Is Howard the Duck really getting resurrected in the MCU?

Tom Chapman investigates why now is the right time to bring back Howard the Duck - properly.

Seth Green voices Howard The Duck in Marvel's What If...?

There’s an idea hatching in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with reported plans for the world’s highest-grossing franchise to resurrect Howard the Duck for a whole new generation. Long before the MCU, George Lucas’ Howard the Duck slips into the realms of often-forgotten Marvel outings like Elektra, the Hasselhoff-led Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Nic Cage’s Ghost Rider movies.

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As Universal’s Howard the Duck celebrates its 35th anniversary, one of the movie’s original stars claims this maligned mallard is ready to spread his wings all over again. The question is, is this destined to be another rotten stinker or could it be the duck that laid the golden egg?

Howard’s next outing on the big screen

As well as being known for playing Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck, Back to the Future star Lea Thompson has been trying to get a revival off the ground for years. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Thompson explained how she’s worked with OG Howard voice actor Chip Zien to create a pitch for his return.

According to Thompson, ”Marvel liked the pitch, but they have different plans for the different characters”. Thompson remains adamant she’s the woman for the job because she feels like she’s the “one who really understands the fans, both of the movie and the cartoon”.

Thompson stopped short of revealing what Kevin Feige and co. have planned, however, we’ve come a long way since Howard and some questionable animatronics muscled their way into cinemas in 1986. With the MCU already proving it can even reinvent obscure characters like Agatha Harkness for modern audiences, Howard is poised to ruffle a few feathers.

Where Howard the Duck fits into the MCU

Those who know their Howard the Duck from Howard Stark will remember this feathered friend is no stranger to the MCU. First appearing for a brief cameo in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Howard was voiced by Family Guy’s Seth Green. Green reprised his role for the 2017 sequel, while Howard was supposed to be voiced by Community’s Ken Jeong in Avengers: Infinity War – before the part was cut.

Howard’s MCU journey doesn’t end with the Guardians though. Despite Howard sitting out Infinity War, the Russo Brothers told The Independent he was one of the lucky few that survived the Blip. Later, Howard led the Ravagers in THAT “Avengers, assemble” scene. Away from a hopeful flash of feathers in Gunn’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Howard’s foul-mouthed future is set to continue in the animated What…If? series. 

Although the jury is still out on whether What…If? will play into main MCU canon, Green told THR he’ll feature in the story where T’Challa becomes Star-Lord. By the looks of it, Howard is still tied to the apron strings of the Guardians, but for how much longer? Importantly, enough time has passed between Howard the Duck’s movie and his MCU inclusion for fans to forgive the mistakes of the past. If we can forget Josh Trank’s Fant4stic and reinvent The Fantastic Four, we have to make an allowance for Howard.

When is Howard the Duck’s time to shine in the MCU?

Way back when, the notion that James Gunn could bring the Guardians of the Galaxy to life would’ve left even hardcore Marvel fans chuckling. Jump forward to 2021, and the rag-tag team of space rogues is one of the MCU’s hottest properties. Howard the Duck might be an even bigger gamble, but with spinoffs galore filling our screens, it’s about time Howard rolled the dice.

It’s also important to remember that before Hulu’s bundled slate of Marvel’s shows were axed, Howard was supposed to get an animated outing alongside Hit-Monkey, Tigra, and Dazzler standalones. Even though Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. was the sole survivor of the TV scythe, the show’s surprise success could lead into Howard’s arc. Had the various Hulu shows worked, there were plans to unite them in an animated crossover called The Offenders. If M.O.D.O.K. ever makes the leap into live-action, the Offenders could sit neatly alongside the New Avengers, Young Avengers, Thunderbolts, and all those other rumoured team-ups. 

Animals are flavour of the month right now, and after Alligator Loki stole the show, Howard is the right balance of weird and wacky that the cosmic branch of the MCU is heading toward. It’s easy to imagine What…If? setting up Howard’s more permanent residence in the franchise, with potential cameos in everything from Loki season 2 to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness sure to grab our attention.

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Even if we’re presumably a long way off Howard diving into his own live-action outing, expect to see some webbed footprints as the MCU heads into Phase Four and beyond. 

Check out more of our Sci-Fi and Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.