Howard the Duck was created by writer Steve Gerber and penciler Val Mayerik in Adventure into Fear #19 (Dec. 1973) as a secondary character in that comic's "Man-Thing" feature. He graduated to his own backup feature in Giant-Size Man-Thing #4–5 (May and Aug. 1975), confronting such bizarre horror-parody characters as 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. For Gerber, Howard was a flesh and blood duck and that, "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 became the regular penciller with issue #4. Gerber later said to Colan: "There really was almost a telepathic connection there. I would see something in my mind, and that is what you would draw! I've never had that experience with another artist before or since."
Sporting the slogan "Get Down, America!", the All-Night Party was a fictional political party that appeared in Gerber's Howard the Duck series during the U.S. Presidential campaign of 1976, and led to Howard the Duck receiving thousands of write-in votes in the actual election. Gerber addressed questions about the campaign in the letters column of the comic book and, as Mad Genius Associates, sold merchandise publicizing the campaign.
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. With issue #16, 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.
In 1978, the writer and publisher clashed over issues of creative control, and Gerber was abruptly removed from the series. On August 29, 1980, after learning of Marvel's efforts to license Howard for use in film and broadcast media, Gerber filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Marvel corporate parent Cadence Industries and other parties, alleging that he was the sole owner of the character. This was one of the first highly publicized creator's rights cases in American comics, and attracted support from major industry figures, some of whom created homage/parody stories with Gerber to fund a lawsuit against Marvel; these included Destroyer Duck with Jack Kirby. The lawsuit was settled on September 24, 1982, with Gerber acknowledging that his work on the character was done as work-for-hire and that Marvel parent Cadence Industries owned “all right, title and interest” to Howard the Duck and the Howard material he had produced. On November 5, 1982, Judge David Kenyon approved the motion and dismissed the case.
Around this time The Walt Disney Company threatened to sue Marvel for infringement of copyright claiming that Howard looked too similar to Donald Duck and enforced a different design, including the use of pants (as seen in the movie and some later comics).
The series continued for four more issues with stories by Marv Wolfman, Mary Skrenes, Mark Evanier, and Bill Mantlo. Gerber returned briefly to write, though not plot, #29 as part of a contract fulfillment.
Issue #31 (May 1979) announced on its letters page that it would be the final issue of Howard the Duck as a color comic. Marvel then relaunched the series that year as a bimonthly magazine, with scripts by Mantlo, art by Colan and Michael Golden and unrelated backup features by others; this series was canceled after nine issues. Articles in these issues claimed that Howard was Mayerik's idea, though this is contrary to statements by both Gerber and Mayerik. In issue #6, Mantlo introduced the concept of "Duckworld", which Gerber loathed. It depicted an all-duck parallel earth in which there were equivalents of all famous people, such as "Ducktor Strange" (a parody of Doctor Strange) who later appeared in The Sensational She-Hulk (#19) and Truman Capoultry (Truman Capote), who narrated the issue. As Gerber told Mediascene: "Howard's world, which would never be depicted visually, was inhabited by other anthropomorphized animals like himself. Like the cartoon worlds of Disney and Warner Brothers. Unlike the Disney and Warners worlds, however, Howard's reality was beset with the same plethora of social ills and personal vicissitudes which human beings confront daily. And the same, or similar, laws of nature applied there, too." The first story of issue #9, written by Bill Mantlo, had Howard walk away from Beverly Switzler, and what happened to him next was documented in a story by Steve Skeates the same issue. Steven Grant followed this with a story in Bizarre Adventures #34, in which the suicidal Howard is put through a parody of It's a Wonderful Life.
The original comic book series reappeared in early 1986 with issue #32, written by Grant. Grant had in fact written the story as a topical humor four years before, and as a result the jokes were outdated at the time it was published. Issue #33, a parody of Bride of Frankenstein, written by Christopher Stager, appeared nine months later, along with a three-issue adaptation of the movie. A text article in Howard the Duck #33 explained that Harvey Pekar, himself a Cleveland resident, was mentioned as a possible writer for that issue, but he was unavailable, and nothing came of it.
Issue #32 was originally written by Gerber. In the story, Gerber explained that "a Krylorian Cyndi Lauper" named Chirreep had made up the events in the Mantlo stories much like the events in The Rampaging Hulk magazine were considered made up by Bereet. Marvel's then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter considered this an insult to Mantlo, and Gerber's story was never published. He identified Howard's parents as Dave and Dotty, names that differ from the Mantlo stories, in which his parents are named Ronald and Henrietta. Gerber's script lampooned Secret Wars, written by Jim Shooter, but Shooter has denied this played any role in choosing to reject the story, insisting that he only took issue with the insults to Mantlo.
