Steve Gerber talks about his unexpected return to Howard the Duck|
Interview by Nate Shelton
Originally published at Diamond Previews Online in November 2001.
In 1975, Marvel Comics let writer Steve
Gerber hatch a mainstream series unlike any that had come
Howard the Duck (HTD).
The title character was no super-hero; he was
just a cantankerous little guy named Howard who was, in the words of his
creator, "the living embodiment of all that is querulous, opinionated, and
uncool"…and happened to hail from an alternate Earth populated by "funny"
cartoon animals. Then came the day that the Cosmic Axis shifted, and
Howard found himself here, "trapped in a world he never made!"
But HTD wasn’t a "funnybook," either –
Gerber used the duck to rail against the many ills of society, and the
comics community took notice. As word-of-mouth spread, sales skyrocketed,
and the bi-monthly title went monthly. A few months later, Gerber’s duck
became a Presidential candidate, and shortly thereafter starred in his own
nationally syndicated newspaper strip.
One highly publicized creators’ rights
dispute after that, Gerber was gone, taking what many maintain was
Howard’s soul when he left. HTD lasted only a few more issues as a
color comic, and was finally cancelled altogether after a short
black-and-white magazine stint. Outside of a few one-shots, guest
appearances, and the oft-panned HTD movie, there’s been nary a
Gerber fared far better, finding steady work
in animation as a writer for G.I. Joe, The New Batman/Superman
Adventures, and others. He’s also continued to produce groundbreaking
comics, but he’s never managed to regain the fame – or notoriety – that he
enjoyed during those few strange years at the House of Ideas.
Now, the Cosmic Axis is ready to shift again.
A new six-issue Howard the Duck mini-series is in the works for MAX
Comics, and – believe it or not – Gerber has returned to write
HTD vol. 2 #1 will be out in just a
few months, which doesn’t leave much time to prepare. Fortunately, the
October-solicited Essential Howard the Duck TP (OCT011909D4)
will be out prior to the new series, giving everyone a chance to catch up.
To give its customers a crash-course in Quak-Fu, Previews Online
caught up with Gerber for this extensive interview.
Online: We might as well get this out of the way first – given the
well-publicized history between yourself and Marvel over the title
character, the news that you had agreed to write a new HTD series
for the company came as a shock to many. What was the overriding factor or
factors in your decision to return to the character, and was it a hard
choice to make?
Steve Gerber: It probably came as a bigger shock to me than to anyone else, and, yes, it was a very difficult decision to make. I'd been treated poorly by Marvel in the past, not only with respect to Howard the
Duck, but in various ways, on various other projects, as well. I like
to think I'm capable of learning from my mistakes, and one mistake I was
determined not to repeat was crawling into bed with a company that,
historically, has held its talent in utter contempt. I never expected, or
wanted, to work for Marvel again.
Then I got the call from Stuart Moore (Note: Marvel Knights & MAX Comics Editor – PO) about doing a new HTD series. I knew Stuart from his work over at Vertigo, so I had to take the proposition seriously. When he told me that it was Phil Winslade, my collaborator on Nevada, who'd been campaigning for a new Howard book, and that Phil wanted to draw it, I honestly didn't know what to think. Phil and I had been wanting to work
together again, and this seemed like an ideal project.
As it turned out, there was some skepticism
about the idea of a new duck book on Marvel's side, too. Joe Quesada
wasn't sure the character would work for today's audience; he thought
Howard might have been strictly a phenomenon of the '70s and inextricably
bound to that period. Stuart asked me to write a brief sample story,
something to indicate how I would handle the character today. At first, I
resisted that idea. I didn't think I should have to "audition" for this
particular job. Eventually, though, I decided that this might be the best
way to find out if Marvel would allow me to write the book the way I felt
it needed to be written for a contemporary audience.
I wrote up a few paragraphs on a story
deliberately calculated to offend just about anybody – a story I figured
was so politically, culturally, and commercially incorrect that it would
put an end to the whole discussion. Marvel would just decide not to do the
book, or to do it with another writer, and that would be that.
A day or so later, I received an e-mail from
Stuart informing me that Joe, and Bill Jemas, absolutely
story. That was among the few moments in my life when I've literally been
rendered speechless. My response was something brilliantly original and
articulate, along the lines of, "You've got to be kidding."
