Red Hour Orgy


 

The Somewhat So So and Not Quite So Triumphant Return of Steve Gerber

 

 

 

The peculiar frothy stew that makes up Steve Gerber’s new six issue series Nevada should be entertaining.

Dancing ostriches, inebriated homeless men who "jaunt" interdimensionally, big fish that drive sedans, a bad enforcer type with a lava lamp for a head, time distortion, computer code that looks like Egyptian script and the usual lot of well defined yet seedy characters who inhabit this story would be a stretch for most writers. But for Gerber, well, it’s almost predictable.

In fact, as someone who’s read his work for, what, 23 years now, I can’t really say it’s his best stuff. It’s clearly not as good as, say, Void Indigo, or even his classic Defenders stories. As a whole, the six issues feels like all those novels that Vonnegut wrote after Deadeye Dick—good for anybody else, but not so good for someone who’s read Cat’s Cradle or Breakfast of Champions.

It might be the premise. The main images from Nevada come from a classic Howard the Duck episode that was almost entirely prose—turned out to be one of his best issues. Habitually unable to meet his deadlines, Gerber instead wrote it as a one shot to fill between—was it Dr. Bong?—storylines. One page featured a picture of an ostrich, a showgirl, and that guy with the Lava lamp. According to Steve, someone—it might have been him—thought it might actually be cool to turn a story into that. Thus, Nevada some 20+ years later.

Unfortunately, as someone who’s read almost all of his stuff—I even watched those G.I. Joe cartoons he edited and I remember the one Star Trek that he co-wrote—some of this feels like old hat. Some of the philosophical speculation expressed by the Giant Face in the Window (You have to read it) sounds a lot like Nebulon from the Defenders days. The lava lamp mob guy’s powers reminds me quite a bit of another Defender’s character, the female headman’s (alias: the first lesbian, pipe smoking, pony tailed political contender) powers—hers was a round red crystal ball with similar properties. Even his technique of wrapping single words around balloons to create a sense of disorientation….Well, I’ve seen that in both HTD and Man Thing. He even takes a cliched shot at Whitney Houston’s spiritless pop. His big punching bag back in the seventies was disco. Whatever.

Definitely, ground that Mr. Gerber has tread before. For the uninitiated, this might be a great read, like Scream II or something. One of the very cool things about Gerber is that he’s a master of the cross genre metaphor. He can mix science fiction, ancient myth, common folks and Tarantino like dialogue into his yarns and it all fits, it all feels logical. I think there’s a Canadian zine called Transworld that deals specifically in cross genre stories. If they ever have a Hall of Fame, then Gerber should be the first nominated.

Yet Nevada isn’t the cleanest execution of his vision. As a grizzled Gerber veteran, I can only give Nevada three stars out of five. This isn’t the end of the series, however, and given Steve’s great talent Nevada will probably get better. Steve is working on another six issues. This is a great idea, by the way. Mr. Gerber is notoriously bad about deadlines. Better to get three or four issues in the can before republishing.

Gerber has done plenty of five star work, however. And if you don’t mind searching through old stacks at your endangered friendly neighborhood comics store, then I would recommend Void Indigo 1 and 2, all of the Howard the Ducks that Steve wrote (Not the ones penned by Bill Mantlo), the Defenders’ stories that dealt with Sons of the Serpent, the Badoon and Nebulon/Headman.

Snatch Void Indigo from the Blue Emptiness of Cancellation and Censorship: Email DC, Salon

 

And now just a few words about Void Indigo.

Void Indigo is probably one of my favorite series that never saw completion—the others being The Blue Lily and Alien Fire. The tragedy is that it lasted only two issues. Back in the mid eighties it was thought too controversial. I think they banned it in Canada.

There was a graphic novel, then two issues, then poof. It was put out by Marvel’s Epic, which was that company’s last attempt to put out a line of adult comics. It is sorely missed. I believe the late Archie Goodwin oversaw those comics.

But it was Gerber at his best. It had all the standard Gerber features: cross dimensional entities, urban grittiness, magic mixed with cultism mixed with science fiction mixed with, well, lotsa stuff. And it all worked. But just like that Elf with a gun from the Defenders, we never found out how the story ended, or even how it might progress.

In the letter pages, Gerber has openly spoke about how he would like to resurrect the series.

That’s a great idea. With the topic matter no more disturbing than your average Marilyn Manson video, I can’t see why it couldn’t be republished by Vertigo.

Yet another option might be the Salon comics section. Far removed from the Blondie mediocrity of your paper’s comic section, Salon’s comics are done at a high level. I would humbly suggest Void Indigo as a story in Salon’s Dark Hotel. It would fit right in with Bill Burroughs-inspired mystery, odd fans of mediocre writers and CIA drug experiments—The Dark Hotel’s current topics of choice.