Spider-Man Teams Up with Gambit & Howard the Duck: Uh, Why? (Part 2)
Posted September 4, 2009on:
Oh fuck my life, I don’t even know where to start. Howard the Duck comics are meant to be absurd, but this is just ridiculous. Last week, I recapped the first half of 1996’s Spider-Man Team Up #5, featuring Gambit. This week, I’m here to guide you through the insanity that was Spider-Man’s team-up with Howard the Duck.
First off, this was 1996. Peter Parker wasn’t web slinging, his clone Ben Reilly was. At the time, everyone thought PETER was the clone and BEN was the original, so Peter retired and gave the spandex to Ben while he went off to have lots and lots of sex with MJ. With great power…comes giving the fuck up and letting the other guy handle it so you can bone, amirite?
So. Spider-Man and Howard the Duck. Spider-Ben is webslinging along when he overhears a crowd talking a bunch of weird shit about talking reptiles and tortoise-looking guys who crawled off into a sewer. “SAY WHA?!?”, says Ben’s internal monologue, concerned that he’s missing seeing TMNT III filmed live, and he slings over to the scene. Peter Parker is there, in a purely photojournalistic capacity, of course. A van has been ripped open and probably robbed. The eyewitness accounts are so batshit crazy (lizards and tortoises?) that the cops are giving the fuck up, impounding the van and going home. Spider-Ben slops some web goo onto Pete’s shoulder to get his attention and they scuttle off to have Spider-Man Con 1996 in a convenient alley.
Meanwhile, a dude with a handlebar mustache is leaning out of his apartment window, staring down at the busted up van scene. He slams the window shut and starts waxing worrisome about the cops questioning HIM as an eyewitness. He’s clearly a villain (HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE), but apparently retired. Someone knocks on the door, he thinks it’s the cops – but no, it’s a fucking elf. Who shoots him. BLAM!
Pete and Spider-Ben hear the shot. Pete runs towards the noise, telling Spider-Ben to take lookout duty from the rooftops, I assume because the Daily Bugle will probably accuse Spider-Ben of murder if he gets there first. Pete arrives on the scene to see the gunshot victim lying on the floor. Within a panel or two, he recognizes the RINGMASTER and freaks the fuck out. Ringmaster says “No, No! I’ve changed! Really! An ELF SHOT ME!” So the paramedics take the Ringmaster to the hospital. Spider-Ben and Pete confer in the parking lot. Ringmaster had a powerful disc thingy and he thinks the elf stole it. Ben and Pete wonder where the Circus of Crime is these days.
And NOW, Howard the fucking Duck. Howard and his girlfriend Beverly are going out for dinner and a movie. There are jokes about how he has no pants, because cartoon ducks never wear pants – this apparently makes leather diner seats sticky. Ew. Howard says he’s dying for a cheeseburger, and as soon as he does, some crazy bitch slams her cane onto their table “DYING! is RIGHT!” she screams!
Apparently, when they cook the red meat for Howard’s cheeseburger, the fatty globules will float into the air where they will be inhaled by AMERICA and attack the kidneys of innocent children. Seriously. I am NOT making this up. Crazy-Cane slamming lady is FUCKING PISSED about this. She’s screaming and yelling and I don’t know what’s going on. Howard thinks “Bitch is CRAZY!” and they get in a diner brawl over the fact that Howard wants a cheeseburger and WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!?!?!? Howard and Beverly are kicked out of the diner, so they decide to skip the movie. As they wander around, they see a sign for, OH SNAP, a circus. “The ‘Cirque du Somnambulism!’ [look it up!], a fancy circus!” thinks Beverly, and they make plans to check it out the next day.
Meanwhile, the homicidal elf guy is meeting with the circus performers. Somewhere along the way, he attached a little yellow banjo to his hat. The Circus of Crime is pissed, because Killer Elf was supposed to steal a disc, but instead he stole a SITAR – damn. A banjo would have been way better. All the circus freaks are making fun of him, so Killer elf SHOOTS all but one of them. Then he sucks the bullets back into the gun, bringing them all back to life. They declare that Killer Elf has the power of a god. Killer Elf says no, it’s elf magic, but it’s dumb, and then swears he’ll make them rich if they help him find the truck driver that ran over his Uncle Melf. That last bit wasn’t a joke, he actually said it, but it pretty much doesn’t get brought up again, so it’s ok.
Back in New York at the Daily Bugle offices, Pete uses TEH INTARWEBZ to find out where he can see a circus featuring an elf. Turns out it’s Cleveland! So he wrangles a plane ticket out of someone at the Bugle and calls Spider-Ben.
Next page. The Ringmaster’s Hospital room. The Circus of Crime and Relf (I guess that’s his name) the Killer Elf are roughing up the Ringmaster. They want the disc! Ringmaster says “Fuck you I am in the hospital cos you SHOT ME, I don’t have it maybe it’s in Chicago!” Then they leave him alone, and he crawls under the covers and cowers.
