The Saturday Comics: Howard the Duck

18 Jun

June 18, 2011

If Mr. Blog’s Tepid Ride has an underlying theme or philosophy, it is that “life’s most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view.” I’d love to boldly lie and take credit for that but I can’t, it was said by Steve Gerber, the late creator of Howard the Duck.

The blog actually does have a tagline, “an absurd look at the absurdities of this absurd world” and if you want to know what Howard the Duck would think of that, check out his first appearance from 1973’s Adventure into Fear #19. (Yes, he actually debuted in a melodramatically titled horror comic.)

He then moved to the comic whose title has launched a million lousy jokes, Giant-Size Man-Thing, and then, mercifully, to his own title in 1976.

However, outside of the comics world, and very often inside, Howard the Duck is better known for the atrocious 1986 film starring Lea Thompson. It was a Lucasfilm production and I’d say George Lucas should be ashamed of himself, but he went on to make The Phantom Menace so it is quite clear that the man has no shame.

For those of you who don’t know Howard, here is a brief wiki-duction:

Howard the Duck, as his name suggests, is a three-foot-tall anthropomorphic duck. He generally wears a tie and shirt, and is almost always found smoking a cigar. Originally, like many cartoon ducks, he wore no pants; Disney threatened legal action due to Howard’s resemblance to Donald Duck, and Marvel redesigned that aspect of the character. [They stuck some pants on him. –ye old editor, Mr. Blog]

Howard has an irritable and cynical attitude to the often bizarre events around him; he feels there is nothing special about him except that he is a duck, and though he has no goals other than seeking comfort and to be left alone, he is often dragged into dangerous adventures simply because he is visibly unusual. His series’ tagline, “Trapped in a world he never made”, played off  the genre trappings of 1950s science fiction. A common reaction to meeting Howard the first time is a startled, “You…you’re a DUCK!”

Howard’s adventures are generally social satires, while a few are parodies of genre fiction with a metafictional awareness of the medium. This is diametrically opposed to screenwriter Gloria Katz, who in adapting the comic to the screen declared, “It’s a film about a duck from outer space… It’s not supposed to be an existential experience”.

There is no relation to Pierre D. Duck.

Howard’s adventures tended to favor the more literate fans:

Seemingly an autodidact, Howard at various times references Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Albert Camus (whose novel The Stranger Gerber considers the principal influence on the series), the Brontë sisters, and other figures of philosophical and political significance.

If you’ll pardon my cynicism, that’s probably why today he is mainly a cult character and not more popular or well-known. Even the newspaper strip lasted only about a year, replaced by the much more popular Incredible Hulk, whose movie franchise is only slightly better than Howard the Duck. The strips below were thankfully not based on the lousy movie but came out almost a decade earlier, based on the comic and it was written by Steve Gerber himself before some disputes (which tended to dog him when it came to Howard the Duck) arose between him and Marvel, and comic veteran and legend Marv Wolfman took over scripting duties.

Rarely seen now, these strips were rarely seen even when in production since the series was picked up by only a handful of newspapers. Enjoy!

by Steve Gerber and co-creator Val Mayerik

by Steve Gerber and the legendary Gene Colan

by Marv Wolfman and Alan Kupperberg


5 Responses to “The Saturday Comics: Howard the Duck”

  1. bmj2k June 18, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    Mr. BTR’s Blog Notes:

    For the possibly one person who may know what I am talking about, the irony is not lost on me that “Gerber” is now a tag on my blog. Never expected to type that name again, don’t expect I ever will type it again. I hope it is clear that any searches that may result in finding this blog refer to STEVE Gerber, thank you very much. Read whatever you like into this statement.


    • Daniel June 18, 2011 at 1:05 am #

      Disney threatened legal action against Marvel – & now Marvel & Disney have merged. Irony of ironies !!

      Disney has some cajones, because Unca Walt & company are no strangers to plagiarism – Even though the people they robbed from are pushin’ up the daisies. They basically take characters from other authors, slap the Disney logo on them, after weaking them & givin’ ’em a li’l nip & tuck w / a few botox injections. Harlan Ellison was possibly their biggest critic. He worked on a project for the studio, then was fired after telling an off – color story about Disney porno w / Walt’s son was sitting with executives at the next table in the commisary. 😉


      • bmj2k June 18, 2011 at 1:33 am #

        There aree a lot of stories about Disney’s thefts but I think the one most people know is The Lion King.


        • Daniel June 18, 2011 at 5:58 am #

          Where Disney lifted from a Japanese manga, right ? There w / be no small irony there, because early & present – day manga & anime were supposedly heavily influenced by the Disney studios’ artistic style.

          Not a super – big / mega / jumbo fan of manga or anime, but I’m acquainted w / other people that are.


  2. Thomas Stazyk June 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Love the opening quote. Definitely applies to parents and children!


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