|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
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
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!