The Fowl Life of Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck started out in the pages of the comic titled Adventure into Fear #19, which was released in 1973, as just a small cameo in the larger story about the character Man-Thing. In fact Howard would only be known for being in Man-Thing books for the next couple years because after the Adventure into Fear series ended, Howard got his own back up feature in Giant-Size Man-Thing.

During this short run, Howard usually faced off against horror parody characters who most of the time were even more ridiculous than Howard himself, including another favorite of mine, Man-Frog. You got to try and make an alien duck not feel too weird, so why not throw him in with the weirder guys to make him look … normal? After all, Howard may have had humor but he was not just some throw away character because soon after the Giant-Size Man-Thing ended, Howard got his own series that got rid of the horror parody characters and focused much more on making him a substantial character for Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck #1

It was 1976 when Howard finally graduated from the ranks of Man-Thing and got his own running series. This self-titled series ran for 33 issues and one king size annual, and most of this series was actually written by Steve Gerber who is one of the original co-creators of Howard, although the artist Val Mayerik did not return and Gene Colon took his place for most of this series.

This initial run saw Howard battle depression and suicide, rescue sexy women, defeat dinosaurs and living statues, and even team-up with Spider–Man and all that is only within the first issue! A lot of small and yet iconic things came from this short series – especially Howard’s adventures into politics and his run for President. Across many Marvel mediums you can see “Howard for President” ads. Marvel even produced “Howard for President” pins for fans. Howard even got on the cover of Foom Magazine during this time in a wrap around cover with people like Nick Fury, The Thing, and J. Jonah Jameson showing their support.

But this series also went through quite a rough time; Steve Gerber had difficulties writing, and there were a couple of huge legal battles over creative control between Marvel and Steve Gerber and Disney complaining Howard looked too much like Donald Duck.

The writing difficulties were apparent in issue #16 a, “Special once in a lifetime album issue” that did not have any plot to it and was just musings about writing from Gerber. This issue did gain a popular following, because it was something never done before, but true Howard fans felt a little ripped off. The lawsuits were what ultimately destroyed Howard, leaving the series in hiatus for 6 years between 1980- and 1986 for it to return for just two more issues but without Steve Gerber and with the addition of pants, thanks to Disney.

Gambit and Howard the Duck

The return of the comic in 1986 was released in anticipation for the one thing that has cursed Howard as being known as plain foul instead of just a waterfowl for years – the Howard the Duck film. This 1986 film, produced by George Lucas, seemed to have all the right ingredients but suffered from the recipe being written wrong in the first place. Even with stars like Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, and Tim Robbins, the film couldn’t find its footing and never made it past anything but cult status. Although, even now, most people don’t admit liking the flop. Marvel loved Howard during this time and really thought he could be huge, so this was the first real Marvel Comics character to be put on the big screen with this capacity.

While the fiasco of a film was going, Steve Gerber was off doing his new thing for Image Comics and had created a character among his legal difficulties for them called Destroyer Duck. This caused even more controversy for Howard because Destroyer Duck was just Howard with guns. But this character would actually become part of a major crossover event with Savage Dragon from Image and Spider-Man and Gambit for Marvel. During this, Gerber was brought on to write because Howard was going to make an appearance and Marvel told him they wanted him to be the only writer for Howard at the time. But it turns out Howard had a couple other appearances in comics at the time that Gerber had not been invited to write, which left Gerber feeling rather betrayed. This decision brought on a whole different side to this series and made it more of a study of the behind-the-scenes drama of comics than a comic itself. In the Image Comics issue for this crossover, it was written that Howard actually stayed in the Image Comics universe and a “soulless” clone was taken back to be Howard in the Marvel universe, which was Gerber’s big “up yours” to Marvel. After this it led to Howard and his partner Beverly changing their names to Leonard the Duck and Rhonda and then dying their feathers/hair and entering the witness protection program in their new universe. This did ultimately give these “new” characters a home, as they were different enough that Marvel let Gerber keep them to appear in Image and Vertigo comics

