Howard the Duck is a comic book character in the Marvel Comics universe created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik. The character first appeared in Adventure into Fear #19 (Dec. 1973) and several subsequent series have chronicled the misadventures of the ill-tempered, anthropomorphic, "funny animal" trapped on human-dominated Earth. Howard's adventures are generally social satire, while a few are parodies of genre fiction with a metafiction awareness of the medium. The book is existentialist, and its main joke, according to Gerber, is that there is no joke: "that life's most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view."
Howard the Duck was created in 1973 by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik in Adventure into Fear as a secondary character in that comic's Man-Thing feature. He graduated to his own backup feature in Giant-Size Man-Thing, confronting such bizarre horror-parody characters as the Hellcow and the Man-Frog, before acquiring his own comic book title with Howard the Duck #1 in 1976.
Gerber wrote 27 issues of the series (for the most part ditching the horror parodies), illustrated by a variety of artists, beginning with Frank Brunner. Brunner left the series because he considered Howard a cartoon in the real world, whereas for Gerber, Howard was a flesh and blood duck. According to Gerber, "if Wile E. Coyote gets run over by a steamroller, the result is a pancake-flat coyote who can be expected to snap back to three dimensions within moments; if Howard gets run over by a steamroller, the result is blood on asphalt." Gene Colan eventually became the regular penciller. The series gradually developed a substantial cult following, and Howard became a mock candidate in the 1976 U.S. presidential campaign under the auspices of the All-Night Party. Marvel attempted a spin-off with a short-lived Howard the Duck newspaper comic strip from 1977 to 1978, at first written by Gerber and drawn by Colan and Mayerik, later written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Alan Kupperberg.
Gerber gained a degree of creative autonomy when he became Howard the Duck's editor in addition to his writing duties, and the stories became increasingly experimental. At one point, unable to meet the deadline for his regular script, Gerber substituted an entire issue of text pieces and illustrations satirizing his own difficulties as a writer.
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