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What could have been.

§ November 24th, 2023 § Filed under howard the duck § 1 Comment

A blurb about the then-forthcoming Howard the Duck movie, from Comics Scene Vol. 1 #1 (1982), via):

Because I still have the receipt, that’s how I know exactly when.

§ June 2nd, 2017 § Filed under howard the duck, paperbacks § 5 Comments

So from Wednesday’s post, adam asks

“hey mike did you ever read the novelization of the film? i remember it had a nice meta tone to it.”

And the answer is, of coures, I certainly did read the novelization! I even talked about the book (the actual physical object, though, not so much the content) about nine years ago, so I don’t blame anyone for not remembering. But here’s the scan I made of my actual copy of the book, purchased at 4:44 in the afternoon on July 18th, 1986:

I haven’t read it in a long time…I know I’ve read it more than once, but I definitely haven’t read it since maybe sometime in the late 1980s. I know I say this a lot about things I haven’t read or watched or otherwise experienced in a while, but I really should read it again, if only to see if there are maybe some nuances to the novel I missed the first time around or have forgotten about in the meantime. adam notes its “meta tone,” and I’d like to see, or at least be reminded of, what he’s talking about. Add that to the “Future Posts on Progressive Ruin” whiteboard!

Blogging sister Tegan adds

“I’ve been thinking Howard would be perfect for something like a low-risk/low-reward web series.”

That probably wouldn’t be a bad place for him. I thought for a while that a late-night animated series on the televisions might be a good fit, though I suppose if any studio or network is going to have some new thing with the name “Marvel Comics” on it, they’re gonna want it in front of as many eyes as possible. But that desire versus the aforementioned reluctance for putting too many eggs in the Howard basket would probably result in no Howard show at all. So instead, it’s probably cameos and guest-appearances for the near future…but I suddenly just pictured Howard popping up on Marvel’s site as an updated version of Clippy, making acerbic comments about how many times you keep clicking on that one Spider-Woman cover.

However, I would just plotz if Howard started showing up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I know there’s a general “never the twain shall meet” policy, that’s mostly held, between the Marvel TV shows and the Marvel movies, but I can’t imagine they’d be too worried about Howard making the leap between the two.

All this speculation is likely for naught, since realistically I expect Howard is going to stick to Guardians of the Galaxy appearances. …Unless we get that letter-writing campaign started right now, gang!

Almost too much Howard the Duck content.

§ May 31st, 2017 § Filed under howard the duck, pal plugging § 4 Comments

Now I generally like the Howard the Duck movie, as I’ve noted before. No, it’s not a terribly accurate reflection of our favorite fowl Trapped in a World He Never Made, but it has its moments, and more importantly, it has Lea Thompson…and so I don’t end that sentence in an overly sexist fashion, it also has Tim Robbins, who’s a lot of fun.

But Howard the Duck has been coming up in conversation at the shop a lot more often lately, thanks to his cameo appearances in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. I even had one kid (“kid” i.e. approximately late teens/early 20s) point at a Howard the Duck somethin’-or-other in the shop and exclaim “hey, it’s that guy from Guardians of the Galaxy!” so the cultural rehabilitation of Howard amongst today’s youth continues apace. I mean, it has been 31 years since the movie’s release, so I imagine there’s at least a generation or two who either have avoided direct exposure to the film (though it’s been occasionally available via online streaming) or, more likely, weren’t there for the huge bombing of the film and its subsequent equivalence with “disaster.”

I’ve been asked a handful of times if I think Howard may get another film of his own. Despite what I just said, about Mr. Duck experiencing something of a — “popular” resurgence isn’t quite the right term, but you know what I mean — that film still casts a long shadow. As a trusted advisor once informed me, it seems unlikely any studio executive would want to be the fella/lady on record saying “yes” to a new Howard the Duck film. Even though…right now, Marvel Studios has yet to have a poorly-performing release, so if there was a new Howard flick, just on Marvel’s rep alone butts would meet seats. Or it could be Marvel’s first big flop, and we’d be right back where we started.