All of a sudden, there were more reasons to
do the book than not to. I had an editor I respected and could trust, an
artist I enjoyed working with, and what appeared to be support at the
executive level for the creative direction I wanted to pursue.
So I said "yes."
PO: Are you enjoying your reunion with Howard?
than I ever imagined I would. One confidant who looked at the first plot
remarked that it read as if I'd been away from the character for 25
minutes, not 25 years. That's the way it feels to me, too. I slipped into
Howard's voice and found the tone of the book almost
PO :As you probably know, a lot of people outside the
comics industry only know Howard from the HTD motion picture.
Furthermore, your last issue of HTD came out over 20 years ago,
which means that there are probably even a lot of current comics readers
who aren’t familiar with the "real" character, either. For their sake, can
you tell us how your Howard differs from the film version?
SG: In the film, and in most of his comic book
appearances by other writers, Howard has been treated as little more than
a visual gag and a mouthpiece for lame one-liners. In the original series,
he was a much more complex character.
Howard the Duck was never a "humor" comic in the traditional sense. Howard wasn't
even a comedic character. He was frequently depressed, congenitally rude,
and had a bad tendency to waddle all over other people's feelings. The
humor in the series derived from the absurdity of his situation – a
sentient duck from another dimension, trapped in a world of what he called
"talking hairless apes" – and from Howard's mordant observations on the
world around him. In contemporary terms, Howard had much more in common
with Spider Jerusalem, for example, than with Donald Duck.
The series itself dealt with the kind of
subject matter that comics rarely addressed. Howard and Beverly Switzler,
his human companion, were always between jobs, struggling to make the rent
every month. Howard bounced from one humiliating job to the next. Beverly
posed as a model for life drawing classes. Along the way, Howard got
peripherally involved with a religious cult, had a nervous breakdown, ran
for president, gained an arch-enemy who was an embittered former rock
journalist, and so on.
The film, in a misguided attempt to appeal to
a mass audience, turned Bev into a rock star and told a rather
simple-minded alien monster story. There were some nice performances in
the film – Jeffrey Jones was particularly funny, and Lea Thompson as
Beverly was very pleasant to look at – but it wasn't Howard the
PO :The Essential Howard the Duck TP solicited in
this month’s Previews will give everyone a chance to witness your
acclaimed run on the first series. How well does the material in this
collection stand up a quarter-century later?
reread most of the original material before starting work on the new
series, and frankly, I was astonished at how well the stuff holds up. The
dialogue still reads fast and funny and sharp, the characters seemed as
engaging as ever, and the artwork – particularly the stuff by Gene Colan,
inked by Steve Leialoha and later, Klaus Jansen – was just
PO:Without giving too much away, how many elements and
characters from the old series will the new one contain, and what kinds of
differences can we expect? (Will we see Howard’s old supporting cast, or
classic villains like the Kidney Lady or Doctor Bong?)
SG : Some
of the original supporting cast will be back, certainly, as will one or
two of the villains. It's not that I've decided to eliminate any of the
original cast, but there are new characters and ideas I want to deal with,
and this new series is limited (at least for now) to six issues. That
imposes certain limitations.
PO: Will (former HTD artists) Gene Colan (Daredevil) or Val Mayerik (Magic: The Gathering) contribute any art for the mini-series? If not, what about future series, assuming there are any?
Winslade will be drawing the new series, but we hope to have Gene draw at
least one sequence during the run, and I believe he'll be doing a new
cover for the HTD Essentials edition. I'd love to have Val back, as
well, but that would probably have to wait for a second mini-series – or
the ongoing title that I hope readers will demand after they've seen these
PO :HTD was largely a ‘70s phenomenon, but was, and
still is, regarded as being ahead of its time. How much updating did
Howard require for the new series, and is he still relevant to
truth? No updating at all. Back in the '70s, Howard was a nasty little guy
with a generally miserable attitude toward life, a caustic view of
humanity and the world, and a beak full of opinions that he expressed
whether anybody wanted to hear them or not. If that kind of character
isn't relevant to a contemporary audience, I don't know what
PO:Do you see HTD’s influence in any of today’s
Well, it's tempting to say that I see a little bit of the duck in this
character or that, and I know my '70s work had an influence on a number of
the current British writers – much more so than on American comics
writers, in fact – but I'd be hesitant to point to specific
PO: How different of an experience has it been, writing HTD as an unrestricted MAX Comics title as opposed to writing it
for the Marvel of the 1970s?
