Rating: 4/5 – Steve Gerber’s famous creation in a fabulous first issue!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.
Howard the Duck number one, published in 1975 has Steve Gerber’s satirical and loveable creation breaking out into his own series that uses some popular characters and ideas like Spider-Man and a Red Sonja like knock-off to get readers to enter into, as the cover says, “a world he never made!”. It’s a fun first issue that has it’s share of laughs, but misses the mark for new readers when it comes to this character’s origin and background.
Howard the Duck first appeared in Adventure into Fear number nineteen, then moved onto his own backup feature in Giant Size Man-Thing before getting his own series seen here. As this issue opens, Howard is contemplating suicide. With this most likely being the reader’s first exposure to the character, you’re not given any reason as to why. He’s obviously been through some things that have led him to this point, but what’s unusual for stories of the time, this issue doesn’t give us any flashback, or reasons why he’s come to this point, and surprisingly there’s even no editor’s note leading you to his previous appearances. As Howard decides on just how he’ll take his own life, that’s where we see Gerber’s sense of humor and satirical writing begin.
As Howard decides to leap off a tower he sees in the distance, as he approaches it, he comes to finds out that the tower is actually made of credit cards. And the villain within…well, his name is Pro-Rata, the soon to be chief accountant of the universe! It gets sillier from there, but it doesn’t disappoint in terms of storytelling. Throw in an appearance from Spider-Man with Gerber describing it as the Web-Foot meets the Web-Head, and there’s whole a lot to like within.
The art is beautifully handled by Frank Brunner who’s work is a great match for the setting and characters within tis first issue after coming off his amazing work on the dark and psychedelic Doctor Strange. The evil Pro-Rata looks like he could fit right into a Dr. Strange book, and he’s able to combine the serious looks of him and Spider-Man, right alongside a talking duck. The whole book has, much like the cover, a sword and sorcery feel to it which based on future issues changes pretty quickly. I’m curious now to go back and read Howard’s first appearance to find out what brought him to this issue’s opening scenes, but also on to the next issue, to see what other types of scenarios Gerber puts his most famous creation into next.
Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture