November, 2009

Hello.  I haven’t posted anything here for a while because I haven’t thought of anything to post.  Nothing Gerber-wise seems to have changed.  He’s still gone and we still miss him.

Hey,  I dunno how many folks are still checking in here but I have a question for anyone who does.  There are actually folks who’ve gotten into reading comics since Steve stopped writing them…and there will be more.  What would you hand such a person to give them an idea of what was special about Gerber writing?  What comic or group of comics?

I’ve locked down all the other comments sections and opened up one for this message.  Post anything you like there, whether it addresses my question or not.  Just as long as it has something to do with Steve.

31 Responses to “November, 2009”

  1. Nat Gertler Says:

    “Night of the Laughing Dead” story from Man Thing, I think. It’s not the thing that caught me (that’d be the fine work that Steve and Mary and Jim did on Omega 3), but it hits well, and I’ve heard from enough other people who picked up on it to suspect that it’s not just me.

  2. Jerry Stratton Says:

    I’d probably freak them out with Deadline Doom from HtD. It’s hard to say, though. At the time I read it, I didn’t fully grok that there were people on the other end of these books. I knew it, I just didn’t know it.

    Depending on if I didn’t think they’d get the old art, maybe Hard Time or Nevada. Probably Hard Time.

    I wonder how it would turn out if someone were to take the Sons of the Serpent storyline from Defenders and redraw it in today’s style.

  3. Stefan "Starocotes" Immel Says:

    As that something has to be not to long and self contained I guess either Nevada or the Dr. Fate part from Countdown to Mystery. Hard Times may be a bit to long for a first read. I have yet to read the Man Thing and Defender storys so I can not judge on that.

    And thanks for keeping this alive.

  4. PJ Says:

    That’s a no-brainer, I’d hand them copies of Void Indigo and then I would explain the backstory of the property. Namely it being one of the first graphic novels published by one of the big two and how at the time it was considered so extreme as to be killed.

    Thinking about it now, I can almost consider Void Indigo as a grandparent of Vertigo’s Preacher series.

    Or maybe I would hand them some of those Howard the Duck issues where he’s running for president.

    Either way, there are a lot of people working in comics now that owe their livelihoods to Steve Gerber. If it wasn’t for his unique approach to his writing and taking convention, turning it sideways… well a lot of fun would have been missed out on.

    When Warren Ellis’ Elijah Snow in Planetary says, “It’s a strange world. Let’s keep it that way.” I can’t help but think of Steve.

  5. Tim Finn Says:

    The “Hard Time” trade.

    If only DC would do a hardcover of the entire run in their slightly oversize “deluxe” format, like how they’re doing the “Justice League International” arcs, or combining “Tom Strong” as 2-in-1s. Anyway, “Hard Time” has the advantage of being topical and not feeling dated (“Howard the Duck” is great, but reads like a ’70s Marvel book), with a diverse cast, and it straddles several genres at once– prison drama, supernatural, teen angst. Like some recent “it” television, it slowly pulls back the layers of certain characters’ backstories, which might appeal to non-comic folk. It also has excellent — and just as importantly — consistent art in the form of the irreplaceable Brian Hurtt, and in the first run at least, a striking desaturated color scheme by Brian Haberlin.

    Alternatively, the “Howard The Duck MAX” trade, for the HBO crowd not easily offended.

  6. RAB Says:

    Hard Time without a doubt. Just give anyone the first issue and let them decide for themselves to keep going.

    Omega the Unknown. It would be best if this hypothetical new reader had some grounding in earlier Marvel titles first, to appreciate how Gerber was trying to evolve the form. It’s a shame when younger readers blame the likes of Gerber or Jack Kirby for guest appearances by the Hulk in Omega or The Eternals as if they had any say in the matter. (You also need to explain that, no, going to another publisher or self-publishing were not options; for that matter, the “limited series” hadn’t even been invented yet.)

