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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #155

Funny animals are a comics staple! What better way is there to celebrate the act of giving human characteristics to members of the animal kingdom than by Anthropomorphism Week! And by “Week” I mean “until it stops.”

First up: ducks! Everyone loves a cool duck. And this duck’s the coolest of them all! After all, all, he’s the one fictional character who came closest to winning the presidency.

(By the way– here’s the archive. Fresh and updated!)


155. Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck 2.jpg

(Click to enlarge. One of the all-time greatest comic book covers.)

“Trapped in a world he never made!” Howard the Duck exploded onto the comics page in a Man-Thing story, of all places, by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik. The cigar-chomping, suited up (originally sans pants– but hey, it is “No Undies Monday” on Boomerang– and yeah, they later gave him some trousers) then sprung into his own series, written again (and edited) by Gerber and mostly drawn by the amazing Gene Colan, before Gerber got kicked off his own book, and the character he created. This led to a big ol’ creator rights debacle, and most comic writers are incredibly wary of touching the Howard character, even though he’s still owned by the company. We did get a really awesome Zombie Howard cameo in the currently-running Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness mini, though. I liked that one.

The Gerber series was a smashing run of social satire, experimentation with the comics form, and wacky adventures, starring Howard and his buxom girlfriend, Beverly Switzler. It was during this time that Howard gained quite a big following, and ran for president in the comic under the All-Night Party. In reality, he achieved several thousand write-in votes! And, yes, we were given Howard’s archnemesis, the fearsome Dr. Bong, whom we profiled earlier in this very column.

After his first series wrapped, Marvel launched a black-and-white magazine with stories by the wild Bill Mantlo, but it was short-lived. There were a few more fits and starts over the years, and Gerber returned to the character a couple of times, but things weren’t looking good for America’s favorite duck. The late 80’s also gave us the Howard the Duck movie, which is considered to be terrible. I can’t even remember if I’ve ever seen it, so we’d best just move on.

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Howard wasn’t seen again until the late 90’s, when he popped up in a few guest appearances, as well as being Amalgamized into Lobo the Duck. Then, after the launch of Marvel’s mature-readers MAX line, Steve Gerber returned to the character for a mini-series, in which Howard the Duck was turned into Howard the Mouse, among other things. I haven’t read it, myself, but I believe it was critically acclaimed.

Our ducky friend will surely turn up again, because he’s irresistible, and not just to the ladies. He’s a wonderfully kooky point of view character in a world gone mad. When the pantsless talking duck is your most normal character, you know you’re in for a fun ride. What do you love about Howard, readers?

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We are lucky enough, however, to have a cool Essential Howard the Duck edition we can go out and buy! I’m not certain if it’s still in print. As of right now, Amazon only has one copy left! Hurry! Shop like the wind!

The Howard the Duck website is a great resource, even if it is hosted on Tripod.
Howard’s Marvel Appendix Entry is chock full of detailed information.
And of course, there’s always the terrific Toonopedia entry.

See you tomorrow– same duck time, same duck channel!


Man, I loved this series. I was too young to appreciate it when it first debuted (though I was always fascinated by the ads, which featured quirky images such as Iron Duck, Dr. Bong, and a reference or two to Quack Fu), but came across a couple of issues in the ’80’s and ’90’s, and purchased the Essential volume a year or so back. I must say, of all the Essentials that I own, this is probably my favorite. Thanks for including Howard in this feature!

The Howard movie has a VERY disturbing scene where Lea Thompson tries to seduce Howard. This is all I remember about it.

Much to my shame, I actually enjoyed the Howard The Duck movie, and said so to my best friend as I was leaving the show and he was going in. 20 years later and he STILL hasn’t let that go.

Me: “I thought Spider-Man 1 and 2 are one of the most perfect Marvel Comics adaptations ever”

Him: “What do you know? You thought Howard the Duck was good.”

Mostly, I blame my teenaged hormones and Lea Thompson.

first exposure to howard was in generation X and he had a great role in that for a short stint. why he hasnt done naything for a while has he? Im really surpised he hasnt thurned up in slott’s she-hulk or thing.

Oh, fun fact you don’t mention: Howard the Duck not only had his own comic in the 1970s, he actually had his own Syndicated Comic Strip as well. I read it quite faithfully when it appeared in The Toronto Star around 1978 or so.

In some ways, it was a phenomenally far-sighted move as it probably predated Bloom County’s mix of anthropromorphized satire and high melodrama by a good six years. Shame it didn’t catch on.

Howard the Duck is, I swear to God, my dad’s favorite movie of all time.

I got him the Essential Howard trade one year for Christmas (or some other gift-giving occasion), but I don’t know that he ever cracked it open.


My favorite was Star Waugh!
With NAACP-30

and the classic line about dress codes-
“Secret messages exchanged by clothing?”

It was my introduction to the character.

“first exposure to howard was in generation X and he had a great role in that for a short stint. why he hasnt done naything for a while has he? Im really surpised he hasnt thurned up in slott’s she-hulk or thing.”

He showed up in one panel of Slott’s She-Hulk. He was suing George Lucas for not delivering on his promise of a complete film trilogy (and prequels).

