Today, comic label-turned-movie studio Marvel completely dominates the box office, but they didn’t get off to the most auspicious start. 1986 saw the release of Howard the Duck, the first theatrical film based on a Marvel comic book, and produced by no less than Star Wars and Indiana Jones creator George Lucas. Alas, the result was somewhat less than a blockbuster…
20. George Lucas wanted to make the film before Star Wars
Howard the Duck was created in 1973 by Marvel writer and artist team Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik. The character made his first appearance in Marvel title Adventure into Fear, in 1973, which coincidentally was the same year that writer-director George Lucas had a career breakthrough with his second film, American Graffiti.
By 1976, when Lucas was hard at work on Star Wars, Marvel gave Howard the Duck a comic of his own. Lucas was a fan of the book right away, and discussed making a movie adaptation with his American Graffiti co-writers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. This project soon went on the back-burner, however, as the unexpected success of Star Wars meant that Lucas had to prioritise its sequels.
19. The film was originally going to be animated
Howard the Duck was hardly the best known Marvel comics character, so initially the filmmakers struggled to get a movie adaptation off the ground. Even so, the huge success of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies meant that the attachment of George Lucas’ name alone was enough for the project to gain some momentum.
After the project was pitched to several major studios, Howard the Duck finally found a home at Universal. However, as keen as the studio were on the project, there were disagreements behind the scenes almost immediately. Originally the filmmakers had hoped to make Howard a full-length animated movie, but this was scrapped for fear it would be too expensive and time-consuming.