I kept thinking to myself whenever I’d read Steve Gerber’s latest update on his health: This is wrong.
Steve Gerber is supposed to kick the Universe’s ass, not the other way around.
I’ve been watching the stories and tributes
pour in since his passing was announced today and it’s been gratifying to see that I was far from alone in being inspired and influenced by one of the most unique voices in comic books.
With a rare courage and grace, Gerber wrote until the end, the last post on his blog being an update on his latest script for the Dr. Fate
series he’d been working on for DC.
The mainstream media will no doubt remember him as the man who gave the world Howard The Duck
, the infamous film version of which became shorthand for “worst movie ever made.” But the film had little to do with Howard
, and next to nothing to do with the sensibility that had invented him.
For comics fans, Gerber’s name was synonymous with envelope pushing and reality mangling. He did things that either no one had ever thought to do, or had thought of and dismissed as impossible to do.
In the world of 70’s comics, Gerber was meta before anyone knew what it meant, infusing his stories with a satirical self-criticism of what a comic book was, or was supposed to be. He poked merciless fun at the clichés and commonplaces of the spandex set, and somehow got away with it.
Even his very last comic book did this, a Dr. Fate
story that featured a comic-within-the-comic starring an engine of vengeance named Killhead who was drawn in a way that was clearly meant to reference Mike Mignola’s Hellboy.
It was always hard to take the other comic books seriously after you’d read a Gerber story – he’d deconstruct them before your eyes, revealing these heroic stories of Justice and the All-American Way for the strange tales of frustration and sublimation that they were.
The line between creator and comic became increasingly thin as well, one legendary issue of Howard The Duck
featuring a stream-of-consciousness text by Gerber in lieu of the story whose deadline he’d failed to meet.
All of it presaged the self-aware, creator-centric, and risk-taking comics that were coming down the road and that Steve had helped to pave the way for.
I’ve merely skimmed the surface here, if that. There’s so much more to say, and a lot of it is better said here
I just wanted to note his passing and say a few words.
Thank you, Steve.