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Howard The Duck

April 10, 2009

Back in 1976, more than three decades ago, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford weren't the only ones running for the office of President of The United States. Did you know that there was another candidate who, though he never made it to the White House, has a firm place in America's comic book character history? Score one for yourself if you knew it was Howard the Duck.

Howard the Duck is a comic book character in the Marvel Comics universe created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik. The character first appeared in Adventure into Fear #19 (Dec. 1973) and several subsequent series have chronicled the misadventures of the ill-tempered, anthropomorphic, "funny animal" trapped on human-dominated Earth. Howard's adventures are generally social satires, and also often parodies of genre fiction with a metafictional awareness of the medium. The Cosmic Axis had shifted, and Howard was suddenly trapped in a dimensional warp and was unable to get back to his home planet of Duckworld. He was, in fact, "trapped in a world he never made" - a world where all the fun could really begin. He was instantly noticed by fans, and after appearing in a few more issues of Man-Thing, he got his own title in 1976. This was the year he ran for president, as you can see from the campaign button and promotional advertisement pictured.

From brushes with politics to encounters with villains including a giant package of salt, a huge housefly, an oversized pickle, a band of hairless apes, and other assorted oddities such as the Kidney Lady, Sudd and Space Turnip, Howard's adventures never failed to delight.

Despite some of the heat Marvel took through the years (creator Steve Gerber unsuccessfully sued for the rights to his character, and Disney sued claiming Howard too closely resembled Donald Duck...), he was a certified hit - and he boldly went where no funny animal had gone before. He drank, smoked cigars, and on one occasion even pondered suicide. He was dark, bizarre, and utterly hilarious.

Howard's comic book run continued until 1979, with a stint in newspaper strips beginning in 1977. Even after the cancellation of the book, however, Howard's adventures continued for another two years in the Howard the Duck magazines. The magazine format gave way to an even wilder Howard, with even racier storylines.

Then came 1986, the year character was memorably resurrected thanks to the notoriously dreadful George Lucas film. There was a three-issue movie adaptation mini-series (Howard The Duck: The Movie) in 1986-1987, a Howard The Duck Holiday Special in 1997, a six-issue series in 2002 and a four-issue series in 2007-2008.

Howard’s creator, Gerber, passed away in 2008.

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