Howard the Duck is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik. Howard the Duck first appeared in Adventure into Fear #19 (cover-dated Dec. 1973) and several subsequent series have chronicled the misadventures of the ill-tempered, anthropomorphic "funny animal" trapped on a human-dominated Earth.
Howard's adventures are generally social satires, while a few are parodies of genre fiction with a metafictional awareness of the medium. The book is existentialist, and its main joke, according to Gerber, is that there is no joke: "that life's most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view." This is diametrically opposed to screenwriter Gloria Katz, who, in adapting the comic to the screen, declared, "It's a film about a duck from outer space... It's not supposed to be an existential experience".
Howard the Duck was portrayed by Ed Gale and voiced by Chip Zien in the 1986 Howard the Duck film adaptation, and was later voiced by Seth Green in the films Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, both set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
|Howard the Duck|
|First appearance||Adventure into Fear #19 (Dec. 1973)|
Steve Gerber (Writer)|
Val Mayerik (Artist)
Circus of Crime|
|Notable aliases||Son of Satan, Leonard the Duck, Howard the Human, Iron Duck, Agent Duck, Cynical Duck|
Master of Quack-Fu|
Minimal magic manipulation
As Iron Duck:
Armored suit grants:
Superhuman strength and durability
Foot-mounted leaping coils
Flamethrowers in both arms
Howard the Duck was created by writer Steve Gerber and penciler Val Mayerik in Adventure into Fear #19 (Dec. 1973) as a secondary character in that comic's "Man-Thing" feature. He graduated to his own backup feature in Giant-Size Man-Thing #4–5 (May and Aug. 1975), confronting such bizarre horror-parody characters as Garko the Man-Frog and Bessie the Hellcow, before acquiring his own comic book title with Howard the Duck #1 in 1976.
Gerber wrote 27 issues of the series (for the most part ditching the horror parodies), illustrated by a variety of artists, beginning with Frank Brunner. For Gerber, Howard was a flesh and blood duck and that, "if Wile E. Coyote gets run over by a steamroller, the result is a pancake-flat coyote who can be expected to snap back to three dimensions within moments; if Howard gets run over by a steamroller, the result is blood on asphalt." Gene Colan became the regular penciller with issue #4. Gerber later said to Colan: "There really was almost a telepathic connection there. I would see something in my mind, and that is what you would draw! I've never had that experience with another artist before or since."
Sporting the slogan "Get Down, America!", the All-Night Party was a fictional political party that appeared in Gerber's Howard the Duck series during the U.S. Presidential campaign of 1976, and led to Howard the Duck receiving thousands of write-in votes in the actual election. Gerber addressed questions about the campaign in the letters column of the comic book and, as Mad Genius Associates, sold merchandise publicizing the campaign.
Marvel attempted a spin-off with a short-lived Howard the Duck newspaper comic strip from 1977 to 1978, at first written by Gerber and drawn by Colan and Mayerik, later written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Alan Kupperberg.
Gerber gained a degree of creative autonomy when he became Howard the Duck 's editor in addition to his writing duties. With issue #16, unable to meet the deadline for his regular script, Gerber substituted an entire issue of text pieces and illustrations satirizing his own difficulties as a writer.
In 1978, the writer and publisher clashed over issues of creative control, and Gerber was abruptly removed from the series. On August 29, 1980, after learning of Marvel's efforts to license Howard for use in film and broadcast media, Gerber filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Marvel corporate parent Cadence Industries and other parties, alleging that he was the sole owner of the character. This was one of the first highly publicized creator's rights cases in American comics, and attracted support from major industry figures, some of whom created homage/parody stories with Gerber to fund a lawsuit against Marvel; these included Destroyer Duck with Jack Kirby. The lawsuit was settled on September 24, 1982, with Gerber acknowledging that his work on the character was done as work-for-hire and that Marvel parent Cadence Industries owned "all right, title and interest" to Howard the Duck and the Howard material he had produced. On November 5, 1982, Judge David Kenyon approved the motion and dismissed the case.
Around this time The Walt Disney Company threatened to sue Marvel for infringement of copyright claiming that Howard looked too similar to Donald Duck and enforced a different design, including the use of pants (as seen in the movie and some later comics).