For the time being, it’s probably just continuing cameos for Howard, which is just fine, and frankly, it’s something of a miracle we’re even getting those. That aforementioned Marvel Studios rep for continuing hit films is most likely what got someone to say “ah heck, a Howard cameo might not hurt anything” and let it in.

Anyway, the reason for all that typing is that, on the occasion when someone unfamiliar with the comic asks me how the movie compares (and believe it or not, the topic comes up quite a bit at the shop), my go-to example has been the particular bit of business regarding “quack-fu.”

“Quack-fu” in the comic is the hook by which writer Steve Gerber (along with artists John Buscema and Steve Leialoha) examines the then-huge pop culture faddish-ness of martial arts:

…the movies, the magazines, the “learn the secrets of the masters” ads, even Marvel’s own Master of Kung-Fu series. It’s an extended and pointed satire of a contemporary cultural trend with the additional contemplation of violence and its acceptance in media and society.

The movie strips “quack-fu” of all that context, and suddenly it’s just another duck joke:

…and a way to move the plot along by having Howard kick butt when it’s convenient.

This may be the most blatant example of Howard’s misuse in the film. Like I said, the movie does have its moments, and overall it’s likeable enough, but you’re not getting the satirical commentary of Howard’s comic in here. (Sorry if I made anyone’s monocle pop out by saying that.) And I wonder if that’s the sort of thing that would translate to a new big-budget Marvel action movie anyway. Can you imagine? “It’s like Network, but with a talking duck!” I mean, it’s not impossible, and would certainly be different from the usual superhero fare, but I don’t know if the world is quite ready for it.

• • •

In other news:

“Has Howard gone Hollywood?”

§ August 7th, 2013 § Filed under howard the duck § 10 Comments

From Marvel Age #43 (October 1986), the front cover (by Kyle Baker):

…the back cover:

…and a close-up of the front cover’s corner box (featuring Forbush Man):

Taking a bit of a break from blogging today…

§ February 9th, 2011 § Filed under buttons, employee aaron, howard the duck § 5 Comments

…but here’s a Howard the Duck button Employee Aaron made for me recently:

One of the signs of the end times: Howard the Duck on DVD.

§ April 13th, 2009 § Filed under howard the duck, movie reviews Comments Off on One of the signs of the end times: Howard the Duck on DVD.

And now, another installment of “SPIN or SARCASM,” featuring the back cover of the recently released Howard the Duck: Special Edition DVD:

“One of the most talked-about movies of all time….”

“…This unbelievably funny comedy….”

“…A hidden treasure the whole family can enjoy.”

“…Groundbreaking special effects.”

“…Its transformation into a cultural phenomenon.”

Those particular quotes just kind of jumped out at me from the DVD cover…yes, this means I now own a copy of the DVD. Don’t you judge me. Anyway, I suppose “one of the most talked-about movies” is certainly true, as is the business about being a “cultural phenomenon.” Enormous cinematic bombs do tend to stick around in the public consciousness for a while…I couldn’t tell you who won the Best Picture Oscar last year, but by God, I remember Howard the Duck pretty much scene-for-scene.

The other quotes…”unbelievably funny comedy” is pushing it a bit. Let’s settle for “mildly amusing.” And while some of the special effects were nice, like the stop motion monster near the end of the film, I don’t know that I’d go for “groundbreaking.” But there is some nice soundwork, and the Howard suit is actually a lot more technologically complex than I realized, after getting a brief shot of its innards during one of the DVD extras. In addition, “fun for the whole family” apparently includes that scene at the beginning of the movie with naked duck breasts (er, what?). I forget where I saw it, but an online review noted that the “fun for the whole family” line was right above a warning on the back cover that read “certain portions of this picture may be unsuitable for younger children.” Granted, not much in the film is the type of the material that’ll warp Little Billy’s mind and turn him into a mass murderer, but there is a joke or two that might need some adult supervision.

