It’s been a year since I started this review blog! In that time span I’ve made over 70 posts, whether it being reviews on movies, TV shows, and our category for today, Comic Books! So to celebrate this blog’s one year anniversary, I’ll be going over the very comics of my favorite superhero of all time, Howard the Duck! Now you might be thinking “Why the Hell is your favorite superhero some anthropomorphic duck with possibly the worst comic book film adaptations of all time?”. I know it sounds weird, but hear me out. Throughout this review, I’ll be explaining why I love him so much. Please don’t take that as a statement on beastality! We have plenty to go over so let’s dive in! In the 70’s, comics were going through the Silver Age, a time where they were starting to get more adult and deal with darker themes. A writer at Marvel named Steve Gerber was working on a comic called Man-Thing, and it was boring. It was just a clone of DC’s Swamp Thing, except with no personality. Gerber needed a hook in order to attract sales. Hmm, how about adding some wizards, demons, inter-dimensional wars, or how about a talking duck? Thus Howard the Duck was born as a visual gag in the corner.
Howard’s backstory involves him coming from a dimension called Duckworld, where everybody is an anthropomorphic duck. He gets sucked out of his world in order to combat an inter-dimensional demon named Thog. Even though he was just a side character with very little to do, fans fell in love with him for some reason. But someone who didn’t was the Man-Thing editor who demanded that Gerber kill him off in the next issue. He did so and a nerd outcry ensued. Because of the backlash, Howard was brought back for a couple of annuals before finally getting his own solo comic in January of 1976.
In those comics, we follow Howard’s adventures as he is thrown into the world of humans, or “hairless apes” as he calls them, and is forced to adapt to their society. Along the way he comes across a human friend, named Beverly Switzler, and a bunch of colorful baddies. The comics shine most at their social satire. Like making fun of religion, media, social norms, and other Marvel comics. I’ve read several comics from the time that are the same “villain of the week” storyline over and over again with nothing different. This is a nice change of pace as it feels as though it goes it’s own way. There’s a lot of stories here that other comics wouldn’t think to do at the time. There are some issues where Howard just takes time to think instead of just constantly fighting villains, making him more complex. Howard is funny and kind of relatable, despite the fact that he’s a talking duck. You really get to know his character, which is just a device for Gerber to express his political beliefs through. Howard has gone into other dimensions, been put into an asylum, ran for president, turned into a human, became a circus freak, exploited on TV, learned Quack Fu, and has fought an onslaught of villains. These include a giant toad, a vampire cow, a mind controlling eggplant from outer space, a crazy, old, kidney-obsessed lady; a religious nut, a mutated bubble monster, a Frankenstein gingerbread man, a secret, orange-headed organization that loves to censor things; and his arch nemesis, Dr. Bong.
A genius who after losing his hand at a rock concert, becomes a bell-headed, mad scientist who performs experiments on animals, making them more human like in their appearance. Naturally he wants Howard, but also desires Beverly due to a past crush at college. He becomes a recurring character as he keeps Bev at his castle while Howard escapes to New York City. He believes that in order to fully earn Bev’s heart, he has to kill Howard, resulting in may ongoing confrontations between the two. I guess I should now talk about the relationship between Howard and Bev. I know it sounds awkward that the supposed love interest is between a human and a duck, but it’s not that bad. They never truly fall in love, they’re just friends who may love each other, but it’s never explored…for a good reason. Unlike the dreadful film adaptation where they wanted to sleep with each other after meeting. Besides Bev, Howard has also made allies with Bev’s uncle…who’s also named Beverly apparently, a male artist who’s also a sleepwalking vigilante, a young woman with a speech impediment named Winda, a powerful wizard named Dakimh, a barbarian from another dimension named Korrek, and a Vietnam Vet repairman who thinks he’s Tony Stark. Howard has also teamed up with other Marvel heroes like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Hulk, Man-Thing, Jennifer Kale, Daimon Hellstrom, and…KISS of all things. The comics have a great sense of creativity, not just in the writing but in the artwork as well. Though there have been a lot of artists in the original issues, the best was Gene Colan, who’s work managed to make the world come to life and has that Silver Age look to it. Eventually Marvel got sued by Disney over the design of Howard the Duck resembling Donald Duck. You see, in foreign releases of both HTD and DD comics, they were both called the same thing. So because overseas markets didn’t do their research, there was a lawsuit involved. Howard’s design was changed and nobody at Marvel seemed to care, except for Gerber. Gerber was the kind of person who wanted no one laying a finger on his work, so the lawsuit really pissed him off. When he later claimed that he owned the rights to HTD, Marvel fired him and he was kicked out of the writing process for the HTD comics and newspaper strips. So what happens when the one person who made the comic great to begin with is removed? It becomes a crappy magazine with no talent behind it!
The magazines were, how do you say, sleazy garbage crapped out by hacks. Because it can be more adult, means you can be a lot more dirty and foul, even at the cost of raping a beloved character’s dignity. The jokes go a little something like this, “Hey, why don’t we do a joke where Howard has to take a physical and he sees a bunch of naked dudes?”. Yep, it’s pretty bad! Because of the decrease in quality, the magazine failed and fans were turned off. It seemed as though HTD comics were over and it was back to being a character in the background. That is until Gerber came back in the 2000’s and redeemed Howard once and for all in the Max comics!
Gerber’s return to HTD was very welcomed by Marvel and for the last comic he ever wrote, it’s kind of sad. This time using more adult themes properly and keeping the original spirit of Howard the Duck. In the last issue, Howard has a talk with God, yes, the God; and they discuss what being a creator feels like. Basically a reflection of Gerber’s history with his creation of Howard and finally letting it go. A couple years later, Gerber passed away at age 60 on February 10, 2008. Despite Gerber’s untimely passing, Howard still lives on. There have been many comic book revivals of HTD over time, but none of them being too successful as the original issues. Now he’s owned by the company that had a lawsuit over him 40 years ago. The most recent comic book appearance by Howard was a 5 issue team up with Deadpool called Deadpool the Duck.
Which I have read and I think it’s kinda funny, but not as good as Gerber’s work. And Howard has made his fair share of film appearances as well. He had cameos in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies and had his own crappy solo film back in 1986, which I may or may not go over in my next Retro Review. So now I hope you’ve figured out why I love Howard the Duck so much, if not then…sorry.
So those are my opinions on Howard the Duck comics! Glad I managed to squeeze this out before the month is over. Hope you enjoyed it and follow me on Twitter @BenSuey, ya magnificent hairless apes! This is the Adolescent Critic signing out.