Steve Gerber Moves On From A World He Never Made

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There goes another of our culture’s truth-tellers.

I feel a lot like I did when Hunter S. Thompson died almost exactly two years ago. I may not have been Steve Gerber’s biggest fan––I hadn’t read nearly all his work––or his best––I think I took his brilliance for granted––but what I read meant a lot to me, a reminder that rogue voices are out there, and truth means something. It expanded my mind and helped shape my worldview at a tender age. Thompson I began reading in high school, Gerber a few years later as a poli-sci major at USC.

I was spoiled; my first real exposure to Gerber’s work (little did I know that as a child I had been subverted by his writing on G.I. Joe and The Transformers) was Marvel’s Essential Howard the Duck in early 2002, collecting nearly Gerber’s entire run, from Howard’s first appearance in Adventure Into Fear #19 to Howard the Duck #27. I absorbed it gluttonously. As satire, it’s not terribly deep, but it’s astute. Like the rest of Gerber’s work that I’ve read, as well as his interviews and blog, it cut through the bullshit.

And a lot of it seemed angry, as was so much of Gerber’s work that I read. Not enough mainstream comics are angry. Mainstream films can be angry, mainstream music can be angry, mainstream novels can be angry, but Gerber is one of the only mainstream comics writers I can think of whose work seemed angry during decades when there was a lot to be angry about, both in the comics industry and especially in the wider world.

Fearless, too. This is a man who turned even a blown deadline into an opportunity for creativity. And got Marvel Comics to publish it. Who fought hard for his creations and even staged a daring in-continuity rescue mission of his most popular character. Who was working on the new Dr. Fate series on what we now know was his deathbead.

Since Howard, I’ve read more Gerber, things like Hard Time, Void Indigo and Destroyer Duck. Some have haunted me, all have made me think. Omega the Unknown is high on my reading list, probably even higher now. I muddled through The Essential Defenders vol. 1 to get to his work in vol. 2, which I’ll be reading soon. I was eagerly anticipating the collection of his Dr. Fate work, having followed his thought process in writing it through his blog. I don’t know what will become of that now, with the final issues unfinished.

As for the blog, I followed that with a mix of interest and mild fear. As he described his illness and its many complications, I would check it both to read his ideas and also just to see how he was. Sometimes I’d forget for a week or two and then be afraid that he’d have stopped posting in the interim and what that might mean, but I eventually convinced myself he’d pull through, since he was always there. Until today.

RIP Steve Gerber.

Tom Spurgeon and Mark Evanier have more.

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5 Responses to “Steve Gerber Moves On From A World He Never Made”

  1. RAB Says:

    Calling Steve one of “our culture’s truth-tellers” is particularly apt. That’s what his work was all about.

  2. “Skyless Space And Time Without Depth” « A Trout In The Milk Says:

    […] Brendan Wright […]

  3. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Feb. 13, 2008: Diamond keeps its fig leaf Says:

    […] Wein, Dave Sim, Rantz Hoseley, Jeff Lester, Neil Gaiman, Lea Hernandez, Evan Dorkin, Robert Boyd, Brendan Wright, Mark Millar, Mike Sterling, Don MacPherson, Alan David Doane, Sean Kleefeld and Mark Evanier. […]

  4. Ben Saunders Says:

    thanks to mark, tom spurgeon, and others for their detailed obituaries.

    sincere condolences to steve’s family and friends.

    i wish i could have met him. i loved his work and am profoundly saddened by this news. he was, quite simply, one of the most original and challenging writers to ever work in the super-hero genre.

  5. Blog@Newsarama » Quote Unquote: Remembering Steve Gerber Says:

    […] –Brendan Wright “As a kid, I was aware that Gerber’s work was different from anyone else’s at Marvel, I guess everyone had to be aware of that, as he satirized superheroes, religion, rock music, cults, game shows, space opera, comics, etc, while writing about such things as Kyle Richmond carrying his brain around in a bedpan, a scientist with an ape’s body, the Soofi soap cult, the Badoon aliens and their game shows, The kidney-obsessed Kidney Lady, The Celestial Man who was actually a Cthulhian nightmare, the Elf that murdered folks and never actually encountered the Defenders, giant attacking salt shakers, Space Turnips, a duck running for President, etc. You never knew what the hell was coming up next in those titles, and I was crazy about those books.” […]

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