Howard the Duck Redux

I’m thrilled that Marvel has tapped the hilarious Chip Zdarsky and nicest-guy-in-comics Joe Quinones for a new HOWARD THE DUCK comic. I’m, uh, kind of a fan from way back. I based this Sculpey Firm relief sketch on Joe’s cool development sketches.

HTD

Howard the Duck was created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.

Advertisements

And that was MIGHTY MARVEL MAY!


And that’s it! My top 30 favorite Marvel Comics character in minibust form. So many fun characters had to be left out (Sorry Blade! Sorry Kingpin! Sorry everyone in Power Pack! Punisher- you’re still a Spider-Man villain to me, and I didn’t have room for Norman Osborn, the ne plus ultra of Spidey villains, so you didn’t make the cut).  Marvel has been publishing for more than 70 years, have thousands of characters, and occupied most of my childhood and young adulthood.

For all my love of this vast fictional universe, in this series I’ve tried to pay homage to the creators of these characters. It’s very easy to think of the Marvel Universe as an almost organic whole, and that these stories will be there every month without fail, but without Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, John Romita, Gene Colan, Steve Gerber, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and so many more there would be no Marvel Universe. These people gave words and form to the imaginary heroes who have thrilled us. As a kid, I may have wanted to swing across a cityscape like Spider-Man or have the strength of the Thing. But as an adult I wish I could create something to inspire people the way Jack Kirby has.

‘Nuff said.

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #30: HOWARD THE DUCK

Why a duck?

Howard the Duck is maybe the most unlikely superstar Marvel ever produced. His first appearance was in FEAR #19 (1973) in a story written by the late Steve Gerber and drawn by Val Mayerik and starring Man-Thing, a mindless swamp monster. Because Man-Thing couldn’t think, talk, and didn’t really have a face, he was constantly generating supporting characters. In one story, different realities were colliding with Man-Thing’s swamp. To indicate how far-reaching the collapse of these realities had become, in walked Howard, complaining of being trapped on a world of  “hairless apes.”

Although an obvious play on Donald Duck, Howard was also given a healthy dose of Humphrey Bogart. Seemingly killed off in his first story, Howard proved too popular with readers and soon reappeared in his own personal hell: Cleveland, Ohio. He met a beautiful redhead named Beverly Switzler, and despite the difference in species, even with the restrictions of the 1970s comics code, it was very clear that they were a couple. In fact, it may have been because of the unlikelihood of their pairing that the code missed the obvious subtext.

Howard was angry about the misfortune of ending up in our world and wanted to return home. He was an unusually powerless, reactive character, who would only fight when his anger got the better of him, and usually regretted it. He and Bev lived a very realistic hand-to-mouth existence, where scraping up enough money for a candy bar and cigar for Howard felt like victory.

Howard lost more often than he won, and when he did win it was usually tinged with loss and irony: an entire issue is devoted the “What do you do, where do you go, the night after you save the universe?” Stories parodied numerous pop cultural and comic book phenomenon, but at the center was Howard and Beverly’s relationship. Howard was unlucky, and his victory was just to survive.

Gerber’s stories were idiosyncratic, his voice- the voice of Howard- was impossible to reproduce (other writers after him tried). Most of the series was drawn by the great Gene Colan, who gave everything but Howard a photorealistic veneer, and Howard a cartoonish bounce.

Howard, as the covers of his comics proclaimed, was “trapped in a world he never made!” He was alienated, a loner, angry, sometimes taken advantage of, but found a home in the arms of someone he loved. Although mostly remembered by the general public as a bad movie (the first Marvel movie!), Howard existed in a corner of the Marvel Universe that looked very much like ours at time, but could only exist in comic books.

And he is my favorite Marvel Comics Character.

Tomorrow the entire cast of characters gathers to take a bow. This has been MIGHTY MARVEL MAY.