Howard acquired his own comic book title with Howard the Duck #1 in 1976. Gerber wrote 27 issues of the title, illustrated by a variety of artists, with Gene Colan eventually becoming the regular penciller. The series gradually developed a substantial cult following, possibly amplified by Howard's entry into the 1976 U.S. presidential campaign. Marvel attempted a spin-off with a short-lived Howard the Duck newspaper strip from 1977 to 1978, at first created by Gerber and Colan, later written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Alan Kupperberg.
Due to Howard the Duck being one of Marvel's few non-superhero titles — and Gerber's status as one of Marvel's better-known and most unusual writers from his earlier work on Man-Thing and The Defenders — Gerber gained a degree of creative autonomy that was unusual for mass-market comics writers of the time, and the stories became increasingly dark and experimental. At one point, unable to meet deadline for his regular script, Gerber substituted an entire issue of text pieces and illustrations satirizing his own difficulties as a writer. In 1978, the writer and publisher clashed over issues of creative control, and Gerber was abruptly removed from the series.
Howard's adventures were generally parodies of science fiction and fantasy — usually set in mundane surroundings such as Cleveland—written in a tongue-in-cheek style and combined with a degree of metafictional awareness of the limitations of the medium, often very experimental for a non-underground comic.