That's an interesting question. It turns out that the differences are
mostly in the kinds of concepts and topic areas I can address. There are
half-a-dozen elements in the first issue alone that I could never even
have approached in a Code-approved book. The characters, though,
seem to have leaped the chasm of decades without much effort, and landed
perfectly intact. Howard and Bev are still very much the characters that
older readers remember.
PO :Now that you’re free to write the duck the way you
want to, how "pure" is the Howard that we see in the Essentials
it was compromised somewhat by the strictures of the Code, but not
drastically so. One of the unintended consequences of the Comics Code was
that it continually forced the more adventurous writers and artists to
find creative ways around its restrictions. Some of the original
material is actually subtler and more outlandish than it might have been,
had the Code not existed.
PO:One of your stipulations for doing this series was
that Winslade wouldn’t be bound to the agreement that Marvel has with
Disney regarding Howard’s physical appearance, which stemmed from legal
action on the part of Disney due to Howard's alleged
resemblance to Donald Duck. Your solution for making it possible –
turning Howard into a mouse (at least for the first issue) – appears to
have worked by sidestepping the problem completely. What was Marvel’s
initial reaction to your proposal, and did you have a hard time getting
them to accept it?
SG: Well, a bit of clarification first. Disney never
actually sued Marvel over Howard. There were threatening letters, but to
my knowledge no suit was ever filed, and the matter never got anywhere
near a courtroom. Also, while I did make it clear from the outset that I
didn't want to write Howard if he had to look like the Disney design, it
wasn't a point of contention, because no one at Marvel wanted to
publish that version of the character, either. Why would they? It's
When we began talking about
the new series, we were all under the impression that Marvel's old
management had simply agreed on a "handshake" basis with Disney that
Howard wouldn't look like Donald. We had Glenn Fabry – who'll be doing the
covers of the new series – designing a new duck that would bear no
resemblance to Disney's character. Just to be safe, though, Stuart Moore
checked with Marvel's legal department and discovered that a written
agreement between the two companies pertaining to Howard's appearance did
exist. The way that agreement is worded, Marvel isn't permitted to
redesign Howard the Duck; the character has to look like the designs
Glenn Fabry’s original design for Howard as a duck…
Stuart faxed me a copy of the agreement, and
when I read it, I was just heartsick. We really were on the verge of
abandoning the whole project, when a bizarre idea occurred to me. What if
we changed Howard into another species entirely? If the character wasn't a
duck, how could Disney complain? I suggested the idea to Stuart. He was
intrigued, but wasn't sure Joe Quesada or Bill Jemas would accept such a
radical change. To help make the argument, I asked Glenn Fabry if he'd be
willing to do a couple of sketches of Howard as a mouse, to see if
we could successfully transplant his personality into a rodent. When I saw
Glenn's sketches, I was overjoyed. He'd come up with a mouse that was
unmistakably Howard. I sent them on to Stuart, who showed them to Joe and
Bill and explained the whole idea to them.
…and as a mouse.
Again, I expected this to be the end of the
project, but to my total astonishment Bill and Joe not only went along
with the plan, Bill upped the ante by suggesting we do Howard as
several different animals over the course of the six issues, which
is exactly what we're planning to do.
PO:Has Disney had any reaction to the redesign
SG : Not
that I know of, and I doubt there'll be any reaction. After all, they
can't prevent us from creating an entirely new character, which in effect
is what we've done.
PO: As you stated, Winslade, who is a huge
was actually the one who talked Stuart Moore into approaching you about
the new series. What was his reaction when he found out that the
Gerber-written Howard that he’d get to draw wouldn’t look anything like a
be honest, I don't think Phil was thrilled about it. He really wanted to
draw Howard, the Duck. But I know he loved the first plot, and I
think he's warming to the possibilities this new concept opens
PO :Who will the inker be on the new series?
not sure. We had, at one point, discussed the possibility of reproducing
the book directly from Phil’s pencils. The Nevada story in
Vertigo’s Winter’s Edge #2 was done that way, and it worked out
PO:How did Glenn Fabry come to be involved with the
series at such an early stage, as to be the one who did the initial
concept drawings for the new Howard, both as a duck and, after finding out
how ironclad the Disney agreement was, as a mouse?
