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
(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.
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?
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!