad to realize that we’ll see no more. But we can all still appreciate the work he left behind.

Thanks, Steve.

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