The series continued for four more issues with stories by Marv Wolfman, Mary Skrenes, Mark Evanier, and Bill Mantlo. Gerber returned briefly to write, though not plot, #29 as part of a contract fulfillment.
Issue #31 (May 1979) announced on its letters page that it would be the final issue of Howard the Duck as a color comic. Marvel then relaunched the series that year as a bimonthly magazine, with scripts by Mantlo, art by Colan and Michael Golden and unrelated backup features by others; this series was canceled after nine issues. Articles in these issues claimed that Howard was Mayerik's idea, though this is contrary to statements by both Gerber and Mayerik. In issue #6, Mantlo introduced the concept of "Duckworld", which Gerber loathed. It depicted an all-duck parallel Earth in which there were duck equivalents of famous people, such as "Ducktor Strange" (a parody of Doctor Strange) who later appeared in The Sensational She-Hulk (#19) and Truman Capoultry (Truman Capote), who narrated the issue. As Gerber told Mediascene: "Howard's world, which would never be depicted visually, was inhabited by other anthropomorphized animals like himself. Like the cartoon worlds of Disney and Warner Brothers. Unlike the Disney and Warners worlds, however, Howard's reality was beset with the same plethora of social ills and personal vicissitudes which human beings confront daily. And the same, or similar, laws of nature applied there, too." The first story of issue #9, written by Bill Mantlo, had Howard walk away from Beverly Switzler, and what happened to him next was documented in a story by Steve Skeates in the same issue. Steven Grant followed this with a story in Bizarre Adventures #34, in which the suicidal Howard is put through a parody of It's a Wonderful Life.
The original comic book series reappeared in early 1986 with issue #32, written by Grant. Grant had in fact written the story as a topical humor piece four years before, and as a result the jokes were outdated at the time it was published. Issue #33, a parody of Bride of Frankenstein, written by Christopher Stager, appeared nine months later, along with a three-issue adaptation of the movie. A text article in Howard the Duck #33 explained that Harvey Pekar, himself a Cleveland resident, was mentioned as a possible writer for that issue, but he was unavailable and nothing came of it.
Issue #32 was originally written by Gerber. In the story, Gerber explained that "a Krylorian Cyndi Lauper" named Chirreep had made up the events in the Mantlo stories much like the events in The Rampaging Hulk magazine were considered made up by Bereet. Marvel's then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter considered this an insult to Mantlo and Gerber's story was never published. He identified Howard's parents as Dave and Dotty, names that differ from the Mantlo stories, in which his parents are named Ronald and Henrietta. Gerber's script lampooned Secret Wars, written by Jim Shooter, but Shooter has denied this played any role in choosing to reject the story, insisting that he only took issue with the insults to Mantlo.
Gerber brought back Howard in The Sensational She-Hulk #14–17, again living with Beverly, now working as a rent-a-ninja. How they got back together is never explained and Beverly is not involved in the story as the She-Hulk takes Howard on a trip through several dimensions with a theoretical physicist from Empire State University.
Gerber returned to Howard with Spider-Man Team-Up #5, around the same time he was writing a "Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck" crossover for Image. He had the idea to create an unofficial crossover between the two issues, where the characters would meet momentarily in the shadows, but which would not affect either story. Soon after, Gerber discovered that Howard was scheduled to appear in Ghost Rider vol. 3, #81 (Jan. 1997) alongside Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy, and issues of Generation X leading up to issue #25 and the Daydreamers miniseries by J.M. DeMatteis. Gerber was not pleased with this development, and changed the "unofficial crossover" somewhat.
In Spider-Man Team-Up #5, Spider-Man, Beverly and Howard meet the Elf with a Gun and two shadowy figures (presumed to be Savage Dragon and Destroyer Duck) in a darkened warehouse, grab a disc, then leave shortly afterwards. But in the Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck crossover comic, Elf with a Gun creates thousands of clones of Howard and Beverly during a fierce battle. As Savage Dragon and Destroyer Duck escape the warehouse, they reveal that they rescued the "real" Howard and Beverly, while Spider-Man left with two of the clones. Howard has his feathers dyed green, and is renamed "Leonard the Duck", and Beverly has her hair dyed black and is renamed "Rhonda Martini". They made just one more appearance afterward, in a single-panel cameo in Vertigo Winter's Edge #2. Gerber considered this the real Howard and Marvel's Howard an empty shell.
