writer: Ty Templeton
penciller: Juan Bobillo
Granted, Howard stands as one of those characters that
nobody can quite understand how they got popular in the
first place. Amidst the strange, quasi-philosophical horrors
of the swamp, a cigar-chomping duck must have just seemed
like an, "oh, wow, yeah" moment. Maybe there was just something
in the water supply when I was ten.
It also seems odd that this week Marvel delivers a one-two
punch or kiss to Steve Gerber, creator of Howard and the
even more cultish Omega the Unknown, reviving both
in mini-series that will surely cause more controversy among,
well, the cultishly minded comics fans.
Being part of the Howard cult has always been difficult,
as some writers and artists have gotten a fair enough chunk
of what makes Howard tick, but more often than not (George
Lucas), they don't get it at all. It looks like Ty Templeton
and Juan Bobillo at least get part of it.
For years, the rumor has been that Howard's appearance
ruffled some feathers at Disney, memorably causing Howard
to have to wear pants. Later Marvel's art department altered
his appearance some, making him rounder but no less Donald-like.
When Steve Gerber came back for Howard's appearance in the
MAX line, he mocked the issue by having Howard become a
rat, among other animals. The re-design isn't over, as Bobillo's
take on Howard may be the most controversial aspect of this
(People are more upset about this than Howard's teaming
up with Artie and Leech in Daydreamers.)
So, is this purposely moving further away from looking
like Donald, or is it just Bobillo's idiosyncratic style?
Look closely, and you'll notice that his version of Man-Thing
looks more like a pissed-off fern than the huge muck monster
we're used to seeing. More likely, it's Bobillo following
something about Templeton's script - Howard is a cranky,
middle-aged tired resident of Cleveland that happens to
be a duck. Right or wrong, this isn't quite Howard; it's
Harvey Pekar with feathers and a bill.
While Templeton has the cranky down pat and does portray
Howard as genuinely caring for Bev, he's also missed the
grudging sweetness that Gerber gave Howard. Once upon a
time, the duck had a decent-sized supporting cast of oddballs
that found him almost charming. Instead here, he grouses
and gets his feathers ruffled a lot.
The personality may only be half-right, but at least Templeton
and Bobillo capture the quirk. Facing down fraternal twin
scientists/would-be duck hunters the Barrel Brothers, Howard
has a fairly typical adventure. It's missing a satirical
edge, but it's entertaining enough. The real set-up comes
at the end as Templeton takes a shot at a Marvel mainstay
that feels just like the old book.
It's a somewhat disappointing first issue, at least for
Howard fans (and I can't review from any other perspective),
but Templeton is a strong enough writer that may pull off
a better second issue. We'll see about the Bobillo art;
he's interesting, but may not really be the right guy for