Monday, February 11, 2008

Howard the Duck Orphaned

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The creator of Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber, died two days ago of causes related to pulmonary fibrosis. Obituaries can be found here, here, and here (and probably many other places on the web). A really good personal reflection on Gerber's importance is here. Heidi McDonald's experience is almost exactly the same as mine.
I had only been reading Marvel comics for a few months when I found something called Howard the Duck. It was already up to issue 9, but back in those days every issue was a jumping on point.
Coincidentally, Howard the Duck #4 was the second comic I ever bought--purchased at the U-Tote-M that I passed by every day on my way to junior high. Many readers only know Howard the Duck from the pretty bad movie version. And I don't want to make outsized claims for the comic, but it was much better than the movie, and to my 12-year-old mind, it was unusually daring and clever and satirical. The shadowy art by Gene Colan was so unlike the sunlit work one typically encountered in other comics and it contributed to the basic sense of differentness about Howard.

I followed Steve Gerber's comics for a few years (he temporarily stopped writing comics about the same time I temporarily stopped reading them), and I loved his work on Man-Thing, The Defenders and the KISS comic book. Gerber not only was aware of the absurdity of these characters, he reveled in it and used that absurdity to tell really great, funny, entertaining stories--stories that were much better than they had to be.

Gerber was one of the first artists I followed as an artist (along with some rock and rollers). In other words, I sought out anything he was involved with. I loved his work, and I'm saddened that he has died.

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