Gerber brought back Howard in The Sensational She-Hulk #14–17, again living with Beverly, now working as a rent-a-ninja. How they got back together is never explained, and Beverly is not involved as the She-Hulk takes Howard on a trip through several dimensions with a theoretical physicist from Empire State University.
Gerber returned to Howard with Spider-Man Team-Up #5, around the same time he was writing a "Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck" crossover for Image. He had the idea to create an unofficial crossover between the two issues, where the characters would meet momentarily in the shadows, but which would not affect either story. Soon after, Gerber discovered that Howard was scheduled to appear in Ghost Rider vol. 3, #81 (Jan. 1997) alongside Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy, and issues of Generation X leading up to issue #25 and the Daydreamers miniseries by J.M. DeMatteis. Gerber was not pleased with this development, and changed the "unofficial crossover" somewhat.
In Spider-Man Team-Up #5, Spider-Man, Beverly and Howard meet Elf with a Gun and two shadowy figures (presumed to be Savage Dragon and Destroyer Duck) in a darkened warehouse, grab a disc, then leave shortly afterwards. But in the Savage Dragon comic, Elf with a Gun creates thousands of clones of Howard during a fierce battle. As Savage Dragon and Destroyer Duck escape the warehouse with Beverly and a Howard hidden in a bag, they reveal that they rescued the "real" Howard, while Spider-Man left with one of the clones. Howard has his feathers dyed green, and is renamed "Leonard the Duck", and Beverly has her hair dyed black and is renamed "Rhonda Martina" which are now characters owned by Gerber, who went on to appear in Image Comics and Vertigo comics. Gerber considers this the real Howard, and Marvel's Howard an empty shell.
In 2001, when Marvel launched its MAX imprint of "mature readers" comics, Gerber returned to write the six-issue Howard the Duck miniseries, illustrated by Phil Winslade and Glenn Fabry. Featuring several familiar Howard the Duck characters, the series, like the original one, parodied a wide range of other comics and pop culture figures, but with considerably stronger language and sexual content than what would have been allowable 25 years earlier. The series has Doctor Bong causing Howard to go through multiple changes of form, principally into a rat (as a parody of Mickey Mouse, in retaliation for the earlier lawsuit), and entering a chain of events parodying comics such as Witchblade, Preacher and several others, with Howard ultimately having a conversation with God in Hell.
Howard had cameo appearances in She-Hulk #9 (Feb. 2005) and vol. 2, #3/100 (Feb. 2006, the 100th issue of all the various She-Hulk series). He returned in a limited series by writer Ty Templeton and artist Juan Bobillo in 2007. This series is rated for ages 9 and up, though it has been published with a Marvel Zombies tie-in cover with a parental advisory claim.
In November 2014, Marvel announced an ongoing series starting in March 2015 featuring Howard as a private investigator on Earth. The creative team will be writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones.
Howard is abducted from his home planet and is dropped into the Florida Everglades by the demonic Thog the Nether-Spawn, Overmaster of the realm Sominus. He meets the Man-Thing, Korrek the Barbarian, Dakimh the Enchanter and Jennifer Kale, but falls off the inter-dimensional stepping stones. He materializes in Cleveland, Ohio and battles Garko the Man-Frog, for which he is arrested for disturbing the peace and mistaken for a mutant during a strip search. Released because the police fear he has mutant abilities, he encounters Bessie the Hellcow, a vampire cow.
Howard makes friends with an artists' model named Beverly Switzler and a bizarre series of encounters follow. He battles Pro-Rata, the cosmic accountant, then meets Spider-Man. He battles Turnip-Man and the Kidney Lady, then learns Quak Fu, encounters the Winky Man, a sleepwalking alter ego of Beverly's artist friend, Paul Same, who would become a series regular (and share the apartment), and becomes a wrestler.