Stuart had Glenn in mind for the covers from the very beginning. I thought
that was a fantastic idea, for essentially the same reason that I had
asked for Gene Colan on the original series. Howard works best as a
character when everyone and everything around him looks absolutely
realistic. Gene was by far Marvel's most realistic artist back in the
'70s, and Glenn, of course, is known for his dark, intense, and highly
realistic Vertigo cover paintings. He was a perfect choice to do the HTD covers.
Glenn got involved in the design of the
character for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Stuart wanted to have
cover art to show at Marvel's San Diego convention panel, when the project
was announced. For another, Phil was knee-deep in a
project for Marvel Knights and couldn't be pulled away from that
What I didn't realize – I'm not sure whether
Stuart did – is that Glenn is a fabulously talented "funny animal" artist.
While we were working on the designs, Glenn told me that most of the
comics drawing he'd done prior to his first published work was "funny
animal" cartooning. He loved the form and really enjoyed working on these
designs. It must be one of the best-kept secrets in
PO: Back to the topic of Howard as various animals, you
said that he would appear as a different one in each of the mini-series’
six issues. Can you give us any hints as to what other animals he’ll
Well, it won't necessarily be a different animal every issue. That would
be too predictable. Howard may remain the same animal for a couple of
issues running, or even change multiple times within a single
issue. One reader on Newsarama asked if Howard could appear as a
basselope. The answer is "maybe" – but it won't be the basselope from Bloom County.
PO :You’ve also said that you were considering an Internet
poll to let readers decide Howard’s "permanent" form. Is that going to
haven't decided yet. It's an amusing idea, but – no offense – I'm not sure
I want to leave that decision up to the readers.
PO:If you decide to go through with it, what happens if
the people vote "duck?"
SG : That
would present us with a problem. I can imagine two solutions.
Part of me wonders whether Disney would or
could object if we adopted Glenn's duck design and, say, exposed Howard to
gamma rays and turned his feathers green, so it was absolutely impossible
to confuse him with Donald. That would still be a technical violation of
the agreement with Disney, but I'm not sure they'd have any real basis for
Another possibility is to change the
character's name. The agreement only pertains to
Howard the Duck.
If I were to license
Leonard the Duck(Note: A character Gerber
created as the result of an extremely clever, unofficial crossover between
a Spider-Man/Howard the Duck issue of Marvel Team-Up vol. 2 and the
Image Comics-published Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck one-shot, both
of which were written by Gerber – PO)to Marvel for five bucks
a year, that character could look however we wanted it to, as long as it
didn't infringe on any extant trademarks. We could just move Howard's
entire supporting cast over to the Leonard book and continue on as
before. The only question is whether readers would accept the change of
A duck of a different color…and name!
PO:What direction are you leaning towards in regards to
SG : I
won’t have an answer to that until
I’ve seen (and written) all the
various animals. My own preference, of course, would be "duck" – but not
if it has to look like the Disney design.
PO: In addition to Howard’s new physical appearance,
you’ve also decided to "ret-con" his homeworld, changing it from a planet
where ducks had evolved into the dominant species to an alternate Earth
populated by funny cartoon animals. Why did you make this change, and how
important will it be to the new series?
won't be important at all, actually. In the original series, I never
showed or even named the world Howard came from. I always felt it was more
interesting to let readers imagine it for themselves. "Duckworld," as
later writers called it, just struck me as a very pedestrian, very
"comic-booky" – in the worst sense of the term – idea.
– As far as Gerber is concerned, "Duckworld" never happened.
I've decided that the Howard "canon"
comprises only the first 27 issues of the original HTD series, the HTD Annual #1, the two short stories from Giant-Size
Man-Thing ("Garko the Man-Frog" and "Hellcow"), the HTD Treasury Edition, and the stories from Adventure Into Fear
#19 and Man-Thing #1, where Howard made his first appearance.
