About Steve Gerber and This Blog

Photo by Mark Evanier

Stephen Ross Gerber was born in St. Louis on September 20, 1947. A longtime fan of comic books, he was involved in the ditto/mimeo days of fanzine publishing in the sixties, publishing one called Headline at age 14. He had a by-mail friendship with Roy Thomas, who was responsible for the most noteworthy fanzine of that era, Alter Ego. Years later when Roy was the editor at Marvel Comics, he rescued Steve from a crippling career writing advertising copy, bringing him into Marvel as a writer and assistant editor. Steve soon distinguished himself as one of the firm’s best writers, handling many of their major titles at one time or another but especially shining on The Defenders, Man-Thing, Omega the Unknown, Morbius the Living Vampire, a special publication about the rock group Kiss…and of course, Howard the Duck.

Howard, born in Steve’s amazing mind and obviously autobiographical to a large degree, took the industry by storm. The creation was in many ways a mixed blessing to his creator. It led to an ugly and costly legal battle over ownership, which Steve settled out of court. It led to the occasional pains when he occasionally returned to the character and, due to reasons external and internal, found that he could not go home again. It also led to the sheer annoyance of watching the 1986 motion picture of Howard (produced with minimal involvement on Steve’s part) open to withering reviews and dreadful business. Still, the issues he did are widely regarded as classics…and Howard is often cited as a character who only Steve could make work.

After he left Marvel under unpleasant circumstances in the mid-seventies, Steve worked with me for a time at Hanna-Barbera writing comic books, many of which were published by Marvel. An editor at the company had loudly vowed that the work of Steve Gerber would never again appear in anything published by Marvel. Just to be ornery, we immediately had Steve write a story for one of the H-B comics I was editing and it was published by Marvel with a writer credit for “Reg Everbest,” which was Steve’s name spelled inside-out.

About this time, Steve began to get work in the animation field, starting with a script for the Plastic Man cartoon series produced by Ruby-Spears. This led to a brief but mutually beneficial association with the studio, especially when Steve launched and story-edited one of the best adventure cartoons done for Saturday morning TV, Thundarr the Barbarian. Later, he worked for other houses on other shows, including G.I. Joe and Dungeons & Dragons.

Then there were other comic books, including occasional returns to Marvel and even to Howard. For DC, he did The Phantom Zone and later, A. Bizarro, Nevada and Hard Time. Last week in the hospital, he was working on a new Doctor Fate series for them. His other many credits in comics — which include Foolkiller for Marvel and books for Malibu and Image — are well known to readers of the last few decades.

What I feel the need to tell you is just what a great guy he was. In the seventies, when New York comic professionals were banding together to find ways to elevate the stature of the field and the living standards of its practitioners, Steve was at the nexus of so many of those efforts. When Steve was involved in his lawsuit with Marvel, many fellow professionals rallied around him with loans and gifts of cash and some of us put together a benefit comic book, Destroyer Duck, to raise money. People did that because they knew, first of all, that Steve was fighting not just for his own financial reasons but for matters of principle relating to how the comic book industry treated its creators. That some of the more pernicious business practices soon went away had a lot to do with Steve taking the stand he did. Also, those who knew Steve knew that when you were in need, he would do anything to help. He was, in every sense of the word, a friend.

Steve died the evening of 2/10/08 at a hospital in Las Vegas after a long, painful illness. For the year or so before, he was in and out of hospitals there and had just become a “candidate” for a lung transplant. He had pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that literally turns the lungs to scar tissue and steadily reduces their ability to function. Steve insisted that his affliction had nothing to do with his lifelong, incessant consumption of tobacco — an addiction he only recently quit for reasons of medical necessity. None of his friends believed that but Steve did.

I mention that because in the thirty or so years I knew him, that was the only time I ever saw Steve perhaps divorced from reality. He was a sharp, brilliant human being with a keen understanding of people. 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.

When he died, his family gave me permission to do a hostile takeover of his blog. Actually, I did it and then got permission but the point is that it and everything he posted it on it has been preserved. This link will take you to the last thing Steve posted here. If you read back from that, you can read everything Steve posted on this blog. Or you can start at the beginning with his first post and read forward.

By clicking this link, you can read everything that’s been added since by Steve’s friends…and boy, does he have a lot of them. Still. Or if you click the “Home” link on any page, you can read everything that’s been posted to Steve’s blog. You can even add a comment to the most recent posting.  (To read the comments on any post, click on the title of the post.)

For the first ten years after Steve passed, we left his blog design up. It was done via a template that Steve designed himself. Unfortunately, the software that powers this blog (like any other software you use) gets updated from time to time and Steve’s template will no longer work with this software. Maybe someday, I’ll figure out how to revise it so it does.

— Mark Evanier