DEEP BREATH! Ok, after a little googling, turns out Steve Gerber – the creator of Howard the Duck – only agreed to writing this issue if he could make it into an unofficial crossover with Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck #1. Thing is, it was unofficial, so they never call Savage Dragon or Destroyer Duck by name, and you never really see Savage Dragon’s face. Think Wilson in Home Improvement. So hold on to your pants, because shit is about to get RIDICULOUS.
Relf the Elf calls up the Chicago police, which is notable because a homicidal elf has a cell phone in 1996. Did I mention he’s getting a lift from a flying snake? Yup. (The Snake belongs to Princess Python, a member of the Circus of Crime.) At the Chicago police station, “Fin Head” gets a call. Relf brokers a deal, “Show up in Cleveland, and we’ll trade the sitar on my head for the disc everyone’s freaking out about.” Savage Dragon agrees, but he wants to bring a duck with him, because they wanted to make a comic that would make everyone I know question why I read these things at all.
New York, JFK airport. Pete is settled into his seat, tray table in the upright position, ready for takeoff. No one got a plane ticket for Spider-Ben, so he’s web slinging up into the landing gear to hitch a lift and somehow NO ONE is noticing.
Cleveland! The circus! Bev and Howard show up, but the show is cancelled (because the Circus of Crime has to go to a warehouse and meet Savage Dragon, remember?) Bev’s never seen a circus from backstage before, so she peeks into the tent. Howard does too. He recognizes the Circus of Crime, and, you guessed it – freaks the fuck out. Pete shows up in plain clothes, and shouts “Howard!?!” Howard is fucking confused, because he doesn’t know this tool from Adam. “Whoops!” thinks Peter. Then Spider-Ben shows up – “You’re a talking DUCK?!!?” Howard’s confused AGAIN because he and Spider-Man have met before (oh man, I’ve gotta find THAT!). Suddenly the circus van peels out of the parking lot and they all remember they came here to wreck shit. And get a disc. Or a sitar, or whatever the fuck.
Savage Dragon’s silhouette is in the door of the warehouse the Circus of Crime selected for this brawl. Relf demands the disc (without handing over the sitar, I might add), and Spider-Ben decides now would be a good time to burst in through the wall, Kool-Aid Man style, so he does. But Spider-Ben immediately gets all tangled up with Princess Python’s snake. And I hope that sentence was as good for you as it was for me.
Savage Dragon is fucking annoyed because he just wants the damn sitar. So he “saves” Spider-Ben by unravelling the snake, sending Spider-Ben off in a whirling stupor. Spider-Ben manages to sling some web into Savage Dragon’s face in retaliation.
Meanwhile, Relf the Elf is shooting at Howard the Duck. “I love a good duck hunt!” he says, “I should conjure a springer spaniel to fetch me your corpse!” And that was honest-to-god the best line in this book if you’ve ever spent any time with an original Nintendo. Running around in the dark, dodging Elf-bullets and unofficial inter-company crossover brawls, Destroyer Duck and Howard run smack into each other’s beaks.
“You– You’re a– DUCK!!”
Spider-Ben finally gets his mitts on Ringmaster’s hypnotic disc, and Savage Dragon plucks up the sitar. Pete, Spider-Ben, Beverly and Howard run out of the warehouse together. Pete and Ben are comparing notes on the Ringmaster, which reminds Howard – who the fuck is the yuppie with the Nikon? – and he says as much. No time for chit chat though, some psycho clown is throwing blade balls at them. Pete apparently brought some spare web shooters along, and he uses them the take out the blade-ball tossing (hee!) clown. Howard’s a little pissed, because he didn’t know Spidey was loaning out web-shooters now and how come he didn’t get one? No time for that though, because here come the Great Gambonnos! They’re italian acrobats I guess and they want to beat everyone up. Spider-Ben busts out Ringmaster’s disc and it conjures up some giant floating hands which pick up the Gambonnos and slam them to the ground. Next up? Cannonball! Spider-Ben takes him out by making him jump so high he falls out of the sky and on to the ONLY place of interest in Cleveland. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cannonball crash lands on KISS. As in Gene Simmons.
Back in the warehouse, Relf the Elf is pissed. He informs Princess Python that the Circus of Crime is a bunch of “unevolved incompetents” and peaces the fuck out.
Howard and Bev see Pete off at the Cleveland airport, because it was 1996 and you could still do that. Bev hits on Pete, but he’s like, sorry babe, I’m married and don’t you have a thing with the duck? Bev compares her relationship with Howard to Dr. Kevorkian’s relationship with death. Pete boards the plane and heads back to New York.
Howard scratches his head. “Y’know, we never found out who or what that elf was. Or that little sitar…or that big green cop!” Bev thinks some mysteries are better left unsolved, which prompts Howard to quip about the Dr. Kevorkian joke.
I am CONVINCED that Steve Gerber wrote this issue as a way to give Marvel a big giant FUCK YOU over the legal battle they fought over Howard the Duck, which he lost even though he created the character.
Aren’t you glad I read this FOR you? Fuck my life.