Characters Appearing: Howard The Duck
Howard the Duck #32
Issue(s): Howard the Duck #32
The movie will of course turn out to be a complete bomb. But Marvel didn't know that yet. So they revived Howard the Duck's color series (issue #31 had a May 79 cover date) and tried to get Steve Gerber to come back to write the issue. Gerber had actually sued Marvel for ownership of Howard in 1981. Per Jim Shooter, Gerber didn't have much of a (legal) case, and he accepted a settlement that basically got him nothing, and then refused to work on this book after an editorial revision to his plot (the timing is unclear but i guess the case went on for a few years bringing us from 1981 to here).
According to Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Gerber's proposed script was a parody of multi-issue, multi-parody crossovers called Howard the Duck's Secret Crisis. This was in part a reaction to the parody of Gerber in Secret Wars II, which Jim Shooter claims Gerber loved, and the sticking point in the script was apparently not related to the Secret Wars parody but the fact that Gerber intended to write off Bill Mantlo's work on the Howard the Duck magazine as the work of an alien techno-artist named Chirrep (which itself was a parody of Bill Mantlo doing the same thing to Doug Moench's Hulk magazine stories).
Also in that Shooter post you'll see the requirements from Disney that came as a result of their lawsuit threat. The main thing is that Howard has to wear pants but there are some other requirements about the shape of his head, mouth, etc.. It looks pretty good and still very Howard on the reference sheet in the Shooter post, but in the hands of the wrong artist it can be quite a monstrosity, as seen on the cover of this issue (by Jack Abel and Vincent Colletta).
The interior art is by Paul Smith, and while Smith is generally a great artist, i'm not sure he's a great fit for Howard either.
Smith has a clean, almost cartoony style which, since everyone is cartoony, causes us to lose the sight of the fact that Howard is such a weird out-of-place character. The realism of Gene Colan or Val Mayerik made Howard's incongruity more obvious.
Nonetheless, the art is far from bad, but unfortunately, the story here isn't great. It's not "bad" either, but it's a generic Howard the Duck story where he discovers an underground colony of anti-regulatory and xenophobic conservatives that have Gone Galt and withdrawn to form their own society where they can exploit the Earth's resources at will.
And they turn out to be led by a giant humanoid gopher.
Nothing wrong with the premise but their society isn't explored in any meaningful way, and the conflict with the gopher is resolved with some cartoony action scenes.
I never felt that Steve Gerber's satires with Howard were all that great, but this story is particularly by the numbers and doesn't really leave us with anything.
The basic idea is a retread of Spider-Woman's Turner D. Century plot, with the underground society living in a town that looks like "Main Street USA - circa 1910".
Except that issue actually explored the implications of that regressively conservative attitude more than this one does. The leader/gopher makes some statements in support of unregulated capitalism...
...but it hardly qualifies as satire.
The issue begins with a recap of Howard's "Duckworld" origin (from Bill Mantlo's black & white issues)...
...and tells us that after a while, Beverly Switzler "couldn't cope with datin' a duck" so they broke up and Howard "faded inta the San Fancisco woodwork, vegetatin' fer the dullest year o' my life". We then see him hitchiking in the desert where he gets picked up by the cowgirl truck driver that accompanies him on this adventure.
And when that's all over, she drops him back off in Cleveland.
After this issue, the Howard book is on hiatus for another 8 months and then there's one more issue.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I sort of wonder if the "old-fashion underground city" is an homage to "A Boy and His Dog", made by everybody's favorite sci-fi/comic writer Harlan Ellison? (just saw the movie and it jumped right out at me)
Though as terrible as the Howard movie is, I did like seeing him try to get back-money from Lucas for the mess in the Slott Shulkie book.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 24, 2013 8:58 AM
According to Gerber in Comics Interview #38, Steven Grant actually wrote this story in 1981.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 18, 2014 6:33 PM
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