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Howard the Duck #6
November, 1976
The Secret House of Forbidden Cookies!

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer; Gene Colan, illustrator; Steve Leialoha, inker; Archie Goodwin, editor; John Costanza, letterer; Glynis Wein, colorist

This issue has special meaning for me in my childhood. This was the issue that I found displayed on a magazine rack in a local drugstore when I was a middle school kid. I thumbed through the pages briefly and I realized that it was unlike the comic books that were out back in the day. So I purchased it using my allowance money and I read it when I got home. I saw that it had the same kind of satire that I enjoyed reading issues of Mad magazine.

Except Mad was a black and white magazine and nearly all of the kids in my neighborhood and school read it on a regular basis. As for comic books, there was the attitude among the kids my age that they were for little kids only. While I liked the Howard the Duck issue I bought, I didn’t announce that I liked it to the other kids because I was afraid of being teased for liking “baby stuff.” It wasn’t just paranoid fear either because it was during this same time I had trouble with this really crazy psycho bully that I finally wrote a post about over a year ago where I not only scanned what she wrote in my yearbook (which she swiped after I gave it to a classmate whom I wanted to sign and she pretty much confessed that she was a bully and she liked it—unfortunately this happened a day or two before the school year ended and we were both scheduled to transfer from middle school to high school in the fall so there was nothing the teachers could do to punish her) but also her yearbook photo, her name (or at least the name she was using at the time), and the name of the middle school we both attended. In case you’re wondering, I haven’t received any kind of negative blowback since I outed her online last year.

This issue was the kind of issue that I didn’t forget because it was unique. Despite that, I didn’t buy many more issues of that comic book because I didn’t want to give the kids another reason why they should tease me. I just kept that one issue of Howard the Duck I purchased on the down low. (I think I may have purchased one or two other issues but I don’t remember for sure.) Eventually my mother got rid of it during one of her periodic purges of excess clutter. Years later I got married to a man who was into collecting Marvel comics. When he took me to a local comic book shop (which has since closed) where he got the latest issue of his favorite comic book (The X-Men), I saw back issues of Howard the Duck on sale located in boxes on the bottom level of the store. I managed to convince him to buy them and he really loved them, especially since the series took place in Cleveland. (He spent his undergraduate years at Oberlin College, which is located about 30 miles south of Cleveland.) In the process I managed to get another copy of this issue that was originally my gateway to Howard the Duck.

But when my marriage broke apart, my husband managed to take the bulk of his comic book collection, including all of those Howard the Duck issues, while leaving me with the dregs that weren’t worth anything on the secondary market. (I managed to turn some of those dregs into comic book coasters, which I’ve sold a few of them at a couple of craft shows.)

But then I purchased Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection Volume 1 last year, which has a reprint of this issue so all is well again.

Synopsis: One night a man is driving through the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania in a heavy downpour that looks like many similar scenes that one would see in horror movies. All of a sudden his headlights reveal a redheaded woman hitchhiking in the heavy rain. He thinks about pulling over and picking her up until he sees something inhuman that’s next to her. Horrified, he comes close to hitting the duo before driving away.

Howard and Beverly end up laying on the rain-soaked ground after getting nearly hit by that car. Beverly starts to fume because they are in this situation due to the fact that they previously had a ride until Howard insisted on smoking his trademark cigar and the driver was so offended that he made them get out of the car in a rural area right in the middle of the Poconos in Pennsylvania. Beverly becomes so angry and upset over their situation that she kicks Howard in the tail feathers and she walks away on her own while making it clear that she wants nothing more to do with him. This would be the first of many separations and reconciliations between Howard and Beverly that would occur throughout the run of the entire series.

Beverly keeps on walking in the night rain alone until she sees a mansion with only one light on in a scenario that’s reminiscent of many cult movies (such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show). She knocks on the door and a young girl named Patsy Dragonsworth, who looks like she’s somewhere between ages 10-13, answers it. Patsy assumes that Beverly is the newly-hired governess and Beverly, who’s desperate for shelter, plays along with Patsy’s assumption.

Meanwhile Howard ends up sleeping outside in the rain. In the morning a group of clean-cut young people find Howard sleeping. When Howard wakes up and begins to talk to them, they run away. They return with their leader, who introduces himself as Rev. Joon Moon Yuc and his followers as his Yuccies. Rev. Yuc tells his followers that they were right to tell him about Howard because he feels that Howard, as a talking duck, is a demon. Rev. Yuc and his Yuccies start a prayer circle around Howard while beseeching the Lord to send down a thunder bolt to kill the duck.

revyucandhoward

But then that scene is abruptly interrupted when a man arrives on horseback. His name is Heathcliff Rochester and he’s a real estate broker who’s desperate to unload an old mansion as soon as possible. He arrived on the scene because he heard that a certain minister is looking to buy it as a place for his followers and himself. It’s obvious that Rev. Yuc is the one who wants to buy the mansion but the man takes one look at Howard the Duck and assumes that he’s the Rev. Duck who wants to buy the place so he grabs Howard and places him on horseback and the pair gallop off to this mansion.