Howard and Beverly hit the road, seeking shelter in a gothic mansion where they battle an animated Gingerbread Man. They eventually end up in New York City, where Howard is nominated for U.S. President by the All-Night Party. Howard battles the Band of the Bland — Dr. Angst, Sitting Bullseye, Tillie the Hun, the Spanker, and Black Hole — alongside the Defenders. A doctored-photo scandal leads him to Canada, and the defeat of a supervillain, Le Beaver, who falls to his death. Howard then suffers a nervous breakdown, and flees Bev and their situation on a bus. Unfortunately, the passengers are all believers in various weird cults, and try to interest Howard in them. His seatmates are Winda Wester (afflicted with an Elmer Fudd-like speech impediment) and S. Blotte the Kidney Lady. After the bus crashes, Howard and Winda are sent to a mental institution. There he meets Daimon Hellstrom, and is briefly possessed by Hellstrom's demonic soul, becoming the Son of Satan. Beverly and Paul get them both back to Cleveland. Later, while on a cruise ship returning from scenic Bagmom, Howard and Beverly are taken captive by Lester Verde, who had a crush on Beverly in college and is now in the identity of the supervillain Doctor Bong, who illegally marries Beverly against her will and transforms Howard into a human. After escaping back to New York and being restored to his natural form, Howard is hired as a dishwasher by Beverly's uncle and namesake, who goes by Lee. Howard battles Sudd, and then battles S.O.O.F.I.. Howard is then reunited with the Man-Thing, Korrek, and Jennifer Kale, and they all battle Bzzk'Joh. After finally meeting up with the cruise ship that rescues Paul and Winda, now befriended by socialite Iris Raritan, he then attends her party on Long Island, where he is abducted by the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. Paul is shot and left in a coma, and Winda, abandoned by Paul and Iris, is apparently raped by a hobo. After defeating the Circus of Crime, Howard, plagued by pessimistic dreams, goes his way alone, as he had at the beginning of the series.
Writer Bill Mantlo, beginning with issue #30, returned the series to its former status quo, bringing Beverly back into the picture and having her divorce Doctor Bong, and getting Paul, who has been shot by the Ringmaster, out of the hospital. Lee Switzler brings everyone back to Cleveland and employs Howard as a cab driver, while Paul, back to being a somnambulist after his release from the hospital, seems to have become Winda's boyfriend. Howard dons a suit of "Iron Duck" armor, and battles Doctor Bong. He encounters Dracula, and even returns to Duckworld at one point. At the end of the magazine series, Howard walks away from Beverly (at her request). After that, he is mistaken for "Duck Drake, Private Eye", meets CeCe Ryder when hitchhiking and battles the Gopher. and is later offered a genetically constructed mate whom he does not take to.
She-Hulk accidentally pulls him though a cosmic wormhole, and along with theoretical physicist Brent Wilcox, they prevent other universes from crowding out Earth-616. By this point, Beverly is working as a rent-a-ninja. Howard met the Critic, and traveled to the Baloneyverse, and battled Dr. Angst and his cohorts.
In an encounter with Peter Parker, Ben Reilly (the then-current Spider-Man), and a rematch with the Circus of Crime, Howard and Beverly get stuck in a warehouse full of anthropomorphic ducks, briefly meeting the Savage Dragon and Destroyer Duck. The group leaves the warehouse believing that they have brought the correct Howard with them.
The sorceress Jennifer Kale, in a weekly attempt to return Howard (a Howard with stubble who accuses her and Doctor Strange of being responsible for bringing him to this world) to his home world, inadvertently teleports Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy into her New York apartment. The disoriented dinosaur attempts to eat Howard, but spits him out when shot with John Blaze's hellfire gun, then rampages through the city before being subdued by Ghost Rider (Daniel Ketch). Howard relates to the pair being trapped in a world he never made, and wanders off.
After a series of adventures with Generation X, Howard gets a job as a department store Santa Claus, which gets him dragged to the North Pole, where the real Santa Claus has sold out to Hydra. Howard goes through several dimensions, apparently through the power of Man-Thing, who can now talk but does not understand this ability, and lands on a version of Duckworld where his parents are essentially Ward and June Cleaver, has a sister named Princess, and is regarded as a hero because his activities on Earth-616 were recognized by Duckworld's version of Reed Richards. This origin traces the source of these dimensions to be projections from Franklin's mind, though through the course of the adventure, Howard has a romance with Tana Nile, culminating in a kiss, after which he apologizes and tells her of his attachment to Beverly. When Franklin understands that he has shaped all these worlds, they find themselves back in Man-Thing's swamp. While Man-Thing became a self-appointed guardian to Franklin Richards, Howard went off on his own and was captured by the Cult of Entropy, who wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Although we last saw him in the swamp, he states that he was thrown into baggage and transported on a plane. The cult wants him because he has part of the Nexus of All Realities, which shattered during Heroes Reborn, inside him, which he knows because it is making him nauseous. Man-Thing enters his gullet, and Howard vomits him back out with the fragment, but the former is left desiccated and practically dead. He then encountered Namor, who thought he had slain the creature, but Howard explains that he would not be lugging his friend's body if that were the case. Howard sets Man-Thing down in the water, and he revives during the conversation with Namor. Once he sees that Man-Thing is alive and well, he bids Namor farewell and says he is returning to Cleveland.
