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Steve Gerber 1947-2008

Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Writer:Darren Schroeder

Steve Gerber

Tragic news reached me today that Steve Gerber passed away on Monday in hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for suspected pneumonia due to difficulties with his breathing. He had been very ill over the last few years, having been placed on a waiting list for a lung transplant following a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis. He shared this sort of information with interested friends and fans in his blog in a matter of fact way, without ever displaying much more than mild annoyance at such disruptions to his writing schedule.

Back when I was a kid my dad collected a big box of second hand comics for me to read. Mostly is was Disney comics with just a few superhero issues thrown in. There was also a copy of Adventure into Fear # 16 (Sept. 1973). The story was called "Cry of the Native." It concerned the construction of an airport in the swamp, and the efforts of the local native Americans and other concerned citizens to halt the excavation of the land. Man-thing watches and is drawn into events, rescuing a wounded local activist and causing the death of one of the construction workers. The story really got stuck in my brain. The tragic Man-Thing dealing with the power of emotions that he couldn't understand, the plight of native Americans fighting against developers, the huge Kung Fu fight scene between bare chested construction workers and long haired hippies. It blew my mind.

Over the years I made a point of tracking down the work of the writer concerned, and my mind was blown over and over again. Steve Gerber's writing constantly showed that comics could tell a wide range of stories, from dramatic to absurd to funny to shocking, in creative and intelligent ways. While best know for his work on Howard the Duck, a character that became a defining icon of the 1970s, all of his work on titles such as Void Indigo, Omega the Unknown, Nevada, and The Defenders showed his impressive creativity at work.

I had the honour of interviewing him several times, and his wit and thoughtfulness in relation to the writing profession and other topics made them the most rewarding interviews Iíve conducted.

His most recent work on Doctor Fate continued this tradition, focusing on a tragically flawed central character who can intellectually map his own faults but can't transcend his flawed human nature. Writing such as this brought the shallowness of most contemporary superhero writing into sharp relief.

His last post to his blog showed that he was up in the middle of the night working on copy to sent off to DC. Because of this sort of dedication to his profession, colleagues, and fans there are a few Doctor Fate stories yet to be published. No doubt, like me, his many other readers will find the joy of picking up new work by Steve from our comic store a bitter sweet experience for the next couple of months.

As Steve recently said himself, when you can't think of anything else to say, there's always "Waaaaaugh!"