It should go without saying that this discussion of the Guardians of the Galaxy post-credits sequence is positively full of spoilers, so go read our spoiler-free review instead if you aren’t ready for these.
Now, before we get into the major spoilers, a brief discussion is in order that should allow any stragglers to get out of here. This may still be considered spoiler-y, though.
It’s amazing how the expectations on these post-credits sequences has grown through the years. From the first time we heard Samuel L. Jackson utter the words “Avengers Initiative” to Robert Downey Jr.’s cameo in The Incredible Hulk confirming the existence of a true Marvel Cinematic Universe to Thanos’ big-screen debut at the end of The Avengers, there’s a lot riding on these. However, those same expectations have become a target of the (sometimes justified) criticism that these films are usually just big commercials for whatever is coming next from the Marvel Studios juggernaut.
But sometimes, a post-credits sequence is just for fun. One only has to look at the tag on Iron Man 3, played strictly for laughs, and with no major implications for the future of the Marvel Universe. One could say that Guardians of the Galaxy follows a similar formula, and in a way, it does…with one exception.
The very first big-screen Marvel superhero has finally returned. No, not that one. No…not that one, either. I’m talking about…
Yes, Howard the Duck. What? You were expecting, maybe, Adam Warlock? Glimpsed briefly in the background of the Collector’s erm…collection…earlier in the film, Howard is out and about for the ending.
While Howard is probably best known to today’s audiences as the subject of a much-maligned (but probably better than you remember it being) live-action 1986 film produced by none other than George Lucas. While that Howard the Duck movie is nobody’s idea of a classic, it’s important to consider why he was the subject of a film adaptation in the first place: Marvel’s Howard the Duck ongoing series that ran from 1976-1979, as steered by writer Steve Gerber (and with some truly exceptional art by the likes of Frank Brunner and Gene Colan) is simply one of the most brilliant, subversive mainstream comics of its day.
To give you an idea of what Howard was about in the comics. Created in 1973 by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerick, Howard appeared as a bit of an afterthought in a bizarre Man-Thing story in Fear #19 (as if we need to qualify “Man-Thing story” with “bizarre” in the first place). Howard then had two brief back-up stories in the pages of Man-Thing’s own title where he squared off with such tragic misfits as Garko, the Man-Frog and Bessie…a vampiric Hellcow.
The very first page of the very first issue of Howard’s very own ongoing series spotlighted him contemplating suicide. The second issue (which had an assist from Thanos creator Jim Starlin, coincidentally enough), in which Howard took on the superpowered Space Turnip ended with the villain, surrounded by posters of the Marvel superheroes he loves coming to the realization that “there can be profound meaning in life without heroics. The universe isn’t a melodrama, but a vast panorama of banal humanity.” Heavy stuff, and not really designed to get readers to buy the rest of Marvel’s line. Later baddies would include the bell-headed Doctor Bong, and somehow I don’t think that name was just a clever play on his looks.
ummmm…Howard also ran for President in 1976. Because of course he did.
There were plenty of attempts to keep the character alive, including a very adults-oriented black and white Marvel magazine (written by Rocket Raccoon creator Bill Mantlo), but none really quite had the impact that the earlier material did. It’s quite possible that Howard, more than any other Marvel character, simply relied so heavily on writer Steve Gerber’s sensibilities that he was “too weird to live, too rare to die” in the Marvel Universe. More recent attempts to bring Howard back around into continuity have met with mixed results, but if you get a chance to read these early issues, you should do so immediately.
Unless…James Gunn has a plan to fix that. We doubt it, though. Don’t expect a new Howard the Duck movie any time soon, but really, if you just spent the previous two hours laughing uproariously at the antics of an anthropomorphic raccoon, surely you can see why Howard fits with this film’s sense of humor.
Anyway, it should be quite enough to know that Howard the Duck exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we imagine that maybe, just maybe…Disney has forgotten about the fact that they once threatened Marvel with legal action over Howard’s very existence all those years ago. There’s a certain satisfaction in the very last thing we see in Guardians of the Galaxy being a title card that simply states: “Howard the Duck created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerick.”
Now, on to the other bits…
We imagine we’ll see the Collector (Taneleer Tivan) again, if only to see Benicio del Toro actually have something to do this time around. Glimpsed only in the post-credits sequence of Thor: The Dark World (part of that whole: setting up the next movie thing) and with only one scene that takes place before the closing credits in Guardians, it seems a shame to waste him.
Keep in mind, one thing we haven’t seen hinted yet is the Collector’s gift for prophecy. He’s an Elder of the Universe and is virtually immortal. In the comics, this is the guy who foretold the coming of Thanos. Thanos isn’t a secret in the MCU, but there’s a connection here that could/should be exploited in the future. Still, the Collector is far from the strongest villain Marvel could have offered up, which is symptomatic of a much larger problem within the overall franchise, but this is a subject for another article.
And then there’s the friendly dog in a spacesuit, an image that immediately classes up any movie in which it may appear. No, that’s not Laika…although for a moment I hoped that the filmmakers decided to give that pioneering canine a happier ending than she came to in real life. No, this would be Cosmo, who happens to be (whether that’s in the past or the future of this film probably isn’t relevant) the head of security on Knowhere.
Cosmo first appeared in an issue of Nova, and has continued to aid the Guardians in recent years, so there are obvious continuity connections here, but we kinda doubt we’ll see more of him. Although, we wouldn’t complain. Nice doggie.
There’s one last little easter egg we caught, although it has nothing to do with the post-credits scene. Did we get our very first glimpse of one of Jack Kirby’s Celestials during the sequence that explains the Infinity Stones? Yes…I think we did. Specifically, Eson the Searcher. Does that mean we might get an Eternals movie someday?
Did I miss anything? Let us know down below!