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!

 

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Haunt of Horror 1, 1974 “His Own Kind”

In the year 2020, there have been reasons to be down. But, not only do I try to always look at the positives, it was easier to do that during some tough times because of horror magazines from the Bronze Age. I managed to track down and complete a few different series. One I didn’t complete yet (the last issue is crazy expensive) but did manage to get the first issue, was The Haunt of Horror. This magazine eventually became the home for Gabriel, Devil Hunter after this issue, but for now, lets dive into this inaugural issue! (cover by Bob Larkin)

After a stunning frontispiece by Alfredo Alcala, we get “The Rats!” This tale (by Gerry Conway, writer, and Ralph Reese, artist) follows a few short years after a certain film about rats debuted (Willard, 1971). The lead character also has a striking resemblance to Roy “the boy” Thomas! A fun little yarn for sure!

The following story is a prose piece with a splash page and one other illustration. “HeartStop,” by noted science fiction writer George Alec Effinger, is quite long for a comic magazine (21 pages!), and split into three parts. The tale is about murder and madness in a small Pennsylvania town. The illustrations are by none other than Walt Simonson!

Next up is a reprint from 1953. “The Last Man,” shows a murderous streak of a man named Joe. His murdering streak comes to an end, but not because of why you’d think! Art by Russ Heath (no credits given on script)!

“His Own Kind,” is another story adapted by a science fiction writer, Thomas M. Disch. This is a classic werewolf story that will not leave you wanting! Script by Roy Thomas, art by Val Mayerik (pencils)and Mike Esposito (inks).

A war story called “The Nightmare Patrol” is next. This is one that slightly mirrors the DC comics Weird War Tales, but not exactly. For 90% of the book, it’s just a straight up war story, but then things get crazy! Writer Gerry Conway, art by Ernie Chan!

Finally, we get “In the Shadows of the City!” This is one weird, bizarre story, but I expect nothing less from Steve Gerber (writer) and Vicente Alcazar (art)! A man is telling a psychologist about his compulsion to murder, and it might already have been carried out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Comics: Thongor Warrior of Lost Lemuria!

Led Zeppelin once famously said…”in the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man.” Apparently the boys from England had a run in with Thongor Warrior of Lost Lemuria! He’s all man with his big muscles and sword (insert laughter here)! Overall, I find the possibilities of such theories fascinating, and its super cool that there are scientists out there today trying to find some facts to certain oddities and inconsistencies that exist in the world.

OK, back to facts! This character was created by sci-fi/fantasy writer Lin Carter in the 1960s. Carter wrote quite a bit of material, and was a colleague of L. Sprague de Camp (another huge name in sci-fi/fantasy). Both men (and countless others) were influenced by the giants Robert E. Howard and Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The character is very Conan-esque, but the setting really sets it apart from that other barbarian.

These stories were written by George Alec Effinger (issue 23), Gardner Fox (issue 26), and Steve Gerber (issue 28), respectively. Effinger was a sci-fi novelist that wrote only a few comics in his abbreviated life (he passed away at only 55 yrs old). Most will recognize the name of legend Fox, who wrote in the comic book industry from the 1940s into the 1970s, co-creating The Flash, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and the JSA, and creating the DC multiverse in his story “Flash of Two Worlds!” The man is a giant, nuff said. Lastly, we have the extremely eclectic and influential Steve Gerber. Not going into the myriad of things he created and influenced, suffice to say he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves and was a renaissance man for sure. His ability to write stories with societal issues and the like, but was able to do it while forcing the reader to look at said issues without forcing an opinion on to them. A rare talent indeed.

Artistically, these books all have covers by ‘Jazzy Johnny Romita, and interiors by Val Mayerik (with inks by Vince Colletta on issue 23, and Wayne Howard on 26), and Vicente Alcazar (issue 28). Glynis Wein, George Roussos, Petra Goldberg (colorists), John Costanza, Tom Orzechowski, Charlotte Jetter (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor), round out the creative teams! There a repints in the back of each issue as well, so that just adds to the cool content you already get in this title (Ditko and Heck to name a couple of names)!

