A continuation of this summer’s series of Throwback Thursdays dedicated to Howard the Duck’s original 1970’s run. And this latest installment comes on the heels of this announcement saying that the latest Howard the Duck comic book series reboot, which began last year, will come to an end in September. I’m basically focusing on the original 1970’s comic books for this summer series of Throwback Thursdays, which will end on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. One day I may do a review series on the 2015-2016 reboot but I would like to wait a few years before I would even begin to think about attempting this. So, without further ado, here are my reviews of Howard the Duck issues #12-14 from 1977.
Howard the Duck #12
Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Steve Leialoha, inker; Jim Novak, letterer; Janice Cohen, colorist
Synopsis: Howard ends up in jail in the wake of his recent brawl with the Kidney Lady that led to a free-for-all fight that caused the bus they were on to crash. He starts to hear disembodied voices that said single words like “busy,” ineptitude,” and “malarkey.” Howard is led out of his prison cell and taken to a courtroom where he appears alongside Winda Wester and the Kidney Lady, who appears wearing a very prim and proper outfit.
The judge starts with Winda, who tells the court that she had nothing to do with that brawl and she needed to arrive in Cleveland as soon as possible so she could undergo an exorcism. The Kidney Lady begins to regale the judge with her tale about her woeful past (which includes being seduced by a metaphysical book salesman, who converts her to his way of thinking with the book The Human Kidney: Seat of the Soul, only to abandon her after a whirlwind romance in Cleveland with the excuse that he was drafted to fight World War II and she has been waiting for his return since that time). She manages to get the judge to feel sorry for her so he drops all charges against her. Howard explodes in a rage, which makes him look bad in the courtroom. The judge sentences Winda and Howard to spend 90 days being confined to a mental hospital.
Howard and Winda are transferred to the Sauerbraten County Mental Facility where they meet Nurse Barbara and a hospital worker known as Cecil. Barbara and Cecil inform the pair that they are strict disciplinarians. Howard and Winda are then separated with Cecil putting Howard inside of a locked padded room. Howard’s solitary confinement along with the disjointed words starts to drive Howard crazy. Cecil initially offers Howard some medication, which the duck refuses. Cecil tells Howard that he won’t be seeing the doctor until after he takes his meds. After spending some more time alone Donald starts screaming, which prompts Cecil to enter the room. Howard takes the meds that Cecil gives him.
In the meantime Winda is talking with Dr. Avery in his office. She tells Dr. Avery about how her parents want her to undergo an exorcism just because she likes to relieve stress by making funny faces and silly noises. He informs her that the address she gave as her parents’ home is actually a vacant lot. Winda begins to freak out because she thinks that her parents have pulled up all stakes (including the house) once they had loaded their daughter on to the bus to Cleveland and they have disowned her. Dr. Avery tells Winda that he’ll run some tests on her and even consult an exorcist for his opinion, which makes her happy.
As Winda leaves Dr. Avery’s office she crosses paths with Howard, who is too stoned on those meds that Cecil gave him to even make much of a greeting.
Dr. Avery begins a preliminary interview with Howard in his office when a scream comes from out in the hallway. Howard and Dr. Avery rush outside to see Winda laying on the floor unconscious with demons, who resemble members of the rock band Kiss, emerging from her head.
Topical 1970’s References: This issue combines the plot of two of the biggest hits of the 1970’s: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Exorcist. Nurse Barbara in the story could easily be soulmates with Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Having Kiss make an appearance in the story also makes sense because the band was at the peak of its 1970’s popularity that spawned such hit singles as “Rock & Roll All Nite,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “Calling Dr. Love,” “Christine Sixteen,” and “Hard Luck Woman.”
The Bottom Line: The cover showing a very sad and forlorn Howard in a padded room wearing a straightjacket is among the most expressive Howard the Duck covers I’ve seen. Just seeing that cover makes me wish there was a way I could somehow go inside that cover, free Howard from the straightjacket, put my arms around the sad duck, and comfort him.
This issue does pretty well with combining the plots of two different movies to create a hilarious satire. Having Kiss make an appearance as the demons inside of Winda’s head at the end is a stroke of pure genius because not only do they sport the kind of makeup that makes them look demonic but they were at the height of their popularity at the time this issue was released. (Kiss would subsequently appear in a special A Marvel Comics Super Special #1: Kiss, which became notorious for the vats of red ink having blood that was actually drawn from all of the Kiss members and the comic book was printed using this special red ink.)
Howard the Duck #13
Rock, Roll Over, and Writhe!
Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Steve Leialoha, inker; Jim Novak, letterer; Jan Cohen, colorist
Synopsis: This issue begins where the previous one left off: With Winda being on the floor of a mental hospital while four demons resembling the rock group Kiss emerge from Winda’s head. They approach Howard, who is still pretty much out of it due to the drugs that Cecil the hospital employee gave him in the last issue. One of them approaches Howard and tells him the word: “When you meet reality head-on—kiss it, smack it in the face!” Then the four demons manage to jump back into Winda’s head and disappear but not before one of the hospital employees manages to grab a Nikon camera from the research section and take a few photos of the demons.
Three days later Nurse Barbara shows one of the photos of the demons to the director of the facility, Dr. Reich, who speaks with a heavy German accent and he sits at a desk with his face shrouded mostly in darkness. Nurse Barbara shows Dr. Reich an x-ray of Howard that proves that Howard really is a duck and not a human dwarf. She also tells Dr. Reich that Dr. Avery, who has examined both Howard and Winda, is in the process of contacting an expert on Demonology in order to determine if Winda is really possessed by a demon or two or more. Dr. Reich says that he will invite an expert of his own choosing to determine whether Winda is possessed or not.
Meanwhile Howard and Winda are sharing a padded room together. Howard starts to come off of his meds and he begins to cry as he recounts what his current mental condition is like and his previous life on his home planet where he basically spent his time drifting from job to job. Winda comforts Howard as he cries.
Nurse Barbara barges into Dr. Avery’s office with Dr. Reich’s message that he is to cancel any appointments he’s made with any exorcists but Dr. Avery is already in a meeting with an exorcist so it’s too late to cancel. The exorcist is Daimon Hellstrom and he is the son of Satan and a mortal woman.
Daimon Hellstrom does a brief mind probe of Winda and discovers that she has no demons inside of her but she does have some latent psychic tendencies that manifest themselves by tapping into a parallel universe when under extreme stress, which explains the arrival of the Kiss demons. But he said that it’s highly unlikely that it’ll ever happen again.
Daimon Hellstrom and Dr. Avery walk out and Dr. Avery starts to mention how x-rays of Howard prove that he really is a duck and not a midget in a duck suit when they encounter a group of young people who decide to clean the institution’s parking lot. It turns out that they are the Yuccies, who are the followers of Rev. Joon Moon Yuc, who was previously presumed dead when the house that he was in blew up in issue #7.
Nurse Barbara drags Winda out of the padded cell while Cecil subdues Howard so he can’t help her. It turns out that Rev. Yuc is in Dr. Reich’s office, having survived that house blast when he somehow landed in a tree in Delaware (despite the fact that the Delaware state border is located over 200 miles south of the Poconos). It’s obvious that Rev. Yuc was hired by Dr. Reich to do the exorcism. Dr. Reich and Nurse Barbara go to an area of the institution known as the dungeon where Winda is hanging from the ceiling with chains wrapped around her up stretched arms. Meanwhile Dr. Avery and Daimon Hellstrom arrive to the padded cell where they see that Winda is missing and Howard is barely lucid.
Rev. Yuc begins the exorcism by whacking Winda across the face with a petunia. At that moment Dr. Avery and Daimon Hellstrom barge into the dungeon. Just when Rev. Yuc, Nurse Barbara, and Cecil attempt to throw those two out, Daimon Hellstrom raises his fingers in the shape of a trident and he begins to turn into his alter ego, Son of Satan. At that moment Howard stumbles into the dungeon. Rev. Yuc announces that he, too, had studied Demonology and he had long wanted to battle Daimon Hellstrom. Rev. Yuc raises his hands and Daimon Hellstrom’s second soul (also known as his demonic self) gets transferred to Howard. The issue ends with Howard taking on a demonic appearance.
Topical 1970’s References: The Firesign Theatre’s “Papoon For President” sketch and the Yipees running a pig for president back in 1968 are mentioned in passing. The demons who sprang out from and back into Winda’s head resemble the rock group Kiss, who were at the peak of their 1970’s popularity with hits like “Rock & Roll All Nite,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “Calling Dr. Love,” “Christine Sixteen,” and “Hard Luck Woman.”
Like the previous issue, this one combines the plots of two of the biggest 1970’s movie hits: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Exorcist. Like I wrote earlier, Rev. Yuc and his Yuccies are a parody of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church, whose members were frequently derided as “Moonies.”
The Bottom Line: This issue continues the inspired blending and skewering of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Exorcist. Nurse Barbara is definitely a parody of Nurse Ratched from Cuckoo’s Nest. The explanation for how Rev. Yuc managed to survive the house blast a few issues ago is pretty funny and it seems to make fun of the frequent comic book device where a character is shown to have died yet somehow gets resurrected months or even years later. (Being blasted a long distance from the Poconos to Delaware while surviving that impact by landing on the tree is pretty funny.) All in all it’s a pretty enjoyable issue to read.
Howard the Duck #14
A Duck Possessed!
Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, penciller; Klaus Janson, inker; Jim Novak, letterer; Irene Vartanoff, colorist
Synopsis: Howard becomes possessed by a demon that was part of Daimon Hellstrom’s second soul but was transferred between the two by Rev. Yuc. Howard uses his new powers granted to him by the demon to free Winda from being chained to the ceiling by her wrists then flying with her through the ceiling of the mental institution and out onto the night sky. Winda becomes afraid of what’s happening to her so she grabs Howard’s trident (which he also got when he became possessed by that demon) and points it downwards until the pair lands safely on the ground while Winda’s hands get burned in the process (due to the intense heat of the trident). Winda thanks Howard for breaking her out of the mental institution only to have Howard respond by slapping her in the face then abandoning her by the side of the road.
Meanwhile Dr. Avery confronts Nurse Barbara about that exorcism involving Rev. Yuc that Dr. Reich authorized. He tells Nurse Barbara that he intends to confront Dr. Reich, whom he had not been allowed to meet. Daimon Hellstrom drives away in his car on the search for Howard because he fears what could happen if that demon soul stays inside of the duck for any length of time.
Howard flies through Cleveland using his trident to locate Beverly, whom he had been separated from for the past few issues since they were last together on the American side of Niagara Falls. Beverly is back in Cleveland speaking with her artist friend and one-time upstairs neighbor Paul Same (who also briefly had an alter ego known as Winky Man way back in Howard the Duck #4). Beverly tells Paul about how Howard abandoned her in Upstate New York and she returned to Cleveland in the hopes that Howard will find her there but it’s been a week since her return with no word from the duck.
At that moment Howard crashed through a window. When Beverly tries to hug him, Howard pulls her hair then grabs her by the nape of her blouse and flies her out of the broken window.
Meanwhile Daimon Hellstrom is driving with Winda as a passenger. (Apparently he was able to locate her and give her a ride.) They are looking for Howard when they see the duck flying with Beverly. Daimon and Winda follow the flying pair in the car.
Howard and Beverly end up at Sunspot Slope, Cleveland’s famous lover’s lane located just outside of the city. Howard proceeds to torture Beverly when Daimon Hellstrom and Winda arrive at Sunspot Slope. Daimon bumps into Howard with the car so the duck’s concentration would be broken long enough for Beverly to escape. Howard retaliates by using the trident to destroy the car as Daimon and Winda run out of the car. Daimon tells Winda to join Beverly on the sideline while he begins to challenge Howard. After a brief fight Daimon gets his hand on the trident, which causes the demonic soul to transfer from Howard to Daimon so, once again, Daimon Hellstrom has a second soul inside of him.
Howard lies unconscious while Daimon tells Beverly and Winda that, due to the possession, parts of Howard’s spirit had dissipated in the air once the demon transferred back to Daimon. He takes Howard’s still body and conducts a ritual that reunites the strands of Howard’s spirit until the duck wakes up.
The epilogue begins with Howard, Winda, Beverly, and Paul Same all standing in Paul’s apartment as Daimon gets off of the telephone. Damon has just spoken with Dr. Avery, who says that he will sign the release papers for both Howard and Winda so they won’t have to return to the mental institution.
Back at the hospital Nurse Barbara, Rev. Yuc and the mysterious Dr. Reich are conferring together in Dr. Reich’s office discussing Dr. Avery’s apparent unauthorized release of Howard and Winda. Dr. Reich decides that the three of them should leave their jobs at the mental institution and move to Dr. Yuc’s private university. Dr. Reich, who had been shown in shadow for the last few issues, is finally revealed to be none other than Adolf Hitler (implying that Hitler had faked his suicide in that Berlin bunker at the end of World War II, somehow avoided the invading Soviets, and resettled in America under a new identity).
Topical 1970’s References: Like the last few issues, this one also blended two popular 1970’s movies: The Exorcist and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I remember back in the 1970’s when there were news stories full of Nazis who managed to escape Europe after World War II. Some, like Werner von Braun, had important skills that were of interest to the U.S. government so they were admitted in the U.S. under the guise of “fighting Communism” even though von Braun and others like him didn’t exactly have clean records. Others settled in South American countries like Brazil and Argentina because these countries had large German emigre populations and these nations had rulers who were sympathetic to the Nazi cause so they managed to escape justice. In 1976 Rosemary’s Baby author Ira Levin wrote The Boys From Brazil, a bestselling novel about the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele and other escaped Nazis in Brazil who used tissue samples Adolf Hitler provided before his suicide to create new Hitler clones. It would be turned into a movie two years later.
The Bottom Line: It was a good conclusion to the nifty satiric blending of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Exorcist (two movies with unrelated plots). It was nice to see Howard and Beverly reunited after being separated for a few issues. I have to admit that Howard was pretty hilarious as a satanic duck.
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.
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