Comic Book’s Unsung Heroes! Steve Gerber!

 

Trapped in a world he never made, Steve Gerber was a writer that not only made his mark with his idiosyncratic style, but if you really dig deep, and explore his work, you’ll see a talent and love for the medium of comic books that was second to none. When Marvel fired Gerber after he threatened a law suit over Howard the Duck, it would’ve been easy for him to pack up and go home. Instead he kept fighting, and stayed in the business. But, most would say what he did before that time was his best work, and I would agree. Welcome to #SuperBlogTeamUp (image by @Charlton_Hero)!

 

 

When Steve Gerber came to New York in 1972, he didn’t show up with a portfolio of ideas and pitch them to Roy Thomas. All he did was take the Marvel writers test, and he was in. At first, he was just a fill in writer, but he eventually made his way to Daredevil and Submariner. He injected some wild characters and elements not seen before into those books, and this is something he’d become known for as the years went by. Alongside Gene Colan, he left his mark on DD (not the level of Frank Miller, but definitely a fun, well remembered run).

Later in 1972, Gerber scripted Adventure into Fear 11, his first shot at the character Man-Thing. This story was more akin to the Marvel horror books of the times, though, but certainly well scripted. In the next issue, we see Gerber as most remember him. Tackling the subject of racism (and for the early 1970s was nothing to over look), Gerber shows not just the evil of the subject, but an extremely good story that makes you think from a different perspective, which is always a good thing. Issue 12 really set the tone for Gerber’s work going forward, as he wrote a story about a hardcore racist and his killing of a black man (excellently rendered by Jim Starlin and Rich Buckler). Not a pleasant ending to this story, which drives his message home even more. His run on Man-Thing is my personal favorite of his works. The way he used a character that cannot speak, along with the framing characters (Richard Rory, who resembles Roy Thomas, Jenifer Kale, etc.) to tell all sorts of different stories is amazing. Oh, and he wrote two other characters that couldn’t speak (or rarely did in Simon Garth, the Zombie and The Living Mummy). This is something I can’t ever recall another writer even coming close to doing at his level.

 

 

Another story of note concerning the Man-Thing, is “Night of the Laughing Dead” (issues 5 and 6 of his own volume one series). The story is pretty deep and focuses on subjects ranging from religion to parental neglect and abuse. Again, heavy subjects, but Gerber uses a Swamp Monster, hippies, and circus performers to tell this must-read story. Steve even wrote himself into a Man-Thing story (Man-Thing 22, volume 1), and it was glorious (image below)!

 

Marvel started a team title in 1972, with a few heavy hitters. Dr. Strange, Hulk, Submariner, and the Silver Surfer adorned the pages of The Defenders. The title had a few different creative teams for the first nineteen issues, but once Gerber took the reigns (issue 20), the title emphatically took off. Over the next twenty-two issues, he’d write some superhero stories (crossover with the original Guardians of the Galaxy), another one about racism (Sons of the Serpent), and two stories that most consider quite insane (The Headmen and Nebulon and the Bozos).  Of course, insanity for one person is entertainment for the other. I fall in the category of the latter.

Most will cite Howard the Duck as Gerber’s crowning achievement, and I’m not enough of an authority to argue any different. That character is certainly the one that he had on many occasions given the impression (or said right out) was his favorite. I’m still trying to obtain everything he’s ever written but that’s going to take some time. But I’ll definitely consider it time well spent. Thanks, Steve, for all the great comic books.

 

 

Steve passed away in 2008, but his legacy and wit still lives on today, as many writers that have come since sing his praises. He was posthumously inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, and received the Bill Finger Award. If you’ve never read any comics by Steve Gerber, do yourself a favor, and give one a try!

 

Please take a look at the other contributors to this round of Super Blog Team-Up! Check out “Creators” and “What IF.” Enjoy!

 

The Tell-Tale Mind  Arak: Son of Thunder – A Lost Adventure

The Superhero Satellite- What If Peter Parker had become Speedball instead of Spider-Man?

Dave’s Comic Heroes – Blue Devil Creation

Between the Pages – Scrooge McDuckTales Woo-oo!

Comics Comics Comics…-Sergio Aragones!

In My Not So Humble Opinion-Kurt Schaffenberger, the definitive Lois Lane artist of the Silver Age.

Source Material – What If Captain Confederacy

Comic Reviews by Walt – What if the Ultraverse Had Continued?

Pop Culture Retrorama – What If The Sinister Dr. Phibes Had Been Produced!