Howard the Duck

Howard did not appear very much for many years until Marvel decided to launch an adult comic line titled MAX Comics. This series actually saw Gerber return to Marvel to write Howard, but this time there was quite the twist, as he was now turned into a mouse, which was likely a dig at Disney for the previous lawsuit. This series delved into more violent and graphic themes while also staying true to the pop culture clashing Howard we saw before. This was only a six-issue limited series and didn’t gain much popularity. Oddly enough, the next Howard project was the exact opposite of this; Marvel decided to make a very kid-friendly Howard series that ran for four-issues and did not help him recover at all from the travesty of his film and the burning piles of feathers it left behind.

Marvel even gave Howard a cameo in She-Hulk #9 where he tries to sue George Lucas over the film and what Howard was promised from it during this time, showing that even Howard knew he was better than his own movie. After She-Hulk #9 and some sporadic years of cameos and short lived series, Howard had a short adventure with Generation X where he ended up saving them from the villain Black Tom by lighting him on fire with his cigar. Afterwards, he went on to have a much larger adventure with the team The Daydreamers where they traveled together through the dimensional by-ways, where they battled a Doctor Doom look alike who was really Franklin Richards repressed emotions. The latter though saw Howard get to return home to Duckworld for just a small amount of time to see he is a hero among his people and also see his parents, before it is revealed it is an illusion, sadly leaving Howard and the Daydreamers back where they started the adventure and Howard feeling a little bit more like a fish out of water when they get back to Earth.

Howard the Duck

From here, it was shorter adventures for Howard but some with a lot more meaning as he found himself involved in a lot of the major events in recent years including Fear Itself, Civil War, and is involved in multiple ways in Marvel Zombies. For Fear Itself, Howard put together a team of Himself, She-Hulk, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Nighthawk to track down Man-Thing who freaked out and went into a uncontrollable rage because of the immense amount of fear across the world. Howard’s team (The Fearsome Four) got to Man-Thing and subdued him in time to save the whole world, making Howard incredibly important once again.

In Civil War, Howard was attempting to register under the Superhuman Registration Act, but in doing so, learned that he had actually caused lots of trouble for the government with his lowlife style, so the government doesn’t even register him as a person. This overjoys Howard since it means no taxes, jury duty, or other obligations the government brings with having you as its citizen, but then in other places Howard is seen saying he was pro-registration until they said he had to quit smoking cigars, and he obviously went and joined the anti-registration side immediately.

Last but not least for these events is Marvel Zombies and the immense amount of stories spawning from that. Howard appeared in multiple stories for Marvel Zombies including eating the Bruce Campbell’s Ash in Marvel Zombies vs Army of Darkness and most notably becoming an agent of A.R.M.O.R. and teaming up with Machine-Man in Marvel Zombies 5 aka Marvel Zombies Destroy! to travel across the multiverse killing zombies and bringing back samples to Morbius the Living Vampire. Which brings us to modern times and where Howard stands now…

Howard the Duck in Guardians of the Galaxy

This last year saw a huge boost in Howard’s popularity as we finally saw his triumphant return to the big screen, even if it was just of couple seconds, in Guardians of the Galaxy. It was originally just a cool cameo thrown in because the director James Gunn loved the character. Now it has become one of the most iconic post credit sequences the Marvel cinematic universe has given us. The short cameo brought about only the second Howard figure ever to be produced with the Funko! POP figures.

And now Howard is getting a new series starting this week, written by Chip Zdarsky and art done by Joe Quinones. In the first issue, we  see a sequel of sorts to the post credits sequence in Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as establish him as a private investigator here on the good old Earth—616. So now that you know Howard’s past, go to your comic shop, pick up Howard the Duck #1 and hold his future in your hands Wings!

Howard the Duck (2015)

Howard the Duck #1 is available now at your local comic shop!

All images belong to Marvel Comics.

