Tag Archives: Howard the Duck

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

“Sometimes, dead is better.” – Pet Sematary

9 Dec
December 9, 2010

“I showed him how God wanted him to have a swell time while he was alive. Because, brothers and sisters, when you is gone, you is gone. And ain’t no way , no how, nobody’s going to bring you back here once you is dead!”- Love at First Bite

Ever see Love at First Bite? Great film, really, a great film. It stars George Hamilton as a very tan Count Dracula who relocates from Transylvania to New York in the 1970’s and hits the disco scene. In my opinion it is George Hamilton’s greatest film, but that isn’t saying much. (It is, however, more than a bit funnier than Godfather III.) Leslie Nielsen took a stab at Dracula, so to speak, in Dracula: Dead and Loving It but no offense, the Hamilton film is funnier. (“Children of the night, shut up!”)

Dracula is so iconic a character that he may never die. He may have been plugged by hundreds of wooden stakes, but plug “Dracula” into imdb.com and you get nineteen exact matches, not counting partial matches and all the films in which the Count is not in the title. The actors who played Dracula have not fared as well, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Leslie Nielsen, and many more, are all gone. Luckily, Christopher Lee is still alive and acting, but there will never again be another film starring Lon Chaney Jr., not to mention John Wayne, Marlon Brando, or even Elvis. And for those of us who saw him in A Change of Habit, that’s a loss to comedy. I will now quote myself:

Elvis once said “Only the only thing worse than watching a bad movie is being in one.” And he should know.

In “Change of Habit,” 1969, he starred as “Dr. Edward Pelvis,” a hip psychotherapist simultaneously wooing a nun played totally unconvincingly by Mary Tyler Moore and curing a young autistic girl by slapping her around. Yes, by slapping her around. There are plenty of scenes of Moore and her hip nun friends getting involved in civic events, scenes of Pelvis and Moore picnicking, and plenty of scenes of Pelvis slapping the poor autistic girl while saying “I love you.” Slap! “I love you.” Slap! I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! SEE FOR YOURSELF!

TRIVIA: This is the only feature film starring Elvis Presley which wasn’t released theatrically in Finland. Those Fins, always getting left out. Did you know that only last week they found out that Rosebud was Citizen Kane’s sled?

Abbott and Costello will never update “Who’s on First?” for free-agency, Al Jolsen will never sing Public Enemy’s “911 is a Joke,” and Theda Bara will never get her own sitcom.

“I showed him how God wanted him to have a swell time while he was alive. Because, brothers and sisters, when you is gone, you is gone. And ain’t no way , no how, nobody’s going to bring you back here once you is dead!”

Oh really?

You can't make this stuff up.

What is he thinking? Who does he think he is? Sure, he gave us Darth Vader, but he also gave us Howard the Duck. He may have created the Empire, but he is also responsible for Howard the Duck. THX sound technology is his, but so is Howard the Duck. He also produced Howard the Duck.

So now we may all get the chance to see Charlton Heston dance to “Poker Face.

Think about it. Christopher Reeve may fly again as Superman. Or he may show up in a Willow sequel. Really, this is all up to George Lucas and his wild and wacky imagination.

Of course, odds are he’ll show up as a Jedi first in a bad Star Wars film.
Sir John Gielgud will appear in an episode of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.
John Cazale in Weekend at Bernie’s IV.
Ricky Ricardo and Margaret Dumont in a remake of West Side Story.

There is really only one winner in all of this, a group, actually. Guys like Rich Little, Fred Travalena, people who do impressions, because Lucas may have the images but he needs someone to voice them.

What, you say that Fred Travalena died in 2009? Then I’ve got to go. I need to brush up on my Travalena impression for when George Lucas brings him back for the New Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

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