Offbeat Marvel character Howard The Duck is getting his own animated series, thanks to Hulu. The streaming service has signed a deal with the comic book giant to bring Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik’s creation to life, following an announcement at the Television Critics’ Association press tour.
Marvel.com writes, “Trapped in a world he never made, America’s favorite fighting fowl Howard the Duck hopes to return home with the help of his unstoppable gal pal Beverly before the evil Dr. Bong can turn him into the crispiest dish on the menu.”
Kevin Smith has been signed on to write the series, alongside Dave Willis (Aqua Teen Hunger Force). They will executive produce with Jeph Loeb.
Writer Gerber and artist Mayerik brought Howard to life in 1973, where his strange and satirical antics helped him stand out from the crowd of costumed crime fighters and cosmic wars.
A 2018 Den of Geek article described Howard The Duck as having the “deliberately absurdist premise of an anthropomorphic cartoon duck from another dimension ending up trapped on Earth, and just trying to live a normal life… He clashed with surreal foes like vampire cows and sentient turnips, lampooning 70s trends like kung-fu and cults, and eventually running for president.”
Despite going against the grain, this beaked anti-hero starred in the very first Marvel feature film. 1986’s Howard The Duck was a critical and box office failure. A costly mistake for Star Wars supremo George Lucas, it just about made its money back.
The project was originally supposed to be animated but Lucas was contractually obligated to deliver a live action film. This led to various practical challenges, chief of which was how to realize the duck himself.
Howard was eventually played by actor Ed Gale (in an animatronic suit) with Chip Zien providing the voice. The experience was a tough one for Gale, who suffered physically in the role.
In 2017 Screenrant mentioned how his “fingers had to be taped together to fit into the three-fingered ‘glove’ that was the duck’s hand. Being repeatedly contorted this way caused his fingers to stay like that for months after filming ended. In an interview on the DVD, Gale recounts how unpleasant the process was.”
Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins were cast as the human leads, with actress and director Thompson recently expressing interest in making a movie reboot. Howard did find his way back to the big screen, courtesy of cameos in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Seth Green voiced the character.
Comparisons have been made between the Hulu deal and Marvel’s arrangement with Netflix. And a direct nod has been made to this via the three other series that will accompany Howard. Just as Netflix teamed up its heroes for The Defenders, so Howard and friends will join forces for The Offenders.
Reporting on the TCA announcement, the BBC writes there would also be “shows based around the villainous robotic giant head MODOK, Japanese snow-monkey assassin Hit-Monkey and the best friend duo of feline superhero Tigra and disco star Dazzler.”
As with Kevin Smith and Howard, Marvel has recruited top talent for writing duties. Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) will work on MODOK with Community writer Jordan Blum. Meanwhile, Chelsea Handler is taking on Tigra & Dazzler.
Speaking to Marvel.com, Smith was egg-cited to be involved in Howard’s new lease of life: “Thanks to Marvel & Hulu, I get to do fowl things to one of my all-time favorite comic book characters in animation! Let’s be honest: I’m not talented enough to handle any of the Avengers but Howard is definitely in my wheelhouse!”
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The shows are still in their early stages but further details should emerge in due course. Feather or not Marvel’s Howard The Duck will erase memories of the flop movie remain to be seen.