Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Steve Gerber: Adventures Without Fear

This morning, I logged onto my computer at work and was saddened to learn that Steve Gerber had died.

One of the first comic books I remember owning was Howard the Duck #10. It was published a few months before my 5th birthday. I am not sure how this ended up in my hands, but I’m guess my parents saw a duck and Spider-Man and must have thought this was the perfect comic book for me. My road to becoming and uber-cool comic book fan was somewhat delayed by the fact that I absolutely hated this book. Like many monsters, I tend to hate things I don’t understand and boy did I ever not understand this comic. It stayed in my collection, and I tried to read it again several times over the next few years. Each time, I grew more frustrated, as I simply did not understand what was going on. Sure, there was some sort of straightforward story that I could follow, but there was also something beneath the surface that I just didn’t get.

That was my intro to the world of Steve Gerber. I guess you could say that I hated him before I even knew who he was.

Of course, we don’t remain petty little children forever and over time, I read more and more of Steve Gerber’s work and the light bulb hidden in the basement of my puny brain eventually came on.

Steve Gerber was one of the most important comic book creators of all-time. His ability to blend humour, fantasy, science-fiction, politics and action into a big bowl of satirical gumbo was something that hadn’t been seen before in comics. I’ve been reading the Essential Man-Thing collection lately, and I’m amazed at how he can make reference to Lord of the Rings and the Hanoi Hilton on a single page without it coming across in the lame ‘there goes the gang at Marvel trying to be cool again’ manner that we’ve seen so often. A true testament to the man’s talent is that his books have not aged at all. They are still wonderfully entertaining to this very day.

When Stan Lee christened him as Steve ‘Baby’ Gerber, it was kind of like calling a fat guy ‘Tiny’ or a bald guy ‘Curly’. Steve’s fight for creators’ rights demonstrated a level of maturity and intelligence that belied his nickname. I don’t have a real appreciation of the inner workings of the funnybook industry, but it is obvious that Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel was struck a real chord, and he became a source of inspiration for many other creators. It is a real challenge to be influential on both a creative and political level. Steve Gerber managed to do both beautifully. He was a rare breed and I am very, very happy that I never gave up on trying to understand Howard the Duck #10.

Rest in peace, Steve. Thanks for everything.

2 comments:

benday-dot said...

Just absolutely well said Scott.

We have lost a lot of the luminaries of the art form over the past year, and not to cheapen the passing of any of the Golden Age greats like Martin Nodell, it is really to me-- and I suspect to yourself-- that when one of these masters of a just bygone age leaves us that the hurt is but felt a little deeper. Guys like Marshall Rogers and Seve Gerber were very much with us when we ourselves first found our imaginations lit by the fantastic world of comic books. Then seeing within our own collections and on these great forms of discussion all the back issues of these masters recurring eternally in the fondest way it, well, all serves to remind us that even if the legacy lives forever those who left it must leave us, and sometimes in the saddest and most sudden fashion.

Comtinue to read your Man-Thing Scott and in collective celebration I too will pull out a Steve Gerber comic and remember the man well.

--Craig

Scott M said...

Thanks for note Craig. You are quite right about feeling a certain connection to certain creators. I was really quite saddened by Marshall Rogers' passing. I had a very nice chat with him a few years ago. I was flipping through an early story by him (a Green Arrow back-up in 'Tec) and he pointed to a face in the baseball stadium crowd and said that he had drawn his father's face, as his father had just died. He seemed like such a great guy with so much life left to live. The world is much worse off when the likes of Rogers and Gerber leave us too soon.