The post-credits scenes on Marvel Studios movie began with the original "Iron Man" as a tease of what was to come next. "Iron Man 3" broke that pattern, but for the most part, the sequences have been a dependable preview of what's next.
That's probably why the scene at the very end of "Guardians of the Galaxy," which was left off of early screenings for critics, was met with a mixture of frustration, confusion and — in the case of hardcore Marvel fans — pure joy.
So what the hell was that?
As you know, because you've definitely seen "Guardians of the Galaxy" by now (right?), the scene opens with Benicio del Toro as The Collector, nursing his wounds with the help of Cosmo the dog.
Let's stop there for a second.
The dog in the cosmonaut suit is a fan-favorite of readers who checked out the "Guardians of the Galaxy" when the revived series ran from 2008 to 2010. Cosmo was a lost canine cosmonaut that found himself adrift in space and then imbued with vocal and psychic abilities. In the books, Cosmo is responsible for running Knowhere, the Guardians' base of operations.
Cosmo is mostly there as fan service, but it's a nice nod to the beloved run by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, which you can read about here.
That brings us to the duck.
And that's not just any talking aquatic bird. That's Howard the Duck.
The cult character, created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik, originally appeared in the pages of "Adventure into Fear" #19 in December 1973 and has been in desperate need of a comeback since the disastrous Lucasfilm-produced movie starring Lea Thompson bombed back in 1986. In a small way, this is Marvel reclaiming ownership of the character, which was initially embraced as a biting satire.
It's also no unimportant detail that The Collector survived the blast from the Infinity Stone. As we saw at the end of "Thor: The Dark World," he's still in possession of the Aether, another of the six gems that Thanos will eventually try to collect.
Also, since The Collector is technically an Elder of the universe, he's still very powerful and nearly impossible to kill, so if any of the stinger has larger ramifications for the "Guardians of the Galaxy" sequel in 2017, it's this.