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Steve Gerber (1947)

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Stephen Ross "Steve" Gerber (September 20, 1947–February 10, 2008) was an American comic book writer best known as co-creator of the satiric Marvel Comics character Howard the Duck.

Other works include Man-Thing, Omega the Unknown, Marvel Spotlight: Son of Satan, The Defenders, Marvel Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy, and a lengthy run on Daredevil. At the time of his death, he was writing Countdown to Mystery: Doctor Fate for DC Comics, having briefly worked with a version of the character in 1983.

He was also known for including lengthy text pages in the midst of a comic book story, such as in Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, Son of Satan, Defenders, Nevada, and his graphic novel, Stewart the Rat.

Gerber was posthumously inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2010.


 early life
Steve Gerber was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Bernice Gerber, and one of four children, with siblings Jon, Michael, and Lisa. After corresponding with fellow youthful comics fans Roy Thomas and Jerry Bails, and starting one of the first comics fanzines, Headline, at age 13 or 14, Gerber attended college at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, and St. Louis University, where he finished his communications degree and did some post-graduate work.

Gerber began work as a copywriter for a St. Louis advertising agency. During this time he wrote short stories, some of which, such as "And the Birds Hummed Dirges," later appeared in Crazy Magazine during his stint as editor.

In early 1972, Gerber asked Thomas, by this time Marvel editor-in-chief, about writing comics; Thomas sent him a writer's test — six pages of a Daredevil car-chase scene drawn by Gene Colan — which Gerber passed. He accepted a position as an associate editor and writer at Marvel Comics for $125 a week — $25 less than at the ad agency — and $13 a page for writing. Thomas said in 2007,

 Marvel Comics
Gerber initially penned standard superhero stories for titles such as Daredevil , Iron Man , and Sub-Mariner , but soon developed an individual voice that mixed adventure with social satire and absurdist humor. In one issue of The Defenders, for example, a group of supervillains, tired of always being beaten by the heroes, seeks out a self-help guru for motivation. Gerber also penned anthological horror-fantasy stories for Creatures on the Loose (adaptations of Lin Carter's Thongor), Monsters Unleashed, Chamber of Chills, and Journey Into Mystery, and humor pieces for Crazy, becoming editor of that satirical magazine for issues #8-14.

Howard the Duck

Besides a lengthy run on The Defenders , Gerber scripted Man-Thing, about a swamp-monster empath; Omega The Unknown, which explored the strange link between a cosmic superhero and a boy; and Howard the Duck, created with artist Val Mayerik as a secondary character in a Man-Thing story in Adventure into Fear #19 . Howard graduated to his own backup feature in Giant-Size Man-Thing, confronting such bizarre horror-parody characters as the Hellcow and the Man-Frog, before acquiring his own comic book title with Howard the Duck #1 in 1976. Gerber wrote 27 issues of the series, illustrated by a variety of artists, beginning with Frank Brunner. Gene Colan eventually became the regular penciller. The series gradually developed a substantial cult following, possibly amplified by Howard's entry into the 1976 U.S. presidential campaign under the auspices of the All-Night Party. Marvel attempted a spin-off with a short-lived Howard the Duck syndicated comic strip from 1977 to 1978, at first written by Gerber and drawn by Colan and Mayerik, and later written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Alan Kupperberg.

Gerber had been replaced on the strip in mid-1978, creating acrimony and a lawsuit. Marvel's then editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, blamed Gerber's chronic tardiness, saying the creative team was "producing strips within six days of their publication dates," which he said caused several newspapers to drop the strip. Shooter added that while the syndicate threatened to drop the strip if a new writer were not brought in, "Steve can tell you a good number of horror stories — and they're all true — about the trouble we had getting artists."

Gerber recalled, in the 2000s, that

Other series
During this period Gerber often worked with writer Mary Skrenes, with whom he would reunite in 2004 for the short-lived Hard Time. Gerber collaborated with writer Carole Seuling on Shanna the She-Devil.

Among other Marvel projects, Gerber wrote the first issue of Marvel Comics Super Special featuring the band KISS, in which he also introduced Dr. Doom's tutor, Dizzie the Hun. Another important part of Gerber's oeuvre was reviving forgotten characters such as in Tales of the Zombie based on a one-shot character, Simon Garth, created in the 1950s by Bill Everett, who died shortly after the series began. In Defenders he brought back three pre-superhero characters, the Headmen. He also reintroduced the 1969 one-time feature Guardians of the Galaxy, first as guest stars in Marvel Two-in-One and Defenders, then as a feature in Marvel Presents. He created the characters of Starhawk, Aleta Ogord, and Nikki. In this series, he depicted the first obvious sex act in a book approved by the Comics Code Authority. He also wrote stories of Son of Satan, Morbius the Living Vampire and Lilith, Daughter of Dracula. He created the monk Montesi in Dracula Lives! #5, whose formula would later temporarily destroy all of the vampires in the world.

Gerber was noted for memorable supporting or guest characters who would become cult favorites in their own right. Among his best known are Everyman Richard Rory, who has appeared off and on in most of the Gerber books, and the Foolkiller, a psychopathic vigilante who inspired several different individuals to adopt his identity over the years and acquired his own 10-issue limited series in 1990. Gerber was also responsible for the creation of the Silver Samurai during his Daredevil run, and the female Red Guardian when writing Defenders. He also created N'Kantu, the Living Mummy, but wrote only two stories with the character.

