Like the movie it captured on the printed page, Howard The Duck (ISBN 0-425-09275-5) has been doomed to ridicule. Unlike the movie, however, far fewer people remember it or know that it ever existed in the first place. This is a true shame. As the popular saying goes, one should not judge a book by its cover, and it can be argued that one should not judge a book by its movie, either.
And why not?
It was the 1980s. Fresh from their success with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, husband-and-wife writing team Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, fellow film school graduates and friends of George Lucas, began to toy with the idea of bringing Steve Gerber‘s absurdist comic book character Howard The Duck to the big screen. Nobody knew what sort of movie it would be. Huyck (who would serve as the film’s director) and Katz themselves didn’t know. As it turns out, they were actually wanting to create an animated film. But time constraints and Universal‘s need for a summer flick forced them to go the live-action route. They poured blood, sweat and tears into an enormously challenging and highly stressful project that was constantly mired by technical problems and studio interference. Huyck and Katz were frustated by disagreements with Lucas over the film’s content and level of maturity. Every effort was made to stay as true to Gerber’s vision as possible, but the Hollywood Machine had its effects once again. The result was a film that is widely remembered as one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. It was a frequent punchline, a humbling source of embarrassment and a late-night rerun that was rather difficult to categorize. And it very nearly killed the careers of Huyck and Katz altogether. The thing is, Howard The Duck is actually a very good movie. Not just a well-made movie with groundbreaking special effects, but an honest-to-gosh good movie. The problem, in fact, isn’t with the movie at all. It’s with the audience.