Back with Beverly, he undergoes further shape-shifting experiments from Doctor Bong. Beverly is hired by Verde's Globally Branded Content Corporation, which manufactures boy bands from protein vats based on the sexual arousal of a focus group of gay men. Attempting to destroy an escapee whom Beverly has taken in, Bong inadvertently knocks Howard into a vat, which changes him, unstably, into a mouse—showering changes his form multiple times. Verde then goes to the press and claims that his building was attacked by Osama el-Barka ("Osama the Duck" in Arabic). Howard and Beverly are sent back on the road after the junkyard office where they are living is destroyed by a S.W.A.T. team. Denied admittance to every possible shelter due to lack of funds, the pair and their dog find a sign for the Boarding House of Mystery, but are taken to the police station for questioning and strip searches by Suzy Pazuzu, with whom Beverly had attended high school. One of the officers on the case is the same beat cop who mistook Howard for a mutant many years before. Suzy is the inheritor of the doucheblade, which starts to take her over until in a skirmish, the bracelet is caught by Howard. The doucheblade causes its holder to grow enormous bare breasts and armor in a parody of Witchblade, and possessed by this, Howard kills the male lover of a businessman who works with Verde as he and Verde break into Suzy's house.
Arriving at the Boarding House of Mystery, Howard and Beverly encounter Cain and Abel, the latter with a rock stuck in his head that allows him only moments of lucidity. There, they are granted their every wish, including Howard's return to his true form, and Beverly never being tight again, and meet parodies of John Constantine, Wesley Dodds, The Endless, Spider Jerusalem, and Gerber's own Nevada (called Utah), all characters from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. The downside is that everyone staying in the place gets their every wish, so Che Guevara can have his revolution, but someone else can easily slaughter him. One tenant, a writer named Mr. Gommorah (a parody of Spider Jerusalem), takes Beverly and Howard to be on the Iprah Show with the topic "Why Women Give It to Men Who Don't Get It", guest starring Dr. Phlip. Upon leaving the house, Howard is once again transformed into a mouse. Iprah has been merged with an experiment by the Angel Gabriel called Deuteronomy, intended to replace God, because God has been spending all his time in a bar in Hell since 1938. Deuteronomy is a creature half id and half superego, while Iprah is an all-ego promoter of self-indulgent pop psychology. Considering her dangerous, Gabriel sends the Cherub Thrasher to resurrect Sigmund Freud, whose cigar blasts out half of Thrasher's brains (being immortal, this just makes him act drunk). Iprah destroys Freud, but Howard blasts her with the cigar, separating her from Deuteronomy. Puffing on the cigar, Howard disintegrates and arrives in Hell. He is eventually freed by Yah, a being who claims to be "God". A few years later he was reunited with his parents and brother at a baseball game in Dakvorlde.
Sometime later, Howard attempts to register under the Superhero Registration Act during the Superhero Civil War, but learns his socially disrupted life has created so many bureaucratic headaches that the government's policy is that Howard does not exist. This lack of government oversight delights him: "No more parking tickets, no taxes, no jury duty". In this story Howard says he was pressured to give up his cigars.
After he defeats the supervillain M.O.D.O.T.'s scheme to control the public through mass media, his attorney, Jennifer Walters, successfully restores his citizenship including all relevant responsibilities.
Howard the Duck is briefly seen as part of the super-powered army gathered to battle invading Skrull forces. He is seen armed with a pistol, a Skrull's hand around his neck. He is later seen kicking a Skrull during interrogation after the invasion. Brian Michael Bendis has commented when asked of Howard: "That character has shown up in six issues I've done, and I've never typed the words Howard the Duck".
In Marvel Zombies 5, Howard the Duck of Earth-616 teams up with Machine Man to travel across the multiverse fighting zombies.
During the Fear Itself storyline, Howard forms a team called the Fearsome Four with She-Hulk, Frankenstein's Monster and Nighthawk to stop the Man-Thing when he goes on a rampage in Manhattan, due to the fear and chaos he senses on the citizens. They later discover a plot by Psycho-Man to use Man-Thing's volatile empathy to create a weapon.
Howard and Beverly were brainwashed and forced to work for S.O.O.F.I. as Cynical Duck and Swizzle. They promoted S.O.O.F.I. at a public speech held for them by J. Jonah Jameson. Spider-Man interrupted a S.O.O.F.I. indoctrination at the New York Public Library, and Beverly and the other S.O.O.F.I.'s saw Spidey as a semi-demonic figure and attacked. Spidey escaped with Howard and broke his brainwashing because Beverly was threatened. Howard quickly explained S.O.O.F.I.'s goals to Spider-Man. As Spider-Man publicly announced his long-standing support for S.O.O.F.I., Howard confronted Bev as she stood by the Supreme S.O.O.F.I.. Howard broke through to Beverly, reminding her of their past. The leader ordered the S.O.O.F.I.'s to throw the pair into the special Blanditron at Guantanamo Bay, and Beverly kept them at bay with her whip. Spidey attacked them and unmasked the Supreme S.O.O.F.I., while the others escaped though their teleporter. Howard believed S.O.O.F.I.'s would lay low for a while after such a defeat, he also hoped their Florida Everglades base might lead them to meet up with the Man-Thing.
Because of his experience with zombie-infested worlds and his leadership of Machine Man, he was chosen as the leader of, as he dubbed them, the Ducky Dozen. The team was composed of him, several Golden Age heroes, Dum-Dum Dugan, and Battlestar, who is also a veteran of a zombie incident. Upon entering Earth-12591, the Ducky Dozen fought hordes of zombie Nazis and Asgardians, but suffered grave losses as either members were either killed or zombified in battle. After successfully accomplishing their mission Howard, Dugan, Taxi Taylor and Battlestar were the only members left to survive and returned to Earth-616 along with the Riveter, the only survivor of Earth-12591's resistance team the Suffragists.
Howard teamed up with his friend Doop to battle Robo-Barbarians in Dimension ZZZ. They beat the horde back with nothing but a broken sword, a rubber chicken with nails in it and a gun that shoots bees.
After the death of Uatu the Watcher and the activation of the secrets buried in his eye, Howard discovered that he had the potential to be the most intelligent being in Duckworld. After evading a squirrel while driving, he was thrown flying and used his intellect to calculate a way to land safely in a dumpster.
Howard returned to his business as a private eye, working in the same building as She-Hulk, in Brooklyn. One of his first new clients was Jonathan Richards, who hired Howard to retrieve a necklace stolen by the Black Cat. With the help of Tara Tam, his new friend and assistant, Howard managed to recover the necklace. But on his way to give it back to Richards, he found himself kidnapped by the Collector and allied with the Guardians of the Galaxy to escape the villain's collection. Upon returning to Earth, he confronted the Ringmaster, who had been hypnotizing old people into robbing for him, after he was robbed by Aunt May, Spider-Man's aunt. After recovering the necklace for a third time, Howard was approached by Richards in the middle of his fight against the Ringmaster and Richards revealed himself to be Talos the Untamed, who revealed that the necklace was part of a marginally powerful item known as the Abundant Glove. With help from Doctor Strange, Howard and Tara located the final piece of the Abundant Glove, but were unable to put it all together when Talos grabbed it, who proceeded to use it to wreak havoc on the city. Talos was confronted by numerous heroes while Howard and Tara took cover. He was able to point out that Tara, who revealed to possess shapeshifting powers similar to that of a Skrull, could help him defeat Talos. Tara used her powers to impersonate Skrull Emperor Kl'rt (Super-Skrull), distracting Talos long enough for Howard to snatch the Abundant Glove from his hand. Talos was later apprehended by the Fantastic Four and everything went back to normal. Afterwards, with the help of new arrival Gwenpool, Howard prevented Hydra from infecting the world with a deadly virus. He also has a crossover event with The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Howard the Duck was shown to be living in She-Hulk's apartment building when Patsy Walker moves out.
During the Civil War II storyline, Howard the Duck was among the building tenants that learn from Patsy Walker about what happened to She-Hulk following the fight against Thanos.
Howard has no superhuman powers, but he is skilled in the martial art known as Quak-Fu, enough to defeat, or to at least hold his own against, far larger opponents. He has shown some degree of mystic talent in the past, to the point that Stephen Strange taught some spells to Howard and even offered to train him, but Howard declined.
On occasion, Howard used a suit of powered armor known as the "Iron Duck" designed by Claude Starkowitz. Besides its property as body armor, the suit was equipped with foot-mounted leaping coils, a chest-mounted searchlight, and flamethrowers in both arms.
Howard the Duck, as his name suggests, is a three-foot-tall anthropomorphic duck. He generally wears a tie and shirt, and is almost always found smoking a cigar. Originally, like many cartoon ducks, he wore no pants; Disney threatened legal action due to Howard's resemblance to Donald Duck, and Marvel redesigned that aspect of the character by writing into the script that Howard was the target of anti-nudity protests, and was forced to do business with "Wally Sidney", a failed cartoonist who made his fortune through a chain of conservative clothing retailers known as "Sidney World". Howard tries on various outfits, to include ones akin to Donald Duck's sailor uniform and Uncle Scrooge's coat and top hat before settling on his new attire of a business suit complete with trousers. Although Howard sulks that he has lost, Beverly reassures him that she does not want him to be a victim of a mob, and loves him no matter what he wears.
Howard has an irritable and cynical attitude to the often bizarre events around him; he feels there is nothing special about him except that he is a duck, and though he has no goals other than seeking comfort and to be left alone, he is often dragged into dangerous adventures simply because he is visibly unusual. His series' tagline, "Trapped in a world he never made", played off the genre trappings of 1950s science fiction. A common reaction to meeting Howard the first time is a startled, "You...you're a DUCK!"
