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Duck Soup

Foul Play

How the Duck got his pants






Duck Soup


By Bill Mantlo

As it appeared in Howard the Duck Magazine #3 February 1980

Our hero is hatched. The Hard way. Some heroes are born, others are made. Howard the Duck wasn’t either- he was dropped. Y’see, it started with a wacko from another dimension who called himself the Overmaster. The Overmaster decided to play Boggle with the universe(s) and, by jiggling around the Cosmic Axis, he caused various planes of reality- alternate universes- to meet tangentially. And every time any two of these worlds touched, somebody or something would blink out of his own reality and into another! So, when the Overmaster – who turned out to be Thog the Nether-Spawn, ruler of So minus – Shuffled the Cosmic Axis, Howard was snatched from Duck world and fell through space until he landed… well, he landed in the Florida Everglades, but that’s because the Swamps, for some reason, just happened to be the nexus point of all realities.

That would hardly have made our fowl a hero, but it was more complicated than that. (Isn’t it always?) Thog, it turns out, hoped by shifting the Cosmic Axis to gain dominion over all realities. Earth, as well as various backwater locales throughout the many alternate universes, became a battleground with the forces of Good (represented by Korrek the Barbarian, Jennifer Kale and Dakimh the Sorcerer) arrayed against an army of demonic butchers who had passed "Evil" eons ago and were steadily working their way up to "Rotten". Dropped into the midst of all this, our notably unheroic drake fought for his life even as he fought down his own hysteria, until Dakimh reappeared and bamfed the quartet to his sorcerous dimension shere he explained (relatively) the whole mess, and enlisted their aid in the war against the Overmaster. They set out through a dimensional Nowhere – proceeded to a state of Un-ness – onto a ribbon that laced Nothing to Nullity – and onto the stepping stones of Oblivion. There Howard misstepped… and fell to Earth.

Earth. You’ve all heart of it, It’s two turns to the right of Alpha Centauri – a big blue marble inhabited by animals, insects… and the ruling class, hairless apes. Us, Jack. You and me.

Imagine yourself two foot-seven, feathered, webbed feet, possessed of an argumentative personality, and you’ll understand Howard’s culture shock upon arriving on our ball of mud… with no way to get home. To him, we were a contradiction – hairless apes, animals. To us, he was – well, a talking duck! It was a concept we could accept in the movies, on TV, or filled with helium and floating thirty feet up during a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but it wasn’t the kind of concept you liked to confront during the course of your day-to-day reality. Ducks – especially talking ducks – are not the status quo in Cleveland. No way in Cleveland!

Bird in an Ungilded Cage. But Howard wasn’t the kind of mallard to give in to despair. Alright, so he was in exile! So what? He could cope – he was copasetic! He’d take what this world had to offer, and wrest his fortune from the very jaws of disaster. That’s when Garko the Man-Frog leaped from a window-ledge and into Howard’s life!

Like the man said, "Perhaps the time he had spent in the Un-World hadn't made him too rash, too foolishly daring – or perhaps the sudden appearance of this monster had tapped a hitherto unknown reservoir of courage within him…" Whatever the case, Howard fought back against Garko with a savagery he’s never known before, and found himself filled with a determination to win., to carve a place for himself in this world he never made!

He won – and got arrested for his trouble. But his interlude in Cleveland’s jail was brief… lasting only as long as it took police Commissioner Gordonski to find that there was no zipper on Howard’s duck suit. Despondent, thrown from jail, nothing but Ducks-Bucks in this pockets in a town fiercely adverse to foreign currency, Howard decided the only course of salvation was in finding a job… with the police themselves! To that end he set out to ambush the notorious from killer that was making headlines and, luring the fanged and caped Hellcow to its doom, Howard expected to be justly rewarded. But Cleveland didn’t want to own up to talking ducks, be they heroes or not! The forces of law and order turned their blue backs on Howard, leaving him to face a dark and threatening world… all alone.

Lame Duck for President. Rather than that, Howard Chose suicide! Paddling out over the Cuyahoga River, he approached an ominous tower from which he intended to hurl himself, thus ending his sojourn on Earth. But the tower turned out to be made of credit cards and, scaling its synthetic outer walls, Howard cape upon a vision of loveliness held captive by the Sorcerer Accountant Pro Rata. He rescued Beverly Swiztler from the mage’s clutches with the help of a certain friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

It soon became obvious that Earth wasn’t about to allow him to off himself and that maybe – just maybe – there was some reason why he, of all the ducks on Duck world, was chosen to fall through the Cosmic Axis. Maybe Howard wasn’t just any duck! Maybe he was special! He was certainly lucky – if you can call it luck – in facing down one bizarre situation after the other, from the Deadly Space-Turnip, to Winky-Man, to pretty Patty and her Cookie Creature, to his nomination for –gasp- President of the United States!

