In Memory of Steve Gerber
|Birth name||Stephen Ross Gerber|
|Born||September 20, 1947
St. Louis, Missouri
|Died||February 10, 2008 (aged 60)
Las Vegas, Nevada
|Notable works||Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, Omega the Unknown, Tales of the Zombie, Defenders, Nevada, Hard Time, Doctor Fate, Sludge, Foolkiller|
|Awards||Shazam! Award Nominee|
Other works include Man-Thing, Omega the Unknown, Foolkiller, Void Indigo, Tales of the Zombie, Marvel Spotlight: Son of Satan, The Defenders, Marvel Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy, The Legion of Night, Nevada, Sludge, A. Bizarro, and Hard Time.
He was among the 1970s wave of writers such as Steve Englehart, Don McGregor and Doug Moench who took often minor characters and helped create a writerly Renaissance. At the time of his death, he was writing Countdown to Mystery: Doctor Fate for DC Comics, having briefly worked with a version of the character in 1983.
He was also known for including lengthy text pages in the midst of a comic book story, such as in Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, Son of Satan, Defenders, Nevada, and his graphic novel, Stewart the Rat.
Early life and career
Steve Gerber was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Bernice Gerber, and one of four children, with siblings Jon, Michael, and Lisa. After corresponding with fellow youthful comics fans Roy Thomas and Jerry Bails, and starting one of the first comics fanzines, Headline, at age 13 or 14, Gerber attended college at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, the University of Missouri, and St. Louis University, where he finished his communicationscopywriter for a St. Louis advertising agency. During this time he wrote short stories, some of which, such as “And the Birds Hummed Dirges”, later appeared in Crazy Magazine during his stint as editor.
In early 1972, Gerber asked Thomas, by this time Marvel editor-in-chief, about writing comics; Thomas sent him a writer’s test — six pages of a Daredevil car-chase scene drawn by Gene Colan — which Gerber passed. He accepted a position as an associate editor and writer at Marvel Comics for $125 a week — $25 less than at the ad agency — and $13 a page for writing. Thomas said in 2007,
|“||Steve and I had been in touch, off and on. …I [eventually] got a letter from Steve saying, in essence, ‘Help! I’m going crazy in this advertising job’. … So I thought, ‘Gee, he’d be a good person to get up here, so if he wants to make a change, let’s give it a try’. He was brought in to be an assistant editor on staff. That didn’t work our so well, because for whatever reason … he had trouble staying awake. At the time, he wasn’t a staff kind of person, at least in terms of what Marvel needed, but he was a real good writer and did some interesting things….”||”|
Gerber initially penned standard superhero stories for titles such as Daredevil (twenty issues), Iron Man (three issues), and Sub-Mariner (eleven issues), but soon developed an individual voice that mixed adventure with social satire and absurdist humor. In one issue of The Defenders, for example, a group of supervillains, tired of always being beaten by the good guys, seeks out a self-help guru for motivation. Gerber also penned anthological horror–fantasy stories for Creatures on the Loose (adaptations of Lin Carter‘s Thongor which he openly ridiculed in letters pages), Monsters Unleashed, Chamber of Chills, and Journey Into Mystery, and humor pieces for Crazy, becoming editor of that satirical magazine for issues #8-14.
Besides a lengthy run on The Defenders (which included the introduction of Korvac), Gerber scripted Man-Thing, about a swamp-monster empath; Omega The Unknown, which explored the strange link between a cosmic superhero and a boy; and Howard the Duck, created with artist Val Mayerik as a throwaway character in a Man-Thing story. Gerber and artist Gene Colan later collaborated on a Howard the Duck syndicated comic strip, of which Gerber recalled:
|“||We had some problems with the Howard newspaper strip, which led to problems with the Howard book, which ultimately led to the lawsuit. Marvel wouldn’t pay the artist to draw it. Gene Colan and I were supposed to get a percentage of the syndicate’s take for the strip. The problem was, the money came in 90 days, 120 days, six months — I don’t remember how long exactly — after the strips were published. So, essentially, the artist was working for nothing up until that time, and no artist can afford to do that. [In comparison with Stan Lee and John Romita‘s Spider-Man comic strip,] Stan, as publisher of Marvel, had a regular salary coming in, and John Romita, I believe, was also on staff at the time. They didn’t have quite the same problem||”|
Among other Marvel projects, Gerber wrote the first issue of Marvel Comics Super Special featuring the band KISS, in which he also introduced Dr. Doom‘s tutor, Dizzie the Hun. Another important part of Gerber’s oeuvre was reviving forgotten characters such as in Tales of the Zombie based on a one-shot character, Simon Garth, created in the 1950s by Bill Everett, who died shortly after the series began. In Defenders he brought back three pre-superhero characters, the Headmen. He also reintroduced the 1969 one-time feature Guardians of the Galaxy, first as guest stars in Marvel Two-in-One (he wrote the first nine issues of that series, the first seven tying directly with his other storylines) and Defenders then as a feature in Marvel Presents. He created the characters of Starhawk, Aleta Ogord, and Nikki. In this series, he depicted the first obvious sex act in a book approved by the Comics Code Authority. He also wrote stories of Son of Satan, Morbius the Living Vampire and Lilith, Daughter of Dracula. He created the monk Montesi in Dracula Lives! #5, whose formula would later temporarily destroy all of the vampires in the world.
