Previous post in this series.

Continuing this summer’s series of Throwback Thursday posts dedicated to Howard the Duck.

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Howard the Duck #23
Star Waaugh
April, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Val Mayerik, artist; I. Watanabe, inker; Janice Cohen, colorist

This issue is the second of a two-part Star Wars parody that was created as a result of a reunion of the original co-creators of Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.

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Synopsis: This issue picks up where the last one left off as Bzzk Joh manages to enter the castle through the Waters of Eternity and kidnaps Jennifer Kale while threatening to make her bald if anyone tries to rescue her. Bzzk Joh mentions that he’s the head of the Imperium Imporium, which has been buying up property all over the galaxy in order to build a giant shopping mall that will be the ultimate in crassness.

Bzzk Joh sinks back into the Waters of Eternity with Jennifer Kale as his hostage. As she sinks after Bzzk Joh, she raises a hand out of the water and quickly conducts a spell before she is entirely submerged. Korek attempts to dive into the Waters of Eternity only to have that water turn solid and Korek crashes his body on the hard surface.

Jennifer Kale’s last-minute spell results in the creation of two druid-droids (which are the magical equivalent of robots) known as NAAC-P30 and 2-2-2-2, who is nicknamed Tutu and resembles a trashcan. NAAC-P30 and Tutu were created to serve as guides for Howard, Korrek, and the Man-Thing.

The two druid-droids eventually lead the others to a spaceship known as the Epoch Weasel. The ship flies right up to a giant tractor trailer that’s flying in outer space with the words Imperium Imporium on the side. The tractor trailer attacks by releasing a bunch of various men’s products (such as electric razors and watches) followed by all kinds of housewares (such as blenders and cast iron skillets). The items crash into the Epoch Weasel. The Imperium Imporium also uses psychological warfare in the form of a customer service agent who’s unleashed into space shouting “NO!” repeatedly.

The Epoch Weasel’s engines die so the spaceship lands on a planet known as Boorbanq. They enter the Hollywok Canteen, which is noted for its “Plastic Szechuan Cuisine,” and see that it’s full of Californian men wearing leisure suits. Korrek is sent to hobnob with the people inside because he’s the one person in the group who could blend in the best with these Southern Californians, despite the fact that Korrek is a barbarian from a time period hundreds of years before the 1970’s. Korrek schmoozes among the people initially until he meets with a hamburger-headed man known as Big Mack and Korrek totally loses it by punching Big Mack’s hamburger head while saying “Have a nice day!” The California men start to surround Korrek. Howard tried to defend Korrek by using the Farce, which turns out to be a joke flag gun that shoots out a flag reading “Down With Peacocks!” It leads to the California men suddenly collapsing under the weight of their own pretensions because they couldn’t understand that the Farce is really a joke flag gun.

Meanwhile Bzzk Joh looks over the inventory of the Imperium Imporium and decides that it’s time to approach a bound and gagged Jennifer Kale. He starts to tickle her.

Howard and the others somehow manage to borrow another space cruiser where they find the Death Store—the Imperium Imporium itself. Tutu manages to find an entrance to the Death Store by detecting irregularities in the store’s bookkeeping department. They find Bzzk Joh in the middle of his tickle session with Jennifer Kale. The subsequent battle begins, complete with Bzzk Joh’s people hurling perfume bottles, office supplies, and sporting equipment at Jennifer Kale’s would-be rescuers.

Howard and the Man-Thing catch up with Bzzk Joh, who unleashes his two secret weapons—the Dearth Vapors—who turn out to be a wholesome-looking duo with bright smiling teeth who resemble Donny and Marie Osmond. When they start to smile, their teeth shoots out saccharine, which covers the Man-Thing and Howard. The Man-Thing becomes so angry that he bursts out of his saccharine covering, lays his hands off the Dearth Vapors, and melts the pair.

Howard finally uses the Farce on Bzzk Joh. The flag message, which reads “You Have No Sense of Humor,” is enough to neutralize Bzzk Joh as he starts to break down and cry. Howard frees Jennifer Kale.

Everyone races back to the space cruiser because Tutu had activated every item in the store’s toy department and the Death Store is on the verge of exploding. As the space cruiser flies away, the Death Store explodes, presumably killing Bzzk Joh and everyone else who was on board.

Topical 1970’s Reference: Like its predecessor, this issue is also a parody of Star Wars. At the time only the first movie had been released with simply the Star Wars title but it has since been renamed Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. The biggest irony is that years after this issue was released Disney would buy both Marvel and the Star Wars franchise so they now co-exist under the same corporation.

