Do you remember that scene at the end of 2014’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ where we see a talking duck in one of the Collector’s broken glass cases. For those of us who remember the Marvel comic, or the terrible 1986 movie based on it, we could only laugh at seeing Howard the Duck in the current MCU. As one critic bluntly put it, Howard the Duck is the movie “Marvel is too embarrassed to talk about”.
Even in the mid-1980s the Howard the Duck comic was a strange choice to base a movie on. A little bit of info about both the anthropomorphic waterfowl and his comic will make it clear why.
Created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik, Howard the Duck first appeared in Adventure into Fear #19 (December 1973) as part of a Man-Thing story arc, after that he quickly began his own adventures in back up features published in Giant-Size Man-Thing #’s4 and 5. Officially graduating in 1976 to his own self-titled comic book: Howard the Duck #1 (January cover date).
Originally Howard mistakes Earth for his homeworld, Duckworld. Howard, the eldest son of Dave and Dottie Duck, was a perpetual disappointment to his parents.
With Howard the Duck, Gerber had deliberately set out to parody comic book fiction and pop culture in general. He was attempting to express an existentialist message. The book’s tag-line, ‘Trapped in a world he never made’ could, of course, apply to everyone. At heart, however, Howard the Duck was not a philosopher or super-hero, or even an anti-hero, he was a malcontent who, as a satirical tool for cultural criticism, could act as a mirror for society. Through Steve Gerber’s words, Howard spoke for a generation. His was the voice of a select segment of the idealistic 1960s hippies and baby boomer cohort. As they got older, many of the boomers realized their dreams of a transformed society would not pan out. By the mid-seventies, many of these same idealists began to turn to drugs and mindless materialism. Howard was a counter-culture echo. The resonance of a voice of protest in an age when idealism and faith in the goodness of human beings had all but hit a brick wall.
“Get Down, America!” the comic implored, as the country struggled to understand itself after Watergate and the Vietnam war. Howard the Duck today seems like the symbol of a bygone age, an era not so long ago when the country was divided but there was still a mainstream and genuinely popular culture that all could refer to. While we may not need Howard today, comics could sure use his earnestness and broad reader appeal. Will Howard make a live action comeback? At this point, with an Alfred Pennyworth series in the initial stages of pre-production, I wouldn’t rule out any Marvel or DC character’s chances of appearing or re-appearing on the big or small screen.
Howard does, after all, make another cameo in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’; in the future, it might turn out, audiences will be willing to welcome a role for him in another Marvel movie. Hey, if Rocket the Raccoon can become popular, why not Howard done right?
In any case, if you like Bronze Age Marvel, there’s a few Howard comics you should seek out that are worth owning. These include:
Howard the Duck comics are surprisingly resilient in terms of their appeal as collectibles. This is true for his first appearance in Adventure into Fear #19 no less than his solo-outings. Steve Gerber is the creative force behind them all (even if Howard’s popularity eventually later contributed to an ugly falling out between him and Marvel). In his first appearance Howard goes unnamed, but it’s obviously him and this seems to be his first visit to Earth. This comic is actually trending down in prices, its current fair market value of $900.00 for 9.8 graded copies over the last six years reflects the sale of signature series slabs. Otherwise, the best returns have been on 4.5 graded copies, (+177.8%) over the last two years.
Guest staring Spider-man, who seemed to be everywhere during this period, Howard’s first appearance is not difficult to find, and high grade copies can be valuable. This comic also introduced Beverly Switzler, Howard’s model companion/girlfriend. The last 9.8 graded sale of this comic was for $600.00 on Ebay (July 23, 2018) which is actually a sharp decline since in the past two years it actually broken the thousand dollar mark ($1,185.00 on a 06/28/2016 sale on Ebay). Best returns, however, other than 9.8 graded copies, are signature series of any grade.
Is there a comic that’s more of the seventies than this issue of Howard the Duck? Featuring the first appearance of the rock group Kiss (in cameo), this comic is another issue that is frequently sought out by collectors. A graded 9.8 copy is worth just over $100.00. Best returns since 2015 (excluding two signature sales in 9.0) have been on 8.5 grades (with a positive +128% return on investment).