Quack! #4 (1977)

Reading this comic makes me feel like 1977 was a long time ago. A whole different world, where things were slightly familiar but seem really out of place.
Take this comic in general, for instance. Quack! was created in part to capitalize over the fan frenzy for Howard the Duck, which at the time felt like a revolutionary comic book. Howard seemed to take an underground sensibility to mainstream comics, a sensibility where all of society’s conventions were questioned, where society seemed an empty set of outdated and ridiculous conventions, where one had no choice but to be extranged from society. Howard the existential duck was a perfect vehicle for such estrangement – he was such an absurd figure that readers naturally had an affinity for him, while also retaining compassion. If that sounds a bit convoluted for a damn funny animal strip, well, that was the spirit of the times.
So Mike Friedrich, who had been publishing a monthly comic called Star*Reach that combined mainstream creators with rebellious sensibilities, was precisely the right guy to put out this comic. Friedrich was a fan who began writing for the mainstream companies in the ’60s (he wrote a run of Justice League of America, among other books) and was notorious for being a rebel.
But enough of the background. Is the comic any good? Actually, yeah it is. The lead story, "Home on the Range, Rabbit" features some absolutely sumptuous art by Steve Leialoha, illustrating a clever tale (or is it a tail) about the pursuit of a notorious bank robber, El Drako. The story succeeds because it plays it both straight and silly; there’s a scene where our protagonist is chased by a bear, only to have the bear return to his cave and chat with his bear wife about hilbernation. There’s real passion in Leialoha’s story, and that passion makes it special.
The second story, "The Beavers," is even more interesting, since it was created by Dave Sim right around the time that the first issues of Cerebus came out. It’s easy to forget now that Sim was a popular fan artist back in this era, contributing to dozens of paying and non-paying fanzines, including Quack! and Star*Reach (in the latter comic he illustrated an interesting story called "I’m God," which is very interesting in the context of his later issues of Cerebus). "The Beavers" is a meditation on what it means to be Canadian, and how Canadians are perceived by the rest of the world. It’s also damn funny and is followed by a second strip about Star Trek that’s also awfully damn nice. It’s interesting to see where Sim was then, and how dramatically his work changed over the years.
Readers also get a story of Michael Gilbert’s The Wraith, a character inspired by Will Eisner’s great character the Spirit. Gilbert always created some nice stories with the Wraith, and this tale of love lost is typically charming. It’s by far the straightest thing in this comic; take away the funny-animal looks of the characters and this could appear in any magazine.
These are the good strips in the comic. Beyond the work by Sim and Leialoha are a dull and overwrought strip by Alan Kupperberg, and the pointless "Adventues of the Oregon Bobcat" by Dot Bucher, which just recycled a set of cat jokes that were old 30 years ago.
Overall: nice old comic.

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