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Is Howard the Duck About to Make a Comeback?

Gwynne Watkins
July 31, 2014

Of all the characters in the Marvel universe, Howard the Duck may be the unlikeliest candidate for a comeback. The satirical character, born in an all-duck universe and trapped in a human world, had its comic-book heyday in the late ‘70s and spawned a notoriously awful 1986 film. And yet, the release of Guardians of the Galaxy has inspired speculation that Howard the Duck may quack again.

[Warning: possible Guardians of the Galaxy spoilers.]  Here’s the deal: On Wednesday, a video purporting to show an end-credits Easter egg from Guardians of the Galaxy leaked online. In the clip, which is under a minute long, Guardians villain The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) is having a cocktail in his laboratory with a talking, computer-animated duck.

In case there was any doubt as to that creature’s identity, text appears after the video crediting Howard the Duck creators Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik. (In fact, the unofficial Disney news website Stitch Kingdom launched speculation about a Howard cameo last week when they got ahold of a Guardians credits list and noticed those two names on it.)

For those who are unfamiliar with the canon, Howard the Duck first appeared in Marvel comics as a one-off visual gag in a 1973 Man-Thing story. The offbeat character soon took on a life of his own, and in 1976, creator Steve Gerber launched a Howard the Duck title. Though the books maintained some crossover with the superhero universe, Howard was more of an anti-hero, ranting about the absurdity of modern life.

The cigar-smoking duck still shows up periodically in comics, but his image was forever tainted by the George Lucas-produced feature film. Starring Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, and a really creepy duck costume, it received abysmal reviews, bombed at the box office, and routinely appears on “worst films of all time” lists. On the flip side, the movie attained such notoriety that it has developed somewhat of a cult following over the years, as the abundance of animated GIFs and YouTube clips demonstrates. 

So maybe Howard the Duck’s time has indeed come around again. Or maybe Guardians director James Gunn and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige just thought it would be funny to throw him into the mix. He’s probably not joining the Avengers anytime soon, but depending on the fan reaction, Howard may just get a shot at big-screen redemption. 

Photo credit: @Everett Collection, @Disney/Marvel