In 2001, when Marvel launched its MAX imprint of "mature readers" comics, Gerber returned to write the six-issue Howard the Duck miniseries, illustrated by Phil Winslade and Glenn Fabry. Featuring several familiar Howard the Duck characters, the series, like the original one, parodied a wide range of other comics and pop culture figures, but with considerably stronger language and sexual content than what would have been allowable 25 years earlier. The series has Doctor Bong causing Howard to go through multiple changes of form, principally into a mouse (as a parody of Mickey Mouse, in retaliation for the earlier lawsuit), and entering a chain of events parodying comics such as Witchblade, Preacher and several others, with Howard ultimately having a conversation with God in Hell.
Howard had cameo appearances in She-Hulk (vol. 2) #9 (Feb. 2005) and #3/100 (Feb. 2006, the 100th issue of all the various She-Hulk series). He returned in Howard the Duck (vol. 4) #1-4, a miniseries by writer Ty Templeton and artist Juan Bobillo, in 2007. This series was rated for ages 9 and up, though one issue was published with a Marvel Zombies tie-in cover with a parental advisory claim.
In November 2014, Marvel announced an ongoing series starting in March 2015 featuring Howard as a private investigator on Earth. The creative team will be writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones.
Howard is abducted from his home planet and is dropped into the Florida Everglades by the demon-lord Thog the Nether-Spawn, Overmaster of Sominus the Dark Domain. He meets the Man-Thing, Korrek of Katharta, Dakimh the Enchanter and Jennifer Kale, but falls off the inter-dimensional stepping stones. He materializes in Cleveland, Ohio and battles Garko the Man-Frog, for which he is arrested for disturbing the peace and mistaken for a mutant during a strip search. Released because the police fear he has mutant abilities, he encounters Bessie the Hellcow, a vampire cow.
Howard makes friends with an artists' model named Beverly Switzler and a bizarre series of encounters follow. He battles Pro-Rata, the cosmic accountant, then meets Spider-Man at the end of the battle. He battles Turnip-Man and the Kidney Lady, then learns Quak Fu, encounters the Winky Man, a sleepwalking alter ego of Beverly's artist friend, Paul Same, who would become a series regular (and share the apartment), and becomes a wrestler.
Howard and Beverly hit the road, seeking shelter in a gothic mansion where they battle a girl named Patsy and her animated gingerbread man. They eventually end up in New York City, where Howard is nominated for President of the United States by the All-Night Party. Howard battles the Band of the Bland — Dr. Angst, Sitting Bullseye, Tillie the Hun, the Spanker, and the Black Hole — alongside the Defenders. A doctored-photo scandal leads him to Canada, and the defeat of the supervillain who caused it, the Beaver, who falls to his death. Howard then suffers a nervous breakdown, and flees Bev and their situation on a bus. Unfortunately, the passengers are all believers in various weird cults, and try to interest Howard in them. His seatmates are Winda Wester (afflicted with an Elmer Fudd-like speech impediment) and S. Blotte, the Kidney Lady. After the bus crashes, Howard and Winda are sent to a mental institution. There he meets Daimon Hellstrom, and is briefly possessed by Hellstrom's demonic soul, becoming the new Son of Satan. Beverly and Paul get them both back to Cleveland. Later, while on the S. S. Damned, a cruise ship returning from scenic Bagmom, Howard and Beverly are taken captive by Lester Verde, who had a crush on Beverly in college and has now assumed the identity of the supervillain Doctor Bong, who illegally marries Beverly against her will and transforms Howard into a human. After escaping back to New York and being restored to his natural form, Howard is hired as a dishwasher by Beverly's uncle and namesake, who goes by the name Lee. Howard battles Sudd, the Scrubbing Bubble that Walks like a Man and then battles the terrorist group S.O.O.F.I. (Save Our Offspring From Indecency). Howard is then reunited with Dakihm the Enchanter, the Man-Thing, Korrek and Jennifer Kale, and they all battle the demon Bzzk'Joh. After finally meeting up with the cruise ship that rescued Paul and Winda, now befriended by socialite Iris Raritan, he then attends her party on Long Island, where he is abducted by the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. Paul is shot and left in a coma, and Winda, abandoned by Paul and Iris, is apparently raped by a hobo. After defeating the Circus of Crime, Howard, plagued by pessimistic dreams, goes his way alone, as he had at the beginning of the series.
