Filled with wall-crawling heroes, gamma-irradiated monsters and creatures with names like Orrgo, Ego the Living Planet and Fin Fang Foom, the Marvel Universe was always a strange place, but in June of 1973 it became even more bizarre when writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik introduced readers to Howard the Duck, an ill-tempered, extra-dimensional, anthropomorphic waterfowl who found himself stranded in a world he never made in "Adventure into Fear" #19. More than just weird, Howard proved immensely popular and would graduate to his own ongoing series in 1976, and a syndicated newspaper strip from '77-78. Ten years later, he crossed over to the world of live action movies with a critically panned box, publicly snubbed box office bomb produced by George Lucas.
Since then, Howard has remained a fan favorite comics character, starring in and appearing as a guest in multiple titles, including a mature readers miniseries scripted by Gerber and illustrated by Phil Winslade in 2001. Earlier this year, film goers were reintroduced to the master of Quack Fu in the post credits sequence of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" feature film, leading many to wonder what Marvel had in store for the cigar-chomping, foul-mouthed fowl.
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In March, writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones will bring the character back to the mainstream Marvel Universe with a new "Howard the Duck" ongoing series, casting him as a private detective. We spoke with the creators about the types of cases Howard will become embroiled in, which denizens of the Marvel U he'll encounter (hint: She-Hulk!), and their feelings on Howard's past cinematic and four-color adventures.
CBR News: Howard was created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik in the '70s, was introduced to the larger world via a much maligned movie in the '80s, and was recently reintroduced to movie goers in the post credits sequence of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" feature film. What was your knowledge and experience with the character before this assignment? Were you fans of Howard?
Chip Zdarsky: When I was a kid, I had an Uncle Fred who had all the Howard issues and the black & white magazines! I loved going over to his place and sneaking away to read them. As a kid, they felt kind of illicit (especially the magazines). And, sure, the movie is "maligned," but when I was in grade six me and my friend Terry -- who actually had pet ducks -- used a tape recorder to get the song from the final scene so we could listen to it over and over again.
So, yeah! I have mad love for Howard. He's a surreal slice of the Marvel Universe that you can take anywhere, from mundane truck stops to the astral plane. A feathery tour guide of the weird.
Joe Quinones: Honestly, I had next to zero associations with Howard outside of the '80s movie, which I saw because of a huge crush I had (have?) on Lea Thompson. Maybe it's the hearts in my eyes talking, but I still think kind of fondly of that movie, despite Jeffrey Jones' character scaring the shit out of me. Anyway, I've since started looking up old Howard issues, and they're weird and fun. There's never enough weird and fun in comics, and I think it'll be great to make such comics playing around in the Marvel sandbox.
Chip, these days you're best known as the artist for "Sex Criminals," the creator-owned Image series you do with Matt Fraction, but you've also written and drawn your own projects like "Monster Cops" and "Prison Funnies." How does it feel to be writing Howard's adventures and your first Marvel comic?
Zdarsky: I have yet to have my freak-out moment. I'm trying to be all cool about it and just write fun stuff that I'd enjoy reading, y'know? It's only when I get notes back from Marvel saying things like, "You can't have Frog Man murder all those people," that I go, "Oh yeah! This is actually something that is going to be published! By Marvel! I'm writing Howard the Duck for Marvel! Ha ha ha!" I suspect I won't believe it's actually happening until I hold issue one in my sweaty hands.
Let's talk about your take on Howard. Which aspects of his character are you interested in exploring in this series? I understand he's playing the role of a private investigator? What made being a gumshoe a good fit for Howard and this series?
Zdarsky: The inspiration came from that amazing Howard sketch Chris Samnee's Howard sketchChris Samnee did a few months back.
As soon as I saw that, I was like, "Of course! Howard should be a private eye!" The funny thing is, I talked to another writer who pitched a Howard book and he did the exact same thing after seeing that image! It just works so well.
Being a P.I. gives Howard a great way to interact with the Marvel Universe and also gives him, y'know, a job. Howard's such a regular guy who just happens to be a duck that I want to see him struggling with rent and getting work while being transported halfway across the galaxy or to the Negative Zone or to Cleveland.
Also, ducks can see two to three times farther than humans. That's a pretty good selling point for a private eye, I think.
Joe, which aspects of Howard do you really want to capture in your depiction of him? Who is he to you? Did you tweak the character's design at all?
Quinones: For me, he's a sort of charming curmudgeon. A cynical everyman(duck), who means well, but at the end of the party, always gets stuck with the bill. (This has been a duck-related joke. I'm sorry)
Visually, I basically wanted to design a Howard that I'd enjoy drawing over and over, and who could sit comfortably in the context of the rest of the Marvel Universe. For me, this primarily meant getting away from the huge cartoon eyes. Also, Marvel wanted to visually tie Howard into the one who appeared onscreen at the end of "GotG," which I also kept in mind when designing him.
Does Howard's job mean the stories will resemble classic P.I. tales, a sort of modern day "Blacksad" set in the Marvel Universe? Or will we see all types of genres in this series?
Zdarsky: Oh, it'll be all types of genres! Private eye is a great launching point for weird stories, but I want to skewer the world, man. Skewer the world. Though you've just given me an idea for a competing Blacksad-type character. I'd say it's my idea now, sucker, but really it's going to be Marvel/Disney's. Every idea will be Marvel/Disney's one day.
I was originally going to have "private eye narration," but figured people would murder me by issue four. It will be there, but used sparingly, like my body.
P.I. stories also come with a wide variety of tones from humorous to hardboiled, and Howard of course has a history of surreal, funny, and existential adventures. What kind of tone can we expect in "Howard?" How strange will his adventures be?
Zdarsky: I'm going to build up strangeness tolerance in the readers over time. There's no point in alienating them all at once! But, yes, as the series goes on it'll get weirder, guaranteed.
Joe, what's it like drawing Howard's world? Is Howard's corner of the Marvel Universe a little more different and bizarre?
Quinones: The Marvel Universe is all different and bizarre. And though Howard is a talking duck from an alien world, that's how he sees things also. It's all in the same universe.
How would you describe the overall look of "Howard the Duck?" How does it compare to some of your recent work on books like "Savage Wolverine," "Survive!" and "Harley Quinn Annual?"
Quinones: It'll be far less bloody (I think) than "Savage Wolverine," but the general style and aesthetics are still my own. Just as Howard lives in the same world as Hulk and Dr. Strange, so does the book, visually. It will be much, much funnier than "Savage Wolverine" though. Unless you find World War I funny, in which case, seek help. What is wrong with you?
Will Howard's friend and significant other Beverly Switzler be involved in the series? And who are some of the other supporting players Howard will interact with on a regular basis?
Zdarsky: There's a bit of a Beverly mystery in the series. She's not on the scene and there's clearly a story to be told, which we'll definitely get to. With Howard in New York enacting a fresh take on life, I've given him some new supporting characters. A thrill-seeking friend named Tara who joins Howard for the exciting parts of cases, a nemesis public detective named Mike who will not tolerate Howard's antics, and an office manager who will instill fear into all who deal with her, ensuring that they all burn at the Man-Thing's touch.
Also, a bunch of New York Marvel characters! Half the fun of setting this in the city is to take advantage of its superhero residents.
There will be villainous faces from his past, adventures in space, dangerous games, and a town that America forgot. Oh, and She-Hulk.