Previous post in this series.

Here’s another entry is this summer’s series of Throwback Thursdays dedicated to Howard the Duck.

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Howard the Duck King-Size Annual #1
Thief of Bagmom!
August, 1977

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Val Mayerik, artist; M. Skrenes, co-scenarist; Joe Rosen, letterer; Jan Cohen, colorist

This is a special issue that’s slightly more expensive yet longer than the average comic book of the 1970’s. The first page of this book heralds the reunion of Howard the Duck’s original co-creators, Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik, for the first time since the duck’s first appearance in a comic book in 1973.

Synopsis: This story takes place after the events in Howard the Duck #14 and before the events in Howard the Duck #15 (reviewed below). Howard, Beverly, and Winda have been living in Paul’s tiny one room apartment since Howard and Winda were released from the mental institution. Howard is seen alone in the living room in the twilight of a Saturday. A note left behind by the others mentions that they went shopping and they would return by six. Howard’s mental health is still fragile since he’s getting over suffering a near nervous breakdown that prompted his stay at the institution. He starts to feel agitated by the trash that’s strewn on the floor because money is too tight to afford a wastebasket.

Paul, Winda, and Beverly return from their shopping expedition where they were able to find some bargains. Among the items they purchased cheap are a decorative carpet that would be used as a layer between the sleeping bags and the wood floor and a gold lamp.

During much bantering between the four roommates Beverly and Winda lay on their newly purchased carpet. At one point Winda tells Howard and Paul that their behavior are rigid, except Winda speaks with a lisp so she pronounces “rigid” as “wigid.” It turns out that Winda has inadvertently uttered a secret magic word that makes the carpet rise up towards the ceiling with Beverly and Winda still on the carpet then fly out an open window. (It later turns out that the magic word used to activate the flying magic carpet is the name of a wizard named Wijid.)

Moments later two Middle Eastern guards in traditional Arab garb and wielding long swords arrive at the apartment demanding the return of the rug—known as “Wijid’s rug”—or they will be beheaded. Howard grabs the gold lamp and hits one of the guards on the leg which leads Paul to flip the other guard over his shoulders. This sets off a brawl in the apartment that is interrupted when the neighbors arrive at the door in order to request that they stop fighting so the neighbors can watch the wrestling match on TV. The guards realize that they have been spotted by others so they leap out of the apartment window to escape. Except they forget that it’s a five-story drop and the guards end up dead.

Unfortunately the dead guards were the only ones who could’ve provided a clue as to where the flying carpet took Beverly and Winda. In desperation Paul grabs the gold lamp and rubs it while making a wish a la Aladdin. No genie emerges but a cloud of smoke spelling “Gotcha!” emerges from the lamp. Moments later a radio station calls the apartment. Howard answers the phone and he finds out that he was selected to answer this question for a prize: Who is buried in Grant’s tomb? When Howard answers “Grant,” the radio station informs him that he has just won a trip for two to Bagmom. Paul remembers that the two guards mentioned Bagmom before they leaped to their deaths.

The flying carpet takes Beverly and Winda to Bagmom, which is a Middle Eastern city that has been isolationist for some 1,500 years. Bagmom is ruled by a Caliph whose personal wizard, Wijid, is showing him his latest carving of a wooden mule. The Caliph’s son, Prince Hassim, is less than impressed with the wooden mule and he tells his father that he’s wasting his time on such frivolities before storming out in a huff. Both the Caliph and Wijid bemoan the son’s negative attitude towards Bagmom’s tradition, which he developed after he went away to college in Cleveland.

At that moment the flying carpet carrying Beverly and Winda arrive. It turns out that the carpet was the one that Wijid gave to Hassim prior to Hassim’s departure for America to attend college there. Hassim would later hock that carpet in order to buy himself a Brooks Brothers suit, which was how Paul, Winda, and Beverly were able to buy it so cheap in the first place. The Caliph is so pleasantly surprised that the carpet had brought back two Western women that he orders his guard to place the women among his harem while figuring that they would be especially appealing to Hassim since the son is so drawn towards all things Western.

Howard and Paul fly in an airplane until they reach Bagmom. They find out that planes aren’t allowed to land in Bagmom so Howard and Paul are forced to don parachutes and jump out of the plane. They land in a Bagmom alley. Moments later a thief with a dagger named Ali Wazoo approaches them. There is a language barrier between them so Paul brings out the gold lamp and makes a wish that they can understand each other. The lamp brings out a puff of smoke that spells “‘Nuff Said” and everyone can suddenly understand each other.

Howard, Paul, and Ali Wazoo’s attempt at getting to know each other is cut short when the Caliph’s police arrive in their pursuit of Ali Wazoo. The trio manage to run away and avoid capture. The trio arrive at a hiding place with a stone door on the ground that Ali Wazoo is able to open by saying what turns out to be an ad line in a 1970’s McDonald’s commercial. The door is an entrance to a secret underground railway that has long been used by thieves as a way of transporting stolen loot.

