I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post something from Howard the Duck in Friday Funny Pages. Steve Gerber is one of my favorite comic book writers of all time, he was a stellar satirist and commentator on American culture from the 1970’s up until his death in 2008. His humor and wit was subtle, intelligent, and boundless. Gerber’s style of writing and unique story telling techniques were ahead of their time and often pushed the boundaries of conventional comic book writing, which lead readers at the time to either wholeheartedly embrace it or confusedly reject it. Steve Gerber often had creative clashes with the heads at Marvel but the success of his work is best illustrated in his run as writer for Man-Thing, the non-vocal swamp creature (created the same month and year as DC’s Swamp Thing) which was once a scientist who was transformed into a walking vegetation monster empowered by the living wet lands and given empathic abilities that allow him to sense and respond to emotions. Those who are calm, and well mannered are able to befriend the odd creature, but those who know fear, burn at the touch of the Man-Thing!
Steve Gerber had a long and successful run on Man-Thing, a book which would prove difficult for other writers who often couldn’t get past the fact that the main character had absolutely zero dialogue. Imaginative storytelling and engaging side characters spawned from Gerber’s pen built up and expanded Man-Thing’s mythos and saw the title flourish. After he left the book, it could never maintain that same momentum and Man-Thing was eventually reduced to one-shots and guest appearances. It was Man-Thing along with his other various writing odds and ends that built up Steve Gerber’s comic book cred and introduced the world to his best known creation, Howard the Duck.
The above panel comes from the Howard the Duck limited MAX series published by Marvel. Written by Steve Gerber with art from Phil Winslade and Glenn Fabry. As far as I’m concerned this series was some of Gerber’s finest work and swept Howard along on one of his craziest and most impactful adventures. In the series there are a wide range of familiar Howard characters. His loyal friend Beverly continues her ambiguous relationship with the duck and is ever-present at Howard’s side. Fans of the 70’s comic will recognize two recurring nemeses, the Crazy Bus Lady and Dr. Bong, Howard’s arch-enemy. Published in 2001 the series covers a wide range of topics which were quite contentious at the time, and for the most part still are. At one point Howard and Beverly find themselves staying at an insane limbo-esque hotel that swiftly runs the reader through a bevy of social commentary throughout its dreamlike environment. There they befriend an odd character who closely resembles Hunter S. Thompson. Another satirical caricature is Iprah, obviously a take on Oprah. In the story Iprah is more or less responsible for the near destruction of the Earth. There are other rebuffs dealing with boy bands and the whole idea of manufactured celebrity. In the above panel about fundamentalism Howard is referring to an evangelical preacher claiming that the events of 9/11/2001 were the result of God’s punishment for gays and lesbians living in America. Clearly a reflection of the very real and very inflammatory comments made by Jerry Falwell shortly after the destruction of the twin towers.
I could go on all day about how much I love Howard the Duck and everything Steve Gerber, and just reminiscing about it makes me want to go back and reread some of my favorite issues. If you haven’t read any Howard, and aren’t familiar with Steve Gerber’s work then you need to get your head out of your tail feathers and remedy that situation immediately!
That is all!