NAAC-P30 begins to pilot the Epoch Weasel by pressing the button marked “Bat Out of Hell,” which also happens to be the title of Meat Loaf’s first album that was released in 1977 and it became one of the best-selling albums in the history of recorded music. Here’s a vintage video of Meat Loaf performing the title track from Bat Out of Hell.

The planet Boorbanq is modeled after Burbank in California, which is frequently billed as the Media Capital of the World. The clientele is modeled after the stereotypical 1970’s leisure suit-wearing Southern California men. One customer, Big Mack, is a hilarious riff on Mayor McCheese from those McDonald’s ads.


The two Dearth Vapors resemble Donny and Marie Osmond, who had their own hit music variety show, Donny & Marie. While I was doing some online research while I was writing this, I came across this clip from an episode of the Donny & Marie show that is a Star Wars musical parody.

Bzzk Joh, an infamous real estate developer with his frequent tendency towards being a loudmouthed braggart brings to mind another infamous real estate developer with an equal tendency towards being a loudmouthed braggart who is currently running for President of the United States as I’m typing this in 2016—Donald Trump. Even though Trump wouldn’t become famous on the national stage for another few years (with the publication of his first book, The Art of the Deal, in 1987), he became a local celebrity in New York City after he moved to Manhattan in 1971 while getting involved in larger construction projects that used attractive architectural design to win public recognition. What’s more Donald Trump started to court the New York media in the 1970’s by using his two publicists named John Barron and John Miller. Recently it was revealed that the real identities of the two publicists named John were none other than Donald Trump himself. Since Marvel is based in New York City, it’s not that big of a stretch to think that it’s possible that Bzzk Joh was modeled after The Donald.

As for Bzzk Joh’s Imperium Imporium, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if it was based on Walmart. At that time Walmart founder Sam Walton had been aggressively expanding his stores into rural areas of the U.S. by both buying up regional discount chains like Mohr-Value and buying land to build his stores, which grew increasingly bigger.

The Bottom Line: The second part of the Star Wars parody is even funnier than the first part as this issue not only skewers that movie but also every single aspect of 1970’s pop culture. The only time the jokes fell flat was when it came to naming one of the druid-droids. The shorter druid-droid’s name, 2-2-2-2, is a hilarious take on R2-D2 along with its nickname, Tutu. As for the C-3PO parody, it’s obvious that NAAC-P30’s name is patterned after the NAACP. That one falls flat because there’s really no logical reason why the NAACP (which is the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S. and it stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) would have anything to do with science fiction other than an opportunity to riff on the acronym. Fortunately that’s the only joke that’s pretty off because the rest of the issue is funny as hell. Even if younger readers don’t get the reference to Donny and Marie Osmond, they’ll still laugh at all of the Star Wars references. It’s sheer genius to parody Star Wars’ famous Canteen scene as the Hollywok Canteen that’s located on the planet Boorbanq with the stereotypical 1970’s Southern California men dressed in leisure suits (you couldn’t get more stereotypical 1970’s than men’s leisure suits) standing in for the aliens from the original Star Wars Canteen scene. This is yet another memorable high point of the original 1970’s comic book series.

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Howard the Duck #24
Where Do You Go—What Do You Do—The Night After You Save The Universe?
May, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Tom Palmer, inker; Joe Rosen, letterer; Janice Cohen, colorist

Synopsis: The spaceship that Howard rides in after Bzzk Joh and his Imperium Imporium were both destroyed in the last issue lands on top of the apartment building where Howard is currently staying at 2 a.m. Howard bids farewell to his comrades from the last two issues before the spaceship heads back into outer space.

Howard arrives at the apartment that once belonged to his former boss (and Beverly’s uncle) Lee Switzler and he looks at the calendar. He sees that the ship S.S. Damned is due to dock in New York City many hours later. That’s the same ship that he was on with Beverly, Paul, and Winda until Doctor Bong abducted both Howard and Beverly. Howard begins to look forward to being reunited with Paul and Winda. (Beverly was forced to marry Doctor Bong and stay at the compound in the Himalayas in order to spare Howard’s life.)

Howard goes to bed and tries to get some sleep. He soon has a nightmare involving Doctor Bong and the Kidney Lady that’s so intense that he wakes up.

Howard goes to the kitchen to see if he can find a post-midnight snack and the only thing he could find was a box of slightly chewy potato chips. He takes the chips and goes to back to the bedroom where he turns on the TV set. He ends up turning on a Western where a cowboy shoots another cowboy named Howard.

Howard turns off the TV and ditches the potato chips. He decides to go outside and take a walk.