His near-constant companion and occasional girlfriend is former art model and Cleveland native Beverly Switzler. Like Howard, Beverly wants an ordinary life but is frequently singled out for her appearance, though she is a beautiful and sexy woman rather than a duck. Their only other friends are Paul Same (a painter who briefly became a sleepwalking crime-fighter) and Winda Wester (a lisping ingénue with psychic powers); he has worked with Spider-Man and the Man-Thing and associates on various occasions.
Howard found himself on Earth due to a shift in "the Cosmic Axis" from a world similar to Earth, but where there are "more ducks" and "apes don't talk". In the black-and-white Howard the Duck magazine series, writer Bill Mantlo theorized that Howard came from an extra-dimensional planet called Duckworld, a planet similar to Earth where ducks, not apes, had evolved to become the dominant species. In 2001, Gerber dismissed this idea, calling it "very pedestrian" and 'comic-booky' — in the worst sense of the term." He believes Howard came from an alternate Earth populated by a variety of cartoon animals. A panel in Fear #19, prior to Howard's introduction, depicts Howard or someone like him near an anthropomorphic rat and an anthropomorphic dog, in a hypothetical panel about other dimensions. Destroyer Duck was depicted existing in such a world, and in Howard the Duck vol. 2 #6, Howard mentions that Moses is believed to be a moose in his world and Yeshua a flying squirrel.
His antagonists, who usually appear in a single story each, are often parodies of science fiction, fantasy, and horror characters, and sometimes political figures, but include ordinary people simply making life difficult for Howard. The chief recurring villain, Lester Verde, better known as Doctor Bong – modeled on Doctor Doom and writers Bob Greene and Lester Bangs – is a former tabloid reporter who has the power to "reorder reality" by smashing himself on his bell-shaped helmet; his main goal is to marry Beverly. After several issues, she agrees to marry him to save Howard from Bong's evil experimentation, and remains married to him for some time. Doctor Bong would reappear in issues of She-Hulk and Deadpool in the mid-1990s. Other recurring villains include the Kidney Lady (S. Blotte) who has been convinced by her former lover that the soul is in the kidneys and attacks anything she sees as a threat to them, and Reverend Jun Moon Yuc and his Yuccies, a parody of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church "Moonies". Another important villain was the Sinister S.O.O.F.I. (Save Our Offspring from Indecency) organization, whose leader was implicitly Anita Bryant, though she looked like an old, fat Elvis Presley with a smiley face/orange on her head.
Other Marvel Comics characters occasionally appeared, including Spider-Man, Daimon Hellstrom, and the Ringmaster. Omega The Unknown appeared to him in a dream, as did the founding members of the rock group, KISS, and Spider-Man, whom he had previously met for real, unlike Omega.
Seemingly an autodidact, Howard at various times references Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Albert Camus (whose novel The Stranger Gerber considers the principal influence on the series), the Brontë sisters, and other figures of philosophical and political significance. In a parody of the Marvel comic character Shang-Chi, he was trained in the art of Quak-Fu. In the 2001 miniseries, as a mocking gesture toward Disney's mascot Mickey Mouse, he was turned into various animals, primarily a mouse.
In the Amalgam Comics universe, Howard the Duck is fused with Lobo to become Lobo the Duck. This character is featured in its own one-shot comic book, a seeming continuation of multiple other 'Lobo The Duck' stories.
In the letters page of Bat-Thing #1, there was mention of a fictional upcoming 'special issue' featuring Howard the Mxyzptlk, presumably a merging of Howard with Mister Mxyzptlk.
An alternate version of Howard the Duck becomes infected with the zombie plague, and eats the brains of the alternate-Ash that is native to that version of the Marvel Universe. He is swiftly slain by the Scarlet Witch and the original Ash Williams of the Evil Dead series.
Howard is seen as a blindfold-wearing martial arts teacher.
In the limited series Ultimate Comics: Armor Wars, a billboard advertising for "HDTV" is seen in the first panel, showing Howard.While he does not appear, the Beast says "I still feel badly about Howard" who had been "hunted down and consumed".
In the original draft for Earth X, Howard was supposedly served as a feast during the Skull's invasion of New York City. The scene was cut due to space constraints.
On Earth-65 in the Spider-Gwen series, a human named Howard T. Duck is the President of the United States.
In a parody of the Spider-Verse event, Howard and Leo Fitz team up with a group of Howards from across the Multiverse who collectively call themselves the Legion of Howards. Their ranks include:Howard the Duck - A version of Howard who wields Mjolnir and possesses the power of Thor.
Sister Howard the Duck - A female version of Howard who is a nun on her world.
Howard the Roboduck - A Japanese-style giant mecha piloted by an alternate version of Beverly Switzler.
