One Fan's Opinion

Fri, March 14th, 2008 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Erik Larsen, Columnist

Holy crap.

Dave Stevens just passed away.

Another comic book creator -- another amazing talent -- is gone.

I never met Dave.

Regardless, I was totally floored by his stuff. I was a big fan. I loved

"The Rocketeer." I thought the guy was just an amazing talent and I really wished he'd done more work because all of it -- all of it -- was outstanding.

What a terrible loss.

He was one of those guys that made the rest of us mere mortals shudder and think, "I hope to god this kind of work doesn't catch on and become the industry standard or the rest of us are totally screwed."

I knew Dave was sick, but I was told not to say anything so I kept it

quiet. Just the other day we were pasting up a Stevens cover for the final issue of the Thomas Jane-penned miniseries "Bad Planet" -- and now he's gone.

Sigh.

Dave's passing reminded me that I haven't gotten around to composing my thoughts about Steve Gerber's death.

I met Steve and worked with him once. Steve Gerber had been writing the comic book "Codename: Stryke Force" for Marc Silvestri here at Image and in it he had attempted to revive Destroyer Duck. The duck was trapped in robotic armor and Steve was setting up the big reveal but at the last moment somebody in the Top Cow camp balked. While they had robotic talking animals -- and that was fine -- Duke was a real duck -- an actual talking animal -- and somehow that didn't jibe with the reality they were trying to create over there.

I don't quite recall how I ended up in the picture, but I did.

Somebody had probably told Gerber that I might be an easier sell (I

suspect it was Mark Evanier or lawyer-to-the-stars Harris Miller, but I'm not sure) and the two of us got connected and we decided to put together a "Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck" one shot.

As luck would have it, Gerber was asked to write a "Spider-Man/Howard the Duck" yarn at just that time. At that point, Marvel was maintaining a kind of illusion that Howard the Duck was "his" much the way they pretended that the Silver Surfer was "Stan's" and Elektra was "Frank's." Of course Marvel, being Marvel, was quick to toss out those implied contracts as soon as the opportunity to further exploit those characters arose, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

In any case, Steve talked to me about the timing of it all and I suggested a non-crossover crossover. The idea being, "wouldn't it be funny if those two stories tied together in some way? Maybe they could bump into each other in a dark room or something."

Steve thought that sounded like a lot of fun and he made some phone calls and Marvel seemed up for it.

Then Steve went about figuring out the plots for the two stories.

And here's where it gets sad.

You remember how I mentioned that implied ownership thing? Y'see, for a while there they let Stan be the only one to write solo Silver Surfer yarns. Sure, he might show up as a guest star in another book from time to time, but if he ever was on his own, Stan would be the guy writing it. Ditto Elektra. For a while the powers that be at Marvel let her stay dead -- and let Frank Miller's word on her be the final word. Same deal with Gerber and Howard.

But that changed.

Steve called me up and he sounded very upset. Howard was going to be in other comics and Steve wasn't going to be the writer. He was going to star in a Christmas special -- and Steve wasn't asked to write that. The implied ownership agreement had vanished.

And Steve didn't know what to do.

He confessed that he didn't think he could write the "Spider-Man/Howard the Duck" team-up yarn and the Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck story.

But hell, I was a shit disturber. And I was a devious guy and I lived for this kind of thing and it occurred to me in a flash how to resolve this situation in a way that would have Steve keep his commitments and feel good about doing it.

I suggested a rescue mission.

"What if," I suggested, "you had Howard the Duck get rescued from the Marvel Universe by Dragon and Destroyer Duck and swapped in a clone or something?"

And that's all it took to get the gears turning.

Steve took the cue and ran with it. He wrote a brilliant yarn wherein he had Howard and his girlfriend get relocated in the Image Universe and he had them get disguised as part of a witness protection program -- meanwhile he swapped in another fowl to take Howard's spot in the Marvel Universe (Steve had replaced Howard's familiar "Waugh" at the end of his Spider-Man tale with a "Quack" and he was beside himself that nobody at Marvel noticed).

A happy ending for all. Gerber kept his commitments, his dignity and his duck.

I'd talked to Steve a short time before he passed away. We had released Kirby's "Silver Star" in a deluxe hardcover edition and I had talked to Steve about doing the same with Destroyer Duck, which he had done with Kirby. He was very excited about the idea and he was very much looking forward to a complete Destroyer Duck collection.

And then he was gone.

A great guy. A terrific talent. A guy who fought the good fight.

Gone.

And that had me thinking about Mike Wieringo.

Sometime after my ONE FAN'S OPINION about his passing went up, I was at a wake for him in Baltimore.

It was not as somber an affair as you might think. We got up and said our piece and generally speaking it was a pretty pleasant time as fans and friends remembered the life of a terrific cartoonist. But what struck me then -- and strikes me each time a talented creator passes away -- is how it sometimes, tragically, takes a person's death for people to sit up and appreciate a person's life.

Mike had done this book for us, "Tellos," and we'd just done a big, oversized hardcover collection of the series. The initial orders were not especially strong and when Mike heard what the initial numbers were, he had asked, in a voce which clearly showed his disappointment, "is that all?"

And it was.

We over-printed, of course, and Mike was overjoyed with how the book turned out, but it wasn't until Mike passed away that suddenly everybody and their brother decided that they had to have the "Tellos" collection. A book which would have lasted years had Mike Wieringo lived, sold out in a matter of days.

There's something wrong there.

And it's not that we shouldn't remember those that have died -- I'm not suggesting that, because that's fine -- we should remember those that have contributed so much to our field.

But would it hurt to remember a few of these folks while they were still alive? So they could know that their work was appreciated and their contributions valued?

Is that too much to ask?

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