You’re out of luck until you’ve gone duck.
The waters have been tested. After dipping their toes into their bizarre back catalog with Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther, and Ant-Man and the Wasp, the MCU owns the box office. They’ve dabbled in various genres, played around with the rom-com, the spy thriller, the sci-fi saga, and lost world legends. After Avengers 4 closes the book on their first epic superhero novel, the follow-up phases have the potential to erupt in all manner of weirdo storytelling.
Spider-Man: Far From Home and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 are sure bets. The inevitable Black Panther 2 is a big no duh. We spend far too much time speculating and dreaming, but when you love these gloriously comic booky worlds so damn much, there is nothing we would rather do. We demand our Black Widow spin-off. We’re stoked for Captain Marvel, but we’re already set for Ms. Marvel.
To stave off superhero fatigue, the genre needs to spread out and adopt the myriad of available options. Tangential mash-ups are cool, but since the audience appears to be ready to lay down their hard-earned cash for anything Kevin Feige touches, the time has come to get nuts. Well, guess what? Lea Thompson has the perfect character to examine our commitment to this universe.
While chatting to SyFy Wire on the red carpet of the 44th Saturn Awards, Thompson mentioned that she’s pushing forward with her Howard the Duck pitch at Marvel Studios. Don’t you dare eye-roll at me. Yes, H.T. Duck has already had his turn on the silver screen, and yes, it was a weird 80s oddity about a fowl alien violently transported to our world where he joins an all-girl punk rock band and battles a vicious insectoid predator. And yeah, it was a colossal box-office bomb. A real turkey. But dammit, give that movie another try. The film has plenty of detractors, but also a small army of defenders eager to take up its cause.
Thompson originally starred opposite H.T. Duck (as well as a delightfully young Tim Robbins), but now that’s she cut her teeth as the director on The Year of Spectacular Men, she is prepared to tackle a real blockbuster challenge. She has confidence that the world is ready, and that Hollywood can now concoct a believable Duck.
“When we made Howard the Duck there wasn’t the CGI, there wasn’t the script, there wasn’t the Marvel machine behind it. And I think they have a slight appetite for it, since they’re drawing him for Guardians of the Galaxy.”
That’s right. Howard is already floating around the MCU. James Gunn has a deep-seeded love for the character and found a few cute ways to sneak him into his films. Seth Green mastered the dastardly voice and succeeded in bringing the appropriate amount of sleaze to the character. Gunn proved to the world that a talking raccoon and a tree with command of only three words equaled box office gold. H.T. Duck is no weirder or less cool than Rocket Racoon.
Thompson is right about the appetite too. We don’t just want an infinite parade of Iron Man sequels. We crave variety and new experience.
Howard the Duck was created by writer Stever Gerber and artist Val Mayerik. He was meant to be an acerbic outsider trapped in a permanent state of revolting observation. The original comic book was a brutal satire that took aim at all the ills plaguing contemporary society. He savagely belittled our preoccupation with pop culture and happily assaulted Vietnam era politics.
Thompson obviously has an affinity for the creation she took part in, but it is also clear that she is aware of that film’s failings in the script department. Give the film to Infinity War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. They’re a pair of ultra-geeks that delight in the goofy corners of the Marvel Universe. They found a way to translate Arnim Zola into The Winter Soldier, and they’re determined to make the insanity of M.O.D.O.K. work at some point. Then let James Gunn and Seth Green take a pass.
The Duck’s purpose was to erect a defiant middle finger towards polite society as well as the ultra-hip crowd. Under his gaze, we were all deserving targets. Comic books needed that imp to deconstruct the tired concepts, and now that superhero cinema has reigned for over a decade, the medium is ready for a Howard the Duck takedown.