TreasuryCast #63 – Howard The Duck


Rob welcomes back returning guest Dallan Baumgarten to discuss MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #12, starring HOWARD THE DUCK!

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Opening theme by Luke Daab: Closing music by Hanna-Barbera.

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15 responses to “TreasuryCast #63 – Howard The Duck

  1. I’m so happy that you finally got to the duck. One of the hobbies I picked up to distract myself during quarantine was collecting and reading all of the Marvel comics by Steve Gerber, which also led to me discovering treasuries and this podcast. While there are high highs and low lows to his career, Gerber was definitely a brilliant guy who took big bold risks and did things in mainstream comics that still feel ahead of their time today. Since you seemed confused by why it took so long for the Howard The Duck movie to come out, I thought I’d fill in that gap. It was actually a result of the Gerber’s infamous lawsuit with Marvel over Howard The Duck. It was the movie rights being sold to Lucasfilm/Universal that led Gerber to launch the lawsuit (in part funded by the sales of Destroyer Duck for which Gerber, Kirby, and the publisher took no fee). Howard’s popularity had been fading since Gerber quit and by the time the movie came out, the character wasn’t even in comics anymore. There are so many reasons why that movie bombed like Universal forcing the filmmakers to create a duck suit rather than making him a Roger Rabbit style cartoon in a live action world as planned. But the big one was just that Howard was a product of a specific period in time when the lunatics were running the asylum at Marvel and Gerber was firing on all cylinders, using a talking duck as his mouthpiece. There’s a reason why none of the Howard revivals have felt right (though Chip Zdarsky did an admirable job). Howard was Steve Gerber. Thankfully, the original books are still out there, including this fantastic treasury.

    PS While I’m glad you enjoyed the front/back cover joke, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that it’s a direct parody of the front/back cover of the Sinister Six Spider-man treasury. C’mon man! You can’t miss those specific treasury jokes on Treasurycast!

  2. Fun show. I’ve often wondered if Howard wasn’t yellow on the cover of this and other comics so he’d look less like Donald? Of course eventually Marvel had to change the look of Howard to appease The Mouse…who now owns both them and Howard! Oh, the irony.

    I saw Howard the Duck as a kid, but I waited until the VHS release, because it never made it to my town. Movie bombs rarely did, due to the lag of our second run theater. Infamously I picked up the DVD a few years back, when my kids were younger, and having forgotten some of the…questionable parts of the film, watched it with them. Very uncomfortable, and bewildering! The best part of the film is Jeffery Jones, and now everything he touched is very probelmatic, so…yeah, bad vibes all around.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Howard doesn’t play a substantial part in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special coming next year to Disney Plus. Then maybe we’ll get a spin-off!


  3. Great pod as always and I’m thrilled that you finally got to the duck. I made it a quarantine project to collect and read all of Steve Gerber’s 70s Marvel work, which lead me to discovering the Treasury format and this podcast. So, you have Howard The Duck to thank for getting you at least one listener. I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming!

    While I’m glad you two enjoyed the front/back cover joke of this treasury so much, I can’t believe you didn’t notice that it’s a parody of the Spider-man/Sinister Six treasury. C’mon guys! You’ve got a get the specific treasury jokes on the Treasurycast!

    Anyhoo, love the show. Keep it up. I hope you get the Jack Kirby adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey soon.

  4. Loved this episode! This issue is one of my favorites of my treasury collection.

    I believe the villains in this issue were all parodies (some more obvious than others) of prominent Marvel characters of the era. The most clear-cut counterparts are Dr. Angst being a bargain-basement Dr. Strange, Tillie the Hun standing in for Red Sonja, and The Spanker being a non-lethal version of The Punisher. A case could be made for Black Hole being a take-off on Adam Warlock, since Starlin’s series put such emphasis on Warlock’s soul gem “sucking” its victims’ spirits out of their bodies. The only one who doesn’t quite fit this pattern is Sitting Bullseye…maybe a cross between Hawkeye and Red Wolf, but not really corresponding to either of them closely enough.

