Previous post in this series.

Here is another entry in this summer’s series of Throwback Thursdays to Howard the Duck except this issue is unlike all the others in the original 1970’s color comic book series.

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Howard the Duck #16
Zen and the Art of Comic Book Writing: A Communique From Colorado
September, 1977

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Cast of Thousands, artists; Doc Martin, colorist; Irv Watanabe, letterer; Ed Hannifin and Nelson Yomtov, production

Synopsis: This issue begins with a reprint of the last page of the previous issue (where Howard and Beverly meet Doctor Bong) with an additional warning that what the person is about to read is an admittedly off the wall adventure into absurdity. The next page shows a full page spread of Howard floating in the sky with the beginning of a text essay by Steve Gerber explaining why this issue isn’t a continuation of the story in the last one.

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Basically for the last eight weeks Steve Gerber had been hard at work on a number of projects. He wrote both Howard the Duck King-Size Annual #1 and Howard the Duck #15. He worked on the first several weeks of continuity for a spin-off Howard the Duck syndicated comic strip series that ran in various newspapers from 1977-1978. He also worked on the story for the Kiss comic book that is legendary for having the band members mix their blood with the red ink and the concoction was actually used in printing. At the same time Steve Gerber was in the process of relocating from New York City to Las Vegas.

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In short, he overextended himself. Rather than have Marvel go with a reprint issue, Steve Gerber decided to do something experimental where he would write text essays on what it’s like to be a comic book writer while writing short dispatches on the places he visited during his move to Las Vegas. At times the essays take on the form of a dialogue between Steve Gerber and Howard the Duck. Various artists created large two-page spreads of artwork to accompany the essays.

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During those essays Steve Gerber reveals his methods of working and how he frequently tends to find inspirations for his stories at the last minute. The issue is also full of self-deprecating humor as well. The issue ends with a fan letter that’s addressed to Steve Gerber and it’s written by Steve Gerber. (Can’t get more self-referential than this. LOL!)

The Bottom Line: This issue is full of self-indulgence on Steve Gerber’s part. Usually I tend to write-off such exercises like that but what saves this issue is the self-deprecating humor and the tremendously surreal yet awesome artwork that can be found throughout this issue. There’s an old saying that goes “When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.” Boy does Steve Gerber make plenty of lemonade in terms of this issue, which fans frequently mention as being among the most memorable of the original 1970’s Howard the Duck comic books.

This issue is also the one that ends Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 1. The book has a few extras, such as a reprint of the original sepia Howard the Duck for President campaign poster and the original art for the campaign button that Steve Gerber sold as part of his sideline business, Mad Genius Associates. There is a reprint of Crazy magazine #19 “Presidential Hopefuls” article that consists of caricature drawings and poems devoted to each person who ran in the 1976 presidential campaign, including Howard the Duck. (Crazy magazine was a black and white humor magazine that was Marvel’s attempt to compete with similar black and white humor magazines like Mad and Cracked.) There are vintage ads and campaign bulletins related to Howard the Duck’s ill-fated presidential campaign on the fictional All-Night Party. There’s an in-depth FOOM magazine interview with Steve Gerber and other staffers who worked on the comic book series. The volume ends with a heartfelt essay by Steve Gerber about Howard the Duck that he wrote in a hospital bed shortly before his death in 2008.

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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