Writer Bill Mantlo, beginning with issue #30, returned the series to its former status quo, bringing Beverly back into the picture and having her divorce Doctor Bong, and getting Paul, who had been shot by the Ringmaster, out of the hospital. Lee Switzler brings everyone back to Cleveland and employs Howard as a cab driver, while Paul, back to being a somnambulist after his release from the hospital, seems to have become Winda's boyfriend. Howard dons a suit of "Iron Duck" armor made by Claude Starkowitz, a man who has delusions of being related to Tony Stark and the personal armorer to Iron Man, and battles Doctor Bong. He encounters Dracula, and even returns to Duckworld at one point. At the end of the magazine series, Howard walks away from Beverly (at her request). After that, he is mistaken for "Duck Drake, Private Eye", meets CeCe Ryder when hitchhiking and battles the Gopher, and is later offered a genetically constructed mate whom he does not take to.
She-Hulk accidentally pulls him though a cosmic wormhole, and along with theoretical physicist Brent Wilcox, they prevent other universes from crowding out Earth-616. By this point, Beverly is working as a rent-a-ninja. Howard met the Critic, traveled to the Baloneyverse, and battled the Band of the Bland again.
In an encounter with Peter Parker, Ben Reilly (the then-current Spider-Man), and a rematch with the Circus of Crime, Howard and Beverly get stuck in a warehouse full of anthropomorphic ducks, briefly meeting the Savage Dragon and Destroyer Duck. The group leaves the warehouse believing that they have brought the correct Howard with them.
The sorceress Jennifer Kale, in a weekly attempt to return Howard (a Howard with stubble who accuses her and Doctor Strange of being responsible for bringing him to this world) to his home world, inadvertently teleports Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy into her New York apartment. The disoriented dinosaur attempts to eat Howard, but spits him out when shot with John Blaze's hellfire gun, then rampages through the city before being subdued by Ghost Rider (Daniel Ketch). Howard relates to the pair being trapped in a world they never made and wanders off.
After a series of adventures with Generation X, Howard gets a job as a department store Santa Claus, which gets him dragged to the North Pole, where the real Santa Claus has sold out to HYDRA. Howard goes through several dimensions, apparently through the power of Man-Thing, who can now talk but does not understand this ability, and lands on a version of Duckworld where his parents are essentially Ward and June Cleaver, he has a sister named Princess, and he is regarded as a hero because his activities on Earth-616 were recognized by Duckworld's version of Reed Richards. This origin traces the source of these dimensions to be projections from Franklin's mind, though through the course of the adventure, Howard has a romance with Tana Nile, culminating in a kiss, after which he apologizes and tells her of his attachment to Beverly. When Franklin understands that he has shaped all of these worlds, they find themselves back in Man-Thing's swamp. While Man-Thing became a self-appointed guardian to Franklin Richards, Howard went off on his own and was captured by the Cult of Entropy, who wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Although we last saw him in the swamp, he states that he was thrown into baggage and transported on a plane. The cult wants him because he has part of the Nexus of All Realities, which shattered during Heroes Reborn, inside him, which he knows about because it is making him nauseous. Man-Thing enters his gullet, and Howard vomits him back out with the fragment, but the former is left desiccated and practically dead. He then encountered Namor, who thought he had slain the creature, but Howard explains that he would not be lugging his friend's body if that were the case. Howard sets Man-Thing down in the water, and he revives during the conversation with Namor. Once he sees that Man-Thing is alive and well, he bids Namor farewell and says that he is returning to Cleveland.
