[Warning: SPOILERS for Guardians of the Galaxy ahead.]
You never know what you're going to get with a Marvel post-credits scene. Sometimes they'll just be fun little extras to reward those who stuck around after the credits started rolling, like The Avengers' shawarma scene, while others will give an advance look at what's to come in the next big franchise entry, as was the case with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Because Marvel's post-credits scenes have been such a mixed bag in the past, some fans took the final stinger of Guardians of the Galaxy - in which a morose Collector sits in the wreck of his collection and gets admonished by Howard the Duck (voiced by Seth Green) for letting Cosmo lick his face - as a possible hint that a Howard the Duck standalone movie is on Marvel's agenda. Stranger things have happened, right?
The best way to answer this question is to find out exactly why co-writer and director James Gunn decided to include the scene, and so Empire quizzed Gunn on the subject of Howard the Duck, and whether or not the closing gag of the movie was intended to tease a more substantial future for the character. According to Gunn, however, it really was just a joke.
"We had one plan for the first tag, and another for the second tag. Originally, we were going to put Baby Groot dancing at the very end of the movie. But we kept trying to think of different things. We had a bunch of stuff with Cosmo, and different ideas, and I think it was some combination of me and the editor Fred Raskin who said, 'Let’s put Howard The Duck in there.' What if The Collector looks over and sees Howard The Duck sitting there? And I wrote down the line, 'Whaddya let it lick you like that for? Gross.' Fred and I thought it was hilarious but we weren’t sure that Kevin Feige would go for it. But we told Kevin and Kevin couldn’t stop laughing. Every time he saw it, he was like, ‘We’re f**king crazy! We’re f**king crazy!’
"We decided to do it very late in the game, only a couple of months ago, and we had to design Howard that day. Then we gave him over to the visual effects company that did him. They did a good job very quickly – I think it was Sony."
It doesn't sound like the character's appearance was foreshadowing for a surprise announcement of Howard the Duck at Comic-Con next year, but now that the character has been established as existing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it's possible that we could see another cameo in the future - perhaps even in the recently confirmed Guardians of the Galaxy 2. It's still early days, of course, but Gunn said that he's not ruling anything out just yet.
"I’ll be honest with you, I was just talking about it with my assistant right now. It’s possible Howard could reappear as more of a character in the Marvel Universe. But if people think that’s going to lead to a Howard The Duck movie, that’s probably not going to happen in the next four years. Who knows after that?"
Howard the Duck is perhaps best known to general audiences for the notoriously terrible 1986 movie, and when asked by CBR about the possibility of bringing the character back into theaters, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige laughed and said that it might not be the worst idea in the world: "I think it would be fun to lay claim to Howard and to remind people that he's more than just a pseudonym for film failure."
So there is definitely hope, Howard the Duck fans. If nothing else, the character will probably still get his own standalone movie before Marvel gets around to making a female superhero movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy is in theaters now.