Sunday, April 24, 2016

Howard the Duck Omnibus

The Omnibus edition of Howard the Duck's 1970s comic run has been around in two different editions. I think the first was published around 2008. After this went out of print, the Guardians of the Galaxy movie with Howard's appearance in the post credits spurred a new printing. I resisted all of this until Rich Johnston reported that Marvel was clearing out many Omnibus' and letting them go out of print. I snapped it up for less than $50, not sure if I would keep it for selling later or reading. But yesterday during Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon I decided to unwrap it and read it!

It's kind of joy to read, a real trip down memory lane. Steve Gerber wrote a nice introduction back in 2008 for the first printing, where he describes Howard's publishing history, even talking briefly about the lawsuit. He seemed to be very proud of his creation and was glad it was reprinted in the Omnibus.

The very first Howard appearance in the the 2-part Fear / Man-Thing #1 story are included, and while I love Man-Thing, the artwork seems sketchy blown up to the Omnibus size.

But the first three stories by Frank Brunner, from Giant Size Man-Thing #4-5 and Howard the Duck #1, are jaw droppingly gorgeous. His artwork translates well to these oversized pages, and I always loved the light hearted nature of these first Howard tales.

If you were around and collecting comics back then, you will remember the speculator frenzy of Howard the Duck #1. I got a copy off the newsstand but others were unable to get it, prices went up sky high. Some people said this was a rigged game by people getting bundles of comics at the distributors before they went on sale. It's nice to have this historic issue reprinted here and again, it looks fantastic. Many first issues of new series featured an appearance by Spider-Man to draw reader interest, and that happened here - it's a funny story, despite the fact part of the plot is driven by Howard wanting to commit suicide.

The later issues with Gene Colan's artwork are, in some cases, a bit of a letdown. The stories themselves are funny, no problem there, especially whenever the Kidney Lady or Dr Bong show up. My personal favorite is the issue where Howard meets Daimon Hellstrom and accidentally becomes the Duck of Satan. The problem I have with the artwork is that Colan's artwork doesn't look as great in this oversized format as his Tomb of Dracula work. The difference is the inking / coloring; ToD had the great Tom Palmer - that artwork stands the test of time and resizing. Not the Howard stuff, it looks a bit sketchy. It's a minor quibble and probably other collectors won't have the same feeling as I do.

Another letdown is the lack of letter page columns reprinted! The Fantastic Four Omnibus' had them, not sure why they are not included here. Stan Lee wrote a letter about how much he liked the Quack Fu story in HTD #3.

What is included is plenty of supplemental material about Howard the Duck's 1976 Presidential Campaign, including the ads for campaign buttons, which I always thought must have gone directly to Steve Gerber's home address? Berni Wrightson drew the image for the campaign button and this special lithograph in 1976.

There is also an interview between Gerber and Colan about their work on Howard. And all the remaining issues of HTD after Gerber left, which are quite frankly terrible, but none of the black and white Howard the Duck magazine.

For a fan of Steve Gerber and Howard the Duck, it's a great addition to your bookshelf. Nuff Said!

1 comment:

  1. I don't have the Omnibus, but I've got the first two volumes of 'Howard The Duck The Complete Collection', which contains all of the contents of the Omnibus, plus the first b&w issue. It was great to re-read the colour stories in their original comicbook size. Issue #3 is a classic!