Everything else is apocryphal, including the handful of other Howard
stories that I wrote. Readers can accept or ignore those other
stories as they choose, but I don't feel bound by them.
PO :It’s been said that you put a great deal of yourself
into Howard’s personality and mindset during his original incarnation.
Will you be doing the same the second time around? If so, will Howard
reflect you as you are today, or you as you were when the two of you
can't try to imitate the person I was 25 years ago, so the answer is
probably "today." As I mentioned earlier, though, I found Howard's "voice"
almost immediately, so it may be that his basic nature is rooted in
a part of my basic nature that has never really changed – the
frustrated idealist whose cynicism and sarcasm are a defense against utter
PO:Assuming that the sales on this mini-series are strong
enough to warrant it, would you and Marvel both be interested in pursuing
a new ongoing HTD series, or further minis?
SG : I
certainly would, and as nearly as I can tell, Joe, Bill, and Stuart all
feel the same way.
PO: What other characters besides Howard would you be
interested in returning to?
would really have enjoyed writing The Defenders again, but there
doesn't seem to be much likelihood of that now.
PO :Will there be further Nevada, Foolkiller (an early ‘90s maxi-series), or Void Indigo (a
graphic novel and short-lived series from Marvel’s Epic imprint in the
‘80s) series in the future? (If so, when? If not, why not?)
Foolkiller was conceived and written as a novel in comics form. I'd
love to see it collected in TPB format, but I've never given any thought
to a sequel. (Since you mentioned it, though, I'll take this opportunity
to SCREAM AT BILL JEMAS again that he really should look at the
Foolkiller series. That book is every bit as relevant today as when
it was written, and it deserves to be back in print – damn
I would like to do more with Nevada
eventually, either with an independent publisher or on the Web – or with
Vertigo, if they wanted to give it another shot. In the meantime, I just
hope they keep the TPB in print, because readers may get curious about
what Phil and I have done together prior to Howard the Duck. We're
both very proud of our work on Nevada. Along with Foolkiller
and the original duck series, I think it's one of the best things I've
Void Indigo is a story I've
been wanting to finish for almost twenty years now. I've been talking to a
couple of publishers about bringing it back. With all the publicity
surrounding the new Howard series, this would be an ideal
PO:Outside of Nevada, none of your past work has
been collected into trade paperback format – until now, thanks to Marvel’s
release of the Essential Howard the Duck TP. Which of your other
story arcs would you most want to see collected into trade paperback
format, and why?
SG : The
stuff that comes to mind immediately is my run on
Man-Thing stories, the
Phantom Zone mini-series, and A. Bizarro.
Defenders may qualify as the most bizarre
superhero series Marvel has ever published. The
were some of my best early work, particularly the issues Mike Ploog and I
Phantom Zone and
A. Bizarro are just good
stories, each of which expanded the Superman mythos a little, in what I
thought were interesting ways.
Phantom Zone is also one of the few
times Gene Colan had a chance to draw Superman, and his version of the
character is truly magnificent.
PO: As previously mentioned, you once waged a protracted
legal battle against Marvel concerning ownership rights to
Duck. Do you feel that your legal battle helped raise awareness for
creator’s rights, and to what extent do you believe your fight helped
bring about the current "creator’s market" found at many levels in the
Howard lawsuit came just a few years after the very public campaign to get
Siegel and Shuster credit, and remuneration, for having created Superman.
Together, those two events probably did have a consciousness-raising
effect, but I don't think the lesson really sank in until a number of
You'd be amazed how many writers and artists
took the company's side against me at the time that suit was filed. Some
were actually convinced that if I won ownership of Howard the Duck, it
would destroy the industry. Others feared for their jobs if they took a
stand for creators' rights. And still others actually felt that any
character created at a given company ought to be theirs to "play with,"
regardless of who created it – and that attitude hasn't gone away. There
were a couple of people who testified against Marv Wolfman in the Blade trial for exactly that reason: They didn't want their "toys"
to be taken away. (If you get the feeling I'm still angry about this,
Anyway, I hope the battle over the
duck played some part in writers' and artists' recognition of their own
rights and in raising the fans' awareness of creators. I think it did, but
it probably took the Image guys striking out on their own and the success
of various creator-owned properties like Sin City and Preacher to finally hammer the lesson home.
