Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Steve Gerber Passes away

It's pretty much all over the comics news sites that Steve Gerber passed away. I'm not really going to attempt an obit or retrospective of his career. There are better informed people than me that can do that. This is more about how it affects me personally. For a great retrospective look at his career, I'd suggest going to

Steve Gerber's writing was probably always about 5 years ahead of me. His work was often personal and literate and I was always just a little too young to really get into it. I loved the Defenders, but I only read them sporadically in those pre-comic book shop days and I'm probably more familiar with David Kraft's run than Gerber's. I liked the design of Omega, but he was a bit too enigmatic for me. Howard the Duck was too far out there for me to get the satire at that young age (and I'm really a superhero guy at heart). It was probably Man-Thing that struck the most resonating chord with me. As far as I know, all teen-agers feel a bit of that isolation and one-of-a-kindness that permeated the character, feeling like if you could only make people really see you and not just your exterior. My first exposure to Man-Thing was in one of those comics that came with records (had a few of those) which was a retelling of issue #5 about a sad clown that commits suicide. A powerful story with wonderful art by Ploog. By the time he did SLUDGE for Malibu, I was more aware of him as a writer and as the creator of that Man-Thing story and excited to read Gerber's new series.

I sympathized with his causes that lead to DESTROYER DUCK and I still do. I'm not naive about companies and copyright ownership and such. But, it does irk me to see the company bring in other creators to work on a fringe title like Omega, the Unknown (or at DC, Black Lightning) when the people that actually created the characters and concepts are available and willing to work on the characters. And I've read that a big reason why we don't see Marvel really doing anything with the Malibu properties are the contracts that Malibu had with the creators of the series that gave them a certain amount of control. I would have loved to have read an Omega, the Unknown comic as done by Gerber.

Strangely, it's probably his work in animation that I most enjoyed and I was completely unaware that he was behind the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN cartoons. As with the comic DESTROYER DUCK, I was more familiar with Jack Kirby's involvement than I was Gerber's. G.I. Joe and Transformers, I was a little too old by the time those came around to really enjoy, a reversal of his comic book work.

Gerber passed away from complications to Pulmonary Fibrosis, which is a scarring of lung tissue that as it spreads you irrreversibly lose that much of the lung's ability to function. Doctors don't really know the causes of it. While Gerber was a longtime smoker, there is no direct link between smoking and Pulmonary Fibrosis. It definitely wouldn't have helped him combat it or the effects as he'd already be started off with reduced lung capacity. http://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/ipf.htm

My own father had developed Pulmonary Fibrosis. He'd given up smoking a decade earlier. Doctors postulated the cause to be viral, a result from either when he had been seriously sick a year earlier or the medication from that. Fighting the illness took a toll. He was on steroids to fight the progress of the scarring and even went in for surgery which was botched and left him with even less lung capacity, to the point that he had to keep an oxygen tank handy. When it looked like he had gotten that under control, they discovered a lung cancer. Whether it was linked to the fibrosis or not was undetermined, the cancer could have just been masked by it. But, it was a fight that he couldn't win. He wasn't even 50.

My heart goes out to Gerber's family. I know a little of what they faced and I have the utmost respect for the man and what he tried to accomplish in standing up to the companies and championing creator rights. A fight still going on, not just in comics but with the writers' strike in Hollywood. God Bless.

1 comment:

Doctor Zen said...

I'm a super hero man too, but when I recently unloaded a bunch of my old comics I couldn't bring myself to part with MAN-THING. I love Gerber's DEFENDERS. He was doing weird stuff with superheroes long before Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. I'm not touching the new OMEGA THE UNKNOWN because Steve had a unique vision for that and nobody else is gonna get it. His first HOWARD THE DUCKs are really out there, far more than just lampoons. It's too bad that when my younger friends read about his passing, they usually get a chuckle out of "he created HOWARD THE DUCK," remembering only the movie and a few of Howard's sillier post-Gerber appearances. The man was so much more than the creator of HOWARD THE DUCK.