 

 

Adventure into Fear 18, 1973 “A Question of Survival!”

As October marches on, I’m 1/3 of the way through the month already, and the hits just keep on coming! Another issue of Adventure into Fear brings more awesomeness from the 1970s, and a new star for the book in Man-Thing! Yes that muck monster from the Everglades is here and not only will he battle other denizens of the swamp, but also an alcoholic, a gun-slinging knucklehead, and soldier! This is one of Gerber’s best books that really drove home some thought-provoking panels, so if you get the chance, definitely read it!

Written by Steve ‘Baby’ Gerber, pencils by Val Mayerik, inks by Sal Trapani, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by Artie Simek, cover by ‘Jazzy’ John Romita, and edited by Roy Thomas! An excellent creative team for this book (or just about any book), and they really shine with the swampy environment, and the characters in this spectacular issue!

 

Supernatural Thrillers Featuring The Living Mummy!

As I sit here watching The Mummy’s Shroud (1967, Hammer Studios), The Living Mummy (N’Kantu) seemed like a good subject to present during my month-long look at horror comics. As the title Supernatural Thrillers switched from new characters every in issue to an ongoing monster of its own in the mummy.

In the first few issues, we see N’Kantu being disoriented, then fighting thieves and hoodlums. Later though, he would be pitted up against other supernatural beings, and that was a spectacle. It’s a natural progression of course, and sufficed to say it gave the readers some good entertainment. These “Elementals” (Hydron, Magnum, Hellfire) showed some real persistence and continually attacked N’Kantu and his friends (once the mummy became more lucid, he became a hero).

From a standpoint of creativity, these books had some of Marvel’s best talents during this era at the helm (and I’ll list them all below). You had some that had been around for a few years and some that were early in their careers (especially with Marvel). This mix led to so much excellent content not only in horror stories but every genre. It’s also worth to note that N’Kantu is the second supernatural character of color in Marvel (he predates Brother Voodoo by a month, but Blade was the month just before his first appearance). This was all part of a change in the business to include more characters and creators that were minorities.

Make no mistake, this title was Val Mayerik’s coming out party. Not only did he provide pencils (and inks for some issues), for most of these issues, but also plot assists for a few as well! He’ already had great success with Howard the Duck, and Man-Thing, but this really solidified him as an all around creator.

 

Issue 5 – cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia; written by Steve Gerber, art by Rich Buckler and Frank Chiaramonte, colors by Petra Goldberg, and letters by Jean Izzo.

 

Issue 7 – cover by Ron Wilson and John Romita; written by Steve Gerber, art by Val Mayerik, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by John Costanza.

 

Issue 8 – cover by Larry Lieber and Tom Palmer; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski.

 

Issue 9 – cover by Gil Kane and Al Milgrom; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik and Dan Adkins, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by Tom Orzechowski.

 

Issue 10 – cover by Gil Kane and Al Milgrom; scripted by Len Wein (plot by Isabella and Mayerik), art by Val Mayerik and Dan Adkins, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Artie Simek.

 

Issue 11 – cover by Frank Brunner; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well), colors by Bill Mantlo, and letters by Alan Kupperberg.

 

Issue 12 – cover by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well), and Klaus Janson, colors by Bill Mantlo, letters by Karen Mantlo.

 

Issue 13 – cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito; written by Tony Isabella, art by Val Mayerik (plot assist as well) and Dan Green, colors by Janice Cohen, letters by Karen Mantlo.

 

Issue 14 – cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer; written by John Warner, art by Val Mayerik (plot as well) and Al McWilliams, colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by John Costanza.

 

Issue 15 – cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer; written by John Warner, art by Tom Sutton, colors by Phil Rachelson, and letters by John Costanza.

 

 

 

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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