Monday, January 28, 2008

Countdown to Gerber

Here at the onset of the Year of Steve Gerber, the world's greatest writer of funnybooks, already I find myself spending inordinate amounts of headspace in contemplation of his work. With a great deal of his catalog from the last thirty years recently added to my brain, it is fresh and easily accessed for study, as I query different highlights for signs and symbols of deeper themes. With such a thoughtful and insightful author as this, I know there is a larger picture to see. Recently during one of my ruminations I had a certain thought about that larger picture -only to find an echo of the same thought in Gerber himself.

If you go to a rack displaying new comics, you will find the latest issue of Countdown to Mystery, featuring the mystical superbeing, Dr Fate. Steve Gerber is authoring the adventures of Dr Fate. In this issue, the eponymous hero is mourning the apparent death of a woman who tried to help him. Her name was Inza Nelson. She was the writer of a comic called "Killhead", and in the pages of that comic Dr Fate searches for clues about her motivations as an artist. For several pages we are reading a comic-within-a-comic, and some provocative information comes to light.

"The comic book," thinks Dr Fate, "it's coded autobiography, isn't it?" He is thinking about Inza Nelson, but could just as well be a reader such as myself asking the same question about Gerber's writing. In fact, I have been entertaining that very thought. I was startled, to say the least, at finding such an accurate echo of my thought in the comic.

Dr Fate wonders which character the author identifies most with, concluding that "Maybe she thinks this stuff was funny...!" Could this be a code-within-a-code, telling us Gerber's true motivation?
It was a wonderful moment of insight, and one that helps further define my mission during the Year of Steve Gerber. In addition to touching upon highlights of his career, I want to explore the idea that his entire catalog can be viewed as a work of autobiography. Even the author himself suggests as much! We'll see where it leads....

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