early Sunday morning (or late Saturday night). He was a comic book writer, and you’ve all heard of him, or rather, you’ve all heard about his most famous creation, Howard the Duck. To say he was disheartened to be known chiefly for this (admittedly absurd) creation would be to misunderstand Steve. He loved the duck, loved him. He fought legal battles for most of the 80’s trying to get ownership of the duck. Howard was his voice, he was Steve Gerber, and no one ever wrote him better than Steve did.Sadly, to the vast majority of people on this planet, if they have heard of Howard at all, he is a joke from a bad movie produced by George Lucas (yes, that George Lucas). I have to say, I always thought Howard was a joke that I didn’t get, and that’s true. Howard is as old as I am, and he was written by a man who hit his prime in the seventies. While I was busy being born Steve Gerber was using an anthropomorphic (look it up) duck to engage in biting social commentary. In issue 8 of his original series Howard ran for President, and his remarks are as fitting today as they were thirty years ago. But that’s not why I’m writing this.
I did find Steve Gerber on my own, in something unconnected to the Howard the Duck mythos. In the mid-nineties Steve wrote a comic called Nevada, about a Vegas showgirl with a pet Ostritch. It was outrageously funny, and cosmic in scope, and showed that same ascerbic wit that he was famous for. It was a story that might normally have been set in LA or New York or London, but this one was in Vegas (where Steve lived) and was awesome just for that. Of course the half naked pictures of showgirls are what got my attention (I was fifteen maybe), but the writing is why I stayed. Sadly, Nevada never really found the audience it deserved, but I still remember it fondly, and in some unconscious way, I think it may have influenced Paradox Magic, which is even stranger to consider.
I’m sorry Steve died. I’m sorry I’ll never have the experience of discovering something new he had written, or reading his blog during the odd bit of downtime I might have. He was an unsung giant among comic book creators of his generation, deserving of a place next to Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Chris Claremont (he was way better than Claremont) and the host of writers who have followed him.
Steve died from complications of pneumonia while waiting for a lung transplant in Las Vegas. He was a legend he never made (which makes sense if you’ve ever read the real Howard the Duck stuff) and he will be sorely missed.
May he rest in peace, and may his family find some consolation in the knowledge that he touched tens of thousands of people across three or more generations with his writing.