Those who stayed after the credits for 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy saw a scene that had a cameo of the curious character, Howard the Duck, whose presence teased the existence of the MCU multiverse as early as Phase 2 of the MCU films. Although such post-credit scenes are common through the Marvel films, they vary considerably in terms of tone, ranging from the comedic to the ominous, and sometimes hint at films, characters, and plot threads as yet unannounced. When the Guardians of the Galaxy post-credit scene popped up, with Howard the Duck chastising the Collector, it was unmistakably funny – but it also served a larger purpose.
First appearing on-screen in the 1986 film appropriately named Howard the Duck, Howard has been described as Marvel’s “strangest character“. Although the movie was broadly panned, it had a number of solid 80s songs on its soundtrack, and it has since acquired something of a cult following. Seeing Howard the Duck in the post-credit scene might have just been a fond callback to the first Marvel film since the 1940s, but Howard is notably not merely just another alien. Howard is from an alternate reality, coming from Duckworld, a parallel Earth where humanoid ducks are the dominant species instead of humans.
In the 1986 film, Howard is an unconventional martial arts master and a generally good person, but he doesn’t really resemble the Howard the Duck who has so far made cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Avengers: Endgame. The MCU Howard more closely resembles his comic counterpart, who comes from an alternate Earth, and who has been known to brush elbows with such notables as Wolverine and Doctor Strange. In his Endgame cameo, Howard becomes an Avenger (of sorts) and is a part of the massed armies that rise against Thanos. With this in mind, and with the recent push into the idea of the MCU multiverse, it makes a great deal of sense for Howard to be a displaced resident of another dimension. It explains his position in the Collector’s collection – as a rarity – and his human mannerisms.
While there are human-like traits in a lot of the MCU aliens, there is still an effort made to make them distinctly alien in characterization. What little we have seen of Howard has him first snarking at the Collector, and later using a variation on an Earth idiom – “you’re out of luck until you’ve gone duck“. With Doctor Strange set up to explore the multiverse in his upcoming feature Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, a visit to Duckworld could be an interesting stop-over, even if it’s only as a brief head nod to Howard’s previous MCU appearance.
Ultimately, it’s hard to say whether Howard was intended to tease the existence of the multiverse when he appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, or even if a multiverse setting was intended as early as Phase 2, but now that the narrative of the upcoming run of movies incorporates the concept, Howard the Duck has gained potential as an interesting character to watch out for. With so many varied worlds, there could well be terrible monsters or alternate versions of familiar heroes appearing, and so it’s not totally unlikely that a former joke-cameo appearance character could come into his own.