    The Howard MAX series is a possibility — especially for the dead-on Vertigo parodies in which Gerber reminds the likes of Warren Ellis where this stuff was invented — but I was thinking the original series might be a better choice. As a single issue, HTD #3 is a major clue this book wasn’t going to be a “funny animal” comic poking harmless fun at comic book cliches, but for me the most unique and daring stuff happens later in the run. The Dr. Bong storyline with Howard transformed into a human? Or even better, the sequence in issues #24-27 involving the Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime. No one else but Gerber would or could have done that story.

  7. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    Well, the first time I noticed something really SPECIAL about Gerber’s writing was his run on Man-Thing (well, I was taking a course from Prof. Carol Christ during his run on Son of Satan, but I suspect that most people would not get the significance of that). While I definitely enjoyed his Defenders run, I would give someone Giant-SIzed Man-Thing (LOVE that title) #4, which included “The Kid’s Night Out!” and an early Howard the Duck story.

  8. Michael Says:

    I’d go with HTD #5 – that’s the one that did it for me – not sure exactly why, not much happens in the issue, but has a certain magic to it.

  9. David Allen Says:

    Mark asks a good question. Gerber doesn’t have a “Maus” or “Watchmen” that can be smugly presented to a newcomer. Much as we love him, and even though virtually everything he wrote has something special about it, it’s hard to compile a “best of Gerber” without simply handing over a towering stack of Man-Thing, Howard, Defenders, Omega, Foolkiller and Hard Time and letting the recipient sort it all out.

    I’ll echo Bart on Giant-Size Man-Thing 4: “The Kid’s Night Out!” has always felt like one of the boldest stories Marvel ever published, a story that speaks to comics readers and noncomic readers and involves real people and only minimal fantasy elements. You get Gerber’s deep empathy, his channeled rage, and even examples of his occasional experiments with text. Plus, the Howard story in the back, “Frog Death,” gives you Gerber in his lighter mode. A perfectly balanced comic.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read the regular Man-Thing series, but issue 12, “Song-Cry of the Living Dead Man,” and issue 15, “A Candle for Sainte-Cloud,” likewise stand out in my memory as stories that don’t rely on comics tropes to succeed.

    Howard the Duck issue 8, “Open Season,” deals with presidential politics and the media in a clever way and, again, seems like a story that doesn’t require any background to understand completely.

    It’s hard to isolate issues of The Defenders, and someone more current on them than me could offer a more detailed recommendation, but issues 34, “I Think We’re All Bozos in This Book,” and 38, “Exile to Oblivion,” are especially absurdist and show Gerber at his most freewheeling. Even out of context, Grant Morrison devotees should appreciate them.

    The Foolkiller series is not only pretty good, it has the benefit of actually ending, which unfortunately can’t be said about a lot of Gerber’s stories. (Which is why recommending Void Indigo seems perverse.)

    I’ll also add a left-field suggestion, “Heartache 1.0″ from Vertigo’s Heartthrobs issue 4, a standalone, wildly experimental story about Internet chat rooms. I’m not sure it’s entirely successful, but its audacity blew me away.

  10. Ethon Fonseca Says:

    Thanks for asking, really, it´s a great question. I´m tiping from Brasil, so forguive my french and english, but I was just searching for a first part of the Steve Gerber “Métal Hurlant” (No. 37 and 38) interview, that is just enough to get people here aware of some important unfolding of comics history. I wasn´t aware of Steve´s recent “passing away”. It´s really a pitty. Now I only hope to grab some good memories, maby scanned by generous and/or criterious people (like he certainly was).

