4 out of 5
A collection of print interviews with Steve Gerber, ranging from the 1970s up through the years close to his death in 2008, appended by edited snippets from the various online forums which Steve ran / frequented.
Maybe you own some of these in their original form; maybe you own all of them. Still, even belonging to an “I own a fair amount of these” group, having things in one location is, of course, more convenient, but it also brings to light the consistency of Gerber’s vision – even while his direct opinions about comics and the industry may have shifted over the years, as he hopped from company to company and in and out of animation – and how forward thinking he really was. It’s a shame Gerbs didn’t make it to our modern age, as I’d love to see his writing in our comparatively more “enlightened” culture of 2022… which is also equally damned by our own more-further exposed ignorances, but that would’ve just been more fuel to Steve’s fires.
The interviews are extremely well selected: there’s inevitable crossover of Howard the Duck stories, and “how did you get into writing” and etcetera, but you can tell that care was taken by our editors to narrow things down so that each interview feels like it has a different focus, and adds some further opinions and thoughts to our understanding of the man behind the books he wrote. That ends up creating something of a narrative; with the interviews sequenced chronologically, you can track how experiences keep shifting his upstart nature bit by bit. It’s also fascinating revisiting some of these interviews after having recently re-read some of the related comics – lots of context to compare and contrast to at-the-time statements, and how the stuff reads from a modern perspective. The care of compilation extends to the forum snippets: again, pieces are plucked so that we’re constantly getting new information. Black and white pics of relevant covers / scenes are included throughout.
Also included is a 25+ page intro from the editors that’s absolutely worth it: far from being a glorified fan letter, it gives us some Steve history and then sober opinions about his pluses and potential minuses, with citations and a timeline for Steve’s life giving us something of a bibliography as well.
The only knock is kind of an accidental one – some historical mentions are given footnotes to explain them, and it just made me wish that every stray mention had a footnote. I get that that’s adding a ton more effort, but Steve had so many projects discussed that never happened, and I would’ve loved getting some annotations on that. I realize that makes this a much different book, and isn’t what “Conversations” claims to be – it is intended just to be a collection of these interviews – but that’s why the knock is accidental: it feels like the editors opened the door.
An absolute must for any Steve fan, but I think even if you’ve only sampled his greatest hits, this can be compelling – he’s a fun, wordy interviewee – and is surely a gateway to wanting to read more.