Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Steve Gerber, 1947-2008

One of the best thing to ever come out of Countdown was Countdown to Mystery: Doctor Fate. I've been enjoying it immensely, loving the flow of the prose it's a crime not to read it out loud. I will miss reading Mr. Gerber's stories.

Good night, sir.

Here's what Gail Simone had to say in the Newsarama board:

Dammit. Just dammit.

Some of you know of my adoration for this man. He's one of the few creators that I idolize so highly that I got stage fright actually talking to him.

Steve was Alan Moore and Grant Morrison before those guys were themselves. He always had a spin, an askew way of looking at everything, that made every story feel new and fresh and unique. Like we were party to something special. When he wrote a character, he showed you their secret side.

He made you feel like you were getting away with something taboo when you read one of his stories, no matter what the subject was. With Steve, the guy on the title wasn't the star, the WRITER was the star, just by virtue of his overwhelming talent and viewpoint. In a time when 'weird' was frowned upon, Steve owned the word in comics, in the best possible way.

A couple years ago, out of the blue, and I have no idea how he got my email address, he wrote and said this to me:

I'm currently reading your BIRDS OF PREY stuff from the beginning.

I hope to hell you have some idea how good you are.

Steve Gerber"

I am telling you, it's hard to imagine a kind word before or since that knocked me out of the chair like that. I was sure it had to be a hoax. That this guy, this hero of mine, would write something like that to a total stranger, it boggles my mind still.

I had to write back something like, "Uh, you do know that you are STEVE ****ING GERBER, right?"

We corresponded often in the next couple years, Steve always gracious, always generous, always funny, and always very humble about his place in comics (despite my constant protestations to the contrary). We talked about craft, we talked about the industry. He sometimes spoke about his health, but I never heard him complain. It was just the life he had, and he always hoped for the best. But it was clear that his health was pulling him under.

Last year, I got the chance to live a dream and work with him a little bit, writing a tie-in Black Alice comic to his Helmet Of Fate series. I have to say, I don't think I've ever felt the pressure to do a good job as much as I did on that book. For the readers and for myself, but also because letting Steve down was simply inconceivable. I'd rather hide in the closet forever.

I will carry his kind words with me the rest of my life.

Just a couple weeks ago, when I heard he'd gone back to the hospital, I offered to ghost write an issue of Dr. Fate so he could get some rest. He said he'd take me up on it, at least at the brainstorming stage. And he sounded very optimistic. He was concerned about something that might take him off the donor recipient list. I told him I had my fingers and toes crossed for him.

We never got to that brainstorming session. In a way, I'm sad, but in another way...who could really ever ghostwrite for Steve, even with the best of intentions?
I never read a Steve Gerber story that didn't move me in some unique way. He combined brains and heart and a deadshot eye for the absurd in a way that is often imitated, but rarely achieved.

If you're going to have a legacy as a writer in comics, I think that's a pretty damn good one to leave behind.

Love you, Steve. Thank you for everything.


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