The first thing you notice about Omega the Unknown, Marvel's short-lived mid-'70s sci-fi series, is its narration. Like most Bronze Age comics, it's densely narrated, but something about this the narrative voice in this work is different; rambling, like a Beat poet. It hops from adjective to adjective, not in the grand carnival barker style of Stan Lee, but like a hepped-up poet taking joy in his words and phrases. Deliberate, but seeming not to be; that's probably the best way to describe the way writers Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes narrated their bizarro epic.
Howard The Duck is one of the great idiosyncratic characters in comics; an ill-tempered alien waterfowl with no special powers or abilities, who has nonetheless ended up as a fixture of the Marvel Universe.
Since he first appeared on 11 September 1973 in second-tier horror title Adventures Into Fear #19, waddling out of the bushes to interrupt a hallucinogenic story by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik, he's constantly beaten the odds, becoming a beloved character to generations.
Steve Gerber was one of comics' most individual talents – an acclaimed writer whose career spanned four decades, an outspoken voice for creative rights, and, of course, as he's inevitably known today, the man who made an ill-tempered cigar-smoking duck into one of Marvel's most unforgettable characters.
This week, Marvel Comics announced that it's planning to publish a new printing of the Howard the Duck Omnibus in October, collecting the character's first appearance, all 33 issues of the original Howard the Duck series, and several other appearances in Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Treasury Edition, and Man-Thing.
It's the first time the omnibus has seen print since 2008, and it's a great resource for anyone looking to familiarize themselves with Howard -- a great, satirical character often held in low regard because of the 1986 movie. It's also an opportunity to get to know the work of Steve Gerber, the writer who co-created the character with artist Val Mayerik. Gerber died in February 2008, six months before the original release of the omnibus, and did not hold very positive feelings towards Marvel for decades after his Howard the Duck comics were first published.
The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it’s disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it’s also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.
Steve Gerber died in 2008, but his work is still casting a shadow over contemporary comics -- it's a good bet that Guardians of the Galaxy and The Defenders wouldn't be what they are now without him, for instance, and the biting, off-kilter tone of his writing has found its way into the central stream of superhero comics. Here are a couple of ingenious variations on projects he co-created, as well as a posthumously published jewel.
Coming next month from Marvel is the first of a three-issue miniseries called The Infernal Man-Thing. I do not know anything about the Man-Thing. I presume he's kind of like Swamp Thing, but perhaps more man than swamp...