Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Goodbye, Roy; Goodbye Steve

Sunday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for my burgeoning pantheon of Short Duration Personal Saviors--the Grim Reaper went into overtime and took out Roy Scheider and Steve Gerber in one fell swoop--and I'm very sad. This is one of the suckier things about getting old: your heroes die.


Poor Roy Scheider. The man had an impressive body of work behind him but all the obituaries want to focus on is his role as Sheriff Martin Brody in Jaws (with vague nods to his supporting roles in The French Connection and Marathon Man). Nary a mention of 2010: The Year We Make Contact, which is a damn fine movie, Kubrick purists notwithstanding, or Sorcerer, William Friedkin's remake of The Wages of Fear. which, yeah, was a commercial flop when it was released, but you've got to remember that in 1977 it was running concurrently with freakin' Star Wars. Friedkin and Friedkin devotees now consider it his best film and hey! What's not to like? "{C}lose-ups...of sweaty people working hard and laboring machines; truck engines and huge wheels spinning in soupy mud and frayed fanbelts in Panavision-70. Great stuff!" said none other than Stephen King in Danse Macabre.

Or All That Jazz, which I'm bold enough to say was Scheider's Best. Performance. EVER!

Dear Roy, I'm sorry you died but I sincerely hope your last moments mirrored your character's last moments in All That Jazz--death as a Broadway production number, all singing, all dancing, all your friends and loved ones playing extras and Jessica Lange leading you into the Light.

That final image of the zipping body bag we'll leave on the cutting room floor.

Steve Gerber, in case you didn't know, created and scripted the '70s comic book character Howard the Duck* and turned the whole notion of funny animal cartooning upside-down and inside-out through the simple expedient of satirizing every single comic book convention (especially those in Marvel) he could get away with. Ya want vampire hellcows complete with capes? Howard had 'em. A Dr. Strange wannabe, the Master of Mundane Magic, sending a "rolling radial six-ply death" hurtling towards an increasingly annoyed Howard? It's there. Politics? In 1976 Howard ran for president on the All-Night Party ticket. Over-the-top villains? How about Pro Rata, the aspiring Chief Accountant of the Universe, searching for the jeweled key to his Cosmic Calculator?

"By whatever means necessary I must procure that key by midnight. For at that hour, the stellar balance sheet comes into alignment...the astral audit may be taken...and I...I alone shall collect the COSMIC DIVIDEND!"**--Howard the Duck #1 (and a barely safe for work page scan from earlier in the story)

I discovered Howard the Duck one hot, sticky summer evening when I popped into the local 7-11 for my traditional trash can-sized cola Slurpee and saw an oversized anthology on the magazine rack. A quick glance brought me to a typical superhero comics panel--a stalwart group of underwear fetishists...uh...defenders of Truth, Justice, and the American Way are standing around discussing how to defeat the Supremely Evil Villain when a bewildered Howard happens to stumble upon them. His response? "Naturally. A room full of zanies. My day is complete."

And I was hooked.

There's a nice tribute to Steve over at The Comics Reporter and another at News From Me. His journal/blog, stevegerblog, remains online for the time being.

Interested parties will want to check out Essential Howard the Duck (review here) and the forthcoming Howard the Duck Omnibus.

Goodbye, Roy & Steve, and thanks! The world's a little less entertaining without you.

* Ignore the movie version. It's just... hideous. Not even Lea Thompson parading around in her underwear made it bearable and I speak as one who sat through The Beverly Hillbillies purely for shots of Lea Thompson in her underwear.

** In my college drinking days it was not unusual for me to recite this little monologue at random moments during the evening followed by gratuitous grandiose gestures and maniacal laughter. Yeah, you really wanted to party with me.


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Well, Rev., you certainly covered a lot in that post. I assume I shall dream of Lea Thompson in her undies, thank you for that.

Cathy VanPatten said...

Hey, GW! Are you okay???

Long time, no blog. And I posted an excerpt of la roman just for you over on mine...