Watching the Hulk and Thor throwdown on a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier just won’t cut it anymore. We thought all our comic book superhero movie miracles were answered, but now that we’ve seen Thanos snap The Avengers into oblivion, we’re back to praying to the great Stan Lee in the sky. We got three wishes, and on the third wish, we wished for infinite wishes. Fandom is greedy that way.
Personally, I’ve been chomping at the bit for a Howard the Duck film for quite some time. I’m one of those weirdos that believe the George Lucas produced adaptation from 1986 is gloriously shabby, and I swooned when Lea Thompson started spouting off red carpet dreams of directing an entry for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After experiencing Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, and Ant-Man and the Wasp, mainstream America is finally ready to take back the master of Quack-Fu.
Hulu will wade into the weirdest waters of Marvel Comics when they attempt to translate four of the publisher’s strangest properties. According to Deadline, Hulu and Marvel have formed a pact very similar to the one made years back at Netflix. As that streaming platform tied Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist into the mega-crossover event known as The Defenders, Hulu will bring together four separate IPs for an epic clash of personalities called The Offenders. To make the oddity a little more palatable, and to possibly prepare our cinematic tastes, Hulu is filtering this team of comic book leftovers through the medium of animation.
Netflix did admirable work with their B-List/C-List characters, but Hulu will truly have their work cut out for them. The Offenders are comprised of straight Z-list properties, but they’re backed by A-list talent. The Tigra & Dazzler Show is described as a “politically progressive” program overseen by Chelsea Handler and Erica Rivinoja. The murderous assassin adventures of Hit-Monkey are steered by showrunners Josh Gordon and Will Speck. M.O.D.O.K. (a.k.a. the Mental Mobile Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing) is the Al Bundy of supervillains, struggling to conquer the world as well as his family. This absurdist nightmare of a concept could only be monitored by Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum. Then, of course, there is the resurrection of Howard the Duck as seen through the minds of Kevin Smith and Dave Willis.
Bold talk doesn’t get much bolder than what Hulu is barking with The Offenders. No wonder Craig Erwich, their Senior VP of Originals, is already contemplating the rescue of the recently canceled Netflix properties (via The Wrap). If they can make hits from these crop of miscreants, they might be capable of anything. Certainly, The Offenders announcement raised a lot of eyebrows online, but for maniacs like myself, it’s the wonderous news we’ve been waiting to receive. M.O.D.O.K., yeah, cool, cool, cool. Hit-Monkey, uh-huh, that’s weird. Howard the Duck? All hail the reject from Duckworld.
Howard the Duck was created by writer Stever Gerber and artist Val Mayerik, and made his first appearance within the pages of 1973’s Adventures into Fear #19 alongside equally strange characters like Man-Thing and Korrek, The Peanut Butter Barbarian (uh…yeah, so there are even a few characters that fall several tiers below Howard’s popularity). H.T. Duck was Gerber and Mayerik’s way of skewering societal issues using the “funny animal” trope often meant to pacify the young. These were a couple of angry creatives ready to savage the crumbling world around them with the face of Donald the Duck’s perverted cousin.
Howard’s heated point of view was so popular that he spun out into his own series three years later. A decade before ruination at the hands of Star Wars‘ maestro, Howard the Duck was contemplating suicide by flinging himself off a tower built of credit cards. Before he could make that catastrophic plunge, H.T. bumps into Beverly Switzer (played by Thompson in the film) and the two plot revenge against a diabolical accountant attempting to reach god-hood through a cosmic adding machine. The first issue sees Howard push aside his thoughts of self-extermination and partner with Beverly as they wage a war against other deranged capitalists.
Having faced and survived a genuine lawsuit from the Walt Disney Company (oh, the irony) Marvel relaunched the character in 2001 under their MAX mature readers banner. Gerber returned to Howard with artist Phil Winslade. The comic saw Howard transformed into a rodent as well as various other friends of Mickey, fighting evil with its own face. Embracing this new R-rated nature, Gerber erupted with vitriol against the House of the Mouse.
That particular series reached its climax after Beverly and H.T. get kicked out of their junkyard base by the Department of Homeland Security and battle a reanimated Sigmund Freud who fires frickin’ laser beams out of his cigar. Howard dies in the process of saving Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Phil (I don’t have the space to explain why they’re there) and is sent to purgatory where he forces God to admit that Creation was a “work for hire” gig. The book is one big middle finger to the establishment, and while I can’t say it all works, it’s totally in keeping with the Howard the Duck brand. Gerber was mad as hell and he had a lot to rage against.
Is Kevin Smith the right guy for the job? Movies like Clerks, Mallrats, and Yoga Hosers may not suggest such a thing, but films like Tusk and Red State have plenty on their mind beyond the grotesque. If you have ever dug into Smith’s comics work, you have also met a creator with a deep appreciation for the toys he’s handling. His Daredevil, Green Arrow, and Batman work do not read like the average superhero fare but it does come from a place of total reverence.
Gerber died in 2008 due to complications arising from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and I don’t think we’ll ever see a Howard the Duck as ferocious as the one that spat from his keyboard. We will meet a real hound dog Howard, a lecherous fiend with contempt for everything decent in the world. I’ll take it. I want it.