Howard the Duck may be flying high these days with an ongoing series from Marvel Comics and a memorable appearance in the post-credits sequence of "Guardians of the Galaxy," but in 1986 things were quite a bit different. The character was the star of his own feature film (executive produced by George Lucas), though what appeared on screen featured lackluster writing and had little to do with the version created by Steve Gerber. Add in the fact that Howard was sometimes played by an actor in a suit and other times an animatronic puppet, and you have the perfect recipe for a critically-panned and often derided film.
That said, the film wasn't all bad. It did feature "Back to the Future" star Lea Thompson as Beverly Switzler, and it still holds a special place in the hearts of those who saw the movie in their youth. This is especially true for Chip Zdarsky, who also happens to be the writer of Howard's current comic book adventures. More than a year ago he devised a plan that would reunite Thompson with her former co-star -- and in a move that surprised even him, that plan actually came to fruition. The reunion takes place in July's "Howard the Duck" #9 by Zdarsky and series artist Joe Quinones, in which Thompson hires the titular duck detective to investigate a unique missing persons case.
RELATED: "Howard the Duck" Film Star Lea Thompson Returns as Herself for "Howard the Duck" #8â€¨CBR News spoke with Zdarsky about the unusual story, what inspired it and how it finally came together, as well Howard's recent reunion with the Marvel Universe incarnation of Beverly Switzler in Issue #8.
CBR News: "Howard the Duck" #8 dropped a fairly significant bombshell: Lea Thompson, who starred in the '80s "Howard the Duck" film, is your title character's new client. From our first interview about the series I know the film holds a special place in your heart, but what inspired you to tell a "Howard" story with Lea Thompson actually in it? And how did you pitch and get this story approved?
Chip Zdarsky: It was definitely a long time in the making! We started planning on it well over a year ago after Joe and I realized we both had a love for Lea Thompson. And our editor, Wil Moss, was onboard immediately, even with knowing what kind of headaches a request like that could be!
You know, there really hasn't been anything pitched for the book since I started that hasn't been approved. And that's not some sort of weird brag. Between Wil, Joe and myself, we all just want to make a fun book, and the fact that it's a "Howard the Duck" book makes it a lot easier to get away with weirder ideas that skirt around continuity a bit. You know, we'll never have "X-Men" numbers, but that comes with a lot of freedom. Could Jeff Lemire have Hugh Jackman join the X-Men on an adventure? My guess is no, but I also doubt he'd even pitch the idea because he's a Canadian coward. Yeah, Jeff. I'm calling you out: Jackman/X-Men 2017. Hey, has he done a crossover yet called "Nathaniel Essex County?" If not, you're welcome, Jeff.
[Laughs] In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter you mentioned that Lea played a main role in two pivotal movies for you growing up, "Howard the Duck," and "Back to the Future." What was it like writing this story -- and her -- once it was approved?
It was similar to when I wrote the first issue: just a surreal feeling getting to create dialogue for characters you've read for so long. Except that Ms. Thompson is not a character, which is something I kept having to remind myself while writing it. She's a human being! And would probably not murder Spider-Man! So I had to be more careful and thoughtful with my story choices.
What's the story that brings these two characters together all about? The fact that she's hiring him for a missing persons case suggests a possible meta aspect.
Oh, it definitely gets meta, but in a way that works within the Marvel Universe and its continuity. Her appearance is actually so integral to the overall storyline of the past couple of years that I'm not sure what I would have done if she said, "No!"
I don't want to give away too much, but Howard has had a rough go of it during our run and Ms. Thompson is the key that unlocks the reasons behind his streak of bad luck. She also gets to beat up some aliens.
We saw Howard's cat Biggs and Aunt May at the end of issue #8 when Thompson hires Howard, but what about Tara? Will she be part of the adventure in issue #9? How does she feel about Howard's new client?
Yes! Tara was missing from the Squirrel Girl adventure and Howard's reunion with Bev, so I was pretty excited to have her back with this adventure. Also, in Issue #9 we finally give her a proudly ludicrous superhero costume.
What's it like working on this story with Joe Quinones, who admitted to having a crush on Lea Thompson when he was young? What was his reaction when you told him he'd be drawing her?
He yawned, popped his collar, said "sure, whatever," and rode away on his motorbike, kicking up a bunch of dust in my face! He's so cool! But as he rode away I could hear his high-pitched squeals of delight.
Joe and I have talked about this for so long that there was no real point where I told him he'd be drawing her, it was just him and I with Wil working to make happen!
Let's move from Lea Thompson, the actress who played the silver screen version of Beverly Switzler, to the actual Marvel Universe Bev who accompanied Howard on many of his early adventures. How did it feel to bring her back into the book in the last issue? What do you like most about her dynamic with Howard?
Bev is Howard's original and strongest link to Earth. I always knew we'd come back to her.
It felt good. Over the past couple of years we've been working on a story that highlights Howard's feelings of loneliness and paranoia, and it made sense to have him do that without Bev, to try and build a new supporting cast around him that doesn't have quite that deep connection.
My favorite part of their dynamic is the fact that they're so opposite in demeanor -- and, obviously, appearance -- but balance each other out so well. I tried to introduce a new wrinkle in their "opposite" relationship with Bev's seeming retirement from adventure. How long will that last? We'll see!
The end of issue #8 definitely suggested you have further plans for Bev. Do you already know when readers might see her again?
It won't be immediate. I have ideas that stem from some of the revelations of Issue #8, but we'll see if I get to them before I'm fired.
As you mentioned, Howard has really been put through the wringer in your book, and the solicits for August's "Howard the Duck" #10 tease that the person behind all of Howard's troubles will finally be revealed. Can you narrow that down at all for us?
It's someone close to Howard! The reveal opens up a whole new world for the Marvel Universe, which I'm excited about. Everyone will probably hate me more than they already do.
"Howard the Duck" #9 is scheduled for release July 20 from Marvel Comics.