PO :You created Destroyer Duck in 1982 to help
finance your HTD legal battle. Is there any chance of its title
character making a cameo in the pages of the new HTD
in this six issue series, no. Duke and Howard made their one and only
appearance together on a page Phil Winslade drew for a charity comic in
Britain earlier this year. I think it can be viewed online
PO:A large number of respected industry creators came out
in support of you during the HTD lawsuit, with many of them
[including Marvel Universe co-creator Jack Kirby, Sergio Aragonés ( Groo
the Wanderer), and others] donating their talents to the Destroyer
Duck series. What has their reaction been in regards to your return to
SG : I
haven't heard from Jack. If I do, you and the
Weekly World News
will be the first to know. In general, the people who worked on Destroyer Duck were very supportive back when I settled the lawsuit
out of court, and I think they'd approve of my returning to the character
PO: As the embodiment of your inner rage
HTD lawsuit, the Destroyer Duck character was extremely
destructive and angry, albeit in a comical way. Still, as far as violence
went, he couldn’t touch
Void Indigo (
VI), the infamous
graphic novel and two-issue series about a reincarnated warrior who had
come back to destroy everyone who had betrayed him in his past life. Was VI something you started developing prior to
HTD, or was it
also a direct result of your lawsuit experience?
Believe it or not, Void Indigo was originally developed as a revamp
of Hawkman, a way of combining the Golden and Silver Age origins of the
character into one. VI evolved into something very different, of
course, after I began developing it as an original series. I suppose there
may have been some residual anger and aggression from the lawsuit that
spilled over into the story, but it wasn't a conscious
PO :At the time of its release in 1984, VI was
widely regarded as being the most brutal, sexually explicit comics story
ever written. Do you feel that VI opened the floodgates, so to
speak, for the "grim-and-gritty" style that permeated comics by the end of
Well, let's qualify that a bit. Void Indigo may have been very
strong stuff for mainstream comics, but there were certainly more
sexually explicit and violent stories in the undergrounds. For sexual
explicitness, Void Indigo pales beside some of Robert Crumb's work,
and Richard Corben and others had approached or exceeded it in terms of
graphic violence, too. Crumb's work, though, always had that mad, cartoony
quality that put a bit of psychological distance between the reader and
what was happening on the page. Corben's stories tended to be set in
fantasy worlds and peopled with characters that were larger than life,
heroically and anatomically.
By contrast, Void Indigo was set in
the present, illustrated in a more or less realistic style, and, except
for the alien protagonist, the characters were people you might meet on
the street, in a bar, or at the supermarket. That made it scary,
and made the sexuality real and disturbing, in a way that the undergrounds
I honestly don't know if Void Indigo
had any influence on the stuff that came later. It was an early step in
that direction – too early, as we all know – but it was only around
for a short time. It's my impression that Frank Miller and others found
their inspiration elsewhere, primarily in film noir and the
hard-boiled crime fiction of the '40s and '50s, which influenced me, too.
The use in Void Indigo of California as a setting where strange and
terrible things lurk beneath the sunny, laidback surface owes a lot to
Raymond Chandler, albeit filtered through my own experience in L.A. The
low-life characters – some quirky and amusing, some irredeemably sleazy,
some trying their damnedest to be normal, and failing – were strongly
influenced by James M. Cain.
PO:Given VI’s content and underlying revenge
message, did you have much trouble getting the Marvel of the time to
accept it? If so, do you feel that you’d have as much trouble getting it
published at Marvel today?
Archie Goodwin was the editor at Epic when I was doing
so no, there was no problem getting him to accept it. Archie was as
brilliant an editor – and writer, for that matter – as has ever worked in
comics. He knew exactly what I was trying to say, and I think he liked the
I really don't know whether Marvel would
publish it today.
