Howard the Duck 19 (December 1977)

Howard the Duck #19

Howard’s adventures as a human continue, but Gerber sets him down a particular path. Howard ends up at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which puts him in contact with a particular set of humans and maybe not the most interesting ones.

After a certain point–Howard is back in a hippy girl’s apartment–one has to wonder if Colan really just wanted to try out drawing someone doing yoga; the issue’s mostly talking heads, mostly Howard (the human) unable to understand the human condition while his fowl alter ego eggs him on to act more ducky. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

It’s really depressing stuff, actually. Gerber, Colan and Janson capture the misery in the bus terminal–Howard teams up with a homeless guy refused a seat in a coffee shop due to smell. The dysfunctional hippies are actually a mood booster in contrast.

The finale’s small joy is a big help.

CREDITS

Howard the Human!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Phil Rachelson; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 18 (November 1977)

Howard the Duck #18

Bong’s still a dumb villain, but the rest of the issue is strange enough to get it through.

While Bev is off getting married to Bong, Howard has been changed into a human and is escaping Bong’s castle in the company of a duck-girl, one of Bong’s other experiments.

The early highpoint of the issue is Gerber retelling the end of Bride of Frankenstein, only with Howard as the Bride and duck-girl as Boris Karloff. It’s a cute little homage and Colan and Janson do a good job of it.

They also do a good job of Bev’s stupid subplot with Bong (even though Gerber does occasionally give her good stuff to do). They also do a rather good job with Howard as a human. Colan doesn’t go for humor with it, he goes for how a human Howard would really appear.

It’s a good comic… just good.

CREDITS

Metamorphosis; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 17 (October 1977)

Howard the Duck #17

I don’t like Dr. Bong. It’s a strange misstep for Gerber on Howard. He creates a supervillain who seems like a cross between a Bond villain (he has all sorts of technology and a private island) and Dr. Moreau (he uses said technology to create animal mutations to populate the island). But this guy doesn’t have Dr. Doom’s backstory. He’s an angry tabloid reporter who’s hot for Beverly’s bod.

(He saw her in a modeling class in college).

On one hand, it does give Gerber the chance to let Beverly shine in Howard but he doesn’t take that route. Instead, he tells the villain’s story and Beverly is peripheral. Howard’s not even part of the main plot this issue and his subplot falls flat.

The artwork is good, but the figures seem a little fuller than usual. They look awkward against the backgrounds.

Gerber took seventeens issues to achieve mediocrity.

CREDITS

Doctor Bong; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Annette Kawecki; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 16 (September 1977)

Howard the Duck #16

I don’t want to call this comic book strange. Instead of a regular, strange issue of Howard the Duck, it turns out Gerber was just too busy to break out an actual plot for Gene Colan so instead he did an issue in prose.

Howard the Duck #16. It’s Gerber making fun of himself well, which makes one think about how the comic is the same thing. It’s Gerber making fun of a comic book called Howard the Duck well. And how does one accomplish that task well? By being sincere. By going through the artifice of the series to the point of sincerity.

“Howard” even co-narrates, Gerber telling the reader’s Howard’s a voice in his head. True or not, it’s a direct communication between Gerber and the reader without illusion. Gerber still spins a good yarn to go with it. Because it’s how Howard works. Through narrative disruption.

CREDITS

Zen and the Art of Comic Book Writing: A Communique from Colorado; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; pencillers, Gene Colan, Alan Weiss, Ed Hannigan, Marie Severin, Dave Cockrum, Tom Palmer, Al Milgrom, John Buscema, Dick Giordano and Michael Netzer; inkers, Klaus Janson, Weiss, Hannigan, Severin, Cockrum, Palmer, Milgrom, Buscema, Giordano and Terry Austin; colorists, Janson and Doc Martin; letterers, Austin and Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 15 (August 1977)

Howard the Duck #15

It’s a strangely gentle issue. So gentle I almost went back to check to see if Gerber wrote the thing. Instead, I waited until I finished the issue.

Howard is chill. This issue has a chill Howard the Duck. Gerber takes all the previous events–like Howard’s mental health issues–into account as he lets the cast relax. Sure, they’re on an ocean liner plagued by strange, gigantic threats, but they’re relaxing while making sure they survive.

