If you missed out on the first installment of this two-part look at Howard the Duck’s most important moments of the 1970’s and 1980’s, head on back and read about his first appearance, bid for the presidency and brief stints as a comic strip and magazine star.
Part two examines the talking fowl’s flight to the big screen and the variety of other mediums it allowed him to infiltrate.
THE BIG PICTURE SHOW
13 years after making his comic book debut, Howard leapt to the big screen thanks to a film produced by George Lucas. The movie, penned by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, found Howard accidentally transported to Earth from Duckworld. The Huyck-directed production included familiar comic book elements like the Cleveland locale and Beverly—played by Lea Thompson—but pitted him against a new enemy in the form of the Dark Overlord. Tim Robbins and Jeffrey Jones also starred in the picture with Chip Zien voicing Howard.
Originally intended as an animated feature, “Howard the Duck” went the live action route, becoming the very first feature film based on a Marvel Comics property in the process. It also incorporated a variety of impressive special effects from Industrial Light and Magic, the company that played the same role on the Star Wars films.
Misunderstood by many upon its August 1, 1986 release, “Howard the Duck” did not fare very well at the box office, but has amassed a solid following after the fact that lead to the Special Edition DVD complete with interviews featuring Katz, Huyck, Thompson and more.
With Howard’s silver screen adventure came a few new offerings in the comic book format. The original HOWARD THE DUCK comic series returned for two issues in 1986. Steven Grant wrote #32 with UNCANNY X-MEN artist Paul Smith while #33 came from Christopher Stager and Val Mayerik. That same year a three-part comic book adaptation of the film written by Danny Fingeroth and drawn by Kyle Baker launched.
ADVENTURE ON VOLCANO ISLAND
Ever since the video game industry invaded our homes, it has had a strong relationship with films. It just makes sense that, if people like a film, they’d want to continue that experience by playing as the lead character on their consoles. So, with game-movie popularity moving right along, it made sense for Activision to team up with Marvel and Lucasfilm to create a game called “Howard the Duck: Adventure on Volcano Island” for the Commodore 64 in 1986.
The game acts as s a kind of sequel to the film. A new Dark Overlord pops up and kidnaps Bev, whisking her off to Volcano Island. Howard shows up to fight his way through a variety of thugs, fly through the air and then launch rockets at his enemy. The game suffered from unresponsive controls and an unsatisfying ending, but did boast high quality Commodore 64 visuals and sound for the era.
Between the run at the presidency and a major motion picture, Howard the Duck found his way onto a good deal of products during the 70’s and 80’s. We already mentioned the campaign buttons Gerber sold through the original comic series, but campaign photos and official Howard T-shirts also became available.
Howard's mug also appeared on a 7-11 cup in a series of glasses featuring Marvel's finest. Those who attended the opening of the movie in 1986 were even treated to bubblegum cigars.
In more recent years, a classic-looking Howard the Duck came packaged with the Silver Surfer Marvel Legends action figure. Diamond Select Toys and Gentle Giant also produced a Howard statue based on his Marvel MAX limited series in 2002.
THE MODERN MALLARD
Howard the Duck may not have starred in his own ongoing series since the 80’s, but he still appears here and there throughout the Marvel Universe including the aforementioned MAX six-issue limited series written by Gerber with artwork by Phil Winslade. Unfortunately, Gerber passed away on February 10, 2008, so this marked his last outing with Howard.
The mighty Marvel mallard continues to pop up including a major role in MARVEL ZOMBIES 5, a 2007 four-issue limited series by Ty Templeton and Juan Bobillo and, of course, that appearance back on the big screen in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
For fans looking to go back and see what all the fuss regarding this talking mallard is about, the HOWARD THE DUCK OMNIBUS will make its way back to bookstores and comic shops in October, thanks to a timely reprint.
For more on the 75th anniversary of Marvel, visit marvel.com/75