Holy Hotpoints, Batman! I've recently managed to install a washing machine in my dread domain without flooding my Kitchen of Mystery!
Such a triumph can only mean one thing.
I have to review a comic that features a washing machine.
But which comic?
Where in all the world can I find a comic that revolves around such a device?
There can be only one place.
And that's Howard the Duck #21 which is one of only two issues of that mag I ever owned.
You can find my review of the other issue right here but, as for this comic, I got it in one of those polythene-wrapped triple-packs that Marvel experimented with in the 1970s.
What the other two comics that came in that triple-pack were, I don't recall but those packs always seemed to contain comics written by Steve Gerber and/or Steve Englehart, so they may well have been The Defenders, Guardians of the Galaxy or Omega the Unknown.
As for Howard, what happens is this. Having killed a vigilante called Sudd, in the previous issue, Howard and his restaurant-owning boss are fleeing an angry mob.
They escape but Howard's then captured by the head of a cult dedicated to cleaning up the nation's morals and is shoved into a washing machine in an attempt at brainwashing him into being a suicide bomber for Family Values.
Needless to say, against a character as immune to reform as our hero, such actions are futile and Howard is totally unchanged by the experience and lives to be a misanthrope another day.
The first thing that strikes you about the issue is that it's drawn by Carmine Infantino. While I've always liked what little I've seen of Infantino's 1960s work on Adam Strange and Batman, I'm not oblivious to the fact that 1970s and 1980s Infantino has his critics. For some reason, by then his characters had become strangely wide and a visual flatness and angularity had crept into his style, often making it difficult to look at.
But to be fair to him, in this issue, his artwork softened and given greater visual depth by Klaus Janson's inking, it's possible to appreciate his composition and story-telling skills and to be reminded of the genuine - and at times sophisticated - talent that lay behind those oddly wide figures and angular flatness.
In total, it's a startlingly thin tale. Basically, Howard and his boss run down an alleyway, go back to Howard's home, have a chat and then Howard is grabbed and put in a washing machine.
This is actually a good thing, as it allows the story time to breathe and the tale becomes dominated by Howard's getting-to-know-you chat with his boss, during which nothing of any import is actually said. This might sound like a bad thing but I've always had a liking for stories where nothing much happens.
But there is one thing that's always baffled me about the tale.
And that's the identity of the villainess of the piece.
We're never shown her face but her and Howard's comments at the finale are seemingly meant to refer to a real-life person with whom we're already familiar.
Sadly, not being American, I don't have a clue who that woman is. I assume she's some sort of US equivalent to Britain's Mary Whitehouse but have no idea if this is so.
So if you happen to know who she's meant to be, feel free to reveal that dread fact in the comments box below - and, at last, a near-forty year old mystery will be solved for me.
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