Darkwing Duck: Gone But Not Forgotten

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I love cartoons. Specifically cartoon series from the 80’s and 90’s. Whenever someone asks me what my favorite childhood cartoon is, I always say there are two. The first is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the second is Darkwing Duck. I was the biggest fan of the masked mallard, and who wouldn’t be? He was brave, smart, egotistical, and accident-prone but would persevere against evil. He had a killer costume and cool equipment to fight bad guys. He had an awesome rogue’s gallery that was a bit of a joke but also surprisingly formidable.   The cartoon was also not afraid to show its love for classic superhero comics at a time when the general public didn’t understand it. It even broke through the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War. But does this cartoon from the early 90’s still hold up? Is it a silly animated series that is now a chore to watch, or is it still the incredible show I remember? As Darkwing would say, “Let’s get dangerousin this episode of Gone But Not Forgotten.

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Darkwing Duck was created by Edward T. “Tad” Stones. He is an American animator, storyboard artist, screenwriter, producer, and director. Tad started working for Disney in the 70’s, he trained under Disney animator Eric Larson. Larson was a legend in the animation field since he had worked for Disney since the 1930s. Stones was one of the people behind the formation of the Disney Afternoon. He worked on classic shows like Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers and Gummie Bears.  

The origin of Darkwing Duck is an interesting one. Originally Tad Stones was approached by Jeffrey Katzenberg to make a spin-off of Duck Tales based on the episode of Double-O-Duck. Katzenberg thought the name would be marketable to children. Stones was not thrilled as he thought the idea was a bland parody. As he said, “It didn’t have any heart; it wasn’t Disney.” So he presented the pitch, and Katzenberg said, “This is just a parody; it doesn’t have any heart; it’s not Disney.” So Tad had a second pitch: what if he was like the classic pulp characters from the 40’s like Doc Savage? The original pitch had Darkwing having a team to support him on missions. Another episode of Ducktales that influenced the pitch was the Ducktales episode called The Mask Mallard. The episode revolved around Scrooge McDuck becoming a superhero. It’s one of my favorite episodes of Ducktales and you can see where Darkwing’s look originated from. 

But, everything changed when they learned that the term Double-O was trademarked by the people who owned the character James Bond. So the name had to be dropped and the pitch mutated into a superhero show. Tad said the show sold when they decided to answer the question “What if Batman had a kid who would not stay at home?” This is when the character of Goslyn was introduced. Stones said that he based Goslyn on what he thought his two-year-old daughter would be like when she grew older

Launchpad McQuack was in the original pitch as one of his team members. So he was kept around as Darkwing’s sidekick and pilot. Although he had to be tweaked a bit for the series since in Ducktales he was always crashing his plane.

It always surprises me when I hear people say that Batman inspired Darkwing’s appearance. I can see why since in the Ducktales episode Scrooge’s superhero look is clearly Batman. But if you pay attention it was one of the classic characters that inspired Batman….The Shadow!

I’m surprised people don’t see it.

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Another interesting fact was that the name Darkwing came about as a contest. When the original title of the show had to be dropped a new name was needed. But no one could come up with one so Stones decided to make a contest. If anyone could come up with a name for the show, they would win 500 dollars. Eventually, writer and producer Alan Burnett submitted the name Darkwing. Tad Stones loved it since it reminded him of Nightwing from DC comics. So he added Duck to Darkwing and voila Darkwing Duck. Kinda fitting that the man who wrote and produced the best Batman cartoon would be the guy who coined the name of one of the best Duck superheroes ever. 

Darkwing Duck was unique as, other than Launchpad, the show was one of the few cartoons in the Disney afternoon made up of original characters. You had Gosalyn Mallard who veteran voice actress Christine Cavanaugh played. Goslayn was always getting into trouble as she would sneak around and get involved in Darkwing’s adventures. Sometimes she would be a liability as she would be captured and need to be rescued. But, quite often, she would be the one to help Darkwing crack the case. Cavanaugh was the voice of so many of our favorite cartoon characters from our childhood. She was the voice of Babe in the Babe movies, she was Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory, and my personal favorite Chucky Finster from Rugrats. Sadly Cavanaugh passed away in 2014. 