The ever-lovin' blue-eyed Howard the Duck - A version of Howard who possesses the abilities and appearance of the Thing.
Strange-Duck - A mystical version of Howard who acts as his world's Sorcerer Supreme.
Howard the Duck appears in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. He has sporadic appearances throughout seasons one and two. In the episode "Awesome", Spider-Man finds him in a lab on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and declares him too weird to use for a science project with Luke Cage; Howard states to Spider-Man that he knows Quack Fu. In the episode "Carnage", Howard has a cameo appearance in Peter Parker's imagination when trying figure out what Peter's transformation will be after the Green Goblin's injection with the Carnage symbiote. In the episode "Guardians of the Galaxy", Howard is mentioned among Star Lord's list of heroes on Earth before Spider-Man. The episode "Return to the Spider-Verse" Pt. 2 featured a pirate version of Howard the Duck (voiced by Seth Green) who resided in a cartoonish pirate reality. Howard was Web Beard the Sea Lord's first mate on a pirate ship version of Groot until he started to have a disagreement with Web Beard enough to lead the pirate versions of Rocket Raccoon and Cosmo the Spacedog into a mutiny after Web Beard hoarded the treasure for himself. When Howard was trying to get Web Beard, Spider-Man and Kid Arachnid to walk the plank, the Kraken ended up attacking. Spider-Man and Kid Arachnid persuaded Web Beard and Howard to put aside their differences in order for everyone to help repel the Kraken. After that was done, Howard agreed to serve Web Beard again.
Howard the Duck has a non-voiced cameo appearance in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.. In the episode "The Collector", he is seen in one of the Collector's pods who admires the 'ultra rare hero', stating he's in mint condition.
In 1986, Lucasfilm and Universal Pictures produced the movie Howard the Duck where Howard the Duck was voiced by Chip Zien and performed by an assortment of stunt actors in a duck suit ranging from Peter Baird, Ed Gale, Jordan Prentice, Tim Rose, Steve Sleap, Lisa Sturz, and Mary Wells. The only character borrowed from the Marvel Comics mythos was Beverly Switzler, though this version was a rock singer. In the film, Howard is brought to Cleveland by a laser spectroscope experiment gone awry which additionally summoned an evil alien, one of the Dark Overlords of the Universe, who intended to sacrifice all human life in order to free the others of its kind from their celestial prison. The film was widely panned and was a box office bomb. There was a novelization and a comics adaptation of the film.
Seth Green voices Howard the Duck (via CGI albeit uncredited) in the 2014 Marvel Studios film Guardians of the Galaxy. He is seen as a living exhibit in the Collector's museum at the time when Gamora visits. After Collector's tormented assistant grabs the Infinity Stone, which causes an explosion, Howard is among the creatures in Collector's cages that are set free. Howard is later shown in a post-credits scene having a drink with the Collector and Cosmo the Spacedog in the wrecked archives of the Collector's lair.
In August 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn said, "It's possible Howard could reappear as more of a character in the Marvel [Cinematic] Universe. But if people think that’s going to lead to a Howard The Duck movie, that’s probably not going to happen in the next four years. Who knows after that?"
Alongside the film, Activision released a namesake Howard the Duck video game for the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum.
Howard the Duck appears as an ability card in the crossover game Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, which itself is an updated version of Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds.
Howard the Duck appears as a playable character in Lego Marvel Super Heroes. He is shown to be armed with a rocket launcher. In a bonus mission narrated by Deadpool, Howard and Vulture storm Marvel Comics HQ and hold the artists there hostage in an attempt to get their own movies. During his battle against Mister Fantastic and Spider-Man, Howard humorously defeats himself by accidentally knocking himself back with his blaster.
Howard the Duck is a playable character in the Facebook game Marvel: Avengers Alliance.
Howard the Duck is an upcoming character in the game Marvel: Contest of Champions.
Howard the Duck is a rare playable character in the match-three mobile game Marvel Puzzle Quest. His comic book covers are only available during the "Duck Season" in-game event, which is only held infrequently. As Howard was introduced on April 1st 2016, many players were convinced that it was an April Fool's Day joke played by the game's developers.
In Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck #1 (Nov. 1996), Gerber claims that Howard and Beverly Switzler changed their names to Leonard the Duck and Rhonda Martini, remained in the Image Universe and "were last sighted in Chicago boarding the Amtrak for Buffalo" while the duck who returned to Marvel is "only an empty trademark, a clone whose soul departed him at the corner of Floss and Regret". This was done because Tom Brevoort invited Gerber to write the comic, claiming he was the only one to write Howard, then Gerber noticed the Howard guest appearances in Ghost Rider and Generation X and felt as though he had been tricked.
