Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Elf With A Gun

The Elf With A Gun is proof positive of Steve Gerber's absolute, total, undying genius. I mean, just look at the way Sal Buscema draws him - He's evil and creepy and funny and weird and...huh? What's that you say? The what with a what? You don't know about The Elf With A Gun? Is that what's troubling you, boy?

The Elf With A Gun first appeared in Steve & Sal's Defenders #25, in the middle of an excellent, groundbreaking story about the Non-Team taking on The Sons Of The Serpent, and bore no relation whatsoever to anything else that issue, except maybe for the fact that the murderous midget's first victim appears to be Roy Thomas.
Readers were understandably puzzled. Gerber was giving nothing away.

The Elf next appeared in Las Vegas, in Defenders #31, his second appearance bearing no more relation to the events surrounding him than his first.

And some people were already getting frustrated:

But The Elf didn't care. By Defenders #38 he was back. Merrily murdering bit part players and confusedly confounding readers everywhere.

Some had their theories:

But Gerber still wasn't talking. And in issue #40, our mysterious miscreant came closest to actually being part of the main story, when he missed the ever-Incredible Hulk by mere seconds:

But by this point, Gerber was leaving, or had already been taken off the book, as shown by this couple of bitter ripostes ( obviously from Steve himself ) from the letter's page of issue #41:

Leaving David Anthony Kraft to bring us The Elf's final Bronze Age appearance, in issue #46:

Reactions were mixed:

But for me personally ( and I know this makes me sound like the guy who was into a particular band before anybody else was, but it's true: ) I got it from the get go. People theorized all sorts of explanations, and Gerber himself defined the whole thing as: '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'.
And of course there's truth in that, it was one of the main themes in Gerber's writing throughout his career. But I prefer to look at that as the secondary, logical reason for the Elf, the real reason being that it was just a giant custard pie in the face of the readers. The way that DAK ended the story was pretty much the way Gerber would've ended it, after all. I vividly remember reading that last page at the time, and thinking: 'Well, of course...'
I'm aware, too, that other people have over the years, attempted to explain The Elf within Marvel chronology, giving him a full back story and reason for his seemingly random actions. This is, of course, as big a nonsense as he is himself. Y'know, sometimes an Elf With A Gun IS just an Elf With A Gun. Or is he...?


  1. I can't help but wonder if the Peter Sanderson in that last group of letter-writers is the same individual who started working for Marvel as an archivist a few years later? No wonder he was a stickler for closure. :D

  2. Loved Elf with a Gun - and I loved the way the whole sub-plot was "resolved." In fact - and I'm not sure how true this is - but I recall reading somewhere that Gerber himself was rather amused by it.

  3. I think both of those stories are prob'ly true, fellas...