At one time Marvel Studios’ post-credits teases were a fun bonus for fans patient enough to sit through the film’s credits – often teasing characters or plot lines that would go over the head of the average moviegoer. However, as Marvel’s shared cinematic universe became a pop-culture sensation (and box office powerhouse), button scenes were no longer a harmless reward – they became a staple of the experience.

As a result, movie fans are sitting through Guardians of the Galaxy‘s credits with expectant eyes. Those outside of comic book fan circles (or anyone who wasn’t paying much attention to movies in 1986) might be confused by what they saw after sitting through all those end credits, but we’re here to help explain. Our discussion is going to be full of Guardians of the Galaxy movie SPOILERS from here on out. READ NO FURTHER unless you’re all caught up.


Post-Credits Scene – The Master of Quack-Fu

Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Collector Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Scene Explained

Given Guardians of the Galaxy‘s connections to interweaving storyline depicted in The Avengers team-up and solo movies, fans were probably expecting a teaser for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. After all, Thanos and select Infinity Stones (The Tesseract and The Aether) have already been featured in both Phase One and Phase Two of the shared movie universe – so it would only make sense for the studio to use Guardians‘ end-credits scene to get people excited for the studio’s next (and biggest) film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave a sneak peek at two new characters from Age of Ultron; plus, it is expected that the Guardians of the Galaxy will eventually team-up with The Avengers down the road (the studio even teased Guardians in the post-credits scene for Thor: The Dark World with an appearance by Benicio Del Toro’s Collector). Yet, for now the Guardians are off on their own and, after showcasing dancing Groot in a pre-credits scene, director James Gunn used his post-credits scene as an opportunity to provide audiences with one more zany laugh.

Benicio Del Toro in Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Scene Explained

In the scene, we see Taneleer Tivan aka The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) bruised and despondent, sitting amidst the ruins of his museum on Knowhere, following the unplanned detonation of the Purple Infinity Stone. As Tivan sips a martini, the soviet space canine (aka future Guardian member Cosmo the Spacedog) begins licking The Collector’s face. Tivan takes solace in the dog’s show of comfort – only to be interrupted by an abrasive voice that asks “What do you let him lick you like that for?” The camera pans over to reveal Marvel comic book character – and 1980s feature-film star – Howard the Duck, sipping his own martini while standing next to a broken museum cage.

Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed the character imprisoned above The Collector earlier in the film but, free from his cage, Howard the Duck gets snarky with Tivan. Taking another swig of his martini, Howard adds “Gross” and the scene fades to black – revealing lettering clearly identifying the character: Howard the Duck created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.

Who is Howard the Duck?

Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Howard the Duck Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Scene Explained

As the scene indicates in its closing, Howard the Duck was created back in 1973 by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik – first appearing in Adventure into Fear issue 19. Howard was typically used for the purpose of social satire, making fun of real-life people as well as fictional Marvel characters, from an outsider point of view.

Even though the character might seem like a downright bizarre inclusion in Guardians of the Galaxy (a movie that also includes a talking raccoon and tree), his biography is actually filled with outer space adventures and battles with cosmic beings. In fact, while he’s a relatively obscure character now, Howard was almost always accounted for during important story lines in the Marvel Universe – including Civil War and Secret Invasion, among others. He also enjoyed repeated run-ins with Avengers characters such as She-Hulk and Doctor Strange – even donning Iron Man-knock off armor as Iron Duck.

Guardians of the Galaxy Howard Iron Duck Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Scene Explained

Recently, the character even appeared in an episode of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. titled “The Collector” – where he has been imprisoned, along with the Fantastic Four and The Avengers, as a living member of Tivan’s collection.

Of course, non-comic book readers will likely remember Howard the Duck from the 1986 live-action film starring Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins – with Chip Zien voicing the titular character.

Check out the trailer for Howard the Duck below:

Lucasfilm and Universal Pictures produced the movie, which received abysmal reviews from critics – given that the film was mostly an adaptation of the premise (an anthropomorphic duck from outer space lands on Earth) than a fully-realized implementation of the character (or his function as social satire).

What Does the Scene Mean for Future Marvel Films?

Guardians of the Galaxy Howard the Duck Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Scene Explained

At this point, it’s unlikely this particular appearance by Howard and Cosmo has significant direct impact on the Marvel shared movie universe going forward – no more than The Avengers’ enjoyment of shawarma. James Gunn projects are known for having a quirky (and often twisted) sense of humor – which made the filmmaker the perfect fit for a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. For that reason, moviegoers should take the scene at face-value, without trying to unpack a larger significance.

Since Guardians already helped flesh-out the larger Thanos threat, and introduced future antagonists like Nebula and The Collector, Gunn simply chose to drop one more joke on the audience. Speaking with Total Film a couple months back (form the time of this writing) the director promised an end credits scene that would be “a great deal of fun“:

“Oh we have a post-credit sequence for you! Oh, do we ever! Yes, well we are connected, first of all we are connected because of certain characters but we have a post-credit sequence that’s all our own! That in all honestly we have just been doing the past few days so I think it’s going to be a great deal of fun for people […] You don’t even want to know what it is! Pure joy, pure joy, that’s two words!”

It’s always possible that Gunn will find a way to give Howard the Duck another cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but do not expect the character to play a significant part – if he returns at all.

That said, of the two animal characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy end credits scene, Cosmo could actually have a major role to play in the future of the franchise. While some might have simply dismissed the dog as a tongue-in-cheek reference, Gunn had previously confirmed that Cosmo would appear in the movie – and it’s highly likely that the filmmaker will revisit the canine hero in the future.

Who is Cosmo the Space dog?

Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Cosmo Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Scene Explained

Like many animal characters in the Marvel universe, Cosmo started out as a typical dog – until he was launched into space as a soviet test subject in the 1960s. When his mission goes awry, Cosmo drifts through space – coming to land on Knowhere. Later, Cosmo develops enhanced telekinetic and telepathic powers – capable of moving objects with his mind as well as manipulating others by way of illusion, influence, or psionic attack. Thanks to his abilities, Cosmo earns his place as the chief of Knowhere security – and eventually joins-up as a member of the Guardians.

At the point we see Cosmo in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, he appears more pet than super-powered hero. So, it’s safe to assume that, should Gunn decide to revisit the character in a future Guardians film, Cosmo will go (or have gone) through some major evolutions. After all, the character is a close ally to Nova aka Richard Rider (a cosmic being that wields the combined force of the Nova Corp) –  a hero that Marvel has previously teased for a movie appearance at some point in the future.

Guardians of the Galaxy Nova Cosmo Dog Guardians of the Galaxy End Credits Scene Explained

Since the Guardians sequel was just announced this past week at Comic-Con 2014, nothing is set in stone at this point and we’ll have to wait for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 to hit theaters before we know what the future might hold for Cosmo, Nova, and Howard the Duck.

LISTEN: Guardians of the Galaxy Podcast Discussion

Guardians of the Galaxy is now playing 2D, 3D, and 3D IMAX theaters. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will release on July 28th, 2017

Want to discuss SPOILERS? Head over to our Guardians of the Galaxy Spoilers Discussion. Then listen to our Guardians of the Galaxy episode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast.

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