When I logged on tonight, I planned to announce the release of teKML software package, but now that seems trivial compared to the sad news…that Steve Gerber has passed away. For those who didn’t experience it in the 70s, it’s hard to define the tremendous fervor and passion that Gerber aroused with his wise-cracking hero, Howard the Duck. Please take the time to read the tribute to Gerber at Comics Reporter, which really puts Gerber’s career into context.
For me, scrabbling around in the high desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the arrival of Howard the Duck was like discovering an oasis of sanity in a world gone mad. For all the demagogues and sycophants, for all the control freaks and kidney ladies, suddenly we had a hot-tempered Duck who just wasn’t gonna take it any more! Howard’s campaign for President of the United States was literally the only ray of hope for America, after the moribund disaster of Nixon vs. McGovern in ’72, Watergate, and the ugly realities of the campaign trail and the media’s hidden taskmasters that were so clearly brought into the open by Hunter S. Thompson.
You will surely accuse me of spreading lies and apocryphal tales…but I’m telling you it’s Buddha’s honest truth: the first issue of Howard the Duck was so eagerly anticipated in Albuquerque, that some enterprising comic book dealers managed to hijack the shipment on it’s way to the distributor’s warehouse! While copies could be found bent and unwanted in Denver, tossed out with leftovers in Des Moines, and passed from hand to hand in Los Angeles, there was not a SINGLE COPY of Howard the Duck #1 to be purchased in Central New Mexico. Those sneaky bastards kept the whole lot of them and waited for issue #2 to hit the stands before “discovering” them–one at a time–and selling them to all of us duck-addicts. Back in those days, you could buy a FN+ copy of an original EC Weird Science book for $10, and those devil-spawn dealers were asking $8 or $10 each for Howard the Duck #1, which was barely off the press and selling all over the country for 25 cents. Well, hopefully they will roast in hell for that! Nonetheless, I can tell you that no matter how it was you got your hands on those comics, they really hit home. Gerber struck self-consciously ironic gold with Howard’s struggle against the “so-called” reality of Planet Earth. How many of us wayward souls at last found a kindred spirit in that foul-mouthed and soft-feathered wanderer? Too many of us to count, I’m sure!
So let us doff our hats and think fondly of a brilliant mind, born into this mess that none of us made, and managed to inspire us with both laughter and dignified resistance. Peace, Steve, always!