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Meta-Messages – Steve Gerber Lets Us Into His Head…

All October long I will be exploring the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today we look at Steve Gerber’s famous (infamous?) issue of Howard the Duck #16, where the late, great Gerber devoted the entire issue to basically his own ruminations upon his run on the title.

Howard the Duck #15 ended on a cliffhanger, but after showing the cliffhanger again, the issue quickly explains that due to a delay, Howard the Duck #16 was going to be a reprint issue (Marvel used to do that in the old days to avoid issues being delayed). Gerber decides that instead of doing a reprint (especially for a relatively new series), he would do a special series of essays illustrated by a number of different artists (click to enlarge the double page spread).

The whole issue is Gerber examining his own work…

And, really, his own doubts about the book, as well…

To cap it off, he even writes himself a fan letter criticizing the issue!!!

Trippy stuff.

Definitely one of the most memorable issues Gerber ever wrote.

21 Comments

Good old’ Dreaded Deadline Doom. Steve has essays in a number of his titles but this whole issue was just fantastic. Plus the spread with the “obligatory comic book fight scene” featuring a show girl and an ostrich fighting a table lamp became the basis for his miniseries Nevada some 20 years later.

First, let me say I’m a big fan of Gerber, but this issue always left me “somewhat ambivalent.” Indeed, I think the best part is really that ‘fan letter’ on the last page – it perfectly sums up my own views on the whole thing. Does that mean Gerber was a genius, or just a little too clever for his own good?
By the way, I love that Gerber did finally manage to give the Vegas chorus girl walking an ostrich her own book…

Hehe, I intentionally left out the ostrich page so that I could do a legend on it later. I probably should have left the letter out, but it was just toooo much on point for this topic to omit. Oh well, I’m still using it for a future legend. ;)

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 29, 2011 at 5:59 am

Think we can have a future legend about a certain blogger callled Mr. B.C.? or Chad Nevett or Kelly Thompson?

Such legendary mythological people there! ;-)

RIP to Gerber, one of the ALL TIME best.

I want to read Howard the Duck, but Essential Howard the Duck seems to be out of print, and used copies are pretty expensive online.

Can we have a “Greatest Steve Gerber Stories Ever Told” in November? Please? I don’t recall that one from before.

I got this comic when it first came out in 1977. I still have it today. Brilliant then, brilliant now. Will any of today’s comics ( DC’s New 52, Marvel’s Fear Itself ) be as fondly remembered ?

interesting. espically love steve writting hmself a fan letter shredding his own work on howard. talk about trippy

Not to be pedantic, but just in case anybody goes searching for this issue, this is Howard the Duck #16. #17 was the continuation of the Dr. Bong story.

The fanboy in me wonders if anyone’s ever had their copy of this issue autographed by all of the creators therein (a la Heroes for Hope and Heroes Against Hunger)

Not to be pedantic, but just in case anybody goes searching for this issue, this is Howard the Duck #16. #17 was the continuation of the Dr. Bong story.

Not pedantic at all (and believe you me, I see enough pedantic comments to know ‘em when I see ‘em ;) )! Thanks, David, I fixed it.

One of the “more outraged marvelites” looks a lot like a yellow palette swap of Wonder Woman.

I dunno, that just sorta caught my eye.

Here you did. In the calling copy at the main page, not yet.

“One of the “more outraged marvelites” looks a lot like a yellow palette swap of Wonder Woman.”
Also a LSH flavor to the left such as a Bouncing Boy figure (we couldn’t make it too obvious). It was early in both our careers but a thrill to be part of this clever issue. Steve was way ahead of his time.

@ Michael Netzer: But I don’t think Terry sneaked a Popeye in the crowd scene this time, did he??!! Boo!!

I want to read Howard the Duck, but Essential Howard the Duck seems to be out of print, and used copies are pretty expensive online.

Depends on what you define as expensive. I managed to get every issue (bar the Treasury Edition), plus the prior appearances in Man-Thing, for about $100 in total on eBay and in comic shops. (Which I think isn’t bad for a 30 issue or so run). The only one that was really expensive was the issue that featured Kiss, which was about $15. But otherwise, I never paid more than $5 an issue, and often paid $1-$2.

Oh Boy, Pete. We used to hunt down Popeyes in every package of comics that came into the studio. Nice memory of Terry’s signature sneak on most every crowd scene he inked.

I myself got the entire run off of just online comic shops (no ebay) for less than $100. That includes the Treasury, the black-and-white magazine, Destroyer Duck, etc. The Kiss issue was pricier than most of the rest (not $15), but the most expensive one was his first appearance in Adventure into Fear #19, which WAS about $15.00. Much cheaper than the Omnibus edition is now (cheaper than it was going for at the time, too, which was $75, I think), and with free shipping.

I wanted to get the Omnibus, but didn’t because it doesn’t have the letters pages, and the originals were cheaper anyway (and you get other neat stories in the Giant Sized Man-Things). I don’t even consider Essentials editions. Black and white comics are great, but reading a color comic printed in black and white is,to me, never reading that comic. If I can’t afford them, I’d rather not read them than read them drained of their color.

Googam son of Goom

November 19, 2011 at 5:51 am

You can get most HTD back-issues for around a dollar here: http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=176081

Well, now I got to look up ‘Nevada’,

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