    My anser… about what to use to pop-out bunches of “our history”? I work in schools and of course there should be other places to just let de records playing and all. Harvey Kurtzman (and all “early” Mad magazines) seems just “essential”, as to know better about other bunches of the world jokes and works, arts and things, migth seem. Like Hugo Pratt or his older pal, the argentinian writer Hector Germán Oesterheld, wose most famous adventure strip would be “the eternaut” a S.F. space invaders saga that reminds somme bits of Ray Bradbury (and E.C.) times (fifties?). His “Mort Sinner” is also compelling. I´m serious here. It seems like a kind of “this has sommething to do with that” colective research process. Like Carl (“seven keys to a golden city”?) Barks has to do with the first Indiana Jones movie (they say, and I would like to believe), it just doesn´t grab our interst that much (and/or in the same way) anymore. It seems that Greber´s works is one of the big treasures of north-american history of comics, and still relatively “hidden” (to other parts of the world), but that has to do with several other stories, and great kids stuff or places also, of course. Big kids? Nice and ilustrated stories? Yeah, good question(s), thanks a lot, whe will keep searching.

    About “métal hurlant”, I would just like to remember and recomend Yves Challand as a guy with really nice pieces of art, and casually also a satirist who worked over other (european) “humoristic” stiles. Too bad he died so soon. And that hese works could seem a bit lost between so much other graphic novelish junk. I hope we will soon acess better, and seek for all those (strange and) beautifull treasures, so to qualify also librarian skills, and culture works and all. I mean, I think your question is really much better formulated, and I gess the ansers will do a “hell of” a “catalog”, intertextual or sommething like that. Keep walking!!!

  11. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    and issue 15, “A Candle for Sainte-Cloud,” likewise stand out in my memory as stories that don’t rely on comics tropes to succeed.

    I hope my quoting worked.

    In any case, I was trying to remember the title to that story; yes, that is a definitely “recommended” as well.

  12. Justin Says:

    There are so many things Steve did that resonate perfectly today, but there are two books that stand out that don’t get nearly enough attention.

    His MAX Howard the Duck series was absolutely incendiary. Especially the last issue, “Creator’s Rights”, where Howard meets God and God explains how the entire universe is “a work made for hire”. That issue in particular features some of Steve’s sharpest dialogue. The conversation between God and Howard is one of the most memorable things I’ve ever read in a book, comic or otherwise, period.

    Then there’s Nevada. Talk about a book ahead of its time. It’s like Watchmen to me in that it seems very “cinematic”, but in fact the thing is a total celebration of what comics are and what comics can do. The characterization there is so stunning, and the plotting is subtle and complex without losing the reader or turning stale. A fine, fine comic book. In a perfect world, the Coen Bros. would have made a movie of it by now.

    Matter of fact, I think what I like both about the MAX HTD and the Nevada trade is that they both flow along effortlessly and build naturally. Those stories swell like an orchestra. Steve made no secret of his struggles with his work, or of his spontaneous approach, but both of these books exemplify the magic he was capable of when he was firing on all pistons. I sure miss that guy.

  13. JeffZ Says:

    Kid’s Night Out is what stopped me in my tracks when I first read it – I was in 8th grade reading a second-hand copy a few years after it came out. I think that’s when I decided Gerber was more than just “interesting” (something I’d determined after reading Omega #2) and was freakin’ GREAT. I recently replaced the beat-up copy I’ve been reading and may pass it around when I find people who might appreciate it. Awhile before I read KNO, I came upon the Man-Thing issues which flanked it: #s 16-18– there was real power in Steve’s depiction of a town’s “moral” outrage descending into madness. I really don’t think there’s anything in these stories which would require alteration for a 2009 reader.
    I believe the first Gerber story I ever read was that single Metal Men issue he did in ’76. There was something absolutely captivating about his writing in that one, but it all meshed together with the Simonson art and the characters themselves. Ironically, it was my subsequent pursuit of MM back issues which had me follow Ross Andru’s art to Marvel, where I solidified my acquaintance with Steve. Damn, I wish he was still doing what he did so compellingly….

  14. Charles Bryan Says:

    About three years ago, I was giving myself the midlife crisis gift of art and drawing courses. One of them was a comic art course, and the instructor thought that there must be reasons why people were in there, and asked as to bring some work that got us interested in comics, or that we thought represented what we liked about comics.