By the way, the "message" of
Indigo wasn't really revenge. What the book said – and people found
this disturbing, too – is that the evils, both profound and petty, that we
all commit must eventually extract a price. We may
gotten away with it, but sooner or later, even if it's 11,000 years and
countless incarnations later, the cosmos will bite back.
released through Epic, Marvel’s first Mature Readers line. What
differences have you seen, editorially speaking, between Epic and
get a sense that the MAX line will be more cohesive and probably more
polished than the Epic books. Archie was working in uncharted territory
when Marvel published the Epic line. Stuart has the advantage of having
spent a number of years at Vertigo, which is probably the only truly
successful "mature readers" imprint to issue from a major
On the other hand, MAX, at
this point, isn't doing any creator-owned books, whereas almost all of the
Epic titles were creator-owned. Stuart tells me that MAX may publish
creator-owned material in the future, but for now, since all of the stuff
is based in one way or another on Marvel properties, there are still
vestigial superhero elements present in many of the titles. Marvel, and
some readers, may not consider that a liability, and indeed it may not be
for the direct market. If Marvel intends to make any serious penetration
into bookstores, though, it will have to outgrow that fixation at some
point and broaden its range to encompass other kinds of
PO :A growing number of creators point to the Internet as
the future of comics. You yourself are a computer proponent (and even have
your own website, www.stevegerber.com). How much of a future do you think
comics have on the web?
think there's a very serious future for comics on the web, not as a
replacement for the printed material but as separate yet complementary
form, in much the way newspaper strips have always coexisted with comic
There are two big questions yet to be
answered about web comics. One, of course, is how to make them profitable,
so creators don't have to starve to death for their art. But there are
already some successes in this area. I'm told that Steve Conley's
Astounding Space Thrills is turning at least a small profit from
advertising. Maybe it's even a large profit by now; I hope so.
The second question is what, precisely,
comics on the web should be, what modifications, if any, to the form
itself should (and shouldn't) be made to accommodate the web. The answer
to that will only come through experimentation, and, in fact, there
probably never will be a single definitive answer. We just don't know yet
what's possible or palatable, even with the current technology. And by the
time we figure it out, there'll be new technologies to evaluate. Some
people in comics find this threatening, but I think it's the gateway to a
whole new universe of possibilities for comics. Yes, some of those
possibilities will undoubtedly prove unwieldy, unworkable, too expensive –
or just plain stupid – but others may open up the art form in ways none of
us has imagined yet.
Apart from the artistic possibilities,
there's something else to consider: The web may prove to be the most
potent means available for attracting new readers, first to material that
appears on the Internet itself, then to magazines and books they can order
conveniently online, and ultimately to the material that's available in
the comics shops and bookstores. This isn't going to happen overnight, but
that doesn't mean it's a computer geek's fantasy.
PO:What’s next, creatively speaking, once you finish the
current HTD series?
Steff Osborne (one of the founders of
are writing an original graphic novel for Larry Young's company,
AiT/PlanetLar. I don't want to say too much about this one yet, but it's a
very peculiar science-fantasy story that could ultimately become a series
of graphic novels. I'm hoping you'll see it in print by the
The third installment of
Last Son of
Earth, a Superman Elseworlds book I wrote for DC, should be also be
hitting the shops in 2002. This one takes the earthborn Kal-El – the son
of Jonathan and Martha Kent – back to Krypton and dumps him in the middle
of a civil war between the Council of Elders, who want to maintain the
cold, sterile culture that Krypton built after the Clone Wars, and
Jor-El's band of "Restorationists," who seek to revive the glories of
Krypton's ancient past – what you and I would call the "Silver Age"
version of that society.
And, as I mentioned, I'm
hoping to get
Void Indigo underway again. What I'd like to do with
this series – given that the original was published almost 18 years ago,
and most of the current readership knows of it only by reputation – is to
start from the very beginning, with a rewrite of the script and all-new
art. The essentials of the story probably wouldn't be altered drastically,
but the original
Void Indigo was written during a period when my
writing style was undergoing a major transition. There are a few elements
I'd like to change and a
lot of things I'd like to fix and tighten
PO: A recurring theme in your work is the overwhelming
absurdity of life, the human condition, and the universe in general.
Besides the new series or this interview, what’s the most absurd thing
that’s happened to you lately?
has to do with life, death, medical insurance, and the dot-com crash. I'd
rather not talk about it.
PO :‘Nuff said.
For more on the Essential Howard the
Duck TP (OCT011909D4), please see the solicitation in the Marvel
Comics section of the October Previews. Complete information on the
first issue of MAX Comics’ six-issue Howard the Duck mini-series
will be available in the November catalog.