Remembering Steve Gerber
I just received an e-mail with the sad news that comic book writer Steve Gerber has died.
As I was making my way through New York comics fandom, Steve was among the first comics professionals I got to know. We’d run into one another at Phil Sueling’s Second Sundays or the early Creation Conventions and chat. Steve was filled with tremendous enthusiasm and to him, writing comics was fun.
Obviously, for him, they became a whole lot less fun after the law suit over Howard the Duck and several other projects crashed and burned. As a reader, though, I loved his Man-Thing and Defenders stories and thought he did some neat things with Daredevil. He was the first comics writer I can think of to mix comic book storytelling with prose and it worked.
Years later, Steve and I were reunited. Dick Giordano wanted Steve to come back and do more writing for DC. They decided upon the Spectre, and selected Gene Colan to draw it then handed the whole thing to me. Steve and I communicated by phone by also largely through this newfangled thing called MCI Mail (and early version of e-mail).
Steve plotted out the overview and a detailed first issue plot that was fresh and very much a product of the 1980s. Gene Colan was pencilling away and the work looked beautiful. However, Steve was also fighting deadlines and was always running late so it was decided we needed the tough love approach. As a result, I sort of brow beat him into getting me a second plot for Gene so the man didn’t go without work.
Then came the dialogue. Even with the book on a distant schedule, we all wanted Steve to show he could write a full comic book a month before we solicited the series. As a result, I began asking for the dialogue to keep things moving. Then Deb gave birth to Kate and I was at home, begging Steve for dialogue via MCI Mail. Finally, my supervisor, Mike Gold, and I decided we needed to impose a hard and fast deadline on Steve or he would have to be replaced.
Faced with the deadline, Steve said he’d do what he could. A day later, I got a note effectively saying he was just invited to attend the final day of filming on Howard the Duck and he had to make a choice between his dry cleaning and the dialogue. Fresh clothes for the trip won out and he was removed as writer.
It was the only time we worked together but he was always friendly in the subsequent years and the few times we saw one another. I liked Steve, I liked his writing, and I liked how he lived life.
Now, I miss Steve and we’re all a little worse off without him.