Back with Beverly, he undergoes further shapeshifting experiments from Doctor Bong. Beverly is hired by Verde's Globally Branded Content Corporation, which manufactures boy bands from protein vats based on the sexual arousal of a focus group of gay men. Attempting to destroy an escapee whom Beverly has taken in, Bong inadvertently knocks Howard into a vat, which changes him, unstably, into a mouse—showering changes his form multiple times. Verde then goes to the press and claims that his building was attacked by Osama el-Barka ("Osama the Duck" in Arabic). Howard and Beverly are sent back on the road after the junkyard office where they are living is destroyed by a S.W.A.T. team. Denied admittance to every possible shelter due to lack of funds, the pair and their dog find a sign for the Boarding House of Mystery, but are taken to the police station for questioning and strip searches by Suzy Pazuzu, with whom Beverly had attended high school. One of the officers on the case is the same beat cop who mistook Howard for a mutant many years before. Suzy is the inheritor of the doucheblade, which starts to take her over until in a skirmish, the bracelet is caught by Howard. The doucheblade causes its holder to grow enormous bare breasts and armor in a parody of Witchblade, and possessed by this, Howard kills the male lover of a businessman who works with Verde as he and Verde break into Suzy's house.
Arriving at the Boarding House of Mystery, Howard and Beverly encounter Cain and Abel, the latter with a rock stuck in his head that allows him only moments of lucidity. There, they are granted their every wish, including Howard's return to his true form, and Beverly never being tight again, and meet parodies of John Constantine, Wesley Dodds, the Endless, Spider Jerusalem, and Gerber's own Nevada (called Utah), all characters from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. The downside is that everyone staying in the place gets their every wish, so Che Guevara can have his revolution, but someone else can easily slaughter him. One tenant, a writer named Mr. Gommorah (a parody of Spider Jerusalem), takes Beverly and Howard to be on the Iprah Show with the topic "Why Women Give It to Men Who Don't Get It", guest starring Dr. Phlip. Upon leaving the house, Howard is once again transformed into a mouse. Iprah has been merged with an experiment by the Angel Gabriel called Deuteronomy, intended to replace God, because God has been spending all his time in a bar in Hell since 1938. Deuteronomy is a creature half-id and half-superego, while Iprah is an all-ego promoter of self-indulgent pop psychology. Considering her dangerous, Gabriel sends the cherub Thrasher to resurrect Sigmund Freud, whose cigar blasts out half of Thrasher's brains (being immortal, this just makes him act drunk). Iprah destroys Freud, but Howard blasts her with the cigar, separating her from Deuteronomy. Puffing on the cigar, Howard disintegrates and arrives in Hell. He is eventually freed by Yah, a being who claims to be "God". A few years later he was reunited with his parents and brother at a baseball game in Dakvorlde.
Sometime later, Howard attempts to register under the Superhero Registration Act during the superhero Civil War, but learns his socially disrupted life has created so many bureaucratic headaches that the government's official policy is that Howard does not exist. This lack of government oversight delights him: "For the rest of my life, no more parking tickets, or taxes, or jury duty. Heck, I couldn't even vote if I wanted to!" In this story Howard says he was pressured to give up his cigars.
After he defeats the supervillain M.O.D.O.T.’s scheme to control the public through mass media, his attorney, Jennifer Walters, successfully restores his citizenship including all relevant responsibilities.
Howard the Duck is briefly seen as part of the superpowered army gathered to battle invading Skrull forces. He is seen armed with a pistol and wearing a Skrull's hand around his neck. He is later seen kicking a Skrull during interrogation after the invasion. Brian Michael Bendis has commented when asked of Howard: "That character has shown up in six issues I've done, and I've never typed the words Howard the Duck".
During the Fear Itself storyline, Howard forms a team called the Fearsome Four with She-Hulk, Frankenstein's Monster and Nighthawk to stop the Man-Thing when he goes on a rampage in Manhattan, due to the fear and chaos he senses on the citizens. They later discover a plot by Psycho-Man to use Man-Thing's volatile empathy to create a weapon.