 

Giant Size Man-Thing 3 and 4, 1975

The character Man-Thing is not only one of the best from the Bronze Age, but also for all time in the horror genre. Yes, the Heap predates him (also  another character called “IT” from the pulp era in a sci-fi story by Theodore Sturgeon predates The Heap) but his staying power wasn’t so great for one reason or another. Manny has been around since the early 1970s, and still going to this day. A lot of horror characters (other than the public domain ones), fizzled out and all but disappeared after the  Bronze Age came to a close, but not Man-Thing. One of the reasons is because he had great creators behind him virtually all of the time.

You may ask yourself, what does a wizard, a viking, a barbarian, a high school full of kids, and a duck have in common? Nothing, and that’s the sheer brilliance of Steve Gerber (writer, both issues, the Man-Thing stories plus Howard the Duck). He can take these random things and deliver a great story using a swamp monster that can’t even speak. On the surface, most Man-Thing stories just appear as action/adventure stories, but there is usually an underlying message that is/was very relevant.

The artwork in these two books is nothing short of excellent. In issue three, you get Alfredo Alcala (pencils/inks), Petra Goldberg (colors), and Marcos Pelayo (letters) on the interiors. The cover is by Gil Kane (pencils) and Klaus Janson (inks, with alterations by John Romita). There are two back-ups that feature work by Paul Reinman, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, and Jack “King” Kirby!

The following issue contains more incredible work, starting with an amazing cover by Frank Brunner! Ed Hannigan, Ron Wilson, Frank Springer, Phil Rachelson, Tom Orzechowski, round out the creative team, and a back-up story by Gerber and Brunner to top it all off!

 

 

Giant-Size Man-Thing 5, 1975 “Hellcow!”

I know it’s heresy to say this being a big fan of Steve Gerber’s work, but I’m not really into Howard the Duck. That said, I do love horror stories, and most of them revolving around that character do fit into this genre. In this one for instance, we get to see Howard arrested, and in jail. The police are befuddled that a real duck is in their midst, and quite frankly have no idea what to do with him. The best part of the story lies with another character though, the Hellcow. Apparently, at a certain point in the life of Dracula, he swooped in and bit a cow. Normally, you don’t see animals come back as vampires but for some insane reason, this one does.

As I said above, Steve Gerber (writer) is nothing sort of fantastic. He can take the oddest of themes and turn them into gold. His work on The Defenders, Omega the Unknown, and several other books are all the proof that I need to prove that point. Another creator of this era that did incredible work, is artist, Frank Brunner (penciler). Even though he didn’t do a ton of work in comics, his impression on the industry is a lasting one, for sure. Tom Palmer (inks), Glynis Wein (colors), and Annette Kawecki (letters), finish off the creative team for this outstanding story! Of course, everyone knows of the fantastic work by Palmer, as he inked many books, and none more appreciated than his collaborations with Gene Colan in Tomb of Dracula!

 

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Marvel’s Unsung Heroes -Val Mayerik!

It has been too long since my last spotlight on one of Marvel’s Unsung Heroes, so it is returning now, with a thunderous BOOM! One of my favorite artists from the 1970’s, is without a doubt, Val Mayerik! This guy should be on every list regarding a profound impact on comics from this decade. His work on one of my favorite characters, Man-Thing, is proof alone that he should be held aloft with the other greats of that decade/genre.

Alongside writer, Steve Gerber (who will be getting some love really soon), Mayerik did a phenomenal job with Man-Thing in the title “Fear” (Adventure into Fear, on the cover). Cover artists like Frank Brunner, Rich Buckler, and others, brought people’s eyes to the books, but once inside Mayerik lent his style to the character and it was very eerie! So, here’s to you Val Mayerik, thanks for all the creepy panels that live in our memories!

 

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Marvel’s Unsung Heroes! -Frank Brunner!

One of my personal favorites, Frank Brunner brought a huge amount of energy to his pencils, especially his fantasy and magic-based work! I’m not sure if my first glimpse of his pencils was in Dr. Strange or Giant Size Man-Thing, but either way, I was very impressed! Brunner didn’t have a huge body of work for Marvel, but what we did get, was absolutely incredible. Brunner actually did a good job inking Barry Windsor-Smith in a famous story about Dr. Strange, and that is further proof that he is the man! Nobody did Dr. Strange more justice in my opinion (I think he’s right up there with Colan & Ditko), and his webpage is an homage to everything sci-fi/horror, so check it out! Without further delay, here’s Frank Brunner! Enjoy!

 

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