Stop Judging HOWARD THE DUCK Based on His Awful Flick; Know Your History!

Stop judging Howard the Duck based on the atrocious stinkfest of a movie that happened to carry his name.  Howard the Duck was around waaaay before George Lucas got his tentacles on him. Sure, the movie bombed critically and financially, but the reason it is such a HUGE disappointment is because it completely destroyed the legacy of the Dark Mallard of the Night.

The average comic fan does not realize that there was a point when Duckmania ruled comics.  After first appearing in Howard-the-Duck-01Adventure into Fear  in 1973, fans could not get enough of Howard.  Marvel offices overflowed with fan mail requesting the wise @$$ed duck star in his own series.  He finally received a title in 1976, and the first issue immediately sold out.  The demand was so high that the premier issue often sold for ten times the cover price.  The title was a genius satire of American and comic culture, and fans ate it up.

Howard was a crossover hit for Marvel.  Steve Gerber was interviewed for Playboy and other major publications, and Howard was featured on the cover to the Village Voice with the headline “The Last Angry Duck Stands Up For America.”  Marvel even had a campaign where Howard ran for president of the United States in 1976. The comic book could not keep the Duckman contained… he eventually starred in his own daily newspaper strip.

howard for president

Duckmania spread.  After the second issue, Frank Brunner left the title and started making Howard knockoffs with names such as “Scarface Duck” and “The Duckateer.”  Eventually, in 1978, Gerber was taken off the title due to missing deadlines.  When he looked into taking legal action to claim ownership of Howard, Marvel canned his behind. Of course, he eventually did sue for creator rights. To fund his lawsuit, Gerber teamed with Jack Kirby (yeah, that Jack Kirby) to make their own new duck title for Eclipse Comics in 1982, titled Destroyer Duck.  And, get this, Kirby did it for free because he wanted to support Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel (who Kirby was also beefing with at the time). Destroyer_Duck_1

Sadly, the viral nature of Howard’s title did not last long.  Early issues sold better than mutant growth hormone, but sales started dropping as the series went on.  Once Gerber left, new writers took over, but the title was cancelled a year later. This marked the end of Howard’s reign.  “The duck was canceled because it was pretty awful … once I was gone, Howard was lobotomized, devoid of substance, and turned into simple-minded parody. So they’re putting him out of his misery,” Gerber told the Village Voice soon after his dismissal.  Gerber settled out of court in 1982 with Marvel retaining rights.  Then came many comic reboots, the awful movie and his recent cameo in the Guardians flick.  Howard has always retained a cult following, but he has never reached the level of his early success.

So, be careful when you badmouth Howard based on your experiences with that awful, awful, awful, awful movie (it gets four awfuls).  Read his early comics, and then I dare you to try and talk trash about the Duck Man of Cleveland.

Source: Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe

Author
Jay Deitcher is a writer and licensed social worker from Albany, NY. He is currently taking MFA courses at the College of St. Rose. You can read his other work at JayDeitcher.com.
  • cmacattack

    The title of this opinion piece should actually be more along the lines of STOP SAYING THE HOWARD THE DUCK FLICK WAS AWFUL! If you knew anything about the movie you would know that Lucas did not write or direct it, he was just the money behind it. Yet all of the blame is always mistakenly put on him by the uneducated. The movie was actually co-written by the co-creator and writer of the comics Steve Gerber. The movie was exactly what it was supposed to be, a b-movie full of satire, parodies and a talking alien duck who knows quak-fu, just like in the comics. Yes of course the movie has a little Hollywood thrown in, after-all, it was the 80’s.

    • Norton 231

      You’re the one who’s uneducated. The screenplay for “Howard the Duck” was by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, not Steve Gerber. Gerber was credited as a “consultant” for the film (whatever that means, since he no longer had creative control over the character), but the version of Howard that’s in the movie is not Gerber’s at all, it’s Bill Mantlo’s version of the character, “Duckworld” and all. The movie is a steaming pile of crap that should never have been made. I’m just glad that Marvel is reprinting the “Howard the Duck Omnibus” so people can see what Howard was really like.

  • Voidrider

    I had a collection of Howard the Duck comics and I also had 2 or 3 issues of his larger magazine sized, black and white comic that was very NC-17. In fact, the final page of the first issue had him and Beverly in bed together – instant props 😛