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Howard the Duck #7
December, 1976

This issue is divided into two separate chapters featuring two different stories.

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer; Gene Colan, illustrator; Steve Leialoha, inker; Archie Goodwin, editor; Jim Novak, Letterer; M. Severin, colorist

Chapter I: The Way the Cookie Crumbles!

Synopsis: This chapter picks up where issue 6 leaves off—immediately after the giant gingerbread man that budding mad scientist Patsy bakes comes to life. While Patsy jumps up and down in total joy like a child her age would over a major accomplishment, the adults cower in fear as the living cookie monster starts to move towards them.

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Howard and Beverly attempt to sneak out the door where they originally came in only to find that it is locked. Howard comes up with another idea where he jumps on the cookie monster, crawls down to the monster’s right leg, and starts eating through it until the leg is completely severed. The giant gingerbread man crashes into Patsy’s jury-rigged electrical system and starts a fire.

Howard and Beverly find another doorway with a set of stairs leading to the top of the tower. They climb up the steps and crash through the window on to the rooftop. The pair slide down a gutter drain pipe until they reach the ground. At that point they run a few feet away from the house then hit the ground right at the moment when the house explodes.

Howard and Beverly inspect the rubble of the destroyed home but there is no sign that any of the other people have escaped, which implies that they are the only survivors of that blast. As they talk about what happened to young Patsy and debate how could such a young girl become a mad scientist at such a tender age, Howard and Beverly decide to head towards the nearest gas station to freshen up before resuming their hitchhiking travels.

Chapter II: Get Down, America!

This is the beginning of the story arc that would lead to another high point of the original comic book series when Howard the Duck runs for President of the United States of America. This story begins sometime after Howard and Beverly cleaned up in the gas station’s restrooms and resumed hitchhiking until someone picked them up. They end up traveling to New York City in a Rolls Royce with the famous country music star Dreyfuss Gultch.

After Beverly finishes telling Dreyfuss Gultch the story about how she and Howard escaped from Patsy’s cookie monster right before the house exploded, she asks Dreyfuss why a country music star like him is heading to New York City. Dreyfuss tells the pair that he is scheduled to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the All-Night Party’s political convention. The All-Night Party is meeting in New York City in order to select their candidate to run as President of the United States under its banner against both the Republican (the then-incumbent President Gerald Ford) and Democratic (former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter) candidates. Beverly ask Dreyfuss Gultch about her and Howard getting jobs at that convention so they can earn enough money to get an apartment. Dreyfuss Gultch uses his celebrity to get the Chairman of The All-Night Party to give Howard and Beverly a room at the Plaza Hotel where the convention is being held at as well as temporary work at the convention itself.

Beverly works as one of the Hospitality Girls who greet the nearly all-male delegates and other convention-goers. (There are no women depicted among the delegates or other party faithful.) Howard gets a job in security. Their work uniforms are delivered by a bellhop that also includes a cryptic note that only says that the mix is in the pan and it’s signed “A Friend.” Howard is puzzled by that note but he shrugs is off because it was time for him and Beverly to report to their jobs.

Howard arrives at the security office only to see the head of security is busy making out with one of the other Hospitality Girls. The security head tells Howard that he’s too busy and he suggests that the duck just walks around the hall. He listens in on one of those backroom conferences where the party members are loudly debating about what is The All-Night Party’s stand regarding the CIA. Sample argument: “I’m afraid Mr. Sangor’s animalistic conservatism and Mr. Langor’s jellyfish liberalism both fail to address the real issue, Mr. Chairman! We’ve got to get the dumb people out of intelligence!” The party members spot Howard looking in on the insanity and they ask him for his opinion. Howard asks them bluntly if they know anything about intelligence. The men in the room look on Howard blankly then the duck suggests that they tell the truth that they don’t know much about intelligence but they will educate themselves on this issue as much as possible.

Later on Howard meets up with Beverly, whose butt has been pinched by the male convention attendees so much that she has to lay down in the hotel room. When the pair reaches their room, they find another cryptic note from “A Friend” saying that the ice cream is on the cake.

The next day Howard patrols the convention floor where a near-brawl breaks out over whether the party delegates should vote for either of the two similarly-named candidates: Wauldrop or Wauldrap. An exasperated Howard suggests a method of deciding on a candidate to vote for by tossing the placards with the candidates’ names on them up in the air then letting them drop to the floor. At that moment Dreyfuss Gultch catches up with Howard and invites the duck to have a night on the town with himself and some of the party bigwigs.

