Most of my heroes have been more of the literary bent. I actually was thinking along these lines earlier today, how most guys can tell you all about what type of bat you should use, the difference between gloves, etc, but some reason none of that held much interest for me. While other boys were worshipping at the shrine of Mickey Mantle or Micheal Jordan I bent knee for names like Stan Lee or Harlan Ellison.
One of these heroes of mine just died last night. His name was Steve Gerber and he wrote comic books for a living. But what comic books he wrote. In the 70's he wrote comics for Marvel. He wrote Man-Thing, Defenders, Omega the Unknown and many others. Reading a Steve Gerber comic was like reading no other comic book. And of course he created Howard the Duck. Unfortunately the character is mostly remembered today for a movie that is considered to be one of the worst ever made. The movie did not come close to capturing the spirit and life that Steve brought to his four color creation.
Mr. Gerber had pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that turns the lung tissue to scar and destroys the lungs ability to function. He had trouble breathing. I can imagine the pain and struggle he took to just breath, having seen this in the past year with my Dad. It's heartbreaking to watch someone you love just struggle to take a breath, to not even be able to walk across the room without being out of breath.
Even today some of my favorite comic books are those that Mr. Gerber worked on. His run on the Defenders is one of the best team comic books ever done. His Man-Thing took a character that literally had no personality and created a comic like no other. His Howard the Duck will always be a high water mark for any comic creator.
I never met the man, but tonight I am grieving. He's talked about his illness in various places, so this isn't a complete surprise, but you always hold out hope for the best. For more about the man go read Mark Evanier's more eloquent post or read some of Steve's last posts himself at his blog.
Sometimes someone that you never meet can touch you in ways that you never imagine. Steve Gerber was one of those people.