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Darkwing Duck

Entry updated 10 January 2022. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (1991-1992). The Walt Disney Company for the Disney Channel/ABC Domestic Television (see Disney on Television). Created by Tad Stones. Produced by Bob Hathcock, Toby Shelton, Hank Tucker, Alan Zaslove. Forty-two writers including (five episodes or more) John Behnke, Kevin Campbell, Rob Humphrey, Douglas Langdale, Jim Peterson, Dev Ross, Gary Sperling, Tad Stones, Brian Swenlin. Cast includes voice actors Hamilton Camp, Christine Cavanaugh, Jim Cummings, Terence McGovern. 91 30-minute episodes. Colour.

In an Parallel World where Earth's inhabitants are anthropomorphized animals on the dogface model, Drake Mallard (Cummings) is secretly the Superhero Darkwing Duck, an egotistic blowhard – "I am the terror that flaps in the night" – desperate for fame and media attention. Operating in the City of St Canard, he battles street criminals until encountering Taras Bulba (Curry), a master Villain who has stolen the Waddlemeyer ramrod (see Weapons), a device capable of generating Antigravity. Mallard now meets Launchpad McQuack (McGovern), a comically inept aeroplane pilot from the nearby city of Duckberg, who is his biggest fan and yearns to be his crime-fighting partner. The duo expands with the addition of the pixilated young Gosalyn Waddlemeyer (Cavanaugh), whose grandfather invented the ramrod and was then murdered by Bulba's thugs in a botched effort to obtain the device's arming sequence. Bulba eventually obtains the code from Darkwing Duck, but after a battle atop a skyscraper, the ramrod explodes, apparently killing both the hero and the villain. But a very loose story arc soon takes shape, with Drake showing up in his civilian alter ego to adopt Gosalyn from an orphanage along with McQuack, now his friend and full-time assistant.

The series was a fine Parody of superheroes, with the title character combining traits from Batman, the Shadow, the Green Hornet and Doc Savage among others. Regular foes were generally parodies of well-known enemies of Batman or Spider-Man. Examples include Quakerjack, an insane toy-maker dressed as a medieval jester who uses various diabolical weapons based on toys to commit crimes (see Toys in SF); Bushroot, a Mad Scientist who became a duck-plant hybrid after experimenting upon himself and has the ability to control plant life in much the same manner as The Swamp Thing; and Megavolt (at one point to be called Dim Bulb), a spoof of Spider-Man's enemy Electro. An occasional ally and rival superhero is Gizmo Duck (Camp), who wears a Powered Armour suit similar to the Marvel Comics hero Iron Man (see Iron Man). Other instalments satirize James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and the contemporary Television series Twin Peaks (1990-1991).

Darkwing Duck may well be the best superhero Satire to date in either live action or animated formats, benefiting from scripts enjoyable by children while catering for adults. It was a spinoff from DuckTales (1987-1990) an animated series based on the Disney Comics by Carl Barks (1901-2000) [for Barks and Disney see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], whose creation of Duckberg and sophistication of the dogface template (see J J Grandville) deeply shaped the mise en scene of Darkwing Duck. Many sf themes are namechecked but rarely scrutinized beyond the level of the joke told. The series as a whole was far darker than usual for Disney, and constantly flirted with copyright transgressions against the trademarks of competing corporate entities; its relatively limited distribution after 1992 may seem unsurprising. Tie merchandise includes several Videogames and comics.

Darkwing Duck also makes the occasional appearance in the rebooted series DuckTales (2017-current). [GSt/JC/DRL]


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