Howard, Dreyfuss, and the party bigwigs end up in what looks like a strip club. Howard gets a bill from a waiter who looks suspiciously like that bellhop at the hotel. That bill has another cryptic message signed “A Friend” that says that everything is in the oven. The next day Howard tells Beverly about that message and Beverly said that all those notes sounds like a recipe for a Baked Alaska. At that moment Howard realizes that it may be a cryptic message about a bomb being planted on the convention floor. He tries to tell his boss, who’s way too busy partying with the Hospitality Girls to listen to Howard’s warning about a potential bomb at the convention.

Howard remembers the clues in the cryptic messages he received and realizes that it may have something to do with the Alaska delegation. He sees smoke coming out of the Alaska standard so Howard grabs that standard and smashes it into the special Bicentennial cake that was especially made for the convention. The cake explodes all over the convention floor.

Wauldrop, one of the candidates who is speaking on the podium at the time decides to withdraw his nomination on the grounds that he feels that running for president is too dangerous. At that moment the delegates decide to nominate Howard the Duck as The All-Night Party candidate for the President of the United States—despite the fact that under [Get Constitution Amendment dealing with being a native born American] Howard would be ineligible for that office on the grounds that not only was he born outside of the United States but he was born (or should I say hatched?) on a different planet to parents who are also non-U.S. citizens from a different planet.

Topical 1970’s References: The second chapter deals with the 1976 U.S. presidential elections while also mentioning the Bicentennial that was celebrated that same year.

The scenes dealing with Beverly having her butt constantly pinched while on the job while the security head frequently makes out with the Hospitality Girls while on the job are reminiscent of a time when sexual harassment of women on the job was not only accepted as a part of doing business but women had no recourse for dealing with this. I remember when sexual harassment was starting to be discussed in the media in the 1970’s and it has led to new laws being passed that forbids that type of behavior. While sexual harassment sadly still goes on, these days employees who are affected by this have legal recourse (ranging from filing a complaint with human resources to actually suing a company for sexual harassment) so workers no longer have to just sit there and take it from others on the job.

The Bottom Line: The first chapter does an excellent job of concluding the story about budding mad scientist Patsy and her giant cookie monster gingerbread man. The story literally ends with a bang. The second chapter is a hilarious send-up of political conventions and all of the backroom shenanigans that frequently goes on behind closed doors. It provides a very promising beginning to the story arc about Howard’s run for the White House that is a high point of the original comic book series.

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Marvel Treasury Edition #12: Howard the Duck
1976

Judging from this comic book’s original table of contents that’s reprinted in Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 1, it looks like the Marvel Treasury Edition was one of those extra-long comic books that was more expensive than the usual regular comic book but also provided a lot of bang for the buck. This issue had one previously unreleased Howard the Duck story (The Duck and The Defenders) along with reprints of the duck’s first appearances (Adventure Into Fear #19, The Man-Thing #1, Giant-Size Man-Thing #4, Giant-Size Man-Thing #5, and Howard the Duck #1) and dispatches from Howard the Duck’s political campaign. (These dispatches are reprinted in the back of Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 1 and they basically consist of one page of a text interview between Howard and writer Steve Gerber along with one mostly text page of other Marvel superheroes and Marvel publisher Stan Lee weighing in on Howard’s presidential campaign.) For the person who was relatively new to the comic book series, this Marvel Treasury Edition was a good bargain in that the person was able to read about the original origins of Howard the Duck without having to pay huge prices for the original issues on the comic book collector’s market. I’m sure that fans who had followed the duck’s story from the beginning were probably miffed that they had to shell out extra money for an issue featuring reprints of comic books that they already owned just so they can get the one new story that was published in that issue.

