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The Surprisingly Deadly Background Behind Howard the Duck's 'Quack Fu'

This is Foggy Ruins of Time, a feature that provides the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of "Seinfeld" will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal).

Today, we look at the surprisingly deadly inspiration for Howard the Duck's "Quack Fu."

It is hard to quite capture just how big of a deal Howard the Duck #1 was when it came out in 1976. You see, nowadays, the internet helps spread news far and wide very easily. So it is very simple for something to go "viral." Well, not simple, but you know what I mean, when something gets big, it can be spread easily around the world. In the 1970s, you were mostly working off of word of mouth (and Marvel's ads themselves and also fanzines, but mostly word of mouth) and so when things got big back then, it was a whole other type of scenario. Like when Cabbage Patch Kids blew up in the early 1980s. The stars really had to align for something to be that big of a deal back in the day and the stars certainly aligned for Howard the Duck. The character had been slowly building in popularity as Steve Gerber wrote back-ups featuring Howard all throughout 1975 until finally the character proved popular enough to get his own new series.

An actually popular new comic book character was a fairly novel idea for the mid-1970s, so when Howard the Duck #1 came out in 1976, it quickly sold across the country (and there's a decent chance that a goodly amount of copies never made it to the newsstands). This was a repeat of the 1974 Shazam #1 speculator rush, but the difference was that people were actually looking forward to Howard the Duck. Ms. Marvel #1, for instance, also had a speculator rush, but she was a brand-new character (well, Carol Danvers had been around, but effectively she was a brand-new character) and not one that people had already sampled in other titles and knew that they were into (and modern, so not like the nostalgia-driven rush for Shazam #1).

Steve Gerber was so good, though, that he still managed to live up to the hype with Howard the Duck's ongoing series. It really was just as funny and just as sharp as people were hoping it would be.

In any event, in the third issue, it is Gerber's take on martial arts, with Howard having "Quack-Fu"....

In general, the parody was obvious, this was clearly a take off of Marvel's attempt to cash in on the Kung-Fu craze of the era, namely Master of Kung Fu and Deadly Hands of Kung Fu (a black and white comic book magazine), which had both been out for a couple of years at that point...

However, there was another, slightly more subtle parody involved in the comic.

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