Essential Howard the Duck, Vol. 1

ISBN: 0785108319
ISBN 13: 9780785108313
By: Steve Gerber

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About this book

Marvel's popular 1970's talking waterfowl from another planet commented on the absurdities of human society while parodying the fantasy, sci-fi and super-hero genre.

Reader's Thoughts

Elijah Kinch Spector

So very classic.

Andrew Coltrin

I actually read the individual issues when I was in high school. Writer Steve Gerber blew my mind with his talking duck and his dialog that kept me running to the dictionary.


If you've never met cigar-chomping, wise-cracking, sex-appeal-oozing, three-foot-two-high Howard and his beautiful rock singer/artist's model girlfriend Beverley, then you need to buy this book. Of course, if you have met them, then you need to buy it even more. And, if there's anyone I've left out, they're still more in need of it than the first two groups. Most comic-book heroes wouldn't even begin to know what to do about a breakdown of the Law of the Excluded Middle, but Howard deals with metaphysical emergencies so often that he's started to find them a little boring.Leafing through this masterpiece the other day, I wondered if anyone's yet written a doctoral thesis describing Howard's influence on late 20th and early 21st century pop culture. For example, the sequence which crosses the plots of Jane Eyre and Frankenstein and culminates with the awakening of the nightmarish Cookie Creature immediately reminded me of the giant Gingerbread Man from Shrek 2. And, as a long-time Doonesbury fan, I couldn't help wondering if Howard's run for President in 1976 inspired the Duke 2000 campaign. But, if this thesis does exist and I manage to get my hands on a copy, the first thing I'm looking up in the index is Infinite Jest. Surely the crazed French-Canadian patriot in the wheelchair is the spiritual ancestor of the A.F.R.? How could David Foster Wallace not have been inspired by his scheme to airlift a million beavers to the Niagara Falls and reverse the course of the river, bringing the US to its knees and awakening Canadians to their destiny as the continent's true masters? By now, a competent literary researcher must have given these vital questions the attention they so obviously deserve?A quick (quack?) Google search threw up tantalizing hints that the book I'm looking for is out there. I can already see Howard and Beverley, no strangers to self-reference, setting off to find DISSERTATION OF DOOM. What a shame Steve Gerber didn't get around to writing that episode...

Alex Firer

Not sure how to feel about this. A lot of weird ideas, but the book can be seen as either a weird Marvel book, or a REALLY tepid Fritz the Cat clone. When it soars it's interesting, and when it doesn't it feels like that scene in Clowes' "Pussey" where Dan Pussey tries to figure out how to work for Art Spiegelman and just ends up drawing superheroes.The criticism feels like Gerber yelling at straw men instead of really exploring the issues he's trying to talk about.Honest rating is a 3.5. More important than super high quality, laying the groundwork for people accepting guys like Hickman or Morrison.


When I heard Steve Gerber had died I wanted to reread this.


Politics! Culture! Hippies! O my!


Um pato que fuma charutos. Nuff said


Aber... sie sind ja eine Ente!Mit seinem "Cousin" Donald Duck hat Howard nicht viel am Hut - Barks war nicht wirklich interessiert an Gesellschaftskritik. Steve Gerber dagegen nutzte diese Chance, gegen alle möglichen Missstände von Gewalt über Politik bis hin zu Extremkapitalismus und Degeneration der Gesellschaft zu wettern und die USA der 70er Jahre durch den Kakao zu ziehen. Dabei ist das ganze doch überraschend intellektuell geworden: In welchem Mainstreamcomic bekommt man sonst solche Selbstgespräche zwischen Autor und seiner Figur zu lesen?"Y'know what, Gerbs? Deep down, I've always suspected you don't know as much as yer stories would infer. You've learned how ta manipulate words an' pictures to give you a semblance of profundity, but it's all superficial! Cosmetic surgery performed on creaky old ideas an' thoughts! Whaddaya say ta tha?!" (#16)Gene Colan drückt dem Werk dann als Hauptzeichner seinen Stempel auf, und wer Colans Stil kennt, wird wissen, wie atmosphärisch dicht das Comic auch über den Text hinaus in den Bildern geworden ist. Der Lebkuchen-Frankenstein in Ausgabe #6 ist dadurch grusliger als viele andere Werke wie "House of Mystery".Meine Lieblingsausgabe ist #3, "Master of Quack-Fu" - selten habe ich in Comics einen so berührenden und gleichzeitig philosophischen Schluss gelesen. Doch hauptsächlich bekommt man viel schwarzen Humor und abstruse Situationen in diesem Comic, der wirklich aus der Masse der Marvel-Maschinerie herausragt.Die Aufmachung entspricht anderen Bänden der Marvel-Essentials-Reihe - Telefonbuchpapier, stellenweise verwaschener Schwarzweißdruck, nachbearbeitetes Originalcover zu jeder Ausgabe.Buy it, toots.

Mark Adams

Howard the duck is an incredibly smart series from the 70s. Unfortunately George Lucas thought it would make an excellent dumbed down summer popcorn flick. Now Howard has been tainted in the minds of people and its too bad because it's excellent. Steve Gerber and Gene Colan are geniuses.


I'll confess: Howard the Duck was a childhood pleasure. Long before I knew how much I loved Gene Colan's art, the occasional copies of this series I'd get in a pile of used comics was a visual treasure. When Marvel's Essential series offered one of its cheapo reprint collections, I jumped at it.As an adult, it's a little harder to swallow Howard. Conceptually, something fairly remarkable really was going on here. Creator and series writer Steve Gerber clearly had a bigger agenda in mind than just some whacko story about an anthropomorphic duck from another dimension: he wanted to satire, tackle issues and explore his own mind in lurid colour right before our unwitting eyes. Unfortunately, Gerber was only in his early 20s at the time, was not a great writer, and had a typically us-vs.-them kind of view of the world. The title suffers for that, but his intentions remain clear and his heart was clearly in the right place.The art shines in black & white (though some of the more intricate Colan work did look better in colour), but sadly the hack work of a couple of uninspired inkers also shows even more in this presentation. Colan's work looks best with Leialoha, and worst with Tom Palmer, but this collection is not entirely his. Howard's first artist, Val Mayerik, turns up repeatedly, with solid work every step of the way, and Marvel mainstay Carmine Infantino likewise turns in competent stuff.The stories themselves are, for the most part, a repeating equation: duck is in everyday situation on the world he never made; bizarre villain shows up; duck flouts villain one way or another, usually in a weird way. What makes the stories work, though, is that Howard's (and presumably Gerber's) constant angst and sense of dislocation play hell on his psyche and cause him to frequently question his place in things. The character has two crack-ups (sorry, I won't say 'quack-ups'), one resulting in the utterly remarkable and strange issue 10 story 'Swan-Song of the Living Dead Duck.' Gerber himself has his own minor mental schism eventually, resulting in the surprising if less remarkable issue 16 illustrated essay 'Zen and the Art of Comic Book Writing.'Howard was never a series that would change comics, or even the way people looked at them. That sort of action would have to wait more than a decade. But Marvel would not see another book that tried to be this deep and strange until the end of the 80s, when everybody was doing deep and strange in comics.

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