Howard and Beverly were brainwashed and forced to work for S.O.O.F.I. as Cynical Duck and Swizzle. They promoted S.O.O.F.I. at a public speech held for them by J. Jonah Jameson. Spider-Man interrupted a S.O.O.F.I. indoctrination at the New York Public Library, and Beverly and the other S.O.O.F.I.s saw Spidey as a semi-demonic figure and attacked. Spidey escaped with Howard and broke his brainwashing because Beverly was threatened. Howard quickly explained S.O.O.F.I.'s goals to Spider-Man. As Spider-Man publicly announced his long-standing support for S.O.O.F.I., Howard confronted Bev as she stood by the Supreme S.O.O.F.I.. Howard broke through to Beverly, reminding her of their past. The Supreme S.O.O.F.I. ordered the S.O.O.F.I.s to throw the pair into the special Blanditron at Guantanamo Bay, and Beverly kept them at bay with her whip. Spidey attacked them and unmasked the Supreme S.O.O.F.I., while the others escaped though their teleporter. Howard believed S.O.O.F.I. would lay low for a while after such a defeat, he also hoped their Florida Everglades base might lead them to meet up with the Man-Thing.
Because of his experience with zombie-infested worlds and his leadership of Machine Man, he was chosen as the leader of, as he dubbed them, the Ducky Dozen. The team was composed of him, several Golden Age heroes, Dum-Dum Dugan, and Battlestar, who is also a veteran of a zombie incident. Upon entering Earth-12591, the Ducky Dozen fought hordes of zombie Nazis and Asgardians, but suffered grave losses as members were either killed or zombified in battle. After successfully accomplishing their mission Howard, Dugan, Taxi Taylor and Battlestar were the only members left to survive and returned to Earth-616 along with the Riveter, the only survivor of Earth-12591's resistance team the Suffragists.
Howard teamed up with his friend Doop to battle the Robo-Barbarians in Dimension ZZZ. They beat the horde back with nothing but a broken sword, a rubber chicken with nails in it and a gun that shoots bees.
After the death of Uatu the Watcher and the activation of the secrets buried in his eye, Howard discovered that he had the potential to be the most intelligent being in Duckworld. After evading a squirrel while driving, he was thrown flying and used his intellect to calculate a way to land safely in a dumpster.
Howard returned to his business as a private eye, working in the same building as She-Hulk, in Brooklyn. One of his first new clients was Jonathan Richards, who hired Howard to retrieve a necklace stolen by the Black Cat. With the help of Tara Tam, his new friend and assistant, Howard managed to recover the necklace. But on his way to give it back to Richards, he found himself kidnapped by the Collector and allied with the Guardians of the Galaxy to escape the villain's collection. Upon returning to Earth, he confronted the Ringmaster, who had been hypnotizing old people into robbing for him, after he was robbed by May Parker, Spider-Man's aunt. After recovering the necklace for a third time, Howard was approached by Richards in the middle of his fight against the Ringmaster and Richards revealed himself to be Talos the Untamed, who revealed that the necklace was part of a marginally powerful item known as the Abundant Glove. With help from Doctor Strange, Howard and Tara located the final piece of the Abundant Glove, but were unable to put it all together when Talos grabbed it, who proceeded to use it to wreak havoc on the city. Talos was confronted by numerous heroes while Howard and Tara took cover. He was able to point out that Tara, who revealed to possess shapeshifting powers similar to that of a Skrull, could help him defeat Talos. Tara used her powers to impersonate Skrull Emperor Kl'rt (Super-Skrull), distracting Talos long enough for Howard to snatch the Abundant Glove from his hand. Talos was later apprehended by the Fantastic Four and everything went back to normal. Afterwards, with the help of new arrival Gwenpool, Howard prevented HYDRA from infecting the world with a deadly virus. He also has a crossover event with The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Howard the Duck was shown to be living in She-Hulk's apartment building when Patsy Walker moves out.
Howard has no superhuman powers, but he is skilled in the martial art known as Quak-Fu, enough to defeat, or at least to hold his own against, far larger opponents. He has shown some degree of mystic talent in the past, to the point that Stephen Strange taught some spells to Howard and even offered to train him, but Howard declined.
On one occasion, Howard used a suit of powered armor known as the "Iron Duck" armor designed by Claude Starkowitz. Besides its property as body armor, the suit was equipped with foot-mounted leaping coils, a chest-mounted searchlight, and flamethrowers in both arms.
