After hearing the worst kept secret on the interweb, Howard the Duck…yeah. Returned at the end of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. I have to give Marvel Comics credit where credit is due. They’re willing to take chances, and make anyone/thing into a character, series, ECT.
Howard’s history is an intresting one, the same way that Spider Man was introduced at the end of an Marvel Comic, so was Howard. He gained popularity in an issue of Adventure Into Fear, in 1973. A few short years later he got his own comic/adventures. Which ran from 1976-1979.
Comixoloxy.com has released the entire 1970’s collection, that was created by both Steve Gerber (head writer), and Val Mayerik (occasional contributing writer). There were a few other writers contributing towards the end…but let’s move on. For now Adventures into Fear is not available on comixology.com, you could find it on ebay between $20.00 – $40.00 USD. Or go to Amazon.com and search for the Howard the Duck Omnibus for $89.00 – $100.00.
The comics dealt with social commentary and topical issues during the late 1970’s.
Such as the growing of cults in America, Third Party Campaigns running for political office, and (pardon the pun), “Duck Out of Water” issues. For myself I took Howard as an Immigrant leaving his home for a better opportunity. Case in point a few years ago an Russian immigrant was hired to fix my backyard deck. In Russia he was studying to be an surgeon. However he wanted to leave to come to America. Sadly with his thick accent, and taking to long to understand English, fixing his student loan issues…he had to give all that up.
For those who saw the 80’s…cult…classic…dud? Well the point is Howard “waddled,” careers. Let’s just leave it at that. The 70’s comics dealt with an wizard accidentally transferring Howard from Duck World – ours. The first three issues satirized Conan and Red Sonja , D-list super heroes/villains and Kung -Fu comics. The good news is that it won’t be crammed down the readers throat. For those who never read the discussed comics, you won’t care. For those who are familiar, the satire is not a slap on the face.
Issue 2, deals with a ordinary man who receives powers from an intergalactic turnip. This would be considered pre black suit spider man, for arguments sake. A nobody is given powers, and unlocks secrets of the universe. However he can’t control them and has no free will. Now you could argue that Spiderman/Venom, Dark Horse Comics The Mask, handled it better. However this story is not as silly as you’d think.
Issue three introduces Quck-Fu. Which is just Kung-Fu, minus the Kung. In the movie it was silly. In this issue it’s down right serious. Howard feels he’s not taken seriously because he’s both an alien and a talking duck. The gag is everytime he opens his beak, an earthling will respond with…”You’re a Duck.” Howard, does have a lot to say which is an pro. When Howard can’t save a boy from a savage beating by local thugs, he studies martial arts. What I like about this story is that it has a bitter sweet ending. Howard couldn’t save the boy, however he is able to avenge the boy. Howard will also not turn into the one thing on earth that disgusts him the most, “An Hairless Ape.”
Issue eight dealt with an fictional party called “The All Night Party.” Figuring that both in r-e-a-l life and r-e-e-l life Howard could work in politics. After all, he was getting quiet the following. He had a lot to say, and looked out for the little man. Occasionally he would moan and whine about “being trapped in a world he never made.” Other times, when he would find work as a bill collector (no pun intended). He didn’t have the heart to have a single mother’s color T.V. repossessed. Which is why Howard worked well as both the every-man/underdog.
Sadly writer/creator Steve Gerber passed away in ’08. Which is a shame, because his social commentary in these comics are not dated. Val Mayerik is not as a strong writer as Steve, but he’s not terrible either. As for any other contributing writers…well let’s move on shall we? The point is you can read one eighteen page issue, and it won’t take twenty minutes to finish. The writing has a combination of philosophical/psychological/sociological issues. I don’t know how long the digital issues will be available to be downloaded. But you will not have buyers remorse. I downloaded the complete 70’s series a few weeks ago and I didn’t skim through them. I was never bored or rolled my eyes. Granted an cult leader will show up, a satire of The Exorcist will be an story arc, you get the idea. Yet the writing is tight. One last thing before I forget, there was also the inter-species dating/marriage involvement with Howard and Beverly.
In the movie she was a struggling rock star. In the comics she’s a struggling model. She’s more eye candy in the comics…not much to say about her. Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson she ain’t. I’ve said everything that I could for now about Howard. Another interesting character worth mentioning is a homeless lady called the Kidney Lady. She’s usually following Howard and wanting to fight him…in the name of Kidneys…yeah. She is to the Howard the Duck comics, what the cat lady is to the Simpsons.
As for the artwork Gene Colan is worth mentioning, he was able to take an cartoon duck and mix it with realistic humans. As for the other artists that contributed to the comic, they tried…but they were no Gene Colan. For that reason it doesn’t feel like a kids comic book. There is nice balance of cartoon violence, illustrations, and “human,” moments. Fans old and new who have heard of the 80’s dud need to purchase these comics. You’ll take it like water to a duck. For more my C0-host Wyatt Jones and myself are reviewing the issues on our podcast Hunnicoutcast.