But Gerber’s humor is also gentler. For the most part. There’s some incisiveness from Howard, who then calls himself on it (confusing Bev while showing his hand to the reader). But, otherwise, it’s a fun, laid back issue.

The pace is fantastic too. Since so little is happening, even though the cast is on a big set, Gerber is able to get a lot of stuff into the book. It’s strange and great.

CREDITS

The Island of Dr. Bong!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker and colorist, Klaus Janson; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 14 (July 1977)

Howard the Duck #14

And Gerber is back on with Howard. After being possessed by the Son of Satan’s demon, Howard heads to Cleveland to get revenge on Beverly for not loving him. It’s a lengthy trip, however, with Howard having little moments on the way. Gerber also cuts back to Daimon Hellstrom (the guy who’s supposed to be possessed) forecasting how dangerous Howard has become.

He is dangerous. Beverly is in danger. Gerber establishes the possessed Howard as a threat. It’s kind of real crazy for the protagonist of a comic like Howard the Duck to not just become detached from the reader, but to be what seems to be an actual threat to the others.

Klaus Janson inks Colan here; they give the characters a lot of physical weight in their scenes. Howard’s imposing, even though he’s small. It’s cool.

It’s another great issue in a fantastic run from Gerber. He’s outstanding.

CREDITS

A Duck Possessed!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Irene Vartanoff; letterer, Jim Novak; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 13 (June 1977)

Howard the Duck #13

Maybe Colan drawing Ace Frehley just got me off on the wrong foot with this issue of Howard but it does seem like Gerber’s got way too much going on.

He splits the issue between Howard and his new lady friend, Howard’s insanity, Howard’s doctor and guest starring Son of Satan, the evil German nurse and her evil German boss and then the return of a villain from a previous issue. It’s very, very busy and not much of it has to do with Howard.

And the rest of it isn’t particularly interesting. Gerber doesn’t reveal the evil German plan (it’s German, it involves cults, it must be evil), so it’s just ominous, not ominous and funny. That disconnect might be the problem with the issue–it’s absurd, just never absurdly funny.

Gerber just never seems to get anywhere, even though he does get to a reasonably amusing hard cliffhanger.

CREDITS

Rock, Roll Over, and Writhe!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Jim Novak; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 12 (May 1977)

Howard the Duck #12

It’s another great issue of Howard the Duck. I’m even willing to give Gerber a chance to make the hard cliffhanger’s unfortunate corporate synergy guest stars worthwhile next issue. He does such a good job with the comic–this issue has Howard tried and committed–I’m willing to give him a lot of leeway.

Gerber balances the absurdity and the political and social commentary quite well. He manages to mix all three into the comic. He’ll have these absurd set pieces with multiple commentaries going on. It’s really cool to read and to follow the tangents to their conclusions.

Plus there’s Howard. Even though Gerber’s doing so much, he’s also got this really interesting character. (I’m really starting to miss Bev). By keeping Howard’s history a secret, Gerber encourages readers to get further invested in the character. But it never feels calculated, just enthusiastic.

Howard, weird cliffhanger and all, rocks.

CREDITS

Mind-Mush!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Jim Novak; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 11 (April 1977)

Howard the Duck #11

It’s Howard without Beverly–in a delirious state he assumes she has run out on him with one of the hairless apes but it’s really innocent (or so we hope)–and that change in balance would be enough to get the issue done. It’s Howard fending for himself and all. Gerber could easily fill the pages with that angle.

Instead, Gerber adds to it–Howard’s still sort of delirious, even though he’s a little better, but then he’s on a bus with a collection of spiritual types and a fetching, lisping lady and his nemesis, the kidney lady. It’s weird. And it moves. Gerber and Colan do the movement of this bus beautifully. The pacing is just stunning.

And Gerber ignores all the plot points one might assume in the issue. He even goes out on an entirely unexpected hard cliffhanger, but displays it as a mild ending.

Amazing work.

CREDITS

Quack-Up!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Steve Leialoha; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Jim Novak; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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