Destroyer Duck (Graphite Edition) by Jack Kirby & Steve Gerber (graphic novel review)

  This book, ‘Destroyer Duck (Graphite Edition)’ by Jack Kirby & Steve Gerber, is the size of a graphic novel and for the most part is a graphic novel but starts with 28 pages of text to start with and various other text inserts so it’s a bit of an odd one to categorise. ‘Destroyer Duck’ came about as an endeavour by the writer Steve Gerber to raise money for his on-going law suite against Marvel Comics. The lawsuit was about the ownership rights of Gerber’s creation Howard the Duck. No, I’m not making this up.

  The cover is a typical Kirby pencil drawing on a stark white background. There aren’t many colours on the cover, just the title ‘Destroyer Duck’ in yellow and top banner and a text box in red. The text box states, ‘The manslaying mallard’s mission of vengeance, reproduced from Kirby’s pure pencil art!’ On the one hand, that text box sums up the whole book in one sentence while, on the other hand, there is so much more to how and why ‘Destroyer Duck’ came to be created and published.

  The sub-title on the cover says “Graphite Edition by Jack Kirby & Steve Gerber” and at the bottom of the cover: Introduction by Mark Evanier, Afterword by Buzz Dixon and Edited by John Morrow. That will be the same person who edits the quarterly periodical The Kirby Collection.

  The book presents Kirby’s pencil drawings for the first five issues of ‘Destroyer Duck’, hence the Graphite Edition moniker. There are no colours as Kirby produced the initial pencil drawings which would then be handed over to other people do the inking, colouring and lettering, adding the text and speech bubbles.

  Steve Gerber wrote the story and used the opportunity to poke fun at his Marvel Comics adversaries. There’s lots of satire, in-jokes and characters loosely based on characters at Marvel, some living, some comic book.

  The book starts with a forward by John Marrow, where he explains some of the editorial decisions he made in putting the book together. I’m particularly pleased he included Steve Gerber’s synopsis of the story of issue # 1. This is what was given to Jack Kirby to start sketching. It’s interesting to compare the final result with the original synopsis and see how close they were and how much they differed.

  An introduction by Mark Evanier follows Morrow’s forward. This gives us more insight into the period and the people involved. As he played a part in the creation of the ‘Destroyer Duck’ comic, there’s lots of little details which are fascinating. His meeting with Steve Gerber is hilarious. Even Superman’s co-creator Jerry Siegel played a part in the ‘Destroyer Duck’ comics!

  They synopsis for issue # 1 was typed up by Steve Gerber and is reproduced here. The pages look like photocopies of the actual typed pages which adds to the historical ambiance. After all, this is from a time before PCs.

  The remainder of the book presents Jack Kirby’s pencil drawings for the first 5 issues of ‘Destroyer Duck’ with odd bits and pieces interspersed. These odd bits include a spoof GODCorp Interoffice Memo from Ned Packer (President). There’s an in-joke there but you need to read the introduction to get it.

  Incidentally, GODCorps company slogan is ‘Grab it all, Own it all, Drain it all’. Note the capital letters in the slogan. Perhaps the slogan reflects how Steve Gerber viewed Marvel’s actions over the legal rights to his creation Howard the Duck.

  A few of the pages with Kirby’s drawings have little notes at the bottom of the page which are presumably from the editor John Morrow. They explain or add more context which I found enabled me to get even more out of the book.

  Lastly but, by no means least, is the afterword by Buzz Dixon. He became involved in the ‘Destroyer Duck’ story with a small role to play in issue # 4 before becoming ramping up his involvement with issues # 6 and # 7. These aren’t included in this book and for good reasons as Dixon took over the scripting from Steve Gerber while Gary Kato took over as artist from Jack Kirby.

  This book really is an exceptional production, although I have to admit it does make me appreciate the work of the team of people who develop the comic from the initial pencil drawings. Colour adds so much to a comic book panel. Having said that, if you truly want to appreciate Jack Kirby’s drawings then you have to see them in their raw form before the other members of the team got to work on them. This book is recommended to anyone who appreciates Kirby’s drawings or American comics in general.

Andy Whitaker

October 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 143 page graphic novel hardback. Price: $31.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-117-2. Direct from them, you can get it for $31.95 (US))

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I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties. My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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