    Everyone in the course was substantially younger than I was, so most of their choices were more recent, but I took Howard #16 — because for a mainstream book, that really did violate any number of preconceptions – and Defenders #32, featuring the story of “Nighthawk’s Brain”. Those would still be my choices.

    HTD #3 (iirc) with “Master of Quak Fu” also combined empathy, humor, and a little does of world-weariness. I might add that to the list.

    Then again, I might just have someone sit next to my “Gerber Longbox” and tell them not to get up until they’ve finished it all.

  15. Micah Says:

    The Duck. Don’t get me wrong, I love other stuff he did, but still, the Duck. My interest in his other work grew from the Duck.

    The Max series is excellent and self-contained.

    HTD #24 is my favourite. No super-villians, no cosmic adventure. Just oddball characters popping in and out of Howard’s world, and Howard managing to communicate with them at their level. Fun.

    HTD #9 managed to parody both Canada and the American view of Canada simultaneously. As a Canadian, I’ve never read a more perceptive take: the general antagonism of the French, Canada’s resentment of the US, the indifference of the US to Canada, the lack of knowledge in the US about Canada. I assume he must have visited at some point or knew some Canadians to be able to bring out those dynamics. For me, the funniest issue.

    Really, every Duck story had magic I think. Can’t go wrong.

  16. gordon Says:

    Clearly, people are still paying attention to the site, Mark… they just need to be “goosed” with topics to consider…

    Thanks for keeping this space alive.

  17. Peter Says:

    Man-Thing 16 – 18. “Decay Meets the Mad Viking”, “A Book Burns in Citrusville” and “School’s Out”; I don’t need to dig these comics out of the longbox in the attic to remember those titles, they’re seared into my memory. Mature storytelling that sat comfortably on the same spinner rack as the Hulk and Iron Man, in the days before advisory content labels and special imprints were deemed necessary to sell comics to grown-ups. I return to these every so often and still find something new each time.

    Thanks for keeping this site alive. Feel free to fire other Steve-related questions our way from time to time.

  18. Forrest Says:

    I suggest pointing people to the PDFied HTD newspaper strips, which have the newbie advantage of not being set in the MU.

    (A handful of quotations…)

    “I’ve been making a shopping list for next year.”
    “Yeah? Well, on July 8th I want baloney sandwiches an’ clam chowder for lunch. Mark that down.”

    “The question you gotta ask yourself is: how would I like to earn my first million?”
    “I’ve always wanted to be — a trapeze artist!”

    [a knock at the door]
    “It’s after midnight! Who–?”
    “I don’t know. Death, probably. Shall we let him in?”

    “You’re like my husband! He’s different too! He’s ‘into’ dairy farming…and he’s stopped shaving! He ran away to Cleveland with a girl punk rock guitarist who wears a safety pin through her nose! He says he did it for love!”

  19. Andy E. Nystrom Says:

    I’m tempted to see Omega, but the easiest way to find Omega is the trade which unfortunately concludes with a story that Steve hated.

    Definitely Howard the Duck, espe. with the Essential volume making it so easy to find the stories.

    And Marvel really needs to come out with a Foolkiller trade for Gerber’s series.

  20. Mark Kusenberger Says:

    believe it or not, I’d recommend Gerber’s Superman Elsewords comics. Gerber was so radical, a lot of his stuff would just plain freak people out. as brilliant as the Howard the Duck work was, I know many people who couldn’t get past the main character’s species to enjoy the commentary of the Quack-Fu issue or the presidential run.
    it’s really amazing that Gerber could pull off such radical work.

  21. Justin Says:

    I’ve still never read Stewart the Rat. I think I’ll put that on my Christmas list…

  22. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    I’m reminded. There is something which, with Steve’s permission, I called “Gerber’s Law.” It came from Foolkiller, but I don’t remember what issue: Do not trust someone who can’t spell what he or she does for a living.

