Theory: Man-Thing Is James Gunn's Final Guardians of the Galaxy Easter Egg

Since the 2014 release of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, fans have worked to identify the final Easter egg, which director James Gunn teases has yet to be discovered. The search involves such guesses as Galactus, a message about Peter Quill's mother and glimpses of the universe that existed before the MCU. However, the filmmaker has shot down each of those, intimating the final gem remains hidden.

However, the Giant Box of Comics blog has uncovered another potential candidate for the fabled final Easter egg.

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The end credits sequence in Guardians of the Galaxy depicts Taneleer Tivan, also known as the Collector, sitting amid the ruins of his collection. He's joined by an infamous Marvel Comics character whose previous big-screen foray has often been called one of the worst films of all time: Howard the Duck. As the screen fades to black, credit is given to Howard the Duck's creators, writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik. The character was introduced in 1973 in Marvel's Adventure into Fear, then primarily the vehicle for the publisher's resident swamp creature, the Man-Thing.

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Although the character is sadly more often than not the butt of infantile humor, Gerber's Man-Thing stories often delved into serious issues, including the environment, politics, depression and industrial corruption. Like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, who came later, Man-Thing is often on the periphery of his own stories, stepping in only when his instinctual, empathic senses could take no more. Howard the Duck makes his debut in a fantasy story in which a group of heroes from across dimensions, including Howard and Man-Thing, have been tasked with stopping a demonic invasion. Howard falls, seemingly to his doom, although he actually ends up in Cleveland.

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In keeping with his presence on the periphery, Giant Box of Comics suggests that Man-Thing is on the edges of this end-credits sequence, Man-Thing is visible, perhaps listening to the conversation between Tanaleer Tivan and his old pal Howard.

Howard the Duck in Guardians of the Galaxy

As the scene begins, the camera pans down onto Tivan, sitting, moping, drinking and being licked by Laika. Behind him is strewn the waste of his collection, although a few cases appear to remain intact. One such case is visible in the top left of the screen, and appears to hold a familiar face -- well, sort of. Although the image is murky, the form within the case certainly appears to be a plant and, upon further inspection, has some structures that are remarkably similar to the face of the Man-Thing. The long, root-like nose and red, bulbous eyes -- two of the character's most iconic features -- are visible.

Man-Thing Easter egg in Guardians of the Galaxy

Is it possible this is the long-sought final Easter egg in Guardians of the Galaxy? Although Man-Thing's only big-screen foray, the self-titled 2005 horror film from Lionsgate, is decidedly not a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this isn't the first suggestion of the creature's presence in the blockbuster franchise. Thor:Ragnarok features a shot of a tower on Sakaar that includes a depiction of Man-Thing, suggesting he's one of the planet's gladiatorial champions. In his role as the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities, it wouldn't be surprising for Man-Thing to have shown up on Sakaar, much the same way the Hulk made his way there.

Whether these references to Marvel's muck creature herald a potential return to the screen is a question only Marvel Studios can answer.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, with Gunn back at the helm, is expected to begin production next year.

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