Gerber was noted for memorable supporting or guest characters who would become cult favorites in their own right. Among his best known are Everyman Richard Rory, who has appeared off and on in most of the Gerber books, and the Foolkiller, a psychopathic vigilante who inspired several different individuals to adopt his identity over the years and acquired his own 10-issue limited series in 1990. Gerber was also responsible for the creation of the Silver Samurai during his Daredevil run, and the female Red Guardian when writing Defenders. He also created N’Kantu, the Living Mummy, but wrote only two stories with the character.
Toward the end of his work at Marvel, he wrote Hanna-Barbera stories for Mark Evanier under the anagrammatic name, “Reg Everbest”. Only two of these, featuring Magilla Gorilla and Clue Club, were published in their English-language originals.
With his off-kilter humor and confrontational creative style, Gerber had cultivated a “wild card” reputation in the Marvel offices, which he felt ultimately worked against him in the realm of workplace politics. When Jim Shooter became editor-in-chief, he and Gerber found they had personal differences, precipitating Gerber’s departure.
Battle for Howard the Duck
Gerber left Marvel in 1979 and launched a lengthy legal battle for control of Howard the Duck. During the late 1970s and 1980s he did some work for DC Comics (including a 1981 Superman miniseries, The Phantom Zone, the last three issues of Mr. Miracle, and a run of backup stories in The Flash starring Doctor Fate co-written with Martin Pasko), and for independent comic companies.
One of Gerber’s first major works away from Marvel was the original graphic novel Stewart the Rat for Eclipse Comics, with art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. Also for Eclipse Magazine Gerber and Mayerik crated the anti-censorship horror story, “Role Model/Caring, Sharing, and Helping Others.” In 1982 he teamed with Jack Kirby at Eclipse to create Destroyer Duck, a satirical comic that raised funds for his court case and Kirby’s similar legal battles against Marvel. Gerber and Marvel reached a settlement in the case.
After that time, Gerber worked sporadically in comics, writing several miniseries for Marvel (including Void Indigo for the Epic Comics imprint in 1983 and The Legion of Night and Suburban Jersey Ninja She-Devils in 1990) and DC (including A. Bizarro and Nevada for the Vertigo imprint in 1998). Returning briefly to Marvel, he had a 12-issue run on The Sensational She-Hulk (four of which featured Howard the Duck, but which he considered himself to be deuterocanonical Howard), a three-issue run on Cloak and Dagger, had Hawkeye get shot and wear a new armored costume designed by Tony Stark in Avengers Spotlight, and wrote two issues of Toxic Crusaders, all for Marvel. During this time he also did a serial in Marvel Comics Presents featuring Poison, a character he created in The Evolutionary War crossover. He also wrote the two-issue Freddy Krueger‘s A Nightmare on Elm Street which delved into the backstory of the character with a depth the films never displayed.
He worked in television animation, working as story editor on the animated TV series The Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Dungeons & Dragons; created Thundarr the Barbarian; and shared a 1998 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class — Animated Program, for the WB program The New Batman/Superman Adventures. His Berlin Wall episode of The Puppy’s New Adventures was heavily censored to prettify East Berlin, resulting in Gerber’s mock-slogan “ABC Standards and Practices… Protecting Your Children With Lies”,. He also wrote the pilot episode of the animated TV series Mister T.
He was one of the founders of the Malibu Comics Ultraverse, co-creating Exiles and creating Sludge. For Image, he co-created The Cybernary with Nick Manabat and disbanded Codename: Strykeforce (in their crossover with Cyberforce, in which Gerber showed the impossibility of one leader leading two teams with any effectiveness), in addition to guest-writing Pitt. In 2002 he created a new Howard the Duck miniseries for Marvel’s MAX line. For DC he then created Hard Time, which outlasted the short-lived imprint DC Focus, but slow sales led Hard Time: Season Two to be cancelled after only seven issues rather than the minimum twelve Gerber was initially promised.
