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'Howard the Duck' Is The Weird Fever Dream Predecessor To All Your Favorite MCU Movies

Updated March 30, 2021 139k views13 items

Iron Man may have been the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, but the brilliant inventor might not be the oldest resident member of the MCU. Thanks to a cheeky post-credits cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy, Howard the Duck - one of Marvel's wackiest characters - is officially in the MCU, which means his 1986 movie, Howard the Duck, could retroactively be considered the first MCU film - with a few leaps in logic. Taking into account the Howard the Duck's infamous reputation, director James Gunn's decision to include this throwback to the '80s in his box-office-shattering blockbuster is a pretty good way to troll Marvel Studios (who probably want audiences to forget the film ever happened).

Howard the Duck took Steve Gerber's satirical comic book character and tried to make him appeal to both the adult audience familiar with the source material and the children watching the movie who'd be learning about the smart-mouth waterfowl for the first time. Satisfying both demographics is a tricky balance to strike, as demonstrated by the final product that can only be described as an overlong and expensive hot mess. 

For adults, the film is far too silly and illogical, and for kids, it's far too dirty to be appropriate. It's hard to imagine Marvel Studios or Disney being proud of the film, but that doesn't mean there isn't a treasure trove of bizarre or inappropriate material to glean from it.

  • It's Basically 110 Minutes Of Duck Puns

    Those that cherish animal-themed puns should stay away from Howard the Duck because they'll never want to hear one ever again. Early on, the filmmakers - clearly desperate to get a handle on what makes the character tick - seemed to latch on to the realization that Howard was indeed, a duck. So naturally, they decided to run with it for all 110 minutes of the film.

    From "Playduck" magazine to movie posters like "Breeders Of The Lost Stork," an unbelievably large portion of the film's "humor" rests solely on the gag that everything in Howard's world is bird-related. 

  • The Film Hints At Interspecies Romance

    Decades before The Shape of Water became an Oscar-baiting triumph, there seemed to be a real spark between a human woman and a humanoid duck (the world wasn't ready for that kind of interspecies romance in '86). The pair bump into each other after Howard is zapped from Duckworld to Earth. She offers him a place to crash, and after he half-jokingly tries to put the moves on her, she enthusiastically responds.

    Luckily for everyone involved, this ends up going nowhere, though some intruders do catch a glimpse of what looks like a kiss between the pair thanks to misleading shadows on a hanging bed sheet.  

  • Without It, There'd Be No 'Toy Story'

    Incredibly, Howard the Duck's failure really did lead to the creation of PixarHoward the Duck's producer, George Lucas, found himself buried underneath significant debt following the construction of his $50 million film-production headquarters, Skywalker Ranch. He'd been trying to get a movie based on Howard off the ground since the '70s, and thanks to his phenomenal success with Star Wars, Universal was willing to take a gamble on whatever wacky project he put in front of them.

    Lucas was counting on Howard the Duck to put him back in the financial clear, but he made the mistake of putting all his eggs in one basket. The movie was a huge critical and commercial failure, forcing Lucas to sell, among other things, his new cutting-edge CG animation studio. The buyer was Steve Jobs, and the new studio went on to become Pixar.

  • The US Government Recommends That Howard Work In A Brothel  

    Shockingly, Howard's first Earth job is a loosely veiled cover for a place where people can hook up in warm pool water. To add insult to injury, Howard is put on the worst duty imaginable: clean-up. Naturally, an argument with the management ensues, and it's only a matter of time before he's tossed into one of the hot tubs right next to a couple about to be intimate.

    The worst part is that he got the job after visiting an unemployment office, meaning the US government is apparently recommending cathouses as workplaces.