Saturday, 18 October 2014

Howard The Duck #2 - Marvel Comics

HOWARD THE DUCK No.2, March 1976
As far as comic book villains go Turnip-Man is probably one of the least known or well-remembered characters created by “Marvel Comics Group”. Indeed unless you happen to be a fan of the publisher’s Seventies title “Howard The Duck” it is strongly doubtful that you’ll ever have heard of him.

However, in many ways he is probably only second to Doctor Bong in my memory of this particular period of the Bronze Age of comic books… and most of this is actually due solely to the striking Frank Brunner cover depicting “The Deadly Space Turnip” trying to fry the anthropomorphic duck with his eye laser beams. You see for many years this piece of cover art was my earliest and thus proudest edition of Steve Gerber’s creation and therefore took pride of place displayed upon one of my bedroom shelves.

Unfortunately the storyline to “Cry Turnip!” is not as good as Brunner’s illustration, and after a strong start, depicting the demise of Killmallard the Warrior (also known as a Howard the Duck nightmare), the plot rather fizzles out until a final frantic confrontation between Phelch, the aggressive space vegetable, and the former inhabitant of Duckworld.

Admittedly as the alter-ego of Turnip-Man, Arthur Winslow, is supposedly a parody of “Jungle Action” writer Don McGregor then there are probably a fair few in jokes at the American author’s expense which those not 'in the know' simply can’t identify with. It is clear however that “Killmallard” is a jab at the comic book title “Killraven”; a series detailing the exploits of a freedom fighter in an alternate post-apocalyptic future, which McGregor was writing at the time this periodical was published.

Issue Two of “Howard The Duck” does though contain some stunning artwork by Frank Brunner, well inked by Steve Leialoha and coloured by Michelle Wolfman. The battle against the dreaded Muurks and their Septopod during the opening few pages are as dramatically drawn as you can get considering it involves a duck with a ray-gun zapping away at double-headed extraterrestrials.

There’s also plenty of Howard’s scowls, grimaces and predilection for violence as the feathered fowl smart-mouths his way through a transit bus journey from hell. Even the ludicrous Turnip-Man and his purple and green costume is well-designed by Brunner despite it originating from an edible plant. Whilst for those readers with a penchant for bird-watching there's more than a page's worth of panels depicting Howard as naked as the day he was hatched.
Writer: Steve Gerber, Illustrations: Frank Brunner and Inker: Steve Leialoha

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