Guardians of the Galaxy was great and all, but how about that post-credits scene? You know, the one with the anthropomorphic duck? What’s his deal?
Glad you asked. Created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerick, Howard the Duck is one of the strangest and most subversive characters in the Marvel canon—that unfortunately is mostly known from a terrible film in the 1980s. But, as the old saying goes, the road to redemption starts after the credits of a blockbuster movie—and Marvel is bringing Howard back in a big way. This Spring, the publisher will launch Howard the Duck, a new ongoing comic-book series by Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones in which the talking duck from another planet sets up shop in the Marvel Universe as a private investigator.
Fans of Sex Criminals already know that Chip Zdarsky is one of the funniest people in comics, and Joe Quinones’ fun, clean artwork is a great fit for the off-beat comedy of Howard. To get a feel of what to expect when the book launches, EW interviewed Zdarsky and Quinones about the series.
EW: So first of all, Chip—how does it feel to have your first book at Marvel? Previously I believe you’ve only done a short Original Sin story.
CHIP ZDARSKY: Ha ha! I like how you said “first” instead of “first and last.”
It doesn’t quite seem real to me. Like, yeah, I’ve been talking to Marvel about doing this. Sure, I sent them an outline. Yeah, I wrote the first issue, etc., etc. At no point has there been a “you got the job!” moment. It’s just been me and Marvel playing chicken (appropriately enough). But since I’m talking to you, I guess I, uh, got the job? Is it time for me to be excited or … no, wait … I’m feeling something, it’s … it’s … oh no it’s pure terror what have I done.
Speaking of which, what’s Howard going to be like? The original Steve Gerber run was subversive in a pretty groundbreaking way, and over the years Howard would go into some really unsettling places. What’s Howard to you, then? You’ll be essentially introducing the character to a lot of readers given his moment at the end of Guardians—what should they know about him? What makes him interesting?
ZDARSKY: He’s an everyman who happens to be a duck! He’s angry, exasperated, and he’s had it up to here with the world around him, but he’s trapped here! Infinitely relatable!
I love the contrast of Howard against both the normal world of us hairless apes and the weird worlds of Man-Things and Dr. Stranges and Spider-Mans. Cause he doesn’t fit into either, really. I’m just going to continue exploring those contrasts, but my ultimate goal is to make it funny. Marvel has taken chances on funny books and injecting humor into superhero titles, so I want to make sure this is worth some chuckles here and there. God, I’m picturing the reviews now: “Some chuckles here and there.” Shoot for the stars, Chip!
I talk about this a lot with Sex Criminals, the overwhelming guilt I feel from people paying money for my comics. I want to jam-pack these issues with tons of jokes and action and weirdness because people are buying it and I want that purchase to be justified.
JOE QUINONES: Not to give anything specific away, but there’s some fun sci-fi stuff coming up. (Howard is an alien, after all.) I’ve always been drawn (fowl joke—as in bad) to that, and have always enjoyed how Marvel handles all things cosmic.
Also, if I’m not mistaken, this is the first time Chip is writing for another artist. How’s that been? How did you get paired up?
ZDARSKY: It’s probably the worst thing to happen to me for a lot of reasons. Joe is so good that I question why I even bother drawing. And he’s funny! I think people are going to be pretty wowed with his stuff on this book. It’s weird to say that someone was born to draw a talking duck, but Joe was probably born for this.
Also, now that I know how it feels to write stuff for other people to labour over, it’s like I’ve become a god.
QUINONES: I’d attribute it all to my editor Wil Moss. I’d worked with Will a few years back before he began working for Marvel. He was really great to work for then, encouraging my dumb ideas and being an all-around easy-going, swell guy to work for. I’d always wanted to work with him again, so I was excited when I got an e-mail from him about Howard. Chip was already onboard as the writer, and that pairing alone was an enormous checkmark in the plus column.
Joe, From the preview art, it looks like Howard the Duck will have a pretty distinct design that will stand out from a lot of other books on the stands (outside of, you know, having Howard the Duck on the cover). Did you come up with the new look? And if so, what was the thought process behind it? It’s very clean and slick looking.
QUINONES: Well thank you! I did redesign Howard for the book here. I knew I wanted to disassociate his look a bit from being a literal cartoon duck, like Daffy or Donald, and instead into a sort of middle ground. Obviously I’m cartooning him here, but I wanted Howard to get away from the giant cartoon eyes. Howard should be able to sit in the same panel as Rocket Raccoon or Spider-man, and not have it look like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He’s not from Toon Town. He’s just talking duck in a suit. That’s doing most of the work for you already.
What can readers expect from your work on Howard the Duck? Comedy is obviously a huge part—will there be a lot of visual humor? Chip, will fans of Sex Criminals find themselves at home here?
QUINONES: Nah. I think we’re going for something a bit more grounded here. We really wanted to explore Howard’s pain and loneliness, and how he expresses his outsider frustrations with extreme violence. Kidding! It’s definitely meant to be funny. I’m a big comedy fan, so expect a lot of visual gags throughout. Chip and I have already been brainstorming some on the subject.
ZDARSKY: Expect a humorous tale of time and sexuality! I’ve basically just copied Matt’s first three Sex Criminals scripts and replaced characters with Howard and some C-level superheroes.
I think it’s going to be fun! We’ll get to explore the Marvel Universe with a very short tour guide and a very good artist and me, a man who dresses as Garfield on the weekends.
Ha ha, I’m writing Howard the Duck!
Howard the Duck #1 by Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones goes on sale March 4. For more Zdarsky, watch a video with his Sex Criminals co-creator Matt Fraction, where they give you their absolute best dating advice.