Meanwhile Beverly and Patsy are eating breakfast at opposite ends of this long table. Patsy introduces Beverly to her mother. Patsy refers to her mother as “insane” and it’s quite clear that Patsy’s mother isn’t exactly playing with a full deck of cards. At that moment a group of townspeople descend on the mansion with weapons. Patsy says this happens each week and she usually responds by unleashing the dogs to chase them away. At the same time Howard and the real estate broker arrive at the scene on horseback. Howard and Beverly see each other through the window. Beverly rushes outside and the couple have a tearful reconciliation.

After meeting Patsy and her not-quite-there mother, everyone meets in the living room where the real estate broker reveals that both Patsy and her mother will soon be moving out of the crumbling Victorian mansion and will be renting a different crumbling Victorian mansion in Wisconsin. Mother and daughter are making this move because the townspeople believe that Patsy is a witch. Patsy says that the townspeople think that she’s creating a monster when, according to her, she is only baking cookies.

At that point Rev. Yuc arrives in the living room while saying that Patsy is baking “Godless cookies.” He said that he’s really the one whom the Lord has sent to buy the mansion so he can consecrate it as a seminary.

Patsy has had enough of the accusations so she decides that, once and for all, she’ll show everyone that she really is just baking cookies. She leads them into the tower where she does the bulk of her work. The area of the tower looks more like a scene out of a Frankenstein movie than a bakery—complete with a shrouded figure that’s belted to the table. Patsy throws a switch and there is a glow along with some baking. Three minutes later the process is done. Patsy removes the sheet and the belts and a giant gingerbread man is revealed. Everyone initially breathes a sigh of relief until the fingers and hands of the giant gingerbread man begins to rise then the rest of the gingerbread man’s body starts to rise as well. Howard clutches Beverly in fear and the story ends in a cliffhanger.

Topical 1970’s References:  When Beverly and Howard have their spat during a heavy rain storm at the beginning, Beverly makes references to having to resort to eating each other while saying that it would be understandable in the Andes but not in the Poconos. She’s referring to a real-life situation where a plane carrying a rugby team crashed in the Andes Mountains in Argentina back in 1972. The rugged terrain and the technology of the time made a quick rescue impossible so, for survival, the survivors of that plane crash resorted to eating the remains of their teammates who died. After they were rescued this tale of cannibalism became worldwide news and it led to a bestselling book called Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors. Earlier this year one of the survivors, Roberto Canessa, wrote his own memoir titled I Had to Survive.

Rev. Joon Moon Yuc and his Yuccies are a parody of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his followers, who were frequently derided as “Moonies.” Rev. Moon’s Unification Church was very controversial in the 1970’s as critics derided it as a cult while many former members gave interviews to the media about how they were brainwashed (using techniques like sleep deprivation and cold showers) into believing that Rev. Moon was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and they had to show total devotion and obedience to him. I remember reading stories in places like Time and Newsweek about how these followers were pressured into cutting off all contact with nonbelievers—including members of their own families—and how they were required to spend a lot of time on the streets selling flowers, books, and other trinkets in order to raise money for the Unification Church. Rev. Moon also gained controversy for holding large mass weddings of couples who never knew each other until a day or two before their wedding. (It was said that Rev. Moon had personally matched each couple himself.) Rev. Moon tried to gain respectability by starting his own daily newspaper, The Washington Times, which had a right-wing anti-communist slant on the news. That newspaper never had the wide circulation that its closest rival, The Washington Post, had and it was Rev. Moon personally funding it that kept that paper afloat for many years when, under any other situation, it would’ve folded in less than five years. He also tried his hand at mainstream filmmaking by financing the movie Inchon! (based on one of the major battles of the Korean War) but it was such a major critical and commercial flop that Rev. Moon gave up moviemaking after that.

The Bottom Line: After re-reading that issue, I am reminded of why I remember this particular comic book issue after all these years. Between the topical Rev. Moon satire, the child mad scientist who keeps on saying that she’s only “baking cookies,” and the off-beat homage to Frankenstein, it’s no wonder I find this particular comic book issue so memorable years after reading it for the first time as a middle school student. It’s one of those issues with a story that is just as unforgettable as the 1980 X-Men issues that my then-husband collected that had a storyline dealing with an X-Man known as Phoenix whose power made her so mad that she turned to the dark side and she destroyed a planet full of people. (Ultimately Phoenix became so horrified at what she did and her fear that she’ll be just as destructive towards innocent people in the future that she used her telekinetic power to kill herself.)

This issue was reprinted in Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 1, which can be purchased online at AbeBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookDepository, Google Play, Half.com, IndieBound, Indigo, Powell’s.

Next post in this series.

The Howard the Duck Series

Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 1

The Early Stories
Howard the Duck #1-3
Howard the Duck #4-5
Howard the Duck #6
Howard the Duck #7 and Marvel Treasury Edition #12: Howard the Duck
Howard the Duck #8
Howard the Duck #9-11
Howard the Duck #12-14
Howard the Duck King Size Annual #1 and Howard the Duck #15
Howard the Duck #16

Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 2

Howard the Duck #17-19
Howard the Duck #20-22
Howard the Duck #23-25
Howard the Duck #26-28
Howard the Duck #29-31
Howard the Duck Magazine #1

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