Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Comics: Steve Gerber

Mark Evanier reports the passing of Steve Gerber, this past Sunday, of pulmonary fibrosis. Like many creatives, Gerber has worn a number of hats over the years, but a lot of us (including me) will remember him for his creation, Howard the Duck.

Howard the Duck was a strange little comic at a strange time, and was responsible in part for me getting back into comic books. I had read comics as a kid - Sad Sack and Legion of Super Heroes and Jimmy Olsen, but had weaned away, switching to Mad Magazine and other things. But Howard, along with the Star Wars comic (by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin) got me back into the fold. They were "non-standard" comics, in that they were not about superheroes per se. Howard, in particular, was strange - a non-superpowered duck, trapped in a world he never made, switching through genres regularly, grouchy and acerbic at a time that Garfield was just starting to investigate the deeper meaning of lasagna, Howard was a strange bird in the mainstream comic world. He arrived at the close of the great underground boom and just as the alternates, in the form of Elfquest and Cerebus, were getting their start. And, miracle of miracles, it was from Marvel, a major company, and helped establish the company as more than just superheroes.

Yes, there was the movie, which Gerber had little to do with and which proved that George Lucas may not be the genius we thought he was. But Howard himself was unique, and functioned best in Gerber's hands (it was a personal book, and whenever other writers approached it things were - different, and sometimes difficult). Steve Gerber did a LOT more (including quirky superheroes with the Defenders and even story editing and a story for the D&D cartoon show), but Howard is his lasting, personal testament.

Good job, sir.

More later,