Anyone who knows me knows my love of Howard the Duck. He is one of the greatest comic creations of all time and rightfully so. His adventures were so hilarious, so out of the norm and so raunchy for the time that people went crazy for him in the 1970’s. However we would never have even heard of the duck if it had not been for one of his creators, Steve Gerber.
Stephen Ross Gerber, born in 1947, was a writer for Marvel who helped to pen stories for some of their long-standing titles. Many people have probably never heard of this great man, let alone speak of him, when they talk about great creators and writers in comics. When they talk about the classic legends of the industry many name Lee, Ditko, Kirby and Kane, but few (or maybe just me) ever mention Gerber. Though he may not het the recognition, there is no denying his contributions to Marvel Universe that is still felt to this day.
Starting at Marvel he wrote the scripts for titles such as Daredevil, Iron Man and the Submariner as well as penning a lot of scripts for the Marvel Horror line of the time including Journey into Mystery. He then went on to write for another of the most important and underrated characters in the Marvel Universe, Man-Thing. Gerber wrote for the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities starting in Adventure into Fear #10. It was Gerber who created the now famous tag line for the creature in “Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch!” After Adventure Into Fear #19 he would go on to pen Man-Thing’s 22 issue solo title and continued to pen guest appearances for the Man-Thing when he showed up in other titles.
Along with Val Mayerik he created Howard the Duck, first appearing in Adventure Into Fear #19. He would take Howard and gave him follow-up stories in the Man-Thing titles, most notably in Giant Sized Man-Thing before he was given his own ongoing title in 1976. Of the 33 issues of Howard’s initial run Gerber wrote 27 of them, a pretty good run at the time for a writer. It was during this time that Gerber came up with the idea to have Howard run for the 1976 election against Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Creating the slogan “Get Down America”, the popularity of Howard and this story arc led to Howard getting write-in votes during the actual election. This is something to think about, a character was so popular that the American people actually voted for him in the real election and it wasn’t just a few votes, he received THOUSANDS!
After writing some of the short run Howard Sunday comics strip, he would go on to write stories for Shanna The She-Devil, Morbius the Living Vampire and Guardians of the Galaxy before leaving Marvel over a dispute. Staying busy he went on to write for DC and Vertigo as well as for cartoons such as Transformers and G.I. Joe before returning to Marvel to write a new Howard the Duck series for the MAX line of comics. This series was more mature in nature and featured full nudity of Howard’s long time girlfriend Beverly Switzler.
Gerber passed away in 2008, while he was writing the Doctor Fate series for DC’s Countdown to Mystery, of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Gerber’s contributions to the world of comics are some that we must never forget. He was a visionary who wrote some of the greatest stories for some of the greatest characters that have ever been created. To this day the characters that he wrote about are some of those that when they show up in a book, long time fans cheer because we get to see them again. So many people are clamoring for a release of Howard the Duck on Blu-ray. Gerber actually had a hand in the production of this movie, offering his ideas and advice to the scriptwriters and even being present on the last day of shooting. While many people did not like the film and said it was a drastic departure from the comic, Gerber went on record to state that the film did capture the essence of Howard and Beverly. So with that being said, without Gerber we wouldn’t have a film that people are still talking about 25 years after it debuted.
Steve Gerber may not be a Lee, Ditko or Kirby, but that is ok. He was so much more; he was a writer who could take characters that seemed absurd and make them legends. Make them characters that many of us in the comic community are screaming for a return of. He was a man who loved swamp creatures and ducks, and a man who has allowed me to continue to spread the love and awesomeness of a cigar smoking, foul mouthed, suicidal, belligerent duck and for that I say…