They take one of the railway cars to the home of the youngest and most daring of all of Bagmom’s thieves, Abu Ho Dadi. They make their introductions until Ali Wazoo sees something going on in the distance. Howard, Paul, and Abu Ho Dadi investigate and they find Prince Hassim making a deal with two American executives from an oil company known as Roxxon. Apparently Hassim has been making deals with these men behind his father’s back and Hassim is about to introduce his father to them in the hopes of Roxxon gaining exploration rights in Bagmom. Hassim tells the Roxxon executives about the arrival of two Western women and if the Caliph can admire Western technology half as much as the two women then Roxxon is sure to score the deal. At that moment Howard is enraged by what he has heard that he emerges from his hiding place (where he, Paul, and Abu Ho Dadi have been eavesdropping) and tells the American Roxxon executives that the Caliph has abducted two of their fellow countrywomen. Hassim is so taken by a talking duck that he kidnaps Howard so he can give the duck to his father as a present. As Hassim, the two Roxxon executives, and Howard drive off Abu Ho Dadi tells Paul that he hoped that something like this would happen because it would give his band of thieves a way of entering the palace.

The Caliph hosts an elaborate party at his palace complete with members of his harem fawning over him. Wijid presents the Caliph with a completed version of his wooden mule, which not only has emeralds and rubies encrusted on it but it also comes with a cashbox. The Caliph becomes enraged over the addition of the cashbox until Hassim enters and admits that the cashbox addition was his idea. (He figures that the wooden mule could be displayed in the fountain square and, for a price, children could ride it while their mothers did the laundry.)

Hassim brings over a wooden pallet full of consumer items from that were provided by Hassim’s Roxxon associates including a television set, a stereo, digital clocks, blenders, and electric can openers. The Caliph protests that people in Bagmom has traditionally made their own merriment without needing modern electric appliances and, besides, Bagmom doesn’t even have electricity. Hassim then brings out a small trunk and opens it. Howard the duck is inside and the Caliph is immediately smitten at the thought of a talking duck.

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The Caliph orders the two newest members of his harem to come out and do a dance. They turn out to be Beverly and Winda. The two women do a Rockettes-style dance while Winda improvises the lyrics to the Broadway song “The Lullaby of Broadway” that includes references to the crime problems that plagued New York back in the 1970’s. In the meantime Hassim pressures his father into signing the contract allowing Roxxon exploration rights in Bagmom. Just as the moment when Hassim finally convinces his father to sign the contract. Paul Same, Abu Ho Dadi, and his gang of thieves emerge from under the palace and through the floor. While a brawl breaks out, Abu Ho Dadi informs the Caliph that his son is attempting to let Roxxon drill Bagmom for oil in exchange for being the primary recipient of the profits while allowing the company to use his own people as sources of cheap labor.

During the brawl Hassim, Beverly, and Winda disappear. It turns out that he kidnapped the women and put them in a biplane that he’s flying himself. There are no other airplanes in Bagmon that can be used to chase the biplane so Wijid suggests using the wooden mule while putting a dinar coin in the cash box. The mule sprouts wings like a wooden Pegasus. Howard flies the wooden mule until he catches up with the biplane. Beverly and Winda seize this opportunity to climb out of the biplane and onto the mule’s back in midair. Hassim uses the machine gun on the plane to shoot at the wooden mule. Howard uses a special feature on the mule that Wijid installed where he pushes a red button and out pops a little knife-wielding robot. The robot throws a series of knives at the plane’s propellor, breaking the blades one by one. Prince Hassim manages to float his biplane safely on the ground only to encounter another problem—he lands the plane right into Israel.The epilogue takes place on board a cruise ship sailing through the Mediterranean Sea. The Caliph sends Howard, Beverly, Paul, and Winda on an all-expense paid cruise back to the U.S. out of gratitude for their role in exposing Hassim and the Roxxon oil executives. Howard and Beverly are walking together on deck until Winda catches up with them. She says that Paul has decided to make a third and final wish on the gold lamp and is rubbing it now. By the time the three of them catch up with Paul, they see that the lamp has spit out smoke spelling this phrase, “Lecherous Cur! No!” Paul refuses to divulge what that wish was because he feels too embarrassed to say out loud but the story hints that the wish had something to do with Winda.

Topical 1970’s References: Ali Wazoo opens a secret door leading to an underground railway for thieves by uttering what was this catchphrase that was used in many McDonald’s TV commercials in the 1970’s which touted the ingredients of the Big Mac: Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

When Hassim flies the biplane he utters the phrase “Ten-Four, Good Buddy!” That’s talk that is usually made on citizens band (or c.b.) radio, which was briefly a big fad in the 1970’s thanks in large part to C.W. McCall’s hit song, “Convoy.”

Winda and Beverly do a musical number to “Lullabye of Broadway” with radically altered lyrics. That song is from the musical 42nd Street, which has undergone numerous revivals over the years.

