Long time Marvel fans that stayed around for the post credits scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy were delighted with the appearance of Howard the Duck, voiced by Seth Green. Stop. Don’t run off to comment about spoilers. The movies been out almost three weeks and if you Google Howard the Duck you get a ton of posts about the GOTG scene. It’s out there and well-known by now. This post credits appearance quickly led many fans to ask, “Will there be another Howard the Duck movie,” when they should have been asking, “How did Howard the Duck get into Guardians of the Galaxy in the first place?”
Gather round and we’ll lay it out for you. Let’s start with a few Howard the Duck facts. The movie was produced by George Lucas, and directed by Willard Huyck, was the first Marvel film to make it to the big screen, and flopped horribly at the box office. It currently has a 14% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, only garnered the third spot on its opening weekend, and made $37 million since it was premiered. Since the movie cost an estimated $36 million to produce you can see why no one was rushing to make more. Let’s face it, the only reason most of us guys love that movie was the infamous silk panties scene with Lea Thompson.
As it happens with other movies that tank at the box office, Howard the Duck did find a place in fans hearts, perhaps because sometimes we all like a train wreck and just can’t look away. Even those that profess that they love the movie admit it is a stinker. The comics are a lot of fun though and you should pick up the Howard the Duck Omnibus that will be released later this October.
It collects a ton of the key moments and appearances including the origin story by co-creators Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik: ‘Adventures Into Fear’ #19, ‘Man-Thing’ #1, ‘Giant-Size Man-Thing’ #4-5, ‘Howard the Duck’ #1 – #33, ‘Marvel Treasury Edition’ #12, and ‘Marvel Team-Up’ #96.
Now that we’re all on the same Howard the Duck page, just how did Howard happen to appear in the credits scene? When recently talking with Empire, Gunn explained:
I think it was some combination of me and the editor Fred Raskin who said, ‘Let’s put Howard The Duck in there. What if The Collector looks over and sees Howard The Duck sitting there?’ And I wrote down the line, ‘Whaddya let it lick you like that for? Gross.’ Fred and I thought it was hilarious, but we weren’t sure that (Head of Marvel Studios) Kevin Feige would go for it. But we told Kevin and Kevin couldn’t stop laughing, so that’s how it came about.
Gunn was then asked what the chances of another Howard the Duck movie, to which he responded:
I’ll be honest with you, I was just talking about it with my assistant right now (Laughs). It’s possible Howard could reappear as more of a character in the Marvel Universe. But if people think that’s going to lead to a Howard The Duck movie, that’s probably not going to happen in the next four years. Who knows after that?
As a side note, some eagle-eyed fans noticed that the GOTG version of Howard the Duck was still wearing pants this time around unlike his original comic book style. Those in the know remember that Marvel and Disney had a few legal type wranglings about the character back in the day. Just looking at the pair it’s easy to imagine Disney’s lawyers drooling and pulling at their chains, eager to take a bite out of Marvel back in the 70’s.
In 2001 co-creator Steve Gerber gave an interview with Newsrama about what happened:
Back in 1979 or so – I don’t have the exact date handy – the Walt Disney Company threatened to sue Marvel Comics, claiming that Howard the Duck infringed on their Donald Duck trademark. To avoid a legal battle, Marvel’s old management signed an unbelievably stupid agreement with Disney regarding the design of Howard the Duck. Under the terms of that agreement, Howard must conform to a set of designs that Disney provided for the character. It’s the version with the beady eyes, the hideous swollen beak, and the baggy trousers, the one that appeared in the black-and-white Howard magazine and in the movie. The way the agreement is worded, Marvel isn’t even allowed to come up with an entirely different design, even if that design bore no resemblance to Donald.
Over the past couple of decades, I’ve done a lot of complaining about the idiocy of Marvel’s old management, and if ever there was proof of my argument, this is it. They literally let another company redesign their own character for them. As best I can tell, Marvel never even attempted to negotiate the matter, never even submitted any alternate designs for Disney’s consideration. I can just picture the Disney artists, hunched over their drawing boards, cackling like hyenas, as they designed the ugliest duck they could possibly imagine. Disney’s lawyers and management must have had a real belly laugh, too, when Marvel accepted their design without balking.
Now, I wasn’t even aware that such an agreement existed on paper. I thought Marvel had simply agreed on a ‘handshake’ basis with Disney that Howard wouldn’t look like Donald. We were in the process of redesigning Howard – Glenn Fabry had done some terrific sketches – when Stuart Moore checked with Marvel’s legal department and turned up the written agreement. Needless to say, everyone concerned was horrified. None of us, least of all myself, wanted to do a character that had to look like that appalling Disney design.
Now that Disney owns Marvel, those concerns went up in smoke. Kevin Feige commented on that very fact:
And no legal wrangling over pants with Disney this time! No. I wasn’t even aware of all that stuff until recently!
That’s about all I know about Howard the Duck, will we see him again on the big screen? I imagine we will for cameo style appearances, but don’t hold your breath for a feature-length movie starring Marvel’s feathered fowl. That’s not in the works.