  5. Great episode, gentlemen. Howard the Duck, whether it’s a matter of the original or later series, or the movie, always seems to inspire engrossing conversations.
    Personally, while I was familiar with Howard when the original series was still ongoing, I never picked up an issue – the young me just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of a funny animal in the ‘real’ world, so I generally just avoided it. I only finally got around to reading the entirety of the Gerber run as a middle-aged adult, when I picked up the Essentials volume. Even though there were many aspects of it I liked, I don’t think it’s aged as well as some of Gerber’s other material from the same period.
    That said, I like the stories that were included in this Treasury. The original, lead story in particular is pretty good, and kind of makes me wish Howard had become a regular, or at least semi-regular, member of the Defenders. He fit right in with them.
    As for the movie, yeesh. I also saw it in the theater, but in a $1 matinee double-feature with some other flop from that same year, like Roman Polanski’s Pirates. There were probably better uses for that dollar…
    By the way, I kind of liked Radioland Murders.

  6. Thanks for another superior listen. I remember this one was advertised on the back of UK Marvel Comics, but I never saw it anyway. Ruddy UK distribution. Happily, despite its awful redesign, Marvel Unlimited is still decent enough that I was able to find this issue under ‘Marvel Treasury Edition’ … there’s only the original story but I suppose that’s all that needed.

    I liked the original Howard comics that I did come across, they felt so naughty, despite my rarely getting the references, such as the Sinister Soofi and Anita Bryant. But how could a kid not love Doctor Bong (I suppose that’s a drug reference, I missed that too).

    Of the characters introduced in the lead tale, I love the Spanker particularly, what a great idea. I think he was last seen in She-Hulk.

    Now, what was that sticker book you and Dallan were so excited about, Rob? Apologies if you mentioned it by name and I missed it.

  7. I have a weird, peripheral fandom of Howard the Duck. He was all over Marvel Comics in the late ’70s, so you couldn’t miss him in house ads of the period. I didn’t start actively collecting comics until 1982, but that just meant any recent back issues I came across were part of his ’70s heyday. It’s like Rob’s trouble with Shazam, in that Dracula, Conan, that mostly naked girl the barbarian defended against the vampire, Red Sonja, The Nebbish… joined Howard in being inescapable in that bicentennial period. One of my most vivid memories of early collecting was a rare visit by my uncle to the mainland from Kauai. He took me with him to visit one of his friends who was an avid collector, his living room walls lined by shelves stuffed with LPs and comic books. I hear penis envy starts when little boys see their fathers naked, and never feel like they measure up to the mental image from their childhood disparity. Lacking such a presence in my own early life, it’s those shelves that I’ll always fail to match.

    While I was there, he let me read his copy of Howard the Duck #2, featuring the deadly Space Turnip. I still find it deeply ironic that the one issue of that comic that I would be exposed to in my formative years was obviously laid out by Jim Starlin, the defining creator of my lifetime. Frank Brunner’s presence was also important, since my uncle left me a stack of Dr. Strange comics with his covers, but never his interiors, as those he kept for himself. I doubt Englehart/Brunner would have affected me the same way as his Starlin cast-offs, but like the Barry Windsor-Smith Marvel Premieres and the Gil Kane Warlocks, they had the allure of a brief exposure followed by a lengthy denial. Eternal proto-incarnations that weren’t part of my lived experience the way Ditko reprints and Colan/Palmer first run Stranges were. Brunner might have been the hot one, but my Howard the Duck was by Gene Colan’s, mostly due to all those subscription and presidential run plugs.

    I just didn’t see Howard comics in the wild, so my primary exposure was the 1986 motion picture. They had that inexplicable ad campaign where they went out of their way to hide the main character, to save either the surprise or shame for theatrical audiences. As a part of the target demo, it reeked of desperation and fear, so I was part of the majority that stayed away in drove. They might have done a reversal in the run-up to the second weekend, but by then the damage was done. I still think the animatronics and costume work were exceptional, as was the stop motion Dark Overlord of the finale, so it was a monumental and costly blunder. Howard the Duck was one of my very first VHS rentals, part of my initial “hot streak” of Highlander and Big Trouble in Little China, joined by an early revisit of Aliens after my life-altering theatrical screening. Like Chad Johnson and a lot of late Gen-X/early millennials, I recognize it as an objectively bad movie that I absolutely adore, as do all of my best friends. When Rob mentioned “poor Lea Thompson” with regard to the implied bestiality, all I could think of was her reclamation of the movie and push to direct a new version following years of fan love outpouring at conventions. I’m as big a fan of Back to the Future as the next guy, but she’s a lifetime crush because of Howie (and the still overlooked Casual Sex?, which forever warped my perception of Andrew Dice Clay.)

