Howard the Duck 23 (April 1978)

Howard the Duck #23

Leave it to Steve Gerber to do the impossible here. Wow. He takes this peculiar story arc (which ties back to Howard’s first appearance and ignores everything else in the series so far) and throws in these (intentionally) painfully obvious Star Wars references and then goes loose with it all.

The result is a good Spaceballs. The result is the perfect mix of subversive material, mainstream gags and storytelling intelligence. The comic’s called Howard the Duck and the duck’s been paddling around in a circle. Why’s Gerber do it? To make the return to him here work. It’s a strange thing–this issue is so tied to the previous one, it might have worked better as a single issue. Maybe double-size.

Because this comic–with gorgeous Mayerik art (wonderful depth)–is amazing. It’s “space humor” done better than anyone’s done it since or before. Even Dark Star.

It’s magnificent.

CREDITS

Star Waaugh; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; artist, Val Mayerik; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 22 (March 1978)

Howard the Duck #22

I’m not sure Howard is back on track so much as Gerber has found someplace to take it. The existing narrative of the series is on hold; this issue continues Howard’s first appearance (and death) over in Man-Thing. Now he’s back with Man-Thing, Jennifer Kale (Man-Thing’s blondie girlfriend), a blond Conan and an old wizard. His mission, save the universe.

In a very Star Wars fashion. It’s a little weird to see Gerber so obviously–and appreciatively–aping Star Wars at the same comic book company printing a monthly Star Wars comic book. Maybe Howard would have had legs as a zeitgeist parody, but it’s only because Gerber brings such personality to the homage.

Val Mayerik is back on pencils, which is cool, especially given the integral Man-Thing guest appearance, which works so well because it’s got Gerber writing it.

It’s a solid issue. Real solid.

CREDITS

May the Farce Be with You!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Bill Wray; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 21 (February 1978)

Howard the Duck #21

It’s a better issue than the recent norm, but Gerber still doesn’t have Howard on much of a path. At one point, Howard all of a sudden seemed like the perfect cultural relic from the Carter presidency, but it’s not.

Instead, it’s like Gerber is showing how much he can abuse the reader as far as the plot is concerned. Howard meets up with Beverly Switzler. Not Howard’s Beverly, but her uncle. What a joke. Gerber gave a fat dude Beverly’s name and ran him into Howard.

I’m not sure if the series has just gotten too tame (this issue has Howard battling the nicest, most likable murderous cult leader ever–one who even gets sympathy from the reader when Howard’s being sexist) or Gerber’s just lost interest.

But, it’s a better issue than usual. Carmine Infantino guest pencils. He and Janson are a neat team; contrasting while still complimenting.

CREDITS

If You Knew Soofi…!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, Irving Watanabe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 20 (January 1978)

Howard the Duck #20

I’m seeing the problem with Howard. Gerber is refusing to get Howard into a comfortable situation at all. Bev is still out of the picture, but so is the new girl. Bong is even out of the picture. Howard just happens into an entirely new situation with a new supporting cast.

The problem isn’t the fluidity, it’s how little Howard cares about it all. He’s not worried about Bev being married to a Doctor Doom knock-off, he’s curious why said knock-off isn’t more enthusiastic about her. Gerber doesn’t acknowledge Howard isn’t enthusiastic enough about her. It’s weird.

The comic is nearing its two year mark and Gerber himself only seems enthusiastic about one thing–treading water as far as Howard’s character development goes. It’s stopped. But so has the plot development.

It’s too bad because Colan and Janson knock the art out of the park on this one.

CREDITS

Scrubba-dub Death!; writer and editor, Steve Gerber; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Janice Cohen; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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.

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