In 2005, when Marvel Comics sponsored a vote on which of four unused characters to revive, Gerber asked his fans to vote against Wundarr the Aquarian, a supporting character he had created in Fear and Marvel Two-in-One. Wundarr took second after Death’s Head. He stated numerous times on his blog and elsewhere on the web his opinion that no one should write another’s characters without the creator’s endorsement. He himself endorsed the 2000s Foolkiller series,Man-Thing, because the character was a new individual using the old persona.
Later, Gerber wrote the Helmet of Fate: Zauriel one-shot and continued writing the Doctor Fate strip in the Countdown to Mystery limited series for DC Comics up to the time of his death, working on stories in the hospital.
Death and family
In 2007, Gerber was diagnosed with an early stage of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and was eventually hospitalized while continuing to work. He had gotten onto the waiting list for a transplant at UCLA Medical Center. On February 10, 2008, Gerber died in a Las Vegas hospital from complications stemming from his condition. At the time of his death, Gerber was separated from wife Margo Macleod. He had a daughter, Samantha Voll.
- 1974: nominated at the Shazam Awards for Best Writer in both the Dramatic and Humor Divisions
- 1977: Eagle Award for Favourite Single Comicbook Story for Howard the Duck #3: Four Feathers of DeathJohn Buscema: also nominated for the same award for Howard the Duck #1: Howard the Barbarian Frank Brunner
- 1977: nominated at the Eagle Awards for Favourite Comicbook Writer, and for Favourite Continued Comicbook Story for Defenders #31-40 + Annual #1 with Sal Buscema
- 1978: Inkpot Award
- 1978: nominated at the Eagle Awards for Favourite Writer, and for Favourite Single Comicbook Story for Howard the Duck #16: The Zen and Art of Comic Book Writing
- 1979: nominated at the Eagle Awards for Best Comicbook Writer (US), for the Roll of Honour, and for Favourite Single Story for The Avengers #178: The Martyr Perplex with Carmine Infantino
- 1980: nominated at the Eagle Awards for the Roll of Honour
- 2002: nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Illustrated Narrative for Howard the Duck Issues 1-6
- Doctor Fate: More Pain Comics, DC
- Essential Daredevil Vol. 4, Marvel
- Essential Defenders Vol. 2, Marvel
- Essential Defenders Vol. 3, Marvel
- Essential Howard the Duck Vol. 1, Marvel
- Essential Man-Thing Vol. 1, Marvel
- Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1, Marvel
- Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1, Marvel
- Essential Tales of the Zombie Vol. 1, Marvel
- Giant-Size Marvel, Marvel
- Hard Time: 50 to Life, DC
- The Helmet of Fate, DC
- Howard the Duck (MAX), Marvel
- Nevada, DC
- Omega the Unknown Classic, Marvel
- Stewart the Rat (with Gene Colan and Tom Palmer), Eclipse Comics, reprinted by About Comics, 48 pgs 
- Superman: Last Son of Earth (Elseworlds), DC
- Superman: Last Stand on Krypton (Elseworlds), DC
- ^ a b c Fox, Margalit. “Steve Gerber, Creator of Howard the Duck, Dies at 60”. The New York Times, February 14, 2008]
- ^ Roy Thomas interview, Alter Ego #70 (July 2007), p. 55
- ^ Comic Book Artist #7 (reprinted in Comic Book Artist Collection Volume 3 (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005)): “Steve Gerber’s Crazy Days”, p. 66
- ^ obituary by Mark Evanier
- ^ Brady, Matt. “Steve Gerber Passes Away”. Newsarama.com, Feb. 11, 2008
- ^ The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe mentions Secret Wars II #1 (July 1985) and Iron Man I #197
- Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Daytime Emmy Awards
- Comic Book Artist Collection Volume 3 (TwoMorrows Publishng, 2005): “Steve Gerber’s Crazy Days” (reprinted from Comic Book Artist #7, Feb. 2000) (offline)
 External links
- Steve Gerblog: Steve Gerber’s Online Journal
- reprint of Gerber interview in The Comics Journal #41 (August 1978)
- Trapped in a Friday He Never Made: Essay on Gerber’s Omega and Defenders
- McLellan, Dennis. “Steve Gerber, 60; comic-book writer created Howard the Duck”, Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2008
- Marvel Universe Appendix’s tribute to Steve Gerber
(#102 and #118 by Chris Claremont)
|Iron Man writer
Donald F. Glut
|Captain America writer
J. M. DeMatteis