That Howard the Duck received his own Treasury Edition while Daredevil or box office smash Iron Man did not, tells us what an impact this New Breed of Hero had on Marvelites in 1976.
I didn’t buy this comic in Strathaven although I had the opportunity. I was still smarting from the derision issue 5 had generated from a ginger kid in the playground. Now, of course, no cosseted 12-year-old colossus would sneer at a trip to Disneyland Paris but, in some ways, we were more worldly in those days.
My first tentative steps into drama, particularly of audio, were facilitated by schoolboy recordings of the Beaver and Dr. Bong stories from HTD. (blissfully unaware of any risque connotations- or copyright! I did say wordlly in some ways!) I had already explored the possibilities of a Goons scripts hardback and a reel-to-reel recorder; the satirical tone of Gerber’s and Colan’s comics struck a chord with me but seemed to baffle my S3 classmates.
It was only last year however that I bought this treasury on ebay. and I have never seen the infamous movie. How does Marvel’s four-colour foray into Underground Comix hold up today?
The Duck and the Defenders:I followed Gerber and Sal Buscema’s Defenders through most of the Headmen/Bozo storyline of 1975/76. Originally a loose alliance of Marvel’s supremely powerful anti-heroes, The Defenders had mutated into a pop psychology version of a Team Book, prefiguring Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol by over a decade.
Here, master of mundane magick Dr. Angst creates a villainous Band of the Bland: Tillie the Hun, The Spanker, The Black Hole and Sitting Bullseye, who might be a satirical swipe at Simon and Kirby’s Western hero of the 50s. The story also reminds me of the 1967 Negative Crisis on Earth-2 from JLA 55, in that the villains are empowered by “Promethium mettle spheres”. The laboured gag of “having spheres” -or growing a pair, as we say nowadays- is revisited throughout the story.
This tale wouldn’t seem out of place in the regular Defenders series and Howard’s remark about Peter Parker ( “That baby-faced masher”) is quite witty, in a fanzine vein.
The Way it All Began: this is a fragment of the Man-Thing feature in Adventure into Fear from the end of 1973. Dakimh the Enchanter, his acolyte Jennifer, the barbarian Korrek and the anthropomorphic Howard set out on a quest to right the Cosmic Axis. This is a rather limp attempt at the Headshop Kozmic bettered by Englehart’s Avengers. It also leads into…
Frog Death: the first reprint from the legendary and ribald Giant-Size Man-Thing, this appears to be a parody of the monster strips that predated the Fantastic Four -and perhaps of the less-than-stellar villains of the Seventies, like Damon Dran, the Indestructible Man; Man-Bull; Drom the Backwards Man, etc.
I first read this story as a mini-comic in a UK weekly but I can’t track down which one at present. Howard finds himself trapped on “our” Earth, like a web-footed Norrin Radd.
Hellcow: “The stranger was thirsty…and not for milk.” a parody of Wolfman’s Tomb of Dracula series, this is the only mildly amusing joke in the collection. Howard frees a heifer from the curse of vampirism and there is a cameo for Cleveland cop, Commisoner Gordonski. Holy Nosferatu, Batman.
Howard the Barbarian: “Web-foot meets Web-head!” The much sought-after premiere issue of the series is reprinted here. A moody collaboration with Frank Brunner and Tom Palmer, the story pokes fun at the tropes of Roy Thomas’s Conan series-one of Marvel’s best sellers of the period and breaking ground in the b/w magazine market. The sword-wielding mallard rescues the nubile Bev from Pro-Rata the Chief Accountant of the Universe. There is also a bathetic guest-appearance from company mascot Peter Parker.
Foom Magazine 15 from ’77 is a companion piece to the Treasury, continuing the political satire. While bizarre, this collection is not particularly funny but it pokes fun at some of the iconic fads of the Seventies.
coming soon: The LIving Vampire
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