When it comes to lamenting the passing of Steve Gerber, I’m just another voice in the choir. It seems everyone is a little sick this morning with the news. I remember Steve as a rock-solid writer, a guy who really knew how to put the word down, a pillar at Marvel when I was a boy as he marked long runs on multiple titles, including The Defenders and Man-Thing. My first guru, comics fandom pioneer Bill-Dale Marcinko, used to wet himself over every issue of Howard the Duck. Now he’s gone. Steve Gerber, comics best-loved rebel, dead at 60. He died last night following a lengthy battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
In my house, you can almost tell by the way the phone rings when there’s bad news. Steve wouldn’t have thought that odd. I got the call from Adrienne Colan (Gene’s wife), who said that Steve died awaiting a heart and lung transplant. The news was gutting. I hadn’t spoken with old Steve in some time but I jumped over to his blog and found he’d been recording the day-to-day details of his ailment nearly to the end.
Feb. 2 — I’m still in the hospital. CAT scans show improvement: the spot(s) on the lung(s) are gradually but steadily getting smaller, which means the presence of a tumor is highly unlikely. I’m probably dealing with a very nasty, very persistent viral or fungal infection.
Jim McLauchlin of the HERO INITIATIVE was in LV today and stopped by to watch me vegetate. And walk ? first time I’ve done that in a while. In fact, today was the first time in weeks that I’ve actually felt a little stronger, a little more well.
Have to keep this short. Urgent Doctor Fate stuff to be done. Will post another update next time I can get to a net connection.
“I remember Steve starting at Marvel when I was there,” John Romita told me this morning. “[My wife] Virginia was his traffic manager? Steve was part of a parade of young writers who came in, but he made a place for himself in history. And he was a nice kid… These are all my kids.”
After being introduced to me by Gene Colan in 1996, Steve wrote the introduction the book I did with Gene, Perverts, Pedophiles & Other Theologians (Aardwolf Publishing). That was a solid I could never repay, but I wasn’t expected to.
To conclude, let’s turn to Tom Spurgeon who usually says it better than the rest of us anyway:
Steve Gerber’s role as one of the best and emblematic writers of his generation can’t be understated? 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. [His] 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? Few creators in the American mainstream were as consistently fascinating? Even fewer have been as outspoken and forthright, or in that way, as admirable.
P.S. Following Steve Gerber’s passing, Stan Lee and Gene Colan each dropped me notes this evening asking that I share them:
“As a writer, Steve was a true professional,” said Stan, “but even more than that?he was a total individualist. He refused to do anything that was just the same old stuff. Whatever he did was touched by originality and flavored by irreverence, as witness his most famed creation, the totally unique and brilliant icon—Howard the Duck. Steve’s passing is a great loss to the entire creative community.”
“Steve was my favorite writer,” said Gene Colan. “Working with him on Howard the Duck was the most fun I’ve ever had professionally in all the years prior and since.” Gene and Adrienne remembered getting ready to do the syndicated HTD strip and waiting for Steve’s scripts. “They were really late,” Adrienne recalls. “Months and months of waiting until finally a huge manila envelope arrived at our home in New Jersey. ‘Ah! Finally!’ we said. Nope. Inside was a 20-page letter from Steve to Gene explaining all the reasons why they needed to put their best foot forward on this job! Aargh! We roared! But that was Steve.”
© 2004, Clifford Meth