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He begins to recount the experiences he’s gone through since Beverly and Winda were abducted by a magic carpet in Howard the Duck King Size Annual #1. Howard trips over a drunken man who’s laying in the middle of the sidewalk. The drunk mistakes Howard for a woman named Marie (who’s probably either his wife or girlfriend) and grabs hold of one of Howard’s legs. A group of would-be robbers talk openly about how easy it would be to go after Howard and the drunk. Howard decides to free his leg from the drunk’s grasp by burning the drunk’s hand with his cigar. The drunk emits a scream that’s so awful that the would-be robbers run away. The drunk hangs on to Howard’s leg for a little bit longer until Howard decides to just slide his foot through the man’s grasp and manages to free himself.

As Howard walks away from his encounter with the drunk he accidentally walks into a woman carrying a bunch of bags, which results in the woman spilling the bags’ contents all over the sidewalk.Howard apologizes to the woman but the woman responds by spitting in his face.

Howard walks by a phone booth, where a payphone starts to ring. Howard answers the phone only to find that it’s an obscene phone call.

Howard walks past a woman at a bus stop. He hears that same woman scream so he races back to the bus stop. It turns out that the woman was being attacked but she managed to throw her attacker to the ground. The woman tells Howard that the attacker is her husband and they’ve been playing some kind of a kinky game for the past two weeks where the woman waits outside late at night, her husband tries to attack her, and she fights back by knocking him to the ground.

Howard walks into a donut shop that’s open all night only to find it deserted. He hears mumbling from behind the counter, where he discovers a donut shop clerk whose hands and feet are tied up with a donut stuffed in his mouth. Howard frees him and the donut shop clerk tells Howard about how a dissatisfied customer had demanded his money back because he claimed that he broke a tooth biting into a donut he purchased at that shop.  When the clerk refused, the customer punches the clerk, ties him up, puts the donut in his mouth, and empties the cash register before walking out of the shop. Howard offers to call the police but the donut shop clerk refuses because he says that the customer only took a couple of dollars because it had been a slow night. The grateful clerk offers Howard a free donut and a cup of coffee. Howard turns down the donut but drinks the free coffee. Howard talks with the clerk until it’s close to the time where the S.S. Damned is due to dock.

Howard rushes to Pier 43 just in time to see Paul and Winda disembark from the ship. Once Howard greets them, he falls asleep in Winda’s arms. As the couple walk away with a sleeping Howard they remark that Howard’s fortune is going to change when he wakes up (while providing a cliffhanger for the next issue).

Topical 1970’s Reference: Howard walking past a payphone, which is definitely a throwback to an era before most people carried around their own cell phones. I used to frequently see payphones everywhere but now I can’t even tell you when I’ve last seen a payphone anywhere. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve even seen a payphone, let alone a phone booth.

The Bottom Line: This is one of the more surreal issues (yet nowhere near as surreal as issue 16) as Howard, who’s fresh from his recent adventure in outer space, walks around the streets of New York City in the middle of the night due to insomnia. While Howard encounters ordinary people with no superpower or magical ability of any kind, they are still in situations that are either bizarre, dysfunctional, or both. This issue is an okay issue in that it’s entertaining seeing Howard encounter New Yorkers of all types in the middle of the night but it lacks the wicked satire of the two previous issues (which was a two-part Star Wars parody) or the classic “Howard for President” story arc (as depicted in Howard the Duck #7, Marvel Treasury Edition #12: Howard the Duck, and Howard the Duck #8). It is a pretty interesting glimpse of what a Marvel character does during his downtime between dealing with super villains or strange situations, which is pretty rare in comic books. (I don’t recall ever seeing a story on what Spider-Man or Wolverine do when they have the day off from fighting super villains.)

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Howard the Duck #25
Getting Smooth!
June, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Klaus Janson, inker; I. Watanabe, letterer; Jan Cohen, colorist

Synopsis: The story begins in the Boys’ Department at Macy’s where Howard is trying on various outfits while Paul and Winda look on. Once Howard decides on a new suit, Paul pulls out a wad of cash and pays for the suit on the spot. Howard chides Paul for flashing cash because he’s concerned that it will make him into a mugging victim. Paul then buys a box of expensive cigars with cash and gives Howard one of them.

Paul hails a taxi where the three of them ride to a luxury hotel. During the drive, Paul recounts his time on the S.S. Damned after Howard and Beverly were abducted by Doctor Bong. Paul spent much of his time drawing in his sketchbook. One day Paul decided to draw a woman who turned out to be a wealthy socialite and heiress named Iris Raritan. Paul offered to give Iris his sketch but she insisted on buying it instead. She told Paul that she wasn’t the only affluent passenger on that ship and that there were others willing to pay for his sketches. Paul started getting more sketching commissions on that ship due to Iris’ connections.

