downtheubes is sorry to report the death of ground-breaking American comic writer Steve Gerber, whose unique vision often confounded the mainstream publishers he worked for.
The creator and co-creator of several characters including Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown died Sunday in a Las Vegas hospital. In a glowing obituary by Tom Surgeon, Comic Reporter says the cause of death is believed to be pneumonia, although he had been suffering from a long-term illness, pulmonary fibrosis. He was 60 years old.
Hundreds of tributes to Steve are being posted on his blog, which is now being maintained, for now, by fellow writer and friend Mark Evanier.
Steve was posting to his blog until the beginning of February, reporting on his battle with illness. He had been working on Doctor Fate for DC Comics, a series appearing in Countdown to Mystery.
“He was a sharp, brilliant human being with a keen understanding of people,” Mark Evanier writes of Steve in his own web blog tribute to the writer. “In much that he wrote, he chose to depart from reality or (more often) to warp it in those extreme ways that make us understand it better. But he always did so from his underlying premise as a smart, decent guy. I like almost everyone I’ve ever met in the comic book industry but I really liked Steve.”
Gerber was powerful force in the battle for creator rights, battling Marvel for rights on Howard the Duck but critical of his own fellow creators for failing to square up to the companies that demanded ownership of everything they created when working for them.
“I think the writers and artists have largely brought this on themselves,” he told Comics Journal‘s Gary Groth in 1978. “They don’t want to know about the business end of comics. They prefer to remain ignorant. They’ve allowed the publishers to convince them that they’re a bunch of no-talent bums surviving on the goodwill of the companies. Very few people in this industry really believe that their work has any artistic merit, or that it’s sale-able elsewhere.”
Best known as the creator of Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber established a reputation for working at the cutting edge of comics. In a career spanning more than thirty years, he put words in the mouths of virtually every major character in the comic book world — from Superman to Scooby Doo — and his work has appeared under the imprint of almost every major publisher in the field. He also wrote extensively in animation and television, and even has a computer book to his credit.
His official website lists Steve’s other comics creations, including Hard Time (DC Comics) Nevada (Vertigo Press); Void Indigo (Epic Comics); Sludge (Malibu Comics); Destroyer Duck (Eclipse Comics and Image Comics, published as a way to help Gerber raise funds for a lawsuit against Marvel); Stewart the Rat (Eclipse Comics); A. Bizarro (DC Comics); as well as Foolkiller , Suburban Jersey Ninja She-Devils, and Omega the Unknown (co-created with Mary Skrenes), all published by Marvel Comics.
Steve also wrote, edited, and supervised the production of Marvel’s celebrated KISS comic book, based on the goth-glam rock band. In the animation world, he served as chief story editor on G.I. Joe (Sunbow Productions) and Dungeons & Dragons (Marvel Productions), won an Emmy for his work as staff writer on The Batman/Superman Adventures (WB Animation). and co-created and story edited the animated cult favourite Thundarr the Barbarian for Ruby-Spears Productions.
In collaboration with Beth Slick, Gerber co-authored BBSs for Dummies (IDG Press), a lighthearted manual on computer telecommunications, and Contagion, a second season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (with Beth Woods).
“Steve Gerber’s role as one of the best and emblematic writers of his generation can’t be understated,” feels Tom Surgeon. “He was a crucial figure in comics history. Like some of the all-time great cartoonists of years past, 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 work.”
“I feel the need to tell you is just what a great guy he was,” says Mark Evanier. “He was, in every sense of the word, a friend.”
Details of memorial services have not been announced at this time but DC Comics Paul Levitz has suggested that those wishing to mark his passing may consider donating to The Hero Initiative, a charity group that helps ailing comic book creators, which had been doing a lot for Steve recently. “It would be a nice thought to remember him with a donation in his name,” suggests Mark Evanier.
Goodbye, Steve, and thank you for all your wonderful stories. You will be very much missed.
• Read Mark Evanier’s Tribute to Steve Gerber
• Read Stephen Grant’s tribute to Steve Gerber on Comic Book Resources
• Read Tom Spurgeon’s obituary on Comics Reporter
• Steve Gerber’s web blog (maintained by Mark Evanier)
• Steve Gerber’s Official website: www.stevegerber.com