Back Issue Review: Howard the Duck #23

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Howard the Duck: Star Waaaugh!

A Star Wars Parody

Not even George Lucas is safe from the parody powers of Howard the Duck

Back in 1977, a Sci-Fi adventure movie, based upon a samurai film, hit theaters and broke records.  The original ‘Star Wars’ was made with a budget of $11 million dollars, and would eventually net $700 million, and begin a billion dollar franchise that continues unabated.  The new prequel ‘Solo’ makes its way to theaters the end of May.  Back in the 70’s, not even George Lucas knew that his magnum opus would inspire so many and roll in so much cash.  Only one person new how massive and popular this genre would become.

That person was a duck.  Howard the Duck.For those of you who do not know; Howard the Duck is a forth-wall breaking comedian and the character that helped bridge the gap between underground comics, like ‘Fritz the Cat’, and the more popular, comic code approved heroes, like Captain America.  Howard the Duck was Daffy Duck-meets-Deadpool; goofy jokes and gags, while also being risqué and self-referential, clearly aiming for a more adult audience.  Howard the Duck made his first appearance in the horror-based title ‘Adventure Into Fear’ alongside the lumbering Marvel character Man-Thing.  Just as John Constantine first appeared in a Swamp Thing story-arch, Howard came up from the ranks and became a creature all his own.  His impact on the Marvel Universe is felt with the modern iterations of the MCU.  Howard makes cameo appearances in both ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films.

In Marvel’s Howard the Duck #23, issued in 1978, Howard takes aim at Star Wars in one of my favorite parodies to date.  Even the cover art takes a big swing; instead of happening ‘a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’, this issue takes place ‘right this very minute in a galaxy too close for comfort’.  Thus begins Howard’s ‘Star Waaaugh’.

The plot concerns Howard and his team; made of Man-Thing, Korrek the Barbarian, a gold robot named NAAC-P30, and a literal walking trash can, modeled after R2-D2.  They are attempting to save the bikini-clad heroine Jennifer from the clutches of Bzzk’Joh, a crossed-eyed warlord bent on building strip malls all over the galaxy.  They are assailed by Star Destroyer ships, shaped like Walmart Delivery trucks, which fire house wares and salesmen, instead of lasers.

The only defense our wayward heroes can depend on is a mysterious power bestowed on Howard the Duck, called ‘The Farce’.  Instead of moving rocks and muppets, the Farce enables Howard to fire an insulting joke so powerful that it incapacitates its target.  Howard and his team infiltrate a massive, floating shopping mall called ‘the Death Store’ and confront two masked over-lords, who are revealed to be the epitome of evil; Donnie and Marie Osmond.  They are soon killed by Man-Thing, allowing the heroes to free Jennifer and make their escape, but not before Howard uses the Farce to defeat Bzzk’Joh by hurling the worst of all insults “You Have No Sense of Humor”.  Leaving Joh to cry in a corner, the shopping mall explodes, and our team of heroes blasts off into the universe, leaving flaming merchandise in their wake.

In conclusion, Howard the Duck’s ‘Star Waaugh’ issue is right in line with ‘Space Balls’ and Family Guy’s ‘Blue Harvest’.  Even more ironic, the ‘Star Waaugh’ issue has a full page advertisement for ‘Star Wars’ t-shirts and posters, showing the true enemy; heavy merchandising in Sci-Fi films attempting to squeeze money from children.  This irony continues to today as Disney doubles-down on Star Wars action figures, costumes, and Spaghettios featuring Darth Vader.  I even found an action figure playset of Mickey Mouse being attacked by the Sarlacc, sold for a modest $130.

Howard the Duck points and laughs at this ironic, multi-headed, merchandising dragon from the inception of the Star Wars series in the 1970s.  Howard was way ahead of the curve decades ago, and may even earn a place in future MCU films, breeding even more irony.  Since Disney’s purchase of Marvel Entertainment, and all intellectual property included, Disney now owns Howard the Duck.  Ah Capitalism.

May the Farce be with you. Always.

Ash

Felonious Freak and Rampant Geek

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