RIP Steve Gerber, 1947-2008

The Comics Reporter has a nice obituary about comic book writer Steve Gerber, who died Sunday at the age of 60. He's best known for creating Howard the Duck.
200802121319 Steve Gerber's role as one of the best and emblematic writers of his generation can't be overstated. He was a crucial figure in comics history. Like some of the all-time great cartoonists of years past, Gerber carved a place for self-expression and meaning out of a type of comic that had no right to hold within itself so many things and moments that were that quirky and offbeat and delicately realized -- except that Gerber made it so. His Howard the Duck comics remain amusing when read today, perhaps more poignant now, laying into their broad targets in a way that communicated a kind of critical consciousness into the minds of many devoted superhero comics readers, fans that simply wouldn't have been exposed to those kinds of ideas any other way, the concept that media might lie to you, the notion of absolute self-worth in the face of a world that seems dead-set against it. Steve Gerber's superhero books were a tonic to the over-seriousness of most of their cousins, and his horror-adventure books were frequently classy and reserved in a genre that tends to reward the blunt and ugly. No creator save Jack Kirby has as a cautionary tale and a living example saved so many creators the grief of turning over their creations without reward or without realizing what they had done. Few creators in the American mainstream were as consistently fascinating as Steve Gerber. Even fewer have been as outspoken and forthright, or in that way, as admirable.

"I wouldn't describe myself as fearless, but I think you have to accept the possibility of failure if you want to achieve anything, in any field." -- Steve Gerber, 1985

If you are unfamiliar with Gerber's work, the Essential Howard the Duck is a good place to start. Link


  1. Sigh. And to think that when I was 10 my mom wouldn’t give me a quarter (or whatever it was then) to buy Howard the Duck #1…

  2. As recently as a few years ago Gerber did a limited series called HARD TIME, which was followed up with an ongoing series that was canceled in short order, forcing him to wrap it up in a hurry.

    I picked it up on the strength of Steve’s name and almost didn’t make it past the opening conceit – it starts with two kids in the middle of a Columbine-type event. However it had great depth, with characters that are neither innocent or evil, and avoids the “wrongly convicted innocent” character that so much of comics (and other fiction) thinks we require in order to have a sympathetic character.

    The first 6 are out in a trade paperback, maybe Steve’s death will goad DC into collecting the subsequent 7.

    Amazon lists the Howard the Duck omnibus as coming out next month, by the way.

  3. HARD TIME was a great series, Don. Closest thing to OZ done in comics, with a little supernatural edge thrown in. Why DC wouldn’t have yet compiled the entire series is beyond me.

    I also quite enjoyed the miniseries he did with Phil Winslade for Vertigo called NEVADA, about a Vegas showgirl with a pet ostrich who becomes a nexus for interdimensional phenomena. It included a mob boss with a lava lamp for a head and a homeless guardian angel. Freaky enough in places to have been written by Grant Morrison.

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