Comics and animation legend Steve Gerber passed away Sunday night. Succumbing to complications from pulmonary fibrosis, the still-active writer was only 60 years old.
Perhaps most famous among hardcore fans for creating and writing most of the readable appearances of Howard the Duck, Gerber helped shape Marvel Comics in the 70s alongside writers and editors such as Marv Wolfman and Len Wein.
It was Gerber who catapulted The Defenders into oddball fame as Marvel's "non-team." Gerber also introduced KISS to comics, writing the original Marvel Super Special that established the band's first superhero mythos carried over into KISS Meets the Phantom of the Amusement Park. Before that, though, they appeared as figments of Winda Wester's subconscious in Howard the Duck #13.
If you want to question Gerber's influence on someone other than me, notice the past year's high profile revivals of three of his creations. In addition to reviving Howard, Marvel also put Frank Cho on Shanna the She-Devil and novelist Jonathan Lethem on Omega the Unknown.
After leaving Marvel and battling for creators' rights over Howard, Gerber went into animation after selling a script to the Plastic Man show. He went on to story edit G.I. Joe and Transformers, thus completing the Lon Lopez childhood warping trilogy. His most lasting animation contribution is again the appropriately cultish Thundarr the Barbarian, on which he collaborated with Jack Kirby.
Last year, Gerber went public in his endorsement of The Hero Initiative, at the time somewhat cryptic about the help they had provided him. As his disease was diagnosed over a year ago, it's likely that the charity organization helped him with medical costs.
Despite that assistance, Gerber was still quite vital in the industry, currently in the middle of writing the revival of Dr. Fate in DC's Countdown To Mystery. At this point, it's unknown whether or not he completed his work on the series.
Obviously, Gerber stands in my heart for his creation of Howard the Duck. That was one of the few comics I wrote fan letters to as a kid, and years later, when I discovered the internet and read a detailed account of his battles for ownership of Howard, I was astonished to find that he had an email address he made public. I wrote to him expressing my thanks for his work, and he wrote back. Sure, I was no kid, but Gerber was the first domino that tipped in my head that this kind of thing could be done.
Gracious, talented and a bit bizarre, Gerber was a unique
voice whose loss will be felt in the industry.
More information, and more direct personal reflection,
can be found at Mark