  23. Michael Says:

    It’d be kind of cool if Marvel put out that HTD story that got shelved in ’85 and maybe got Gene Colon or someone like that to draw it. I mean, since the scripts done anyway… Marvel should put out more SG collections.

  24. Kevin J. Maroney Says:

    The Foolkiller mini might be the best sustained bit of writing Gerber did–comparable to Taxi Driver or the best of Jim Thompson in its intensity, and it’s not like crime has an expiration date. Am I correct that it has never been collected?

  25. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    Re: Collected Foolkiller
    It was supposed to be collected a number of times. I recall Gerber asking me what sort of editing I thought should be done for a GN collection. I went through the series with a fine toothed comb, and only found a couple of spots where a panel would have been redundant or confusing. I don’t recall where; at one point Steve had lost his copies so I sent him mine.

  26. John Bedell Says:

    Just read that Marvel (ie: Disney) filed suit to retain rights for Jack Kirby characters after Kirby’s heirs have notified they are intending to retain the rights. Maybe Marvel’s sale was a way to get all the value out of what they were going to lose. Marvel’s stance (ie: Disney) is that Jack was a hired gun. Typical Disney.

  27. Jeff Vargon Says:

    Howard the Duck #5 would my first choice as an introduction to Steve’s work. For me this was what got me hooked, and anything else after was gravy. From the interplay between Howard and Berverly, Howard’s search for ajob and the commentary on allof the insipid sides of American culture Steve was able tof it into a singler comic book issue encapsulate the greater aspects of his writing,storytelling sklii and characterization. Two Man-Thing issues also stand out, Giant Sized Man Thing #4 for both the Man Thing story and the inclusion of Howard. As mentioned earlier the stories “A Candle for St.Cloud” and “Song Cry of a Living Dead Man” stand out as well.

  28. Scott Andrew Hutchins Says:

    There really is so much great material. Man-Thing, Omega, Defenders, Howard (both series), Hard Time, Son of Satan, Tales of the Zombie.

    I’ll throw out another oddball choice for the newbie… the two part story, “Role Model” in Eclipse Magazine #s 2 and 3. It’s short, but powerful, and full of cultural criticism.

    It’s difficult to recommend specific Gerber material because of length, by “A Candle for Sainte-Cloud” holds up really well as a standalone, and chronologically, it doesn’t really matter where you put it because the Ted Sallis stuff is all flashback and the Man-Thing stuff is all a hallucination. As mentioned, “The Kid’s Night Out” is another good one, as are “Deadline Doom” and “I Want Mo-o-oney!” “Pop Goes the Cosmos!” might be another good one, unless the person you’re showing it to has a Larry Stu knee-jerk. (I think if Gerber were really doing Mary Sue with that issue it would have read a lot differently, and his involvement in the story wouldn’t be so passive.)

  29. Scott Andrew Hutchins Says:

    I believe a Foolkiller collection was announced but never released.

    There is also supposed to be a Gerber-written Man-Thing graphic novel coming out. The last I heard about it was letterer Todd Klein’s blog, so I’m not sure what the hold-up is. He even showed a panel from it in color.

  30. Scott Andrew Hutchins Says:

    Anyway, I hope one of my plays takes off so I can hire a lawyer and negotiate this Man-Thing opera with Marvel (I have a friend who has conducted for Disney, and his advice was to keep at it and then hire a lawyer). Steve always said he didn’t like adaptations, but I’m doing the Ned Rorem art-song opera route and setting the text Gerber wrote. It’s edited, and it’s not 100% Steve (It has the origin at the beginning, with lots of exact quotation from Conway, Wein, and Thomas, and it ends with DeMatteis’s white Man-Thing so that the ending has a real arc to it), but it may be the truest translation of any Marvel material to another medium.

  31. JB Says:

    Foolkiller