Winda makes up the lyrics to “The Lullaby of Broadway” to include references to New York’s severe crime problem back in the 1970’s that had grown so bad that the NYPD actually came out with a brochure titled Welcome to Fear City that was designed to discourage tourism. There were all kinds of societal ills from gang violence to an epidemic in drug abuse to prostitution and all kinds of other illicit activities.

The Bottom Line: This issue is full of stereotypes of Arabs that are of the sort that is frequently seen in Hollywood movies. I did an eye roll when the Caliph said that his oil-rich Bagmom has no electricity. Later on in the story the Caliph hears the plane engine when his son starts the biplane and he’s confused because he seems to imply that there aren’t any motors or anything mechanized in Bagmom. Maybe there was a time when the Arab states were relatively primitive compared to the West but I seriously doubt that it was still the case by the 1970’s when this story was written.

What saves this issue from being yet another ridiculous exercise in Arab stereotyping is its spot-on parody of the dark side of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, which had long been driven by its dependence on oil and which has been heavily influenced by wealthy oil companies—a policy that still continues to this day. It’s no accident that President George W. Bush, a one-time oilman, had ordered an invasion of the oil-rich nation of Iraq on the false claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that Halliburton, a company that was once led by Vice President Dick Cheney, had benefitted the most from that invasion.

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Howard the Duck #15
The Island of Dr. Bong!
August, 1977

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Klaus Janson, inker/colorist; Irv Watanabe, letterer

Synopsis: Howard and Beverly are enjoying themselves as they stroll the top deck of the cruise ship S.S. Damned that the Caliph of Bagmom had arranged for them at the end of the Howard the Duck King-Size Annual #1. Howard sits on the deck rail while Beverly leans on it as the pair talks about how relaxed they’ve been feeling since boarding that cruise ship. Winda, who’s playing shuffleboard nearby accidentally hits Howard on the head with the puck. The duck falls off the rail and into the ocean as a result. Even though Howard is a duck, he can’t swim so he starts to flounder.

Suddenly a giant sea serpent wearing a top rises up from the ocean while saying nothing but “Neez!” Winda finds a life preserver and throws it at Howard, who then clutches on to it while the sea serpent starts to attack the ship. One man on deck tries to shoot the sea serpent with a rifle to no avail. Howard, who’s still in the ocean, sees a label on the sea serpent’s belly that says to press the red button in order to give the sea serpent pleasure. Howard does as instructed and the sea serpent pauses with his eyes lit up and a big smile on his face. The sea serpent leaves the ship alone and heads off in the opposite direction while his body quivers with delight and saying “Neez!” over and over again.

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Howard is rescued and hailed by the ship’s captain as a hero. In gratitude the captain invites Howard, Beverly, Paul, and Winda to a private formal party that is held a few hours later. Howard and Beverly go out on the dance floor as a band does a lounge lizard version of Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Everyone eventually sits down for dinner where the main dish is revealed: duck l’orange. For Howard it’s cannibalism so he suddenly becomes so sick that he runs out of the party.

Howard decides to relax on the top deck in order to clear his head. Suddenly a giant chunk of granite falls from out of the sky and lands on deck close to Howard. A lot of people run up to the top deck to investigate what’s going on. Then a bunch of giant rocks begin to rain on the ship. The giant granite rock rain stops and the top deck is loaded with boulders while the ship’s communication and navigational devices are damaged.

Howard, Beverly, Paul, and Winda take refuge on one of the boulders on the top deck while Paul mentions that it’s like something out of the Bob Dylan song “Everybody Must Get Stoned.” Winda sees a bell-shaped island that suddenly comes up in the distance. A loud “BONG!” noise emanates from the island, which causes people to cover their ears. Suddenly the rock that they are on splits into two. A concrete swan emerges (like a baby bird emerges from an egg) and starts to fly while Beverly happens to be touching it. Howard grabs on to Beverly’s legs and the two of them are carried aloft by the concrete swan then dropped on to the island. However they soon discover that the swan had dropped them off into quicksand and they start to sink.

Suddenly the bonging sound starts again and some strange mutant creatures who say only “Neez!” emerge from the nearby bushes. They rescue Beverly while a mutant who’s a hybrid of human and duck (who seems capable to saying more than just “Neez!”) rescues Howard.

Beverly and Howard hears more bonging sounds until they meet the newest ludicrous villain to appear in the comic book series: a bell-headed man named Doctor Bong.

Topical 1970’s References: There’s a mention of the 1970’s Kiss hit “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

There’s also a reference to Bob Dylan’s 1970’s hit “Everybody Must Get Stoned.”

The Bottom Line: This issue is a definitely hilarious from Howard pleasuring the sea serpent to Howard being served duck l’orange to the first appearance of Doctor Bong. This issue is the start of another story arc that runs throughout the rest of the original color comic book series.

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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