Howard the Duck, as his name suggests, is a three-foot-tall anthropomorphic duck. He generally wears a tie and shirt, and is almost always found smoking a cigar. Originally, like many cartoon ducks, he wore no pants; Disney threatened legal action due to Howard's resemblance to Donald Duck, and Marvel redesigned that aspect of the character by writing into the script that Howard was the target of anti-nudity protests, and was forced to do business with "Wally Sidney", a failed cartoonist who made his fortune through a chain of conservative clothing retailers known as "Sidney World". Howard tries on various outfits, to include ones akin to Donald Duck's sailor uniform and Uncle Scrooge's coat and top hat before settling on his new attire of a business suit complete with trousers. Although Howard sulks that he has lost, Beverly reassures him that she does not want him to be a victim of a mob, and loves him no matter what he wears.
Howard has an irritable and cynical attitude to the often bizarre events around him; he feels there is nothing special about him except that he is a duck, and though he has no goals other than seeking comfort and to be left alone, he is often dragged into dangerous adventures simply because he is visibly unusual. His series' tagline, "Trapped in a world he never made", played off the genre trappings of 1950s science fiction. A common reaction to meeting Howard the first time is a startled, "You...you're a DUCK!"
His near-constant companion and occasional girlfriend is former art model and Cleveland native Beverly Switzler. Like Howard, Beverly wants an ordinary life but is frequently singled out for her appearance, though she is a beautiful and sexy woman rather than a duck. Their only other friends are Paul Same (a painter who briefly became a sleepwalking crime-fighter named the Winky Man) and Winda Wester (a lisping ingénue with psychic powers); he has worked with Spider-Man and the Man-Thing and associates on various occasions.
Howard found himself on Earth due to a shift in "the Cosmic Axis" from a world similar to Earth, but where there are "more ducks" and "apes don't talk". In the black-and-white Howard the Duck magazine series, writer Bill Mantlo theorized that Howard came from an extra-dimensional planet called Duckworld, a planet similar to Earth where ducks, not apes, had evolved to become the dominant species. In 2001, Gerber dismissed this idea, calling it "very pedestrian" and 'comic-booky' — in the worst sense of the term." He believes Howard came from an alternate Earth populated by a variety of cartoon animals. A panel in Fear #19, prior to Howard's introduction, depicts Howard or someone like him near an anthropomorphic mouse and an anthropomorphic dog, in a hypothetical panel about other dimensions. Destroyer Duck was depicted existing in such a world, and in Howard the Duck (vol. 2) #6, Howard mentions that Moses is believed to be a moose in his world and Yeshua a flying squirrel.
His antagonists, who usually appear in a single story each, are often parodies of science fiction, fantasy, and horror characters, and sometimes political figures, but include ordinary people simply making life difficult for Howard. The chief recurring villain, Lester Verde, better known as Doctor Bong – modeled on Doctor Doom and writers Bob Greene and Lester Bangs – is a former tabloid reporter who has the power to "reorder reality" by smashing himself on the bell-shaped helmet on his head; his main goal is to marry Beverly. After several issues, she agrees to marry him to save Howard from Bong's evil experimentation, and remains married to him for some time. Doctor Bong would reappear in issues of She-Hulk and Deadpool in the mid-1990s. Other recurring villains include the Kidney Lady (S. Blotte) who has been convinced by her former lover that the soul is in the kidneys and attacks anything she sees as a threat to them, and Reverend Jun Moon Yuc and his Yuccies, a parody of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church ("Moonies"). Another important villain was the organization S.O.O.F.I. (Save Our Offspring From Indecency), whose leader was implied in the story to be Anita Bryant, though she looked like an old, fat Elvis Presley with a smiley face/orange on her head.
Other Marvel Comics characters occasionally appeared, including Spider-Man, the Son of Satan, and the Ringmaster. Omega the Unknown appeared to him in a dream, as did the founding members of the rock group KISS, and Spider-Man, whom he had previously met for real, unlike Omega.
Seemingly an autodidact, Howard at various times references Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Albert Camus (whose novel The Stranger Gerber considers the principal influence on the comic series), the Brontë sisters, and other figures of philosophical and political significance. In a parody of the Marvel comic character Shang-Chi, he was trained in the martial art of Quak-Fu. In the 2001 miniseries, as a mocking gesture toward Disney's mascot Mickey Mouse, he was turned into various animals, primarily a mouse.
