Monday, February 11, 2008

Steve Gerber of Howard the Duck fame dead at age 60

Before there was avant-garde music, before I knew anything about cinema, before punk rock had even arrived in the suburbs, I was a comics fan. I'd go to the convenience stores at the corner of 216th and Dewdney in Maple Ridge, or to Haney Books, and look through their racks, mostly for horror comics - Warren magazines, DC EC-ripoffs like House of Mystery, and so forth - which I would collect and horde and share. Even earlier, I remember liking the Spiderman-Stegron conflict -- Stegron was the talking half-stegosaurus, half-human that was leading dinosaurs in a war against humankind -- or the adventures of Turok, Son of Stone (who bears no resemblance to the video game character now named after him, though he was also a dinosaur hunter). And somewhere in all that, at about age 9, I stumbled across Howard the Duck, when it was still being published new (note: the original, Gerber-penned comics are a wholly other creature from the bad 80's movie that was made after control of the comic was taken from Gerber in a lawsuit with Marvel Comics). Young as I was, the ironic, faux-hardboiled language and cynical, alienated worldview - of a duck, for Chrissakes, "trapped in a world he never made" - somehow really appealed to me. There were jokes I didn't get - in the "Quack Up" series which the issue pictured is part of, Timothy Leary appears to give the institutionalized Howard some LSD, setting off a series of destructive hallucinations, and I remember asking my father to explain what was going on -- but I really liked it, and I still actually have a couple issues from my childhood. It was well ahead of its time, and probably did a great deal to corrupt and confuse me, for which I am forever in Steve Gerber's debt; for better or worse, he and Howard were formative influences, and I would probably be a far more well-adapted human being if it weren't for his encouragement. Steve Gerber died on February 10th, waiting for a lung transplant.
Howard, however, will live on.

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