My love for the late Steve Gerber is unabashed. He’s created some of the most daring, genre-breaking comics and characters in comicdom, including Howard The Duck, the classic Avengers villain “Korvac,” Destroyer Duck, the brilliant Hard Time DC Focus series, Foolkiller, and Dr. Doom’s tutor (Dizzie the Hun). He made The Defenders a comic worth reading, and revived the Guardians of the Galaxy and Son of Satan into usable characters.
And, of course, he a seminal run on The Man-Thing.
Marvel recently announced that on July 4th they will set free an old Steve Gerber script, illustrated by Kevin Nowlan, titled, “Screenplay of the Living Dead Man.” Gerber wrote the story 20 years ago, on or about the time that Marvel sued Steve for being late in delivering scripts and cancellation of the Howard the Duck series. Gerber transformed that misery into his creator-owned Destroyer Duck series, which is both hard to find and out of print.
You may recall that Man-Thing’s first appearance was in May 1971, so he actually predated the DC equivalent character, Swamp Thing, by three months. And Swamp Thing pretty much sucked until Alan Moore took it over much, much later in the late 1980s. In fact, Swamp Thing stories were very influenced by Gerber’s Man-Thing run—so much so that Gerber later renamed his muck monster “Un Man” after the “Un Men,” who were foes of Swamp Thing. How’s that for synergy?
Gerber died of fibrosis in 2008, and never got his due from Marvel. I don’t know if his estate will see any money from the sale of this book but, if nothing else, you should buy it in tribute to a man who truly transformed the medium into one that included intelligent satire and adult (i.e., intelligent but not profane or pornographic) humor.
FURTHER MAN-THING READING: THE TOP 10 APPEARANCES OF THE MAN-THING
10. Marvel Team-Up #122, “A Simple Twist of Fate.” One of the non-Steve Gerber stories in this list (written by another great writer, J.M. DeMatteis), Manny teams up with Spider-Man and antics ensue.
9. Savage Tales #1. The 1971 debut of Man-Thing, by Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas and Gray Morrow. It’s a short tale, and interesting to read. No, it’s not the best, but it’s essential reading.
8. Giant-Size Man-Thing #5. Despite the unseemly title, GSMT had some great issues. Issue #5, featured tales by Steve Gerber, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein (the creator of Swamp Thing), with art by the likes of Ed Hannigan and John Buscema, and featured some pretty harrowing stuff about suicide, visions of the future, and a mercenary trying to hunt and kill Man-Thing. This was one of the more “horror” oriented books, whereas many great MT stories skew more to the offbeat or bizarre. But then again, this issue featured the classic tale: “Hellcow.” In which Howard the Duck meets a vampire cow. And in typical Steve Gerber fashion, it included an Easter Egg: The story “There’s a Party in 6G” took place at 344 Clinton Street….The home address of Clark Kent.
7. Thunderbolts #144. In this issue, MT is introduced as a “doorway” for the Thunderbolts. I’m not a huge fan of this series, but it was an interesting way to bring the character back into the Marvel Universe and give him a new kind of “mainstream” relevance.
6. Marvel Team-Up #68, “Measure of a Man.” The power couple of Chris Claremont and John Byrne bring Spider-Man to Florida, where he and Man-Thing team up against D’Spayre. The story is good. The art is classic Byrne, and fantastic.
5. Punisher #11-21, “Frankencastle.” Man-Thing is a supporting character here, but this is an example of his participation with the Legion of Monsters. It’s a story that is much reviled by Punisher fans, who take themselves far too seriously, and a great example of why comics are such a great medium: You can do anything in comics.
4. Adventure Into Fear #19. The first appearance of Howard The Duck, from 1973. The irritable character is the perfect foil for the emotionally emphathic Man-Thing.
3. Man-Thing #17-18, “A Book Burns in Citrusville.” A 1975 tale by Gerber and artist Jim Mooney, in which Man-Thing is hunted down for his rampage through Citrusville High School in Giant-Size Man-Thing #4. But the real story is about folks who want to burn books written by left-wingers (“commies!”). Steve Gerber was known for injecting leftie politics into his stories—see Howard the Duck’s run for President of the U.S., e.g.
2. Man-Thing #21-22. “Pop Goes the Cosmos.” Long before Grant Morrison did it in Animal Man, Steve Gerber wrote himself into his last story in his run for this series. The story focuses on Gerber writing a letter explaining why he’s not writing Man-Thing anymore. Rather than mention his lawsuit, he says that he was a muse for a mystic named Dakhim, who is no longer providing him stories.
1. Giant-Size Man-Thing #4. 68 big pages! This one is on the list for the story titled, “The Kid’s Night Out!” where Man-Thing—a sensitive guy—is drawn to a funeral by the power of the mourners’ emotions, and proceeds to get involved in a family matter involving abusive parents and the scars they can leave behind. In the same issue, though, we are introduced to Garko the man-frog who is trying to take over the world. This book really shows the breadth Gerber was capable of as an author, and the versatility of the extended Howard the Duck universe.