Friday, February 22, 2008

Trapped in a world he never made!

I never understood that tagline. It was a tagline for Howard the Duck, a comic book series written by Steve Gerber. I bought a few issues of Howard the Duck; but it was my brother who became a regular reader. When we were buying comics it was rare we’d be able to start with the first issue. You want to start at the beginning, right? So we’d have to buy back issues at the comic store in Santa Rosa (what a relief when we discovered such a thing existed!) Usually back issues were fairly inexpensive – we weren’t investing in the old back issues, like Avengers #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15, because, well, we didn’t have that kind of money. But the first issue of Howard the Duck I bought was a low number. #4? Something like that. “Something Winkie this Way Comes,” was the story. An old Ozzy, I doubted the Winkie in the comic had anything to do with the Winkies of Oz (in the MGM movie they’re the guys who work for the Wicked Witch of the West and chant OH-WEE-OH); I was right. Nothing. When we tried to buy the Howard back issues they weren’t to be had, and when any showed up they were pricey. It seems Marvel had printed only a few, having little suspicion of success; those first issues sold out and no one wanted to part with them (for cheap, anyway). I’ve not read a Howard the Duck in, oh, thirty years? Nice that reprints are available now, though.

I discovered Steve Gerber’s blog a year or two ago. As I recall he was bent out of shape at Jonathan Lethem’s poaching Omega the Unknown, a comic character Gerber had created for a short-lived comic series also published by Marvel. How dare he! Gerber fumed. Omega was very personal. Maybe he had created Omega as a work-for-hire, meaning Marvel owned everything about it and could legally do whatever it wanted with the “property”, but it wasn’t like Gerber had had any choice at the time. That was the way the business worked. Jonathan Lethem can create his own characters; he doesn’t have to steal mine! Gerber said.

I sympathized. Somewhat. But I stopped reading the blog. After reading an obituary at SF Gate I dropped by Steve Gerber’s blog again last week. Mark Evanier has been putting up new posts, encouraging fans to leave appreciations.

I wonder if I have those original Omegas in a box somewhere.

I haven’t read any of Lethem’s version of Omega the Unknown. I feel like I have to be loyal to Gerber and boycott it. On the other hand, I’ve flipped through it at the comic store and it looks interesting.


David Lee said...

I bought the first issue of Howard in a package with two or three other issues from Perelandra for the outrageous price of $10. At the time that was the most I'd ever paid for a comic. I bought all the rest of the series as well as the Howard magazine that Bill Mantlo wrote.

I never cared for the stuff that other writers put Howard through. Gerber's Howard stories were weird and absurd - sometimes satires, but often just weird and absurd. Other writers tended to write parodies of pop culture and fill the stories with duck puns.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

So you have a complete set?

David Lee said...

I'm pretty sure I do. I would have held on to the Howards for the Gene Colan art even if I hadn't liked Gerber's writing.

I didn't get the Howard miniseries that he wrote recently. I just don't get into comic stores much any more. Plus Gene Colan didn't draw it. The wrong artist can make Howard look really stupid.

Aaron said...

I lived in Santa Rosa, and used to buy comic books at Perelandra. Last night I realized that I couldn't remember exactly where it was located. Do you remember?

BTW, I bought Avengers #4 (return of Captain America) there for $37.50, which seemed outrageous at the time, but turned out to be quite an investment.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

What was Perelandra's address? Oh my. Last I remember it was just off Old Railroad Square. It was in one place then it moved. Where was it the first time? I don't know. But I do know it ended up a block away from Old Railroad Square near the Hwy 12 onramp, down the block from a used bookstore, what was the name of that, it was on the tip of my tongue, Eeyore's? No. That was someplace else. Cotati? I remember my mom would drop my brother and me off near Perelandra then we would walk up to Courthouse Square to meet her. There was another comic store on the other side of the big mall, Comics & Comix? I remember the name of one of the original partners of Perelandra, Brian Christ. Maybe he's in the book.

You can read my brother David's memoir, too.

Anonymous said...

I never really understood that tag line either, but I always liked it, even when I first saw it when I was ten years old or so. Earth is not Howard's world, so it sort of makes sense. My dad is highly literate and told me it was a reference to a poem... turns out it's like a line from A.E. Housman... "I, a stranger and afraid, in a world I never made" ... basically about the individual versus society and all its institutions (or something like that)... seems to fit, oddly enough.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Thanks for sourcing that. I've read some Housman but if I came across that line it didn't ring a bell at the time.