Yeah, yeah, I’m nitpicking. Hey, it’s all in fun…I gotta admire whoever wrote the copy on this DVD cover for doing a good job putting a positive spin on a film that’s very famously a failure and a flop.

Now, about those special features…there’s nearly an hour’s worth of bonus material, which, when I first heard about it, surprised the hell out of me. I totally figured we’d get a barebones disc, with the movie and maybe the trailers, dumped on the market at a rock-bottom price. We do get the trailer (with actors talking about Howard as if he’s a real person), plus some other vintage behind-the-scenes shorts (including one with Thomas Dolby and his work on the soundtrack), but we also get new interviews with Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck (the folks who wrote/directed/produced the film), Lea Thompson (who played “Beverly”), Jeffrey Jones (“Jenning/Dark Overlord”) and Ed Gale (who was in the actual Howard costume). There is lots of vintage behind the scenes footage and stills accompanying the interviews, including several appearances by George Lucas his own self supervising the shooting, inspecting the effects, and very clearly pondering the creation of Jar Jar Binks. Or maybe I’m just reading into things, here.

Another element that surprised me, beyond the fact that there even were special features, is the honesty regarding the film’s impact. Granted, for most of the interviews, there is a very upbeat, positive spin on the film. Lots of tales of hard work and enormous effort and hurdles to be overcome and so on…can’t blame them for trying to defend the work they put into the film. Most folks don’t make a film trying for a disastrous flop. But then they have to admit that, yes, the film may not have performed up to expectations, to say the least. Well, it’s not like they could have denied it, right? They’re fully aware of the film’s place in cinematic and cultural history, and there is some discussion regarding how they reacted to the film’s reception at the time (hint: not entirely well).

Howard’s creator, the late Steve Gerber, is mentioned briefly, and there is a quick glimpse or two of the comics, plus a few mentions of how funny those comics were. Though, listening to the interviews, I sorta get the feeling that the folks making the film didn’t really grasp what it was that made Howard special. Well, okay, maybe the actual two hour movie established that already, but there’s still…nothing specific I can point to, but just a general sense from what was said that Howard’s essence eluded them. No real shame in that, however…Howard’s essence has pretty much eluded everyone whose name wasn’t “Steven Gerber.”

All that said…I’m not going to lie to you and tell you this is a good movie. It isn’t. But it’s not a horrible movie. It is, in a strange way, charmingly awful. It’s watchable, it’s dumb, it’s occasionally amusing, it has Jeffrey Jones putting teethmarks in the scenery, it has Tim Robbins in one of his earliest roles, and it has Lea Thompson. Boy, does it ever have Lea Thompson. And occasionally, for only the briefest moments, you do get a minuscule reminder of the Howard you know and love from the comics.

But this…this…is the final insult:

After everything else they’ve put Howard through, they stripped away his cigar, present in all the previous publicity and tie-in material for the film, for the DVD cover? Here’s the original:

Okay, he now has feet sticking out of the egg (which he didn’t have before in the above poster* this cover was based on, and appear to have been taken from this other poster and Photoshopped in), but still…to deprive a duck of his smokes. That’s a damn shame, that’s what that is.

ONE FINAL WARNING: If you do decide to watch, or rewatch, this movie, you will have the refrain from the “Howard the Duck” theme song, as performed by the in-movie band Cherry Bomb, running through your head, unbidden, in a constant loop. This is the price you pay for quality entertainment.

* I had a vague recollection of a series of posters with Howard slowly busting out of the egg, and perhaps one of them had his feet sticking out, too…but perhaps I’m imagining things. I can’t Google up any examples and there are no such posters at the IMDB entry. But I did find this awesome German poster for the film (“HOWARD – An Animal Hero,” if Babel Fish is not lying to me), so my internet search was not in vain!