What about Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck, wherein the persona of Howard the Duck was stolen via an unofficial crossover with, I believe, Generation X? If I remember correctly they recreated a scene in each comic where the Marvel Howard was replaced with an impostor and the real Howard got a dye job and a name change (Leonard, maybe?)and was thus saved from his copyright holders. I always thought that was a cool idea. However, I don’t think it went much farther and it was definitely before that MAX series.

The Mad Monkey

June 4, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Yes…Howard’s movie…
A single feather on Howard’s lower abdomen suggesting to the audience that he was…ummmm…aroused…
Good times not had by all.

But still, Howard has always been an underdog (underduck?) favorite of mine. His story in the Civil War mega-crap-series was perhaps the best part of an otherwise complete letdown.

My first exposure to Howard the Duck was the Treasury Edition they put out in 1976. It reprinted his stories from GIANT-SIZE Man-Thing, the first issue of his comic-book and had a new story featuring the Defenders, which Gerber was writing at the time.

A very nice package.

Oh yeah. I bought the Treasury Edition a year or so ago after tearing mine to shreds as a young’n.

Frank Brunner art at triple size is about the coolest thing ever.

As horrible as the movie was, the monster at the end was pretty cool. PLEASE–do not rent or buy the movie to check. There’s got to be some images of it floating around without having to watch the rest of it.

Mike Loughlin

June 5, 2007 at 5:50 am

Howard the Duck, under writer/ creator Steve Gerber, was among the best comics ever. Gerber brought humor, passion, and sincerity to his stories that you can’t find in other mainstream comics.

One of the forces behind Gerber leaving the book was Marvel’s shoddy treatment of Gene Colan. They deferred payment on Colan’s work for the newspaper strip. Since Colan had to drop a comic book to do the strip, he was losing money. Gerber lobbied for Colan, but was unsucessful. I could be off in my memory of a years-old interview, so feel free to correct me.

The Kirbydotter

June 5, 2007 at 6:22 am

Your first duck isn’t Uncle Scrooge!???!

I appreciate Howard’s importance in comic book history (for the huge popularity he had in the 70’s and the creator’s right thing that gave us Stewart the Rat and Destroyer Duck). But when he came out I didn’t like mixing up a cartoon character with the “serious” world of Marvel super-heroes. And, at the time, I was probably too young to get and apprecite the political satire.

I know I should try the Essential one of these days…
But Howard still doesn’t have any appeal for me…

During a time when all comics was nothing more than super heroes, monsters or fantasy, the original Howard the Duck series was a breath of fresh air.

(and I agree, the short lived comic strip also drawn by Colan was great!)

Howard teamed with She-Hulk durring Gerber’s run on the 80’s book for a crosstime adventure.

Michael, how can this be disturbing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PY6R192cL4

When the Howard the Duck movie was in full pre-release hype, I sold his Man-Thing appearences and Howard #1 to a rabid fanboy for 100 bucks. What do they go for these days? Three for a dollar?

Reality Check

June 5, 2007 at 8:25 am

Man, suddenly the theme to that Howard the Duck movie started playing in my head. 80’s theme stick to your head.

And oh, btw:

MarkAndrew said
Oh yeah. I bought the Treasury Edition a year or so ago after tearing mine to shreds as a young’n.

Frank Brunner art at triple size is about the coolest thing ever.

Mr Mark Andrew, I posted a question for you on your previous post, in case you haven’t been checking. An answer is very much appreciated. Thanks.

Good call on Howard. Thank god War week is over.

Much to my shame, I actually enjoyed the Howard The Duck movie

I loved that film at about 12 or 13 years old when I saw it in the cinema.

I tried to watch it again at about 20 and found it unwatchable.


June 5, 2007 at 9:00 am

I was so excited about the Howard the Duck movie coming out that I bought the novelization of the movie. I don’t remember much of it. All I recall is that it referenced Smurfberry Crunch in it. Ah, youth and stupidity.

A very nice package.

I love how Richard described the Marvel Treasury edition reprinting stories from Giant-Size Man-Thing as “a very nice package.” Yes, I’m sure it was :)

Bill, the MAX Howard series was really excellent. You know how sometimes when a creator returns to his best-known creation after a lengthy absence and tries to recapture the old magic, but it comes across as a pale imitation or self-parody? This ain’t one of those times. Gerber proved his version of Howard could still work in modern comics. (Pity Marvel had to be complete dicks about the way they treated him.) The MAX series also included some wonderful zingers at DC’s Vertigo line — Gerber’s take on Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan is a thing of beauty — and the ending turns out to be surprisingly touching and empathetic, especially for a comic whose stock in trade is dyspeptic skepticism of bathos and sentimentality.

Graeme Burk, you (and anyone else whose interest is piqued by Graeme’s mention of the HTD newspaper strip) might want to look here.

I picked up the Essential years back and loved the humor and satire. It’s still one of my favorite comics ever, even though I haven’t read it in years. I imagine it will hold up when I do, since it worked for me the first time despite all of the dated ’70s Marvel stuff (and me not getting at least half of the references). Always wanted to read those newspaper strips, so thanks for the link, RAB.

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