The Duck and The Defenders

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer; Sal Buscema and Klaus Janson, artists; Steve Leialoha, inker; Joe Rosen, Letterer; Marie Severin, colorist

Synopsis: The story begins with a Prologue that’s subtitled “Five Villains in Search of a Plot!” Four people wearing costumes are in Central Park in New York City roasting marshmallows over an open fire after midnight. One by one they introduce themselves. Sitting Bullseye is an ex-CIA operative who infiltrated the American Indian movement until the native people discovered that he was a mole. They retaliated by tattooing a giant bullseye on his chest, which resulted in his being fired from the CIA since he could no longer go undercover due to that tattoo. Tillie the Hun introduces herself with no backstory but she looks like an overweight version of Valkyrie (who shows up later in this story). The Spanker was once the headmaster of a prestigious private school until he was forced out due to his excessive use of corporal punishment. The Black Hole was a normal human until some dwarf star matter had somehow landed on his chest, which created a giant black hole in his chest that Black Hole can open and close on command.

The police arrive on the scene because these people had violated local laws by being in Central Park after 10 p.m. and holding a bonfire. When they attempt to arrest these wacky costumed people, the villains manage to defeat them, especially after Black Hole uses his power to suck two of the cops into his chest. At that point a fifth villain emerges from the bushes. He is Dr. Angst, Master of the Mundane Mysticism, and he is the one who called the other four together because the five of them, despite their various powers and abilities, have long been overshadowed by other superhero and villains to the point where they are obscure. Dr. Angst proposes to fix that by killing the newly minted All-Night Party presidential candidate Howard the Duck.

The main part of the actual story begins when Howard and Beverly are thrown out of the hotel they were staying at for non-payment of their bill. Apparently the All-Night Party assumed that Howard was rich like so many other politicians of all persuasions so they stopped paying for his and Beverly’s accommodations. Beverly said that two of her old high school friends from Cleveland are currently working as stewardesses and sharing a home in Greenwich Village. She suggests taking the subway to the Village and see if her old high school friends can give them a place to stay.

When they arrive at Greenwich Village they promptly become lost because both are unfamiliar with New York City and, apparently, neither one of them have bothered to pack a map or even buy one at the many different stores that sell maps. They decided to ask someone for directions so they turned to a young couple who are obviously going on a date. The man of the couple turns out to be none other than Peter Parker, whose superhero alter-ego is Spider-Man. His girlfriend, Mary Jane, gives Howard and Beverly the directions to the street where Beverly’s friends live.

They follow Mary Jane’s directions until they arrive at a mansion. (It’s never clear if Mary Jane gave the pair bad directions or if they mis-heard her directions or if Mary Jane gave the correct directions but Beverly had the wrong address for her friends.) Both Beverly and Howard are skeptical that two stewardesses could afford to live in a mansion in Greenwich Village but they decide to ring the doorbell anyway. Nighthawk answers the door and Beverly remembers him from seeing his photograph in the newspapers.

The others who live in that mansion soon arrive at the front door. It soon becomes apparent that the mansion is the living quarters for The Defenders, a loose alliance of superheroes just like the more popular Avengers. In addition to Nighthawk, The Defenders consist of Valkyrie, who’s one of the ancient Norse goddesses who traditionally accompany the souls of men who fall in battle to Valhalla; the Incredible Hulk, whom I don’t have to describe because chances are that you have already heard of him—even if your knowledge of him is limited to the 1970’s TV series and/or the various Hulk movies that have been released over the years; and Dr. Strange, a sorcerer who’s a master of the mystic arts. Dr. Strange instinctively suspects that Howard is not of this planet so he takes the duck upstairs so he can learn more about him.

Meanwhile Dr. Angst is holding a meeting with his own band of misfit villains in his tiny place. Dr. Angst makes a deal where he gives the villains mettle spheres cast from the otherworldly alloy promethium for them to swallow so their powers can grow exponentially. The villains begin to feel the effect of swallowing those spheres as they begin to feel more powerful. Dr. Angst says that the spheres’ effect doesn’t last a long time but he has offered to give them more spheres for them to consume in exchange for helping him find and kill Howard the Duck. Dr. Angst uses his mundane powers to look into a shoe (which he calls a “pedestrian prognosticator”) where he finds that Howard is currently with Dr. Strange at The Defenders’ mansion.

After talking with Howard, Dr. Strange concludes that the duck isn’t a mystic like he thought. At that point Howard asks Dr. Strange if there is any way that he can use his mystical powers to send Howard back to his home world. Dr. Strange attempts to use the Orb of Agamotto to see if he can locate Howard’s planet before using his magic powers to send Howard back to where he originally came from. At that moment a bunch of tennis balls shoot out and one of them knocks Dr. Strange unconscious.

