Feeling a heavy dose of 1970s style malaise, Howard The Duck has checked himself into a local metal facility.  Well, actually it wasn’t his decision, thanks to the less-than-savory machinations of the Kidney Lady, but in any case…  Things are about to get a bit weird.  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Howard the Duck #13 awaits!

HowardTheDuck13CoverHOWARD THE DUCK #13
Writer: Steve Gerber
Penciler: Gene Colan
Inker: Steve Leialoha
Colorist: Janice Cohen
Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Steve Gerber
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 30 Cents/35 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $40.00/$60.00

Previously in Howard The Duck: “From the time of his hatching, he was… different.  A potentially brilliant scholar who dreaded the structured environment of school, he educated himself in the streets, taking whatever work was available, formulating his philosophy of self from what he learned of the world about him.  and then the Cosmic Axis shifted…

…and that world CHANGED.  Suddenly, he was stranded in a universe he could not fathom.  Without warning, he became a strange fowl in an even stranger land.”


Oh, yes.  I may have forgotten to mention: This is the one with KISS.  Never one of Marvel’s highest profile properties, Howard’s back-issues languished for years in quarter bins worldwide, with this sole exception, the first appearance of The Demon, The Starchild, The Catman and The Space Ace (and/or The Celestial, depending on the vintage) in comic book form.  This crossover-slash-cameo came about thanks to KISS appearing in Marvel Super-Special #1, a rollicking tale in which the foursome defeats Doctor Doom, before everybody else started to.  But why have they leapt like Athena from Winda Wester’s brow to advance on our duckie protagonist?


It seems that the band (or reasonable psycho-projections thereof) have a message for our very confused, slightly over-medicated waterfowl pal…


With their existential advice delivered, the four beings from beyond return to the ether, preparing for their giant-sized debut a couple of months later, and leaving Howard more than a little perplexed…


After that brief interlude, they are gone, never to be spoken of again.  Still, they made enough of an impression that, at a time when the other thirty-odd issues of this comic were going three for a dollar, this issue commanded two-digit prices.  (The fact that it was on of the comics that had a 35 cent variant, a trial balloon for a price hike by Marvel, made that version even more noteworthy.)  These days, Howard’s star is back on the rise, but that’s not important right now:  What’s important is what the officious Doctor Reich discovers upon viewing the results of Howard’s intake exam…


Ever since his arrival on Earth, Howard has been batted to and fro like a cosmic shuttlecock, with barely a moment to wrap his head around being trapped in a world he never made.  Most people he interacted with (Reich included) believed him to be a little person in a duck suit, trying to get attention for himself by pretending to be a duck.  Add to that his sudden burst of notoriety as a Presidential candidate, the loss of his only friend Beverly Switzler and repeatedly being fate’s butt-monkey, and Mister The Duck was actually relieved to be committed, in the hopes of getting help.  Now, reality is dousing even that faint flicker…


Howard relates to Winda (Yes, I know, but that’s apparently her name, which makes you think her parents were either incredibly cruel or trying to make things easier for her, given her issues with correctly articulating rhotic noises) the story of his life, a sad state of affairs that makes him think that he’s always been destined for loss of sanity, a misfit who never had a chance, even before he was thrown into an alien world.  Meanwhile, Doctor Reich has called in a specialist to address Winda’s sudden abilities, attributed by her parents to demonic possession…


Enter Daimon Hellstrom, known to friends in the costume bidness as The Son Of Satan!  Like KISS, Hellstrom is another character that Gerber was writing elsewhere (in Marvel Spotlight and Defenders), and is one of those “It could only have happened in this decade” guys that I adore in comics.  You can’t really explain him, other than to say that a cultural interest in horror movies, combined with an interest in the occult and the defanging of the Comics Code Authority led to what Barney Stinson would call ‘an over-correction.’  Still, he’s an expert in matters infernal and thus uniquely qualified to assess Winda’s ailments…


Daimon realizes that Winda has merely manifested strange powers, like you do, and in the Marvel Universe, where space-gods keep trying to eat New York and teenagers suddenly get lasers out their face, that’s good enough for a ticket home.  Sadly, Howard is not so lucky…


Doctor Reich’s reluctance to release the duck turns out to be more than just bureaucratic indifference, though.  He is actually (albeit unknowingly) in league with Reverend Joon Moon Yuc, a controversial cult leader with whom Howard has tangled previously.  (There was a thing with a giant cookie-Frankenstein.  It’s good times, go look it up!)  Having faked his own death, Yuc returns and take Winda for a strange arcane ritual.  Fortunately, Reich accidentally called in a superhero ringer!


Unfortunately, Reverend Yuc is once again a step ahead, not only being aware of Daimon’s paternal power source and related hell-flame abilities, but fully prepared to mystically shunt those powers away from him, thus removing Daimon as a threat.  It’s a brilliant plan, save for one small flaw…


…that Darksoul had to go someplace.

I simply love that final panel, excellent work by Gene Colan, conveying the ridiculousness of both Howard AND The Son Of Stan, yet somehow maintaining a sense of menace and perverse dignity.  (Kudos for the fangs inside his beak.)  Thus, Howard’s existential crisis is amplified by The Literal Devil, and things are going to get weird.  Okay, “weirder…”  In any case, Howard The Duck #13 hits the mark on a number of levels, with sleek, moody artwork, an inexplicable yet somehow incredibly compelling story, fascinating guest-stars and a more-sensitive-than-average-for-the-time-period acknowledgement of mental illness, earning a very well-deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s a weird comic with a weird protagonist in super-weird situations, that somehow feels incredibly grounded and realistic, a very impressive achievement…



A quintessential bit of Howard lore, featuring a handful of fascinating guests and one of the best "This should have been ridiculous but I'm still scared" moments in comic book history...

User Rating: 4.7 ( 2 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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