One thing that kept coming up in articles about this were comments along the lines of: "Finally! Howard can team up with Donald!" "Howard the Duck and Mickey Mouse! It has to happen!" or "Maybe Pixar can do a Howard the Duck movie that works!"
Ugh. With all due respect to Pixar, who are great, no they fucking can't. And they shouldn't.
I'm fairly certain Howard the Duck hasn't even come up in corporate conversation yet, but before someone does get the bright idea to "strategically re-position Howard the Duck's branding paradigm" or whatever, let me remind everyone that Disney already has a family of Ducks, many of whom are cranky and irascible. One More or less won't make any difference. In fact, Disney actively worked to crush Howard back in the late 1970's.
Howard the Duck's popularity flared brightly and briefly after his debut in Adventure Into Fear #19 (1973). The book's idiosyncratic satire hit a nerve at the time, and the was quite popular for a time, thanks to the scripting of his creator, Steve Gerber. Gerber was Howard, basically, and the oddity-infested world he walked in reflected Gerber's unique mindset and worldview. Gerber was abruptly dismissed by Marvel over a number of issues, not the least of which was Disney's 1979 legal bullying of Marvel comics over Howard's alleged resemblance to Donald Duck.
Years later, Gerber was approached by Marvel to try a Howard relaunch under the newly minted, adult-slanted Marvel MAX imprint. Gerber was eager to try his hand at scripting the duck again, only to find that the Disney action was more than mere bullying. Here's the story in Gerber's words, from a 2001 Newsarama interview by Michael Doran (archived at Steve Gerber.com):
SG: "Back in 1979 or so - I don't have the exact date handy - the Walt Disney Company threatened to sue Marvel Comics, claiming that Howard the Duck infringed on their Donald Duck trademark. To avoid a legal battle, Marvel's old management signed an unbelievably stupid agreement with Disney regarding the design of Howard the Duck. Under the terms of that agreement, Howard must conform to a set of designs that Disney provided for the character. It's the version with the beady eyes, the hideous swollen beak, and the baggy trousers, the one that appeared in the black-and-white Howard magazine and in the movie. The way the agreement is worded, Marvel isn't even allowed to come up with an entirely different design, even if that design bore no resemblance to Donald.
"Over the past couple of decades, I've done a lot of complaining about the idiocy of Marvel's old management, and if ever there was proof of my argument, this is it. They literally let another company redesign their own character for them. As best I can tell, Marvel never even attempted to negotiate the matter, never even submitted any alternate designs for Disney's consideration. I can just picture the Disney artists, hunched over their drawing boards, cackling like hyenas, as they designed the ugliest duck they could possibly imagine. Disney's lawyers and management must have had a real belly laugh, too, when Marvel accepted their design without balking.
"Now, I wasn't even aware that such an agreement existed on paper. I thought Marvel had simply agreed on a 'handshake' basis with Disney that Howard wouldn't look like Donald. We were in the process of redesigning Howard - Glenn Fabry had done some terrific sketches - when Stuart Moore checked with Marvel's legal department and turned up the written agreement. Needless to say, everyone concerned was horrified. None of us, least of all myself, wanted to do a character that had to look like that appalling Disney design."
Gerber went on to explain that he eventually devised a workaround for the issue, by mutating Howard into a MOUSE for the new series, and they moved ahead. The series came out, and as a Howard fan, I enjoyed it, but it never did feel quite right. They say you can't go home again, and all that. Further, the story suffered for having to shoehorn in the mutation storyline, so the whole thing landed with a thud. More recently Marvel tried redesigning Howard yet again, under different creators, to deafening indifference.
The bitter irony is that Disney now owns the character they helped to make unusable. Steve Gerber died in 2008, silencing Howard's only convincing voice. Any Howard that remains is an empty, corporate shell; indistinguishable from the denizens of Duckburg, and pointless in today's world. So no, Donald Duck should not meet Howard the Duck. And no, Howard doesn't need to show up in Dark Reign either. Now, more than ever, Marvel should let sleeping ducks lie.
Howard the Duck is Dead. Let him rest in peace.