The three enter the hotel lobby only to have an employee point at Howard and say that the hotel does not allow pets. When Howard verbally protests, the employee drops the subject and leads the three to the room where Iris is holding a special reception. Iris introduces the three to a circus owner and ringmaster named Mr. Thraller, who plans on having his circus perform at Iris’ Friday evening party. Iris also tells the three that they are invited to the party as well.

Meanwhile Beverly makes her first appearance in this comic book since issue #18. Not surprisingly she’s unhappy about her forced marriage to Doctor Bong and it doesn’t help that Doctor Bong has been more involved with working in his laboratory than spending any time with his bride. It’s implied that since Doctor Bong has won Beverly from Howard, she has become just another possession that he can neglect in favor of more recent interests and pursuits. Beverly finally becomes fed up with being the neglected wife so she barges over to Doctor Bon’s laboratory and demands that he removes his bell mask so the two of them can, in her words, “play house.” The scene ends with the couple kissing while Doctor Bong’s mutant minions watch and clap.

The story picks up in New York City a few days later as Howard, Paul and Winda are in the apartment that was once rented by Beverly’s uncle, Lee, but Howard is allowed to stay in it until the end of the month because Lee had already paid the rent. Lee calls Howard from Cleveland and tells him that he has just lined up a new business opportunity and he wants to take Howard in as a partner. Howard accepts the offer and hangs up the phone. Paul, Winda, and Howard take a taxi to Iris Raritan’s Long Island mansion where her party is being held. When the trio arrive, Iris formally introduces Paul to her other guests as her latest discovery while introducing the other two as Paul’s companions. The wealthy guests are suddenly shocked at seeing a well-dressed duck.

While Iris is showing Paul around to the other guests, Winda and Howard attempt to schmooze the other guests only to have these guests look down on them. One guest made a snarky remark about Winda’s lisp and how she finds Howard’s presence to be distasteful because she thinks he’s a midget in a duck costume. Winda snarks back at that guest.

Mr. Thraller’s circus begin its performance inside of Iris’ mansion while introducing Cannonball, Princess Python, The Clown, and The Great Gabonnos. The circus performers do their initial routines then Mr. Thraller tells the guests to look his way while he hypnotizes them. As the guests are hypnotized, the circus performers start to steal the guests’ valuables including money, wallets, and jewelry.

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Mr. Thraller decides to take a hypnotized Howard by the hand and lead him to the circus truck where the circus kidnaps the duck. As the truck heads towards Pennsylvania, all of the guests at Iris’ party eventually regain consciousness and they realized that they had been robbed. Howard regains consciousness inside of a trunk in the circus truck where he bangs on the lid until Mr. Thraller opens the lid. He tells Howard that the duck is now part of the circus and if he refuses to go along with his new situation, he will tell the authorities that Howard was an accessory to the robbery at Iris Raritan’s party and he will end up in prison with the rest of the Circus of Crime.

Topical 1970’s Reference: Howard’s frequent warnings to Paul that he could become a mugging victim for showing off wads of cash was a reference to the really bad crime problem that New York City had back in the 1970’s.

The Bottom Line: I cringed when I saw Beverly demanding some quality time from Doctor Bong, especially since she didn’t willingly marry him out of love. (She only married him because he threatened to kill Howard if she refused.) If I had been forced into a marriage like that, trying to beg my husband for attention would be the last thing I’d do. In fact, I would be way more bitter at him for forcing me into such a horrible situation. It’s possible that the writer Steve Gerber was trying to either demonstrate Stockholm Syndrome or have Beverly simply try to make the best out of a bad situation. If either scenario is the case, it’s such a vague and poorly written scene. It just left me with an unfavorable impression of Beverly as someone who is weak enough to seek affection from her own kidnapper who forced her to marry him instead of being an independent woman with enough of a mind of her own to try to think of ways of escaping from that castle in the Himalayas.

The rest of the issue is pretty interesting. There’s the classism strewn throughout that party scene from Winda facing the wealthy snobby woman who looked down on her for her lisp to Iris parading Paul around like he was her latest possession. There’s the excessive throwing around of money where Iris was able to actually hire a circus to give a private performance at her party. And then there is the circus itself, which is really run by a gang of thieves who use the circus as a cover so the ringmaster can hypnotize his audience while the rest of the circus performers rob the audience of their valuables. The idea of a Circus of Crime is pretty unique and very funny.

These issues were reprinted in Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 2, which can be purchased onine at AbeBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookDepository, 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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