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The Pitch That Marvel Studios Rejected Because It Has Plans For Howard The Duck

In a moment that still reverberates through blockbuster cinema today, the original 2008 "Iron Man" film ends with the introduction of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the introduction of a then-radical idea that the titular Iron Man will one day join a team of superheroes called the Avengers. In practice, of course, this scene served as the birth of the interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe, that has remained a staple of popular film and TV alike in the years since.

Of course, even though "Iron Man" was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, it was far from the first Marvel movie. Before "Iron Man" there were films like, for example, the 2003 version of "Daredevil," starring Ben Affleck. Unlike the acclaimed Netflix "Daredevil" TV series, which ran for three seasons (and was beloved enough that fans have called out for Marvel to #SaveDaredevil ever since) the 2003 "Daredevil" was a flop, netting a 44% reviewer score and an even lower 35% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The list of pre-MCU Marvel movies also includes "Howard the Duck," a 1986 comedy about a duck-like alien's misadventures on Earth. 

"Howard the Duck," despite boasting George Lucas as a producer, was a critical failure. That said, as recounted in a retrospective coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the film published by The Hollywood Reporter, "Howard the Duck" has become a cult classic in recent years, appreciated for some of the very things reviewers once criticized. THR's piece also happened to reveal that Marvel might have plans for Howard the Duck in the future of the MCU.

Howard the Duck will (maybe?) return

In commemoration of its 35th anniversary, THR spoke with both Chip Zien, the voice of Howard the Duck in the 1986 Marvel movie, and Lea Thompson, who played Howard's human companion Beverly Switzler. Thompson explained that "Howard the Duck" holds a special place in her heart not in spite of but because of its rough critical reception. "I often say my Howard the Duck fans are my favorite fans because they had to earn it!" Thompson said. "It was not jumping on the bandwagon."

Not only does Thompson still retain a fondness for Howard, but she's even attempted to bring him back to the silver screen. Thompson said she put together a pitch for a new Howard the Duck movie along with authors Joe Quinones and Chip Zdarsky (who worked on a recent run of "Howard the Duck" comics), with plans for her to direct the film, should it come together.

"Chip and I worked together and came up with a really great pitch," Thompson said. "Marvel liked the pitch, but they have different plans for the different characters."

Thompson is implying, then, that Marvel has plans for Howard the Duck in the MCU's future, hence why they couldn't move forward with her presumably non-MCU-related story. Howard the Duck has already appeared in the MCU, so his continued involvement isn't a stretch. Alternatively, Marvel may not currently have plans for the character so much as they're intent on retaining sole rights should they decide to further incorporate him in the future. 

Nevertheless, an upcoming MCU "Howard the Duck" project remains a possibility, too, particularly one that more closely followed the original comics. At this point, only time will tell how Howard might factor into one of the numerous MCU projects currently in Disney's pipeline.