Could a ‘Howard the Duck’ Disney+ Series Actually Work?

If audiences know Howard the Duck, it’s either from his 1987 movie that was a notorious flop, or as the oddball character that made cameos in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Arguably, neither representation puts the character in the best possible light. 

That’s why some Marvel fans would like to see the character rehabilitated via his own TV series on Disney+. If lesser-known characters like Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel can get their own shows, why not a genuinely unique character like Howard the Duck? 

Disney+ logo | Hakan Nural/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Who is Howard the Duck? 

Doctor Strange has been thought of as one of Marvel’s more far-out creations, but as a concept, not even he can top the strangeness that is Howard the Duck, who came along in Marvel Comics in 1973.

The general idea of his storyline was that he was an alien duck who could talk, but he wasn’t much like Donald, although he was daffy in his own way. The tagline of his comics was “Trapped in a world he never made!”

Howard the Duck first appeared in the comic book Adventure into Fear before getting his own magazine in 1976, although his comics were less fantastical adventures than social satires. He became something of a cult hero, eventually gaining enough traction to spawn other media, including a newspaper comic strip, a video game, and the movie. 

The 1987 movie was executive produced by George Lucas, so fairly or unfairly, his name became associated with the stink that surrounded the film upon its release. The movie was a commercial and critical disaster, winning several Razzie awards and spawning jokes to this day.

Gene Siskel wrote in the Chicago Tribune: “The story has no center; the duck is not likable, and the costly, overwrought, laser-filled special effects that conclude the movie are less impressive than a sparkler on a birthday cake.”

Howard went from flop to fan service

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Although a flop as big as Howard the Duck would have finished most characters off, Howard has managed to persevere through the years. Even when people who made the movie joke about it now, they do it with bemusement. 

While it is arguably a stretch to call Howard the Duck a good movie, its reputation is more that of a silly misfire than a painful experience. Lea Thompson starred in the movie as Beverly, Howard’s rock singer love interest, and both Thompson and her daughter, actress Zoey Deutch, have joked about the trauma of making out with a duck or watching your mom make out with a duck. 

Rather than diminishing Howard, the jokes sustained him, since the ridiculousness of the movie felt like it was ripped from the pages of the comics. The character’s rehabilitation continued further when he appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, even being one of the characters who joined the final battle in Avengers: Endgame.

He had more prominent appearances in the Guardians of the Galaxy in the movies, being right at home among a talking raccoon and a tree. 

Can Howard The Duck be saved? 

Given that Howard the Duck has been rehabilitated over the years, many fans think a Disney+ show wouldn’t be out of the question.

On a Reddit thread, fans debated the pros and cons of such a series. One said, “I really do think a Howard the Duck series called work. And it’s another cool way to further explore the cosmic side of the MCU.”

But another fan countered, “Possible, but difficult, even unadvisable, to do— as Howard’s creator Steve Gerber was pretty vehemently anti-adaptation. They had to engage in years of suits with Marvel to try to retain what rights they had attempting to stop them defiling their work. The 80’s abomination of a blockbuster very much proved their point.”

However, the same fan says that if Marvel does do the show, “Give them a real reality-warping, 4th wall shattering, comic narrative arc. Unclear if MCU is willing to go there.”