But it's possible, now that Disney is buying Marvel. Disney once threatened to sue Marvel over Howard's resemblance to Donald Duck, and forced Marvel to re-design him so that he now wears pants.
Could a Howard/Donald cross-over be looming?
And what would Howard's co-creator Steve Gerber think of all this? Here's Gerber in a 2001 interview:
For me, one of the more intriguing things to watch over the next few years will be what happens to the mega-conglomerates like AOL Time Warner, Disney, Microsoft, and Viacom. Either they're going to wind up controlling every aspect of our lives in a kind of William Gibson/Neal Stephenson scenario, or their corporate nervous systems will start to break down, and they'll begin eating themselves alive, once there's nothing else left out there for them to devour. Or, worse -- both.Gerber also commented on the Howard re-design:
[T]he Disney agreement is worded in such a way that Marvel isn't even permitted to create a new, alternative design for the character, even if that design bears no resemblance to Donald.
. . .
I've done a lot of complaining over the years about the people who used to run Marvel, but even I never expected to see their monumental stupidity memorialized in writing. They literally allowed another company to redesign their character for them! As far as I can tell, they never even attempted to submit any alternative designs for Disney's consideration. They just left it in Disney's hands, and Disney gave them exactly what you'd expect -- the ugliest, most unappealing, least salable character imaginable.
Let me come right out and say this: Marvel's former management was not only grossly incompetent; it was a pack of craven cowards. Oh, they were very big and tough when it came to dicking around their writers and artists, the people whose livelihoods they controlled, but they pissed their pants at the very idea of even having to negotiate with almighty Disney. The Disney artists who destroyed Howard must have had an enormous laugh at their expense, and the Disney lawyers must have thought they were dealing with a bunch of nitwits who lacked even the most basic instinct for self-preservation.