Beverly and the other Defenders hear the commotion upstairs. When Nighthawk tries to use the stairs to investigate, he’s stopped by a white picket fence that suddenly appears. The other four villains who are helping Dr. Angst kill Howard suddenly crash into a window all prepared for battle. In addition the mansion is enclosed in a giant cereal box so no one can escape. Dr. Strange appears to Howard in apparition form where he tells Howard he will give the duck a portion of his mystic powers while guiding Howard telepathically to where the super villains are located so Howard can use these powers to take them down. Howard, under Dr. Strange’s guidance, goes downstairs and magically sends Beverly, The Defenders, and the villains to Shea Stadium where they can battle amongst themselves.

The Defenders and the other villains battle each other in Shea Stadium. Initially The Spanker starts to spank Beverly on her rear until she is rescued by Nighthawk. She subsequently stands off to the side since she has no superhero power at all. When Black Hole attempts to use his power, to suck the Incredible Hulk, the other Defenders, and anyone else who happens to be in Shea Stadium at the moment into his body, Beverly stops him by grabbing his arm and shoving it into the hole. This action triggers the Black Hole into consuming himself until just a black hole remains on the ground.

Meanwhile, back at the mansion, Howard meets Dr. Angst, who had placed a mask over Dr. Strange’s face so he can’t guide Howard telepathically. Howard manages to still have some of Dr. Strange’s powers so he uses it to defeat Dr. Angst and free Dr. Strange from that mask.

Dr. Strange uses his powers to suddenly bring everyone else from Shea Stadium to the mansion. The defeated villains said that they didn’t care about killing Howard the Duck. They only went along with Dr. Angst’s plan because he promised them more promethium spheres so they can continue to keep their enhanced powers. Dr. Strange tells them that the promethium spheres are little more than the mystic world’s equivalent of a sugar pill placebo so any effect of feeling more powerful than before came from wishful thinking instead of the spheres actually doing anything. Dr. Strange uses his mystical powers to revive the Black Hole from his self-consumption then free the police officers who were sucked into Black Hole’s black hole during the prologue of this story. The police officers arrest the villains and take them away.

Dr. Strange offers to teach Howard the ways of the mystic arts because he feels that Howard has great potential in that area but Howard turns him down. He offers to help Howard locate his home planet once again. But then the duck sees Beverly, who’s so glad to see him that she hugs him very tightly, and he has a change of heart. He tells Dr. Strange that he would settle for some fare money so he and Beverly can ride the bus uptown.

Topical 1970’s References: Sitting Bullseye’s origin is a reference to the time in the 1970’s was when Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act where journalists and other interested parties can have access to unclassified government documents. In the wake of that law being passed, journalists started to read government files where they discovered that the FBI had infiltrated various 1960’s political dissident groups like the Black Panthers, Congress of Racial Equality, Students for a Democratic Society, and various Native American civil rights groups. Those FBI moles would whip up dissent among these groups which led, in many cases, to people fighting among themselves and having local chapters of these dissident groups ultimately implode.

But that wasn’t all. It turned out that the CIA did similar things as well, except they did their tricks in foreign countries. For example, the CIA helped in the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran and Chile and replaced those leaders with dictators.

The Spanker’s origins is also a reference to the issue of schools and parents using corporal punishment on children, a controversial issue that was so hotly debated in the 1970’s that it led to many school districts outlawing the practice and many parents also began to adopt nonviolent forms of punishments for children (such as having time out corners in their homes).

The Bottom Line: This story is okay and it has its moments but, compared to the previous storylines about Patsy the child mad scientist creating her giant gingerbread cookie monster and Howard winning the All-Night Party’s nomination as president, this one is nothing special. Superhero fans will definitely enjoy seeing The Defenders take on those villain misfits in Shea Stadium but, for others who just like Howard the Duck for the satire, this story just lacks the cutting edge humor of the previous issues. Modern racism alert—There are times when Sitting Bullseye refers to the Native Americans, whom he infiltrated only to turn on him, as “Injuns” and “Redskins.” (Yeah, I know that the latter term is the name of a certain Washington football team and, living outside of DC, I hear that name all the time. But there is currently a concerted effort to get that team to adopt a new name but current owner Dan Snyder refuses to even consider it despite the fact that a judge has recently decided that the Redskins can no longer be trademarked due to the fact that many Native Americans consider it to be a racial slur.)

These issues were 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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