Avengers: Infinity War is a veritable who’s who of Marvel’s greatest superheroes. Whether you’re into Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wong, or Groot, there was someone for everyone – at least until they all turned to dust, that is. But one overlooked Marvel icon was missing from the fight, despite being perfectly situated to appear. That hero is Howard the Duck.
Created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayeriik back in the early 1970’s, Howard the Duck was a secondary character in Marvel’s horror anthology series Adventure into Fear, appearing alongside Man-Thing, before graduating onto his own series in 1976. Despite only limited appearances through the years, Howard would get his very own movie in 1986, which many consider one of the worst ever made. There would be no sequel, and despite maintaining a cult following, the character faded into relative obscurity, especially when the comic book movie boom began to take hold in the mid-2000’s.
Then, in 2014, Howard resurfaced during the post-credits sequence of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It really was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance, and it was fairly obvious from the “Who’s that?” comments coming from audiences mouths that Howard the Duck was not someone modern comic book fans (see: children) knew, and many old-school fans had long given up on. But this was a new Howard. Gone was the creepy doe-eyed duck from the ill-advised movie, in its place a more realistic, CGI creature in a dapper suit and sipping a cocktail from a glass. This was the Howard of the comics, and with his minute or so of exposure, he was back and ready to quack … er … rock.
The buzz surrounding the new and improved Howard led to a starring role in a Lego Marvel video game, and another cameo in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. So when news landed that the next big MCU event would be Infinity War, fans began to wonder how the anthropomorphic ducktective would fit into the battle with Thanos. The quick answer was he wouldn’t.
Despite having the perfect opportunity to appear, when Thanos headed to Knowhere to get his hands – or more specifically his gigantic, gauntlet-wearing fist – on the Reality Stone, which was in the possession of the Collector, the filmmakers instead settled for leaving him out entirely. Sure, you could argue that there’s no way Howard would have remained on Knowhere, having escaped his fate as part of the Collector’s collection, but he never was the sharpest knife in the drawer, and it didn’t look like the Collector was in any rush to recapture him at the end of Guardians. Heck, maybe they’re friends by this point? Maybe Howard was stranded? Maybe he just liked the cocktails and decided to stay?
If Marvel didn’t want to use Howard in the Reality Stone sequence, then why not have him as a stowaway on The Milano? He didn’t need too many lines, and they could have kicked him off at the next stop, but imagine the chemistry between Howard and Rocket Raccoon. Alternatively, we could have seen him fade away into dust during the film’s climax, in an alternative ending that shows heroes all over the galaxy vanishing from existence – not just the ones featured directly in Infinity War. Even as collateral damage, at least he wouldn’t have simply been forgotten.
Our hope is that with the core Avengers team depleted come Infinity War Part 2, they will need to call upon some of Marvel’s supporting cast to bulk out the ranks. If that’s the case, then Howard the Duck is perfectly positioned to fill that role – after all, the Marvel movie viewing audience already knows him by now. Howard has existed in the Marvel Comic Book Universe in both the furthest reaches of outer space and on our very own planet, so no matter where the next installment of Avengers takes us, let’s just hope that when Earth’s mightiest heroes come calling, he is ready to answer the duck call.
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