What the Duck?! Avian Adventurers in Comics

Let me come out and say it: I can’t resist a comic with a good duck in it. It’s a bit niche, but I think everyone has something like that in comics (and believe me, it’s not always so wholesome as ducks!) Over the last year I have been exposed to some really great comic creators who’s work centered around ducks. It’s probably a coincidence, but it’s definitely quality.

Sometime back in 2016, through the mighty library system, I was able to obtain a copy of Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck the Complete Collection Volume One. I knew who Howard the Duck was, of course. I liked Howard the Duck. When he was in the post credit scene of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I lost it. But I had never read any of Gerber’s run. Gerber was the man who created Howard (along with Man-Thing and Omega the Unknown, and he is pretty underrated in my book!) and his work with the Duck was just insane. I remember opening the book and within the first few pages, Howard found this really tall tower. His thought was basically “that looks like a good place to commit suicide.” He was going to climb the tower and jump off. I wasn’t ready for that! It was unlike anything I’d read from that time period, and unlike pretty much anything I’ve read from any period.


Gerber made Howard stand out because, at the end of the day, it was an existential book. It was philosophical, examining the human condition. But it was packaged in the form of what they would call a “funny animal book.” I thought that was just great juxtaposition. Here we see a duck, so we automatically think this will be something for the kids, then he’s dealing with alienation (being trapped in our world), getting locked in a psyche ward (in the 70s!) and running for president (“Get Down, America!) Gerber had a sense of humor and imagination unlike anyone else, and it helped to secure Howard as one of my favorite reads in a long time. Thus began my love for the duck in comics.

I should also mention that the other day, a friend of mine was in a comic shop and sent me a picture of a book called Destroyer Duck and asked if I wanted it. Because, you know, ducks. I thought it sounded familiar, and I said yes. I did some research and found out that it was actually written by Gerber, as a sort of parody. He was looking to make extra money while in a lawsuit against Marvel over the ownership of Howard. When I got those comics, I opened it up only to see that the art was done by none other than Jack Kirby!


I just got the books, so I haven’t read them yet. But you can expect a full report when I do!

After reading some Howard, I went further back in time. Once again thanks to the library, I was able to find some old Scrooge McDuck. We (I work at the library) had one of the Fantagraphic Library editions on our shelf and I thought, “Well, I always hear such good things, why not?” See, since I started doing the con circuit, I kept hearing a name: Carl Barks. I didn’t really know anything about him, other than he worked on the duck books. I’m sure I’ve brought some shame to myself admitting that I didn’t read Barks’ work as a kid, but better late than never, right? Right?!

Anyway, I was a little cautious. I’d heard of Barks’ merits, but these books were really old, so I was worried they would feel dated. When I opened the book, I discovered my fears were unfounded. Unlike most old comics, Barks’ work with the ducks stands the test of time. And it all comes down to the quality of the work. The art is beautiful, he was a master of the comic craft (I study every panel to see what I can learn), and the jokes still hold up. It gets me to laugh. And as much has humor has changed since those stories were written (midway through the last century), that’s impressive. And I believe Fantagraphic recolored them, so they don’t look aged. It’s remarkable because not only could Carl Barks tell any story using the ducks, but he made them fun. His stories, both long and short, gave the reader joy. They wanted to keep reading, be it Donald or Scrooge.


Barks started his work with Donald Duck. He was smart in his portrayal of Donald because he’s a normal guy, like all of us. He gets these schemes to make money, and they almost always backfire. He represents the common man, er, duck. When we read Donald, we can all see the struggles we go through (albeit exaggerated). The other nice thing about his Donald stories is that there are A LOT. So you’ll have a good amount of reading.

