The Reason Is... No Reason. Steve Gerber's Elf With A Gun
- by Jacurutu99, 4 March 2017
Steve Gerber was the Grant Morrison of the 1970's.
The majority of his writing work with Marvel Comics came a generation before my comics reading, but his influence could be felt by any kid who searched for the weirdest and most bizarre characters within the Marvel universe via the ever-handy Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Something told you that a Giant Size Man-Thing, a talking Duck, Ruby Thursday and the rest of the Headmen, the original Guardians Of The Galaxy, Man-Wolf, Foolkiller, Shanna the She-Devil, The Son Of Satan, Thongor, Angar the Screamer, The Living Mummy, The Kidney Lady, all had to have come from the same mind. Just based on their strange names ALONE. These characters were too weird and I didn't see them in the current comics I was reading. One writer had to be responsible for introducing all this madness into Marvel.
Thus, Steve Gerber became the very first comic book writer whose name I actually learned. The credits where always there in the front of the books, but young readers didn't pay too much attention to that, following their favorite characters instead. I noticed a cousin of mine having a stack of comics featuring many of these weird characters which I naturally had to beg to borrow in order to read on my own. A huge stack of Defenders, Howard the Duck and Son Of Satan. In these days before an internet or comic shop my cousin "revealed" to me that the writer of those comics, Steve Gerber actually went insane and was hospitalized. I WAS SOLD. Who wouldn't want to read comics by someone who had literally lost his mind?? And so, I learned Steve Gerber's name.
And what single creation best sums up this whole process? It would have to be the Elf with a gun, naturally!
Sometimes considered the "Gerberest" of all Gerber characters, The Elf with A Gun became a recurring subplot in Defenders. The Defenders in themselves were an odd concept, all the superheroes who weren't being used at the time or unable to support their own titles became Defenders. Gerber's 21-issue run blended the mundane of some real-world issues with the magnificent and at times, the absurd.
When these stories were coming out, the structure of superhero titles was fairly predictable - they would feature the main story, with the protagonist, and B and C stories, which were subplots that in time could become the main feature. The Elf with a Gun was Gerber's experiment with playing the C plot forward. So, in the middle of the Defenders' adventures, Gerber would have the Elf appear yet again to commit random, violent murder. What was the reason?
The Elf would just appear out of nowhere and shoot random people without any explanation. Readers thought it would have to be a major story arc, because it had to MEAN something right? Well, In fact, during the Elf’s last appearance penned by Gerber, he had the character run over by a van while waiting to ambush a paper boy. He never actually encountered any of the Defenders - the closest was in issue 40, where he narrowly missed crossing paths with the Incredible Hulk.
The reason is NO REASON.
Gerber himself would define the whole thing as such: He was nothing but a metaphor for the chaotic and inexplicable nature of existence, the "beast in the jungle" that you spend a lifetime planning for but which still comes as a surprise or maybe never comes at all.
No matter how much we might plan and work, something seemingly completely random may occur and destroy all of your plans, perhaps, getting murdered by an Elf with a Gun.
It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Are you a fan of the late Steve Gerber's works? What were some of his creations you enjoyed the most? Let us know in the comments!