Thirteen Things You Didn’t Know (or just forgot) about the Mirage Comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Series



Although everyone is used to The Turtles having different colored headbands, in the comics they were originally black and white, and once color was added, they only had red bandanas and their weapons were the only things to differentiate them from one another as far as appearance.



The first idea was actually just a sketch and both Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman drew one. The original drawings are what would become Michelangelo (my personal favorite). After the initial sketches, they decided to use this idea for a one issue parody. These initial sketches and first comic has now inspired 30 years of comics, television shows, movies, toys and almost anything else you could slap a Ninja Turtle face on. Eastman’s Turtle is on the left and Laird’s Turtle is on the right.



The run of the four volume series was mostly published by Eastman and Laird’s own Mirage Studios, but Volume 3 was published by Image Comics and is widely considered as one of the worst versions of the Turtles (I enjoy them all, although this one is rather odd). In this version, Splinter became a Bat, Leonardo lost a hand, Donatello became a cyborg, and Raphael has his face burned and actually became the Shredder. Thankfully Mikey at least is able to get out of this series still intact and fairly normal.



Once Volume 4 started, the series went back to Mirage Studios and completely omitted the Image Comics run. This series actually picked up fifteen years after Volume 2 and was simply titled TMNT although “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was still written under that title. This series has never officially had an ending. There was an issue released this year, four years after the last issue, which was an official #32. It is  still not official whether that story is over.




Up until the Volume 4, Michelangelo’s name was spelled Michealangelo and was corrected in the last volume of this original run to match his artist inspiration’s name Michelangelo Buonarroti. Even the comical cartoon version of Michelangelo decided to start reading the books when this changed happened.





With the Turtles outstanding success, especially among independent comics, they had many crossovers with other independent characters. A couple of these included Flaming Carrot (who also had the introduction of the Mystery Men who would later be included in the film of the same name) Usagi Yojimbo (who also has been in all but the most recent animated series) and Savage Dragon during their Image Comics run.



The comic has very close details connecting it to Daredevil from Marvel Comics and it even has been stated this was the intention as it was a parody issue at first. The ooze that created The Turtles and the toxic waste that blinded Matt Murdock are supposed to be the same thing along with the foot clan mimicking The Hand, and Splinter being a parody of Daredevil’s mentor The Stick.



This series technically ran from 1984 to 2010 making the whole series last 26 years in length.  Only if you count the issue that was released this year makes the series run “30 years.”  After Image Comic’s 1996-1999 run, Volume 4 at Mirage started back up in 2001, and ran for 9 years.



The first issues of the series had such small print runs, at about 3000 copies an issue, that they became instant collector items among all comic collectors. Within a couple months the comics escalated in price so much they were selling upwards of 50 times the original price. They continue to be some of the biggest collectors items among a lot of comic fans reaching prices over $5,000.  The picture above shows an issue displayed at Denver Comic Con in a case with a ton of $100 bills.



Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird both worked on the series only up to  issue #11 together. They worked again multiple times in the future, but their complete creative control did not last long when looking at the complete 30-year history of the franchise.



The Turtles may have had color on their covers for a while, but the whole comic did not get color until Volume 2 started in 1993. This volume did not last long, as it only went 13 issues with a two year run, but it finally gave us a better idea of the setting and characters by adding color.



Kevin Eastman sold his rights to the project to Peter Laird in 2000 and then Peter Laird sold the franchise to Nickelodeon in 2009. The Mirage Comics run would end the next year and Nickelodeon would start work on rebooting the franchise in TV, comics, and film. Both Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman continue to work with The Turtles to this day. Eastman is a main contributor to the IDW published comics running now.



A classic way of publishing TMNT is to have one main series and one off shoot series. The original series started with a one off issue of each Turtle, as well as Fugitoid, a Casey Jones mini series, a crossover with Flaming Carrot, and many others. This tradition carries on today with the IDW series. With this we have gotten some great background to the main stories any fan would enjoy.  It also makes the universe much larger!

Images belong to Mirage Comics and all other owner entities.