I’ll be honest though, it was old Scrooge McDuck that made me fall in love with Barks. I don’t know if it was memories of Duck Tales, or his money pit, or his top hat, but Scrooge has totally won my heart. And I once heard him described as “one of the greatest characters in literature.”  He’s the opposite of Donald: he succeeds in whatever he’s trying, he’s rich, and he is NOT like most readers. In fact, these days they would say he’s the one percent. But luckily for everyone, he’s on our side. Although he started out as a greedy, selfish old coot, he changed over time to be a lovable rich adventurer. Like Indiana Jones with more money than anyone in the world. Fun fact: a scene from a Barks comic actually inspired the boulder chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark.


I think you’ll find that factoid in the introduction to the collection called Seven Cities of Gold if you need proof! Scrooge just had it all. And it helps that he was in the hands of someone like Carl Barks. He truly loved what he was doing, and you could tell. He wrote so many stories, and each with such quality. And all this, too, considering the fact that for much of his career, no one knew who he was because they didn’t credit creators back then. Fans simply called him “the Good Duck Artist.” Good on you, Carl. I should also mention here that Don Rosa has an incredible body of duck work, having taken over for Barks. But I can’t really talk about him because I’m not familiar with his stuff…yet!

I could probably write an entire academic paper on Carl Barks. I’m sure it’s been done given his importance. I mean, he was called the Hans Christian Anderson of comics by Will Eisner. That’s a big deal.  But I think I’ve made my point: ducks in comics have had an oddly large effect on me. So, if you’re looking for something to read, take a quack at some of these books I mentioned, won’t you?

Marysville Mini Con 2017

Mini Con was again a success! Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks to the library for the space. But most of all, thanks to the artists, vendors, performers and speakers. Below you’ll find some photos of the day.


addie     Addie J. King 


youngest fan   My niece, and youngest fan, Penelope has the merch game on lock.



A sneak peak at another Short Stacks story…


Another fabulous piece of art. I guess I am inspirational. Thanks Vanessa!


An anonymous fan. Who are you?!



Jeff Wilson puts the legend in Ohio Legends 


Cat Tervo came on by for the con!


My old college pal and fellow comics enthusiast David. Fate keeps bringing us together.


Thanks so much to Sean Smith, who came to do a panel on black speculative fiction! Look for his book next year.


Leah “Clean Shoes” McCoy is a supporter of Hot Cakes Comics!


Veteran Mini Con boothers Unhinged Twins returned!


The toy market was fully represented this year. Once again Married Math Games and Comics joined us, along with first timer Dorkside Sayins.


Aaron is a great artist, and him and his wife are my BFFS. Check out his stuff.


The Fortner bros held down the booth once again!


Dasch returned. He was so strong he could pick me up!


My pal Drew gave some good talks about wrestling. Bullet Club for life!


Once again Liz came out to support me. But this time I surprised her with a story featuring herself!


Vanessa and the gang came back.


Support from another bearded librarian.


Jeff’s wife, Patti, reading Bluffton. Good choice!


Jennifer Ku and Jae Ellis, sisters artists!

Hot Cakes Comics at Wizard World Columbus

This past weekend was Wizard World Columbus. It is, I think, the biggest convention in Ohio. Wizard might some other shows around the state, but let’s not get weighed down with specifics. I’ve been going to this comic con since I was 16 or 17, I think, back when it was still just Mid Ohio Comic Con, before Wizard hosted it. So, this year was no different, I had to go. Except, instead of dressing up, as I usually do, I just went as normal old me. BUT since I wore my Hot Cakes shirt, I set out to see who all was there as my own brand of comics. I didn’t really meet very many people, but I did get some cool pictures. So, I’ll take you on a guided tour.


Let me get this one out of the way right now. I’m a huge wrestling nerd. And that guy beside me is AJ Styles, one of, if not THE, best wrestler today. So when I found out he’d be coming to Columbus, I knew I had to get the photo op. Though this is not comic related, I’m a little bit (lot a bit) too excited not to share this. If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ll get it. If not, just look at his hair. I didn’t touch it, but I bet it’s really soft. Photo ops aren’t a long meet and greet, but still, here I am with a legend!


