JUSTIN’S PICK :: HOWARD THE DUCK #1: I’m a big fan of Howard. The guy’s on my business card, and indelibly inked onto me corporeally. Also, he’s in my heart and soul. A childhood love for that foul (see what I did there?) movie lead to a rekindled personal interest in the funnypapers. A lot of that had to do with the late, great Steve Gerber, the Duck’s creator and chronicler, and how his work provided a hitherto nonexistent intersection of comics and “comix”. Howard was the consummate outsider, but also a staunch everyman and rugged individualist. Personalities like that usually end up the most incisive of social critics. And that was Steve Gerber’s tack: Howard was his mouthpiece, his means of satirizing not only the insular culture of comics, but the pop culture abroad as well (even post Y2K, Gerbs was savaging his psychic surroundings…see Howard’s brilliant and underrated six issue MAX series if you don’t believe me). Howard WAS Gerber, and in other writers’ hands, well, he’s never been quite right.
Therefore, I do not envy Chip Zdarsky. Granted, people like me – fanatical Duck fans – aren’t a flock large enough to generate a blip on the radar (these duck puns are making me very ashamed of myself), but like Ty Templeton before him, Zdarsky is using high concept as his entry point, i.e. Howard the Duck PI. That’s fine, I’ll give him a fair shake; he’s demonstrated a singular enough sense of humor. He could do worse for collaborators: Joe Quinones may be drawing Howard with four fingers, but otherwise, he is a stellar artist, whose work is both elegant and entertaining, technically proficient without sacrificing storytelling. And our man Rico Renzi will certainly punch things up with his usual panache. Me? I approach the book with a strange mix of enthusiasm and trepidation. A lot of people saw that movie, and a lot of them sat through those credits. Will they all understand that there is soul behind the smartassery? That satire is the essence of what Howard is, or should be? Or do they just want a cuddly ducky with a cranky attitude to placate them for a few months, ‘til the next fad pops up?