Retcon This! Howard the Duck

In the ever-evolving landscape of fandom, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved geek properties.

Fun fact: Before Blade, Howard was by default Marvel's highest grossing theatrical film.

Fun fact: Before Blade, Howard was by default Marvel's highest grossing theatrical film.

“THIS IS THE WORST THING THAT GEORGE LUCAS HAS EVER MADE SINCE… anything not Star Wars or Indiana Jones related.” – The Nostalgia Critic

I’m at war with myself, PoPulation. On one hand, I hate it when people judge something without seeing it. If you haven’t experienced something, what makes you qualified to say it sucks? I’ve seen the horrors of Twilight and read Chuck Austin’s runs on Uncanny X-Men and Action Comics, so I feel like I’m justified in bashing them. On the other hand, I love Steve Gerber. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get into his stuff until after he died, but everything I’ve read so far I love. His work on Man-Thing should be mandatory comics reading, his run on Defenders was a gleefully subversive look at super-hero teams, his last work on Dr. Fate was truly magical, and Omega the Unknown (co-written with Mary Skrenes) is on par with Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run for brain-melting concepts and sheer ambition. But even with all this, his work with his creation Howard the Duck surpasses them all. Funny, thought-provoking, insightful, touching; I could go on and on about it. His dislike of the film adaptation is well known, and it’s because of this I refuse to see it. So call me hypocritical if you want, but I’m not budging on this one.

By nearly all accounts the movie is horrid. I’ve rarely been told by anyone that they enjoyed seeing it. (One of my fellow PoP!-Stars may come to it’s defense. He might say it’s a decent film. He is wrong.) The bits I have seen from the Nostalgia Critic’s review seem to confirm it’s suckitude. Heck, even the filmmakers said they were shifting it away from the tone of Gerber’s comics: “It’s a film about a duck from outer space… It’s not supposed to be an existential experience…” said screenwriter Gloria Katz. The character of Howard himself was even greatly changed. The comic’s cynical, multi-layered fowl was made into a wise-cracking blank slate. To compound the pain, puns involving the word “duck” were littered throughout the film with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

The saddest part is that because of it’s reputation and previous box office performance, Howard will probably never get the film treatment he deserves. (The history between Howard and Marvel’s new owner Disney doesn’t help, either.) It’s a shame, because a film based closer on Gerber’s works could be a great, cerebral alternative to Marvel’s usual fare. Imagine a subversive, thoughtful piece written by someone like Charlie Kaufman and helmed by a director like Spike Jonze, with a CG Howard interacting with a live action cast. It could be fantastic. As it is, all we have is the original flop, which I can sum up my feeling for with a Howard-esque “WAUGHHH!”


Filed Under: ColumnsRetcon This!

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Who ARE these people!?

As one of the co-founders of Panels on Pages, Robert Eddleman will happily read any comic that catches his interest, regardless of publisher. Aside from comics and PoP!, his other passions include worshipping Joss Whedon, getting lost in TV Tropes, and watching muscled men hit each other with folding chairs.

Comments (10)

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  1. Juan/denim says:

    I will actully come to the defense of this movie. I enjoyed it for what it is. The Thomas Dolby soundtrack is amazing. It’s not a true adaptation of the Howard books, but it is still a fun movie. Alot of the box-office bomb remarks come mostly from the amount of money that went into making it.

    As far as the Nostalgia Critic’s review, I saw one where he said he liked Transformers 2, beware of the Nostalgia Critic.

    It really is not as a bad as a movie as everyone keeps making it out to be, it has a solid cast of Tim Robbins, Jeffrey Jones and Lea Thompson and Holly Robinson. The songs are fun, and Lea Thompson is actully singing.

    I say give it a try if you have not seen it.

  2. I saw this in the theater, so I have a bit of that old school nostalgia for it. I think it falls into that so bad it’s good category for me. Yes, duck puns are horrible. Yes, the idea of lady screwing a duck is kind of horrifying, but then sometimes a young man sees something like this…

    ….and a lifetime of affection for Lea Thompson is born.

  3. Tito Cruz says:

    Exactly what Tad said. Watching movies at that age everything is good. You add Lea Thompson ass and it is pure gold for a young lad like myself.

  4. Ben Gilbert says:

    Yes, Howard the Duck is a horrible adaptation, but, dammit, it’s fun. Had I read Gerber’s brilliant comics before watching the movie, then yes, I would have hated it, but my 10-year old self had a blast watching it, and therefore I can’t bring myself to do anything but look back fondly at it.

  5. Juan/denim says:

    I say we begin the campaign to have Rob actully watch the movie!

  6. Jester says:

    I love howard the duck. It might not be a great movie but, it is fun.

  7. Junkle says:

    Amen, Juan. This movie may not be great, but by God it’s fun.

  8. Howard the Duck is garbage, but I love it.

  9. Heytherejeffro says:

    $7M Duck-Suit. That is all.

  10. FroZen says:

    I’ve seen Howard the Duck at least 5 times. I haven’t watched it for years but I’m sure I’d still enjoy it if I watched it today. It is by no means a great movie but as a kid I always thought it was a lot of fun. And of course the duck women had breasts with nipples…how many times can you say you’ve seen that?

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