In the Don Simpson's Megaton Man feature, a comedy relief character is Gower Goose, an intended parody of Howard.
In the Claypool Comics series Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Gordon the Goose (clearly modelled on Howard) appears, together with Dorkheem the Sorcerer and Heap-Thing in issues #49, 58, and 59.
In America's Best Comics's Top 10 #8 a duck appearing to be Howard (with his distinctive blue hat & jacket) can be seen at the Transworld Transport Terminus.
In several issues of The Maxx, Howard appears, along with many other characters, seemingly cut and pasted into the story.
In Adam Beechen's ending of Doctor Fate: More Pain Comics, which Gerber left unfinished when he died, Howard, who is heard but unseen (his speech balloon ends with "waaugh"), dispatched the Elf with a Gun to destroy Negal and Ymp, then invited for one last drink with Yah, Bev, Thunny, and Megs before Yah goes back "upstairs".
He is also seen roasted in one of the "Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe" issues, where the reporter states that Deadpool has gone into a killing spree, looking for heroes and villains alike, and also some characters that were never too special.
Between June 1977 and October 1978, Howard the Duck appeared in a daily comic strip that comic strip historian Allan Holtz has described as having low distribution and that was eventually replaced by the Hulk strip. Among the handful of newspapers it appeared in were the Toronto Star and Spokane Daily Chronicle. A total of eleven story arcs, as well as a number of single-joke strips, constitute the 511 individual strips that were printed.
The strip started with original stories written by Steve Gerber and illustrated by Gene Colan: "Pop Syke", "The Cult of the Entropy" and "The Self Made Man". The latter was started by Colan and completed by Val Mayerik, who stayed on to do two additional Gerber scripted stories: "The Sleigh Jacking" and "In Search of the Good Life".
These were followed by an adaptation of the "Sleep of the Just" story from issue 4 of the Marvel comic, scripted by Gerber and illustrated by Alan Kupperberg. Colan's departure (and eventually Gerber's) grew out of escalating disagreements fueled by a dispute with Marvel over the delay in payment for work on the strip. Gerber was replaced by Marv Wolfman as writer while Alan Kupperberg continued as artist. The remaining stories were: "Close Encounters of the Fowl Kind", "The Tuesday Ruby", "The Clone Ranger", "The Mystery of the Maltese Human" and "Howard Heads Home". As the series drew to an end, its already meager list of client papers shrank, making copies of these last post Gerber stories particularly hard to find.
In November 1978, the first of a projected eight-issue series reprinting the entire strip was published by John Zawadzki. Titled It's Adventure Time with Howard the Duck, only the initial issue was published.Essential Howard the Duck collects Fear #19, Giant-Size Man-Thing #4–5 (Hell cow), Howard The Duck #1–27, Howard The Duck Annual #1, and Marvel Treasury Edition #12, 592 pages, March 2002, ISBN 978-0785108313
Howard the Duck Omnibus collects Fear #19, Man-Thing #1, Giant-Size Man-Thing #4–5, Howard the Duck #1–33, Marvel Treasury Edition #12, and Marvel Team-Up #96, 808 pages, August 2008, ISBN 978-0785130239
Spider-Man Strange Adventures includes Howard the Duck #1, 176 pages, November 1996, ISBN 978-0785102212
Howard the Duck collects Howard the Duck Vol. 3 #1–6, 144 pages, September 2002, ISBN 978-0785109310
Howard the Duck: Media Duckling collects Howard the Duck Vol. 4 #1–4, 128 pages, April 2008, ISBN 978-0785127765
Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 collects Fear #19, Man-Thing #1, Giant-Size Man-Thing #4–5, Howard the Duck Vol. 1 #1–16, Marvel Treasury Edition #12, and Howard the Duck Annual #1, 456 pages, June 2015, ISBN 978-0785197768
Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection Vol. 2 collects Howard the Duck Vol. 1 #17–31 and Howard the Duck magazine #1, 360 pages, March 2016, ISBN 978-0785196860
Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection Vol. 3 collects Howard the Duck magazine #2–7 and material from Crazy #59, 63, and 65, 384 pages, August 2016, ISBN 978-1302902049
Howard the Duck Vol. 0: What the Duck collects Howard the Duck Vol. 5 #1–5, 112 pages, October 2015, ISBN 978-0785197720
Howard the Duck Vol. 1: Duck Hunt collects Howard the Duck Vol. 6 #1-6 and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2 #6, 160 pages, June 2016, ISBN 978-0785199380
Howard the Duck Vol. 2: Good Night, and Good Duck collects Howard the Duck Vol. 6 #7-11, 112 pages, November 2016, ISBN 978-0785199397
In August 2009, Time listed Howard the Duck as one of the "Top 10 Oddest Marvel Characters".