Toward the end of his work at Marvel, he wrote Hanna-Barbera stories for Mark Evanier under the anagrammatic name Reg Everbest. Only two of these, featuring Magilla Gorilla and Clue Club, were published in their English-language originals.

 Battle for Howard the Duck
Gerber was fired by Marvel in 1978, with then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter saying Gerber was "over two months late" on the titles he was writing, and "late on his contractual obligations; he was contracted to do so many pages and was not doing them." Shooter added, "I would not say there was nothing else to it; I would just say that we found it advantageous to get out of the contract we were in," while at the same time calling Gerber "one of the best writers in the business," whom he would welcome as a freelancer. Gerber, in an open letter to The Comics Journal editor Gary Groth, referred to his "parting of the ways with Marvel", and said, "I was dismissed from the Howard the Duck newspaper strip in a manner which violated the terms of my written agreement with Marvel. Marvel was advised that I would contemplating legal action.... As a consequence of the notice given Marvel by my lawyers, the company chose to terminate my contract on the comic books as well." Gerber subsequently launched a lengthy legal battle for control of Howard the Duck, culminating in a lawsuit filed August 29, 1980.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, Gerber did some work for DC Comics, including a 1982 Superman miniseries, The Phantom Zone; the last three issues of Mr. Miracle' and a run of backup stories in The Flash starring Doctor Fate and co-written with Martin Pasko. He also wrote for independent comic companies. One of Gerber's first major works away from Marvel was the original graphic novel Stewart the Rat for Eclipse Comics, with art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. Also for Eclipse Magazine Gerber and Mayerik created the anti-censorship horror story, "Role Model/Caring, Sharing, and Helping Others".

In 1982 he teamed with Jack Kirby at Eclipse to create Destroyer Duck, a satirical comic that raised funds for his court case against Marvel. Eclipse publisher Dean Mullaney states, "Everyone involved with the 'Special Lawsuit Benefit Issue' donated their time and talents, including Eclipse as the publisher. The full and total proceeds went to pay Steve's legal bills. Among the back-up stories was the first appearance of "Groo" by Sergio Aragones." Gerber and Marvel reached a settlement in the case.

 Later career

After that time, Gerber worked sporadically in comics, writing several miniseries for Marvel (including Void Indigo for the Epic Comics imprint in 1984 and The Legion of Night and Suburban She-Devils in 1991) and DC . In the early 1980s, Gerber and Frank Miller made a proposal to revamp DC's three biggest characters: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. However, this proposal was not accepted. Returning briefly to Marvel, he had a 12-issue run on The Sensational She-Hulk , a three-issue run on Cloak and Dagger, had Hawkeye get shot and wear a new armored costume designed by Tony Stark in Avengers Spotlight, and wrote two issues of Toxic Crusaders, all for Marvel. During this time he also did a serial in Marvel Comics Presents featuring Poison, a character he created in The Evolutionary War crossover. He also wrote the two-issue Freddy Krueger's A Nightmare on Elm Street which delved into the backstory of the character.

In collaboration with Beth Woods , he wrote the "Contagion" episode of the syndicated television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and with her wrote BBSs for Dummies.

He worked in television animation, working as story editor on the animated TV series The Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Dungeons & Dragons; created Thundarr the Barbarian; and shared a 1998 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class — Animated Program, for the WB program The New Batman/Superman Adventures. His Berlin Wall episode of The Puppy's New Adventures was heavily censored to prettify East Berlin, resulting in Gerber's mock-slogan "ABC Standards and Practices... Protecting Your Children With Lies." He also wrote the pilot episode of the animated TV series Mister T.

He was one of the founders of the Malibu Comics Ultraverse, co-creating Exiles and creating Sludge. For Image, he co-created The Cybernary with Nick Manabat and disbanded Codename: Strykeforce , in addition to guest-writing Pitt. In 2002 he created a new Howard the Duck miniseries for Marvel's MAX line. For DC he then created Hard Time (along with long-time collaborator Mary Skrenes), which outlasted the short-lived imprint DC Focus, but slow sales led Hard Time: Season Two to be cancelled after only seven issues rather than the minimum twelve Gerber was initially promised.

In 2005, when Marvel Comics sponsored a vote on which of four unused characters to revive, Gerber asked his fans to vote against Wundarr the Aquarian, a supporting character he had created in Fear and Marvel Two-in-One. Wundarr took second after Death's Head. He stated numerous times on his blog and elsewhere on the web his opinion that no one should write another's characters without the creator's endorsement. He himself endorsed the 2000s Foolkiller series, starring a character he had created in Man-Thing, because the character was a new individual using the old persona.

Later, Gerber wrote the Helmet of Fate: Zauriel one-shot and continued writing the Doctor Fate serial in the Countdown to Mystery limited series for DC Comics up to the time of his death, working on stories in the hospital. Gerber died before being able to write the concluding chapter of the serial; in his honor, four separate writers provided their own conclusions to the story, each of which referenced Gerber's best-known creations and commonly-used themes.

Due in part to the costs of the ongoing legal battle with Marvel over Howard the Duck, Gerber at one point was forced to declare bankruptcy.

In 2007, Gerber was diagnosed with an early stage of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and was eventually hospitalized while continuing to work. He had gotten onto the waiting list for a transplant at UCLA Medical Center. On February 10, 2008, Gerber died in a Las Vegas hospital from complications stemming from his condition. At the time of his death, Gerber was separated from his wife, Margo Macleod. He had a daughter, Samantha Voll.

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