It's been a good long while since we've seen Howard the Duck, but it doesn't seem as if too much has changed. He's still living in Cleveland, still driving a taxi, still shacking up with Beverly Switzer, and still cracking wise in a world he never made--whatever the hell that means.
His latest adventure begins when his defeat of a pair of would-be-hunters named the Barrel Twins (get it? Twin barrels!) is caught on film and uploaded to YouTube--excuse me, MeTube. It becomes a viral video hit, and Howard and Bev are quickly launched into internet stardom the likes of which is normally reserved for Tila Tequila and LonelyGirl15. Only instead of being offered movie deals and slutty reality shows, they wind up embroiled in a bitter controversy revolving around Howard's illegal alien status. The whole thing is being orchestrated by AIM's latest big-headed bastard, MODOT, who's a lot like MODOK, except he's designed only for talking, not killing.
That was pretty much my reaction, too. When Howard first appeared on the scene in the 1970s, he was being written by the late, great Steve Gerber, and the result was pure genius--nevermind the whole Spielberg theatrical debacle. It was a smart, biting, and yes, countercultural satire of the climes of the times, dressed up as a funny animal book. Unfortunately, Mr. Gerber is no longer with us, and while his wacky water fowl lives on, he's really just a ghost of what he once was. It's crossed the line over satire and landed right in the land of parody, which doesn't work nearly as well.
A parody of what? A parody of modern times, a parody of modern culture, but most of all, a parody of itself--like Christopher Walken on Saturday Night Live.
Shortly before this series first appeared, I attempted to e-mail Steve Gerber with a number of suggestions for Howard the Duck novels, one of them revolving around Howard being hunted down and deported to Mexico due to his illegal alien status. The e-mail was unfortunately bounced back undeliverable. I still believe that is the story this series should have told, which would be particularly fitting in this age. Unfortunately, it only touches on this concept briefly, spending the rest of its time concentrating on our society's unwavering addiction to the media and our fascination with celebrity--a subject that is tired, to say the least. It's been said before, and it's been said better.
And no matter how hard I try, I can not get used to Howard's "makeover". They've done away with the cigar and rumpled suit, replacing it with outfits from the Gap. He's no longer squat and stocky--in fact, he looks more like a juvenile albino parakeet with AIDS than a duck.
No matter what, THIS will always be Howard to me.