    Aside from buying the first issue of Kyle Baker’s movie adaptation new off the stand, and pulling the fairly terrible two issue revival (#32-33) out of the quarter bin in 1989, my reading of Howard comics had to keep until the last few years. In the early days of our podcast and my Marvel Unlimited subscription, I decided to read the entire original run on my tablet in preparation for an episode that never materialized. I did the same thing with the first year-plus of Tomb of Dracula. It felt like a wasted effort, emphasis on effort, at the time. There was a lot of hate directed at the movie by comic fans, but if anything, I think the adaptation was too faithful. Like Adam West Batman or the Ang Lee Hulk, the movie was so literal that it provoked a revulsion in the uninitiated and in readers intolerant of a mirror being held up to the clunky sophomoric artlessness of actual period comic books. The earliest Fear/Man-Thing material wasn’t on the app during my read-through, so I only thumbed through it just tonight, and was surprised to see outright lifts of scenes from those comics in the movie (particularly the strip search from “Hellcow.”) Fans always demand but never actually want direct adaptations– they just want their impression of what the material was to be filmed. Pure uncut Frank Miller isn’t Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, but his own The Spirit, or as it’s more commonly known, a terrible motion picture. I think doped up fanboys misremember bold profundity in Gerber’s bitter Boomer post-hippy onanistic form-breaking rambling screeds by proto-Cerebus proxy. The book is a shambolic reflection of a time long past that does not hold up to any sort of reflection but was regardless wholesale transposed to a multi-million dollar money pit a decade too late. Imagine Brewster McCloud coming out in 1980. It would have been as infamous as 1941 instead of a quirky Altman obscurity. Also, a direct line can be drawn from Beverly Switzler to Shelley Duvall’s Suzanne Davis.

    This Treasury also wasn’t on the app, but after that cannonball read from over half a decade back, I can’t compel myself to read it now. It looks about par, with Buscema/Janson a passable semblance of a Colan issue. Brunner’s Howard isn’t concerned about Sal’s, much less Gene’s. The commitment to self-mythologizing is palpable, between the guided curation of early cameos to the text pieces and the aggressively insipid ersatz politicking. “Get Down, America!” makes “Keep on Truckin'” seem like a proverb by comparison. That back cover is a gas though.

    In summary, I like the idea of Howard the Duck comics, but not the fact of them, and the movie was The Phantom Menace of my micro-section of generational span. Own the DVD but have held off on the 4K until I come across the Best Buy exclusive steel book edition, for reals.

    P.S. I thought Radioland Murders was okay, but it mostly coasted on my Brian Benben affection. You laugh, but Madeleine Stowe gets it.

    1. Great observation on what we fans really want, Frank. I think the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie, which basically used comics panels as storyboards, was another victim of its faithfulness to the source material.

  8. Rob,
    One more TREASURY-SIZE thank you for inviting me back on Mountain… er… Treasurycast. I had a wonderful time talking comics with you. It was a beautiful, brief respite from the “real world.”
    I can see why making podcasts could perhaps become a bit addictive. A few moments of nerding out with fellow geeks at the LCS once every week or so just isn’t enough. Another reason why your deluge of podcast content is so very welcome to us all.
    You really are doing God’s work.

    And I finally got a chance to listen back to the episode. My incoherent ramblings weren’t quite as incoherent and rambly as I was worried they might be. Another testament to what a world class host you are.
    Cheers, Rob! This Yoo-Hoo’s for you.

  9. A comment based on a tangent

    Connected to Six Characters in search of an Author chech out Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Staged. A meta comedy about the lock down.

  10. Is this a safe space for me to admit that I both saw Howard the Duck in the theaters…twice? And, I even read the novelization.

    I was a confused, troubled kid. What can I say?

  11. I have to admit, Howard the Duck is a bit of a blind spot for me in comic collecting. I don’t think I own a single Howard the Duck comic. I remember seeing ads for his stuff in other Marvel issues, and of course, these ads were seared into my young mind because Howard would always be accompanied by a saucy redhead with awesome boobies. So in my kid mind: when you see a duck, there will also be awesome boobies nearby. It led to some disappointing trips to the park.

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