The Marvel Super Heroes Podcast

The Marvel Super Heroes Podcast Episode 021

Howard the Duck (1986)

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Note: We like our language NSFW salty, and there be spoilers here…

Face Front, True Believers! Mister Fixit, Illegal Machine and Diabolu Frank tackle the first ever major motion picture to star a Marvel Comics character, Howard the Duck! Conceived as an animated project, Universal Studios needed a live action summer release from Lucasfilm, so the film was converted without regard to propriety or technical difficulties on a tight schedule. The actual Howard suit/animatronics were a work in progress, with varied, obviously divergent stages/designs showing up throughout the film. Ed Gale primarily worked Howard’s body, while Chip Zien provided the drake’s voice. One of the major action set pieces, the Ultralight sequence, was designed by future Captain America: The First Avenger director Joe Johnston. Released on August 1, 1986, the film earned less than a million dollars over its reported production of $37M ($77m in adjusted dollars, relatively cheap by today’s standards.) Despite its reputation as one of the biggest box office flops and “worst movies ever,” the facts of the matter don’t add up. Howard isn’t even in the top 50 worst performers at the box office (it technically made money in the long run.) It isn’t on IMDb’s Bottom 100 (with its 4.5 rating) and there are many thousands of movies with lower Tomatometer readings than 14% (39% with audiences.) But we’re not here to damn the movie with faint praise as only a middling disaster*. Howard the Duck scores 100% favorability among your trio of hosts, who are here to tell you why for a bit under an hour. Excelsior! Plus, the Mighty Marvel Mail Bag!

*Full Disclosure: Howard the Duck did put in a strong underperformance as the 1986 Razzie awards, tying for worst picture with Under the Cherry Moon and chosen as biggest loser for Worst Screenplay to Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, Worst Visual Effects to Industrial Light and Magic, and Worst New Star to “The Six Guys and Gals in The Duck Suit,” plus nominations for Worst Supporting Actor Tim Robbins, Worst Director Willard Huyck, and Worst Original Song for “Howard The Duck” by Thomas Dolby, Allee Willis and George Clinton.

As you can tell, we love a fierce conversation and a pretty picture, so why don’t you socialize with us, either by leaving a comment on this page or…


11 thoughts on “The Marvel Super Heroes Podcast Episode 021”

  1. I can’t believe I listened to an hour of talk about the Howard the Duck movie.
    I must admit, I saw it long ago on cable … and back then I felt once was enough. To hear you guys talk about it, I am wondering if I should give it a second viewing.

    On a related note, I definitely feel like a ‘brother’ to Frank. I also am a huge fan of Jem. I am looking forward to the movie. And when I talked to my group of comic buddies about it, I also assumed we all watched it and they had no idea what I was talking about.

    Will let you know if I eventually see this again.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!


  2. Mac: A fowl mood? Did you do that on purpose?

    Frank: If you don’t use “Undertones! Undertones!” as a recurring sample in future podcasts, I’ll be sorely disappointed!

    Howard the Duck… No real opinion, I have no real memory of seeing it, though I think I did on television at some point. I was 15 when the film came out, so already too old to embrace it (I’m a child of the 70s and a teen of the 80s). My movie-watching group has drawn up a list of “bad (or maligned) comic book movies” we want to attempt in a marathon, and Howard is on it, of course, along with Catwoman, Steel and Corman’s Fantastic Four.


  3. I did like the chemistry between you all on this show. And even with the folks who comment here.

    Although birds of a feather …

    Hee hee


  4. Anj, I doubt that you’ll embrace Howard as an adult if you didn’t take to it in earlier days when there were far fewer action/fantasy/comic book options. Howard is so 1983 it hurts, and yes, I know what date I typed. This is a movie that requires either heavy preexisting ’80s nostalgia or probably mood altering substances to appreciate. That’s why we compared it favorably to the worst Marvel movies instead of the best. To translate into DC terms, it’s a much better movie that I’d much rather watch than Superman III-IV, Catwoman or Batman & Robin.

    Try talking to your comic book buddies’ wives. I bet they heard of Jem. My girlfriend’s sister who’s my age was a big fan. I understand there’s some controversy over the “whitewashing” of Shana with the very light-skinned actress Aurora (daughter of Harold) Perrineau. Still looking forward to it, but more so if Thomas Dolby were writing these songs too (or, oooooo, former members of the Bangles and The Go-Gos!)

    Siskoid, I believe “fowl mood” was a Mister Fixit presentation. Mac tends to scorn puns or point out the unintentional ones of others (meaning my often Freudian ones specially.) Fixit’s was quite intentional. As for your worst comic book movie marathon, Howard would be a highlight/reprieve amidst that group, but it doesn’t sound like a particularly punishing collection. You’d be surprised how much better Catwoman because once you realize it’s actually a Vixen movie (which isn’t to say good, just less bad) while the Corman F4 is more enjoyable than the FOX offerings. Steel is legit barrel bottoming, though.

    I will point out to Mac that Pekita did find you exceptionally aggressive in this episode, her primary complaint after the sound quality (a combination of an acoustically compromised setting and an effects nob that was mistakenly turned when I moved the mixer.)

    Oh… Anj. Speaking of Freud, “[Puns] are generally counted as the lowest form of wit, perhaps because they are ‘cheapest’ and can be formed with the least effort.” I’d argue though that our cursing for comedic and invective effect for roughly a third of all dialogue in every 30-90 minute podcast episode would be lower still.


  5. I vividly remember that the studio went out of its way to not feature Howard prior to the films release. I saw the movie as a kid on VHS for the first time and had to say I was disappointed. It completely failed to capture Howard the Duck comic character. Years later I can now tolerate the movie for nostalgia purposes. Great show as usual guys..any chance of covering the 1970s Dr Strange TV movie?


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