So, there I am, minding my own business when guess who I see? Donatello! As you can tell, that’s a pretty legit suit. The mouth even moved. I have always been a fan of the Ninja Turtles, and when this guy popped out, I basically turned into a kid again. The 90s movie style suit amplified the effect. What followed next was pretty bizarre. Leonardo, and a guy dressed as the Hulk, joined Donnie, and they began to dance the Cupid Shuffle. I have video of this, but it didn’t turn out too well. Plus, you really had to see it in person.


Like any proper nerd, I love Back to the Future. Here we have the DeLorean, because if you’re going to time travel, you might as well do it in style. Now, this is not the first time that I have seen a DeLorean in person. In fact, a few years ago, I sat in one at this very comic con. Of course, I can’t find that picture. It’s lost somewhere to the ethos. And I didn’t feel like paying $20 to do it again, because, well, that above photo op was a good chunk of my spending money. But nevertheless, I saw this beauty again.


This year there were a lot of surprises for me. Once again, I find myself walking, minding my own business and then BAM! Jeff Smith is on stage. Jeff Smith is the creator of Bone, which, for my money, is one of the greatest comics ever made. Now, I shouldn’t be too surprised by this, Jeff Smith does live in Ohio. But I hadn’t really looked at the guest list this year. Plus, when you make comics and you see Jeff Smith, I think you’re always destined to freak out a little. I’m not sure what he was talking about. I was star struck, and only able to get this picture. But I mean, look how close I was to Jeff Smith!


I didn’t take many pictures of costumes this year. But I couldn’t pass this one up. A Jurassic Park cosplay. Are you kidding me?! I saw them walking around and chickened out on asking them for a picture. When I saw them again, I knew it was fate, as life finds a way. I’m a big fan of Jurassic Park, and the best costumes are the ones that people will maybe not everyone gets, but when some does, they get PUMPED. As you can see I was clenching my fists. This was a genuine reaction, because I was way, way excited for this. I didn’t even know til later that the dinosaur had got into the picture. Nice touch, Dr. Grant.


Here’s another guy I had no idea was at the convention. You might not know Tom Cook by name (I didn’t before a friend of mine told me about his meeting him). He’s in the animation industry. I had known him, through my friend, for his work on He-Man. I had to take a couple separate looks at his booth to see how much stuff he had worked on. And then, when I finally got up the nerve to really talk to this guy, I noticed that he worked on King of the Hill. Now, like most nerds, I have an appreciation for He-Man. But I will tell you honestly that King of the Hill had a huge impact on me. So it was really cool to meet someone who worked on the show.


I decided to buy one of Tom Cook’s prints. I’m a believer in signs, fate, and what else have you. His print book was opened to this particular drawing. The night before I was reading about Jack Cole (the creator of Plastic Man). Plus, this was THE last one. So all of those things added up to me having to buy this piece. Tom was nice enough to personalize this for me. I never watched the Plastic Man cartoon (that I can remember) but Plas is a highly underrated character. And if you disagree, you’re also going against people like Grant Morrison. I wouldn’t do that.


This last image was really cool for me. Just as I was about to leave the convention, I noticed that Darryl Banks was there. Darryl Banks is (like Jeff Bone) a comic creator from Ohio. So I shouldn’t be too surprised to see him, really. And, honestly, I had met him years ago as an awkward teenager. But now I also made comics, and I had an appreciation for the history of comics I didn’t have years ago. Darryl Banks worked for DC, and created the Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. He had these prints for sale and to me, this cover is iconic in the world of the Lantern, so I had to buy it. He signed it for me too, which was nice. It was a very cool moment for me to be face to face with someone who worked for DC, and who’s character is still around.

Comic Cons are always a good time. You don’t know exactly what you’ll see there. And, this one has really got me ready for my next convention. Which is actually MY convention. I’ll be throwing my second comic con this weekend, so I’ll be putting up a special blog with pictures. See you then.