Moments into a discussion of his plans for Marvel and Hulu's recently announced Howard The Duck animated series, filmmaker Kevin Smith realized just how much he was willing to give away. "I'm going to get a call from Jeph Loeb that says 'You're fired for saying too much!'" he said with a laugh, joking about his boss, Marvel's Head of Television.
However, Smith did clarify the designs and possibilities inherent in the Marvel/Hulu partnership which will see four animated series launch on their way to a crossover miniseries called The Offenders. For his part, the director says he got involved in writing the Howard series with Aqua Teen Hunger Force producer Dave Willis due to his interest in an entirely different piece of the Marvel TV universe.
"I'd gone in to see Jeph maybe two years prior to talk about [directing] a Daredevil [episode] or something like that," he explained. "Jeph was like, 'I don't know... you make those DC shows,' because I directed a lot of Supergirl and Flash. And I was like, 'Are you kidding me? Is this how deep the rivalry goes?' Then he said, 'I'll find something for you.'
"Then one day he reached out to me and said, 'I think I have it, but I'm scared to tell you. I don't want you to say no, but I can't imagine somebody better than you and this character.' I said, 'What is it?' and Jeph said 'Howard The --' but before he even finished, I screamed out, 'YESSSSSSS!'"
Smith professes to being a longtime fan of the character, going back to the original series written by Howard's co-creator Steve Gerber who dreamt up the foul-mouthed duck with artist Val Mayerik in the 1970s.
"I was familiar with the Gerber comics. If I could have voted, I would have voted for Howard for President back in the day," Smith said about the character's early status as a pop culture phenomenon. "My father gave me my first Howard The Duck -- and my father did not foster my comic book habit. He wasn't against it, but he never said, 'Here, read these!' We were poor, so throwing away money on comic books – even 25 cents – wasn't really in the cards for him. It was something that was done begrudgingly. But he did get me the first issue of Howard The Duck because he had heard about it on the news. The character transcended our medium of comics and broke into the mainstream.
"I wasn't there the moment that Howard launched, but probably by issue 4 or 5 when people started hearing about it, there was a local news report. One day my father gave me the comic, and I said, 'What's this?' He said, 'I saw this on the news. I like this duck. He doesn't take any guff.' And he didn't read it. He just saw the dude on the news talking about it, and he said, 'If you're going to try to do funny things, this is funny.' He knew I liked comedy and Saturday Night Live and comic books, so for whatever reason, this news report connected with him and he said 'I like this.' Any time he saw something on the news that he thought I'd connect with, he'd pay attention. He did it one other time when I was little with a story about Stan Lee. He said, 'I want to show you the man who makes Spider-Man. There he is,' and there he was on television. It was the first time I'd ever seen Stan in my life. I was maybe seven or eight.
"The one time my father jumped in for that made me feel affection for Stan my whole life," Smith continued. "It was a gift my father gave to me. He said, 'This man is important.' He handed it to me like a Fabergé egg. And the other time he did that was with Howard The Duck. He just gave me the book."