In the Amalgam Comics universe, Howard the Duck is fused with Lobo to become Lobo the Duck. This character is featured in its own one-shot comic book, a seeming continuation of multiple other Lobo The Duck stories.
An alternate version of Howard the Duck becomes infected with the zombie plague, and eats the brains of the alternate-Ash that is native to that version of the Marvel Universe. He is swiftly slain by the Scarlet Witch and the original Ash Williams of the Evil Dead series.
In the miniseries Ultimate Comics: Armor Wars, a billboard advertising for "HDTV" is seen in the first panel, showing Howard.
In August 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn said, "It's possible Howard could reappear as more of a character in the Marvel [Cinematic] Universe. But if people think that's going to lead to a Howard the Duck movie, that's probably not going to happen in the next four years. Who knows after that?" In a June 2018 interview, Lea Thompson claimed that she was going to Marvel to pitch a new Howard the Duck movie, and expressed hope at directing it. Howard almost made a reappearance in Avengers: Infinity War, but was cut. He was to be voiced by Ken Jeong rather than Green.
Between June 1977 and October 1978, Howard the Duck appeared in a syndicated daily comic strip that comic strip historian Allan Holtz has described as having low distribution and that was eventually replaced by the Hulk strip. Among the handful of newspapers it appeared in (syndicated by the Register and Tribune Syndicate) were the Toronto Star and Spokane Daily Chronicle. A total of eleven story arcs, as well as a number of single-joke strips, constitute the 511 individual strips that were printed.
The strip started with original stories written by Steve Gerber and illustrated by Gene Colan: "Pop Syke", "The Cult of the Entropy" and "The Self Made Man". The latter was started by Colan and completed by Val Mayerik, who stayed on to do two additional Gerber scripted stories: "The Sleigh Jacking" and "In Search of the Good Life".
These were followed by an adaptation of the "Sleep of the Just" story from issue #4 of the Marvel comic, scripted by Gerber and illustrated by Alan Kupperberg. Colan's departure (and eventually Gerber's) grew out of escalating disagreements fueled by a dispute with Marvel over the delay in payment for work on the strip. Gerber was replaced by Marv Wolfman as writer while Alan Kupperberg continued as artist. The remaining stories were: "Close Encounters of the Fowl Kind", "The Tuesday Ruby", "The Clone Ranger", "The Mystery of the Maltese Human" and "Howard Heads Home". As the series drew to an end, its already meager list of client papers shrank, making copies of these last post-Gerber stories particularly hard to find.
In November 1978, the first of a projected eight-issue series reprinting the entire strip was published by John Zawadzki. Titled It's Adventure Time with Howard the Duck, only the initial issue was published.
December saw the debut of the cigar-smoking Howard the Duck. In this story by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik, various beings from different realities had begun turning up in the Man-Thing's Florida swamp, including this bad-tempered talking duck.
Stan Lee...recalls that the duck received thousands of write-in votes when he ran for President of the United States against Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1976.
In 1978 he took over the Howard the Duck weekly comic with Marv Wolfman.
Unfortunately, the then-editor-in-chief of Marvel requested changes in the story which I found unacceptable. As a result, I pulled the script, and it was never published.
Marvel's anthropomorphic duck, Howard, was given his own series, the first issue of which featured a guest appearance by Spider-Man to help ease new readers into the satirical title.
Disney did, in fact, threaten to sue Marvel over the appearance of Howard the Duck
The title character was no super-hero; he was just a cantankerous little guy named Howard who was, in the words of his creator, "the living embodiment of all that is querulous, opinionated, and uncool"…and happened to hail from an alternate Earth populated by "funny" cartoon animals.
I suppose that would be Albert Camus's The Stranger, which I encountered my first or second year of college. This will sound appallingly narcissistic, but that book explained me to myself, in a way that nothing I'd ever read had done before. It was my introduction to existentialism, and, in a sense, it was directly responsible for the creation of Howard the Duck.
The newspaper strip version began on June 6, 1977 at the height of Howard-mania. At first Steve Gerber and Gene Colan, the creative team on the comic book, handled the strip as well. Colan, however, dropped out after just five months, and his job was taken over by Val Mayerik, who was occasionally spelling Colan on the comic book.