Forget the fact that he had no chance, that he wasn’t a natural born citizen – there were still those who chose to take his candidacy seriously enough to tray to have him humiliated, controlled… or assassinated! Seeking a way out, Howard’s subconscious led him to the Greenwich Village doorway of Dr. Stephen Strange – Master of the Mystic Arts – and mage in residence of the dynamic Defenders! Displaying a certain knack for that ol’ Black – and White – Magic, Howard wielded Dr. Strange’s sorcery against a host of mediocrities… and at the same time found his decision made from him. He would stay on Earth – for awhile, at any rate.

But the pressures of running for Presidency, of dodging assassin’s bullets and yellow press took its toll on our fowl. Clearing up his and Bev’s reputation after a plot by Le Beaver to smear them both, Howard hopped a bus for Cleveland… and crackup! Yeah, like in lost marbles, the big breakdown! Between Kidney Ladies and demonic possession, he was the perfect candidate for duck’s head soup – the funny farm! He wasn’t alone, either! Between lisping Winda Wester – a nice kid whose parents thought she was possessed by the devil – Nurse Barbara, the Reverend Joon Moon Yuc and Yuccies, and – well, he looked like Adolph Hitler – Howard couldn’t tell the staff from the inmates.. Possessed by the demonic second half of Daimon Helstrom, the Son of Satan. Howard fled the asylum (and a storyline, which we promise soon to resolve!) and became reunited with Bev, Winda and Paul Same (Winky-Man).

Duck in Hot Water. Normalcy, right? Wrong. Seems even a simple shopping trip leads these days to flying carpets, magic lamps, and… well, Bagmom and an Arabian adventure. But Howard survived that with his id intact and his friends by his side. Survived, in fact, to take an ocean voyage home from that pleasant desert land aboard the SS. Damned. What could be more relaxing than a sea-cruise? Well, as it turned out, almost anything!

No sooner had the Damned set sail – er, steam – gotten underway – oh, what the heck! – than boulders from the sky and a pleasure-responsive sea-serpent heralded the ultimate menace to Howard’s longevity… the coming of the deadly Dr. Bong!

With a tape of this clapper Bong separated Bev and Howard from their horror-stricken friends and, as the Damned disappeared over the horizon, our harried hero and his lovely life mate found themselves in Castle Bong, each awaiting a grotesque fate. Bev was to marry Bong if she wished to spare Howard’s life, and Howard was to be given "Neez"! What "Neez" is would take far longer than the brief space we’ve got at our disposal here, but, needless to say, it ranked right up there with boils and the plague.. Howard politely declined, but he hadn’t much say in the matter. He was thrown into an organic stew and emerged seconds later, rescued by Fifi – Bong’s once-duck, now woman (sort of) maid – as Howard, the man!

His Duckness and his lady taken from him by Bong, Howard fled Bong’s Island in a flying Bonger, and crash-landed hapless and hopeless in New York’s Central Park. It too adrenal excitation in the arms of another female hairless ape to cause Howard to revert to his natural state, in time to flee the pursuing Bong! Flight that led to Howard’s first employment on Earth as a short-order dishwasher in a crummy 42nd Street diner, to his confrontation with Sudd the Scrubbing-Bubble that Walks like a Man, to his confrontation with the Sinister Soofi, and finally to a new friendship with his employer at the diner – Lee Switzler, who, it turned out, was Beverly Switzler’s Uncle! Small world, ain’t it?

The Horror Show Must Go On! While waiting in Lee’s apartment for the S.S. Damned to dock, Howard wound up saving the universe – again – alongside Jennifer Kale, Korrek the Barbarian, Dakimh the Sorcerer… and the macabre Man-Thing! That Star-Waaugh and Bev’s marriage to Bong left Howard Drained, In a stupor from which only his mistreatment at the conniving hands of the Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime could rouse him. Howard became… angry! He fought back with fierceness not seen since his arrival on Earth.

The Ringmaster’s nefarious schemes hospitalized Paul Same and Winda Wester. Revenge was sweet as Howard exposed the shady plot to bilk the public during circus performances and took on the Ringmaster Man-to-duck! His anger at being thrown like flotsam upon the beach of life carried Howard through his return engagement with Doctor Bong. It was one angry duck who won Beverly back and who once again approached Cleveland determined to fact the future and come out even in the lottery of life.

Flapping into the Future! And that brings us upon to today! Howard’s colorful chronology is the framework upon which our continuing history of Howard’s endeavors will be chronicled in our current crop of tales.

You’re going to see a Howard as fighting-mad and hot-to-trot as the day he fell through the Cosmic Axis! And. As for the Cosmic A – who knows, it too may soon make a new appearance! The possibilities are infinite in our new, Large-sized, epic story format, and we herewith promise that the new HOWARD THE DUCK is going to be the most dramatically dynamic Duck you’ve ever feasted you eager eyes on! See ya in Sixty!