Guilty Pleasures: Howard the Duck
By Felix Quinonez Jr.
June 21, 2012
Let’s face it, whether we’re talking about movies, music, books or whatever, we all think we have great taste. Because we only see things from our own perspectives, we usually use our personal tastes as a way to judge quality.
But even so, we all have our guilty pleasures. I’m talking about that song you stop humming when someone walks into the room. Or maybe it’s that movie you claim your significant other dragged you to. Whatever the case, we all have guilty pleasures and that includes me, of course. With this column I’m going to try to encourage people to stop being embarrassed for liking things they normally wouldn’t or that aren’t considered cool. I’m going to do this by celebrating movies that are my personal guilty pleasures.
In this edition, I’m going to be looking at Howard the Duck. (1986) I was only two when it came out, so I didn’t get to see it until a few years later, when I was eight-years-old.
Howard the Duck is a very interesting character with a rich history. He came to this planet…for some reason or another and often found himself in a lot of crazy adventures simply because he was a (talking) duck. He was created by writer Steve Gerber and the series was a very funny and satirical look at popular culture. Gerber has described the series as existentialist, and he has said that “the main joke is that there is no joke.”
The series contained really smart and scathing writing. And aside from spoofing genre movies, often horror, it also lampooned political figures. It was also one of the first comics to address the medium in a self aware tone. But like I said, I was eight when I saw Howard the Duck so I didn’t need the movie to be as smart as its source material and luckily for me it wasn’t.
When you’re a little kid, your concept of what’s cool is a bit odd to say the least. A lot of times when we look back at things we used to adore, we can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed. But other times we look back on these things so fondly that we can still enjoy them. For me, Howard the Duck falls into the latter category. I know I’m supposed to think it’s terrible. Since I love comic books so much, I should see this movie as the perfect example of a comic book adaptation bastardizing its source material. But when I watched it again before writing this column I couldn’t help feeling a bit like my eight-year-old self who thought this duck was the epitome of badass.
Let me just start off by saying the movie is not as bad as people make it out to be. I know that isn’t exactly high praise but, hey, it’s something…right? Like I mentioned before, the comic book was pretty smart and edgy and one of the reasons it resonated with so many people was that Howard was a stand-in for the reader. We were vicariously going on these adventures through Howard. And the movie starts out cleverly enough. We see Howard - like the viewer - sitting on a couch lazily digesting junk entertainment almost as quickly as he passes judgment on it. Sound familiar? But of course, as is often the case, something mysteriously goes wrong and a portal opens up in Howard’s living room sucking him and his couch into it. After a very unimpressive showcase of “special effects,” we see Howard land in a very seedy alley in…Cleveland.