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November 26, 2010

Retro-Read #34 Destroyer Duck

Filed under: Retro-Read — Doorman @ 3:37 pm

With years spent reading single issues here and there, juggling storylines of dozens of titles, I decided it was time to find a better way to read comics. So, it was off to the back issue bins armed with the longest want list you’ve ever seen! Putting together series after series and reading them in their complete goodness, I was reborn as the Retro-Reader!

Destroyer Duck #1Publisher: Eclipse Comics
Number of Issues: 7
First Issue: 1982 ($1.50)
Last Issue: May 1984 ($1.50)
Writer: Steve Gerber (#1-5), Buzz Dixon
Artist: Jim Starlin (#1-5), Gary Kato

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

Duke “Destroyer” Duck’s not having a great week. His woman’s left him for another man and his best pal, the Little Guy, has just blinked out of existence. Months pass filled with morbid thoughts and cognac – that is, until, his pal the Little Guy shows up at his door, wounded. As he bleeds out on the floor, he explains to Destroyer Duck how he found himself on Earth, a world he never made – filled with pink-skinned primates. On Earth, he was made to work for Godcorp, Ltd – a mega corporation that ended up taking advantage of him. They used him up until nothing was left and as he took his last breath, Destroyer Duck vowed that they’d pay.

Bent on avenging his friend, Destroyer Duck hops dimensions to planet Earth to wage war against Godcorp. During his stay on Earth, he manages to gather a team around him made up of the Little Guy’s Lawyer, Cherries Jubilee (her sister is currently being taken advantage of by Godcorp) and other strange characters. They take on some weird villains including Pahkmani the Devourer and Cogburn the Corporate Man – all before they engineer the explosive destruction of Godcopr Ltd. Following their victory, Destroyer Duck is trapped on Earth and has to make the best of it with his new-found friends.

The Bad: I quickly lost interest once the initial plotline was over and the original creators left the book. All sense of purpose had been pulled from the series, at that point. I imagine that a lot of the fun of this series is lost if you don’t know the behind-the-scenes story.

The Good: At the time, this was surely a shocking paring of legendary creators. This title also launched Eclipse’s line of color comics and rose funds for Gerber to continue his lawsuit with Marvel. Sergio Aragones’ Groo debuted in issue #1 as a back-up feature.

The Verdict: Destroyer Duck is an interesting concept. To truly appreciate it, you’ve got to know the story behind the comic. Y’see, years before, Steve Gerber had created Howard the Duck for Marvel Comics and he proved popular enough to warrant his own series. Eventually, Gerber and the forces at Marvel disagreed over the book and Gerber was fired and replaced. Now, Gerber took great issue with this – How could Marvel fire him from a book he created? Naturally, he felt that it would have been nice for him to leave the book when he was ready (like how Stan Lee left his creations – Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk, etc – in the hands of others). And so was born one of the first battles for creator’s rights, as Gerber took Marvel to court over the ownership of Howard the Duck. Joined by Jack Kirby (another pioneer of the battle for creator’s rights – who felt sleighted by his treatment by Marvel, as well), Gerber launched Destroyer Duck – a not so subtle poke at the big corporation (Marvel). In fact, the Little Guy in the story is quite obviously intended to be Howard the Duck. And, as Gerber points out – Howard magically appeared at Marvel (via Gerber’s ultra-creative mind) where they exploited him and used him up (in Gerber’s opinion). So, it was left to Destroyer Duck (I imagine Gerber felt like DD in his lawsuit against Marvel) to take down this evil corporation Godcorp (aka Marvel) in order make them pay for their unethical actions as an evil corporation.

PHEW! Got it? Good! So anyway, knowing all of this makes the initial five issues really enjoyable. Otherwise, it’d be just a really weird comic full of talking ducks, pheromone-emitting women, a universal-jointed villainness, and other craziness. Unfortunately, once Godcorp is brought down, the series loses almost all of its draw and the last two issues couldn’t capture my interest. The series was canceled with issue seven and Howard was left in Marvel’s control. Or, was he? During the course of the series, Destroyer Duck occassionally wondered if the Little Guy that had bled out on his floor was merely a Godcorp construct created to lure another duck to Earth. So, if that thought is true – maybe the real Little Guy is still out there waiting to be rescued!

But, that’s a tale for another time. Anyway, I really enjoyed the first five issues but only because I understand why the book was created. Sure it’s a bit heavy-handed with its “symbolism” but it’s a fun poke at Marvel – made visible in front of the whole comics community. And, whether you side with Gerber or Marvel, I think this series has earned itself a unique place in the history of comics. So, my recommendation of this series is based on the story-behind-the-story, the sheer creative audacity it took to make it and its importance to the comics community moreso than the actual creative output itself.

On Ebay: Destroyer Duck | Jack Kirby | Steve Gerber

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