I freaking love Darkwing Duck. Honestly, I can’t pick between this and Ducktales as to which I love more. A straight up parody of numerous super heroes — including my personal favorite, Batman — how can I not love the Duck Knight? A staple of Disney Afternoon in the ’90s, Darkwing was the true successor to Ductktales, with a legacy that’s lasted for years.
Originally, Darkwing was set to be a send up of James Bond titled Double-0 Duck. Ian Fleming’s estate owned the Double-0 title, forcing producers to rethink the premise. Alan Burnett, before leaving to work on Batman: The Animated Series, contributed the name Darkwing Duck. This changed much of the design and setup. The title Double-0 Duck came from an episode of Ducktales featuring Launchpad McQuack as a secret agent. With the secret agent angle put aside, Launchpad became a separate character. And thus, Drake Mallard was born.
The secret agent angle wasn’t completely abandoned though, as many of the characters fall into this motif. And there are plenty of characters. Aside from Darkwing and Launchpad, there’s Darkwing’s adopted daughter Gosalyn, supervillains Negaduck, Megavolt, and Quackerjack, and members of F.O.W.L., like Steelbeak. There was also a S.H.I.E.L.D. parody S.H.U.S.H., headed by J. Gander Hooter, Darkwing’s sorceress girlfriend Morgana, and fellow hero GizmoDuck making a few appearances. This list only skims the surface.
The most important aspect to Darkwing, aside from his gadgets and duck-shaped vehicles, is his catch phrases. First, there’s “Let’s get dangerous,” his defacto battle cry. Then there’s his entrance phrase. When confronting a villain, he announces himself with, “I am the terror that flaps in the night,” followed by some crazy metaphor, ending with “I am Darkwing Duck!” “I am the weirdo that sits next to you on the bus!” “I am the wrong call that wakes you up at 3 a.m.!” “I am a special news bulletin that interrupts your favorite show!”
Normally, I like to talk about the voice actors who work on shows, but I won’t here. They were all in this show. All of them. Whoever you can think of, yes. What I will talk about is the lightning-fast production schedule. Disney’s animation gulag was in full force creating Darkwing. Premiering in early September 1991, the show ran six days a week during the fall, with half the syndicated 65 episodes held for the spring. Another 13 ran in the fall of ’92, ending the series with a total of 91 episodes. I think this is why adults now have a hard time understanding why animation production takes so long. When you grow up having 13 weeks of new episodes crammed down your throat, what do you expect?
In 2009, BOOM! Studios acquired the publishing rights to Disney characters. Along with Donald Duck and Ducktales, a Darkwing comic was also created. The opening arc, “The Duck Knight Returns,” had Darkwing come out of retirement after years of inactivity. The book was a great read, but sadly ended too soon after issue #18, due to Disney purchasing Marvel Comics. The comic had a scene were Darkwing was chased by guard flamingos, each wearing a spiked collar. What’s not to love?
Darkwing Duck is one of the many reasons why when I look at the cartoons created today, I pine for the good old days. The quality easily holds up (my kids are watching the series now). I can’t recommend this show enough. Regardless of your age, if you’re an old fan or a new, watch Darkwing Duck. And before you ask, yes, I know the theme song by heart.
Who was your favorite character? Surprised by the production schedule? Comment below!
Saw an episode in Brazil. Don’t speak Portuguese. Still watched it.