Howard the Duck #1-3
Issue(s): Howard the Duck #1, Howard the Duck #2, Howard the Duck #3
Other than some corny phrases like that, there really isn't any "taking on" of anything, and the barbarian aspects aren't really satirized either. Howard meets and rescues Beverly Switzler in the tower as well.
Spider-Man makes a brief appearance.
Next, Howard moves in with Bev...
...and fights her sort-of boyfriend, who has been turned into a super-villain named the Turnip-Man.
It's something of a Green Lantern parody, maybe? The ending serves as Gerber's sort-of thesis on the immaturity of super-hero comics, i guess.
According to Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (and as mentioned in Mark and Michael's comments), the Space Turnip is apparently a parody of Don McGregor and the speech he wrote for Kevin Trublood in Jungle Action #20, specifically when he says "I stand apart, because I dare to believe in the power of what one man can do - the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet, James Bond - the heroes, the stuff of legends!" The fact that this is basically an in-joke helps explain why it's kind of over my head.
Howard also meets a crazy homeless lady on a bus who is worried about people poisoning her kidneys.
The third issue "takes on" the kung fu craze and has Howard learning the martial art and dressing up like Shang Chi (master of quack fu).
It's all played for zany laughs and really isn't very good. If Gerber had attempted to write in the style of Thomas' Conan or Moench's MOKF, maybe exaggerating them to point out their faults, it could have been a groundbreaking book that would have withstood the test of time. Instead it all reads kind of like Mad Magazine but without the jokes.
Howard the Duck sold out of its initial print run of 275,000 copies and was soon selling high on the speculator market. It's not hard to get a copy today, but at the time it seemed extremely scarce and caused a sensation in the secondary market.
Frank Brunner is gone with issue #3 because he quit Marvel, in part due to a dispute with Marvel's policy of returning artwork, but largely because after the sales of issue #1, Brunner wanted a page rate increase and also a retroactive writing credit on issue #1. Instead, Steve Gerber apparently started writing full-script style plots (e.g., not "Marvel style"), which Brunner didn't appreciate (see the interview here).
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Howard The Duck vol. 1
Inbound References (5): show
The "LOVE" panel originally showed Howard under the covers with Beverly, but the Comics Code demanded a change.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 11, 2011 1:45 AM
Gerber started this title immediately after leaving Marvel's Crazy magazine, which may account for the sillier tone early on.
The title to #3 refers to the king fu films "Five Fingers of Death!" and "Enter The Dragon!". Actually, the kung fu fad had died everywhere except comics by this time.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 21, 2011 1:21 AM
In Comics Journal #51, Frank Brunner claimed to have given Gerber the idea for Master of Quack Fu, but he quit Marvel for a while over a delayed request for a raise and didn't draw the issue.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 8, 2012 1:45 AM
Beverly Switzler was loosely based on fellow writer Mary Skrenes. The Kidney Lady was based on an actual person Gerber saw in Times Square.
#2 is supposed to be a Don McGregor satire, but I can't guess where. Maybe the Space Turnip guy's word balloons?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 8, 2012 8:10 PM
According to Bob Kennedy, the security guard, Arthur Winslow, was a parody of McGregor, who took a job as a security guard to know the thrill of "adventure".
Posted by: Michael | December 8, 2012 10:50 PM
When FOOM#10 previewed this book, Beverly Switzler was called "Mercedes Bent".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 24, 2013 4:10 PM
Yes I do remember the hype over this first issue when it came out. The stores had soled out of them. People were starting to grab all the #1 issues under speculation that they would be worth big bucks. Ms Marvel #1, Champions #1...and so on. They ammounted to be worth nill. Little did the collectors realize that when everyone collects something that's recently put out, a lot of times the the value drops. The high end comics were the older stuff before people got into a frenzy over them. Moms threw them away, kids wrote on them, covers were torn off, they were generally mistreated and the pristine ones weren't always easy to get.
Posted by: Mike | August 2, 2014 6:58 PM
At least in the MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #12 reprint of #1, Beverly does reveal her full name in the last panel of story page 14 (page 77 of the treasury edition).
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | January 4, 2015 9:15 PM
Found it and added a scan, thanks Matthew.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 5, 2015 12:19 AM
I thought it was pretty obvious that the opening sequence of #2, with "Killmallard" fighting the alien war machines, was a parody of the Killraven series McGregor had been writing for the past two years in AMAZING ADVENTURES.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | February 28, 2015 10:39 PM
Matthew, i agree that is obvious. Even without "Killmallard", the tripods would have given it away. But i guess what wasn't obvious to me is that it therefore meant that Space Turnip was a parody of Don McGregor, and i still don't really get the joke.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 1, 2015 2:48 PM
Also, would HTD #2 be parodying JUNGLE ACTION #20 when the latter--per Marvel's recently revived checklists--had only gone on sale a week earlier? Not challenging anyone's account; it just seems odd.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | March 2, 2015 12:58 PM
Well, according to Sean Howe's book, Gerber was McGregor's Editor/Proofreader, so it's likely he had read the speech before it was published. The timing does amplify the in-jokey nature of the parody.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 2, 2015 1:06 PM
Eureka! Makes perfect sense. Been trying not to get too far ahead of the actual comics while reading Howe's book, but I may need to jump ahead a little more...
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | March 2, 2015 2:10 PM
Issue #3, with Count Macho killing a kid because he's so...well, macho...is based very loosely on the real-life Dojo Wars, in which comic-bopok advertising staple Count Dante picked a fight with a rival martial arts dojo and got one of his friends killed. The satire of the martial arts craze is perhaps more biting in that light.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | December 5, 2015 11:03 AM
This page suggests that Frank Brunner left the title partly because he wanted credit for co-creating Howard. No doubt just a mistake but Val Mayerik was the artist in Fear #19
Posted by: Nick Bowler | March 7, 2016 10:55 AM
Thanks Nick. He actually wanted co-writing credit for issue #1. I've updated the entry and linked to an interview.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 7, 2016 11:23 AM
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