Steve Gerber (1947-2008) was a comic book writer known for Genre-Busting and championing creator's rights. Writing in The '70s, he prefigured the Darker and Grittier Eighties, writing genre-stretching stories about small characters with less-than-supernatural problems. Before Alan Moore's notable run on Swamp Thing, Gerber was writing Man-Thing, redefining the character and moving from Sword and Sorcery to Sci-Fi to Horror stories in as many issues. Before Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark, there was Gerber's Howard the Duck, a Deadpan Snarker cartoon character thrust into a world of real people and real problems.
When Gerber left Marvel Comics over concerns about creator's rights (his Omega the Unknown having been taken from him, canceled, then summarily killed off by another writer), he fought for control of Howard. The legal costs drove him to bankruptcy, and he started the creator-controlled comic Destroyer Duck to try to alleviate the costs of the case. Gerber was joined by notable industry friends like Jack Kirby, who worked pro bono.
He never regained the rights to his characters and spent years in seclusion from comics working in television on The Transformers, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Dungeons & Dragons (1983), and Thundarr the Barbarian, which he created. He also co-wrote a single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Contagion". Though he never won his fight with The Industry, he helped blaze a trail for future writers to fight for their intellectual property, like Eastman and Laird (and the other guys behind the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) and even creator-owned companies companies like Image Comics. He also inspired authors not to shy away from difficult material, whatever their chosen medium. Neil Gaiman has cited Man-Thing as an influence for his own genre-stretching Sandman series.
Gerber was inducted posthumously into the Eisner Award Hall of Fame.
Gerber contributed to the following works:
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Dungeons & Dragons (1983)
- G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
- Superman: The Animated Series
- Thundarr the Barbarian (Creator)
- The Transformers
- Countdown to Mystery
- Hard Time (Co-Creator)
- Metal Men
- Mister Miracle
- Nevada (Creator)
- Destroyer Duck (Creator)
- The Defenders
- Freddy Krueger's A Nightmare on Elm Street
- Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Presents)
- Foolkiller (Creator)
- Howard the Duck (Creator)
- Marvel Super Special #1 (Creator - the first ever KISS comic)
- Marvel Two-in-One
- The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger
- Omega the Unknown (Co-Creator)
- Shanna the She-Devil
- The Sensational She-Hulk
- Tales of the Zombie
- Void Indigo
His work presents examples of the following tropes:
- Anyone Can Die: Even the most sympathetic character around had a very likely chance to perish in his stories.
- Author Appeal: Gerber seemingly had a love for off-the-wall characters and outcasts, so that most of the comics in which he worked featured someone who fit that description. He also had a thing for adding text-pieces in his comics, which some readers found it a very innovative gimmick while others thought it was ruining their favorite series.
- Author Avatar: Perpetual loser Richard Rory appeared in a number of Gerber works, and he also inserted himself into the last issue of Man-Thing to say good-bye to his fans. Jack Norriss in Gerber's run on The Defenders is also based on Gerber and sometimes voices the author's own criticisms of superheroes. According to Marvel writer/editor Jo Duffy, these characters were known as "Gerberoids" around the office.
- Darker and Grittier
- Died During Production: Gerber died before he could finish his last work, an eight-part story on Countdown to Mystery featuring Doctor Fate. Four of his closest friends and admirers (Adam Beechen, Mark Evanier, Mark Waid and Gail Simone) ended the story with each one giving their own version of how it would conclude and also giving Shout Outs to Gerber's famous creations and well-known plot elements.
- Family-Unfriendly Death
- Genre Deconstruction: Among some examples, his run in The Defenders is known to be one of the earliest attempts of deconstruction in the superhero genre.
- Moral Guardians: Cruelly parodied in his works. Any character that showed traits of these was either an unpleasant or bothersome individual like the Kidney Lady from Howard the Duck, or a Knight Templar-type villain like the fascist vigilante Foolkiller.
- Orphaned Series: His Void Indigo was cancelled by Marvel Comics after a graphic novel and two issues for extreme violence, even though it was being published via Marvel's then-adult line Epic.
- Subverted with Hard Time from DC Comics. The series was cancelled in the middle of a storyline, but he was given one more issue to wrap things up with. He used this opportunity to use Wall of Text to not only lay out how the current story would have been resolved, but gave a general layout of the storylines that he had planned to that point.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Aside The Defenders, Gerber played with this trope in Man-Thing where Dakihm the Enchanter recruited young sorcerer apprentice Jennifer Kale to fight against Thog the Nether-Spawn along with Man-Thing, Korrek the Barbarian and Howard the Duck. He would pull this again in Destroyer Duck, Guardians of the Galaxy, Exiles and in the short mini-series Legion of the Night.
- Take That!: Gerber had no fear in making fun of anyone or anything. In fact it is very rare to find a comic of his where he didn't give a humorous yet harsh commentary on a specific topic or person.
- Wall of Text