Since 2008 Marvel has been using its mid and post credit sequences to tease future plot points and give a little extra to fans.
Pretty much everyone knows to stick around after the film these days, so Marvel did things a little differently for their latest release, Guardians of the Galaxy. They purposefully left off the post credit scene from early review prints of the film, as well as any fan previews. So, before general release on the 31st of July, there was no way to see it but to pay for a ticket.
It makes a lot of sense from an economic standpoint but also lessens the chances of things being spoiled online ahead of release. GOTG writer/director James Gunn has been talking about his sting in recent weeks and has mentioned that its a little different to the Marvel norm. Things get spoilery from here on out so don't keep reading if you want the ending scene to be a surprise.
Here's a calming picture of Groot. Spoilers start afterwards.
Ok so Gunn has been pretty open about the fact that this scene has nothing to do with the rest of the Marvel verse. Which makes a certain amount of sense because the Guardians are divorced from the rest of the heroes by some light years and their quest is currently quite different. Though that may not always be the case.
So, rather than shoehorning in some random reference to Iron Man Gunn does the unexpected, which he pretty much manages to do throughout the film.
The scene comes up on Benicio del Toro's Collector after the destruction of his museum to all things odd. He's sad and dejected and has incredible hair, and he's soon joined by a dog we've seen previously wearing a CCCP spacesuit. Presumably an animal used by the Soviet Union for their early space flights, it could even be Laika, the first lady dog who managed to get into orbit.
Rooskie doggie licks del Toro's face a bit - dogs are sweet like that - while he sips from an exotic cocktail. Then the camera angle shifts to another figure who exclaims that he doesn't understand why del Toro would let the dog lick his face like that. It's disgusting, he concludes.
The figure, in considerable CG detail and resting in a shattered display cabinet, is none other than Howard the Duck!
It's so random its just about perfect, and people tend to forget that Howard is also a Marvel creation (beginning in 1973) and was one of the first Marvel sorts to get his own movie. His own terrible, terrible movie in 1986.
Observe that trailer...
Howard's appearance may be utterly throwaway in this context but its a great cap to the film, and the scene which takes place directly as the credits are starting is arguably the best thing Marvel has ever done.
Guardians of the Galaxy is in cinemas now.
Read our review here.