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Another memorable voice on the cast was of one of Darkwing’s arch-nemesis Megavolt. He was voiced by Homer Simpson himself Dan Castellaneta. I really loved how he brought this unhinged stupidity to this electric-powered villain. Other great voice actors were Katie Leigh as Gosalyn’s best friend Honker, Terry McGovern as Launchpad, Rob Paulsen as villainous Steel Beak, Tino Insana as Bushroot, Kath Soucie as Darkwings true love Morgana, and so many more.

But it was the legendary Jim Cummings who would bring Darkwing Duck to life. In my opinion, Jim Cummings is the VIP of voice acting. To me, he’s up there with Mel Blanc. The man has voiced so many iconic characters and I find it amazing how his voice just morphs into whatever role he is required to perform. 

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Cummings has said that of all his roles, Darkwing Duck is his favorite. He said it was because it was the first character he ever had to develop a voice for. I don’t think I could ever see anyone play Darkwing Duck, although Chris Diamantopoulos voiced him in the Ducktales reboot, and he did a great job. But we will talk about the return from Darkwing Duck later.

But let’s talk about another classic aspect of the show. The theme song!The song was composed by Philip Giffin, written by Steve Nelson and Thomas Sharp, and performed by Jeff Pescetto. The song is in my top five favorites right up there with the Gummie Bears theme song and Denver The Last Dinosaur.

One of the reasons why Darkwing Duck still resonates with many of us is the writing. Some episodes were tributes to classic comics. A perfect example is the episode called “Aduckyphobia” which is a blatant tribute to Spider-Man.  The episode is about Darkwing getting spider powers and renaming himself Arachno-Duck. The episode “The Secret Origins of Darkwing Duck” is a clear tribute to Superman. “Going Nowhere Fast” has a lot of nods to the Flash, like when they mention two doctors named Dr.Allen and Dr.Garrick. The names are the same as the alter egos of the Flash, Barry Allen, and his golden age counterpart Jay Garrick. 

I love so many episodes that it’s hard to pick my favorites. My top five are “Tiff of Titans” which features Darkwing and Gizmo Duck meeting for the first time. It has the classic two heroes hate each other and then team up to beat the bad guy cliché. But I didn’t care that it was done before. I loved seeing these two together. This brings us to the classic two-parter “Just Us Justice Ducks”. 

As you can tell, the comic book-inspired episodes were some of my favorites. I think this was because this was not something seen very often. It’s pure comic book love. There were so many episodes that were either inspired by comics or were full of comic book easter eggs. My other two favourite episodes were “Life, the Negaverse, and Everything” and “Time and Punishment.” 

“Life, The Negaverse, and Everything” featured my favorite Darkwing Duck villain Negaduck. He was Darkwings evil doppelgänger. In his first appearance, Nega Duck is just the evil aspect of Darkwing’s personality when he is accidentally split in two by megavolts tronsplitter ray. When the episode was produced, Tad loved Negaduck and wanted him to come back. So, the writers decided to bring him back by making him a completely new character. This time, they made him an alternate universe version of Darkwing. In “Life, The Negaverse and Everything,” we finally see his home dimension, The Negaverse, which is a clear tribute to Earth 3 from the DC universe where the evil versions of the Justice League, The Crime Syndicate, live. Another great comic book easter egg is that Negaduck’s costume is clearly based on Flashe’s archenemy, The Reverse Flash. I guess I’m a sucker for evil dimensions, watch the Sliders episode we covered before on Gone But Not Forgotten to see how much. 

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Some other great episodes are a Twin Peaks tribute episode called “Twin Beaks” or “Twitching Channels” which is an episode where Darkwing is transported to our world. The episode is ahead of its time with its meta-humor when Darkwing has to deal with Hollywood making money off of his adventures.

But I think the best episode of Darkwing Duck was “Time and Punishment”. In the episode, Gosalyn accidentally gets transported to a dark future where Darkwing has become Dark Warrior Duck. In this timeline, when Gosalyn disappears, Darkwing becomes unhinged and turns into a twisted version of himself. Dark Warrior becomes a despot as he has taken over St.Canard where he puts people in jail for life just for littering or jaywalking. You can see nods to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns in the episode, but Dark Warrior’s look resembles Judge Dredd’s costume. Isn’t it funny that a future version of Batman would also use robots to police Gotham City in Kingdom Come just like Dark Warrior does?

What I love about the episode is the relationship between Dark Warrior and Gosalyn. This just shows how important Gosalyn is to Darkwing. 

Darkwing Duck was a hit when it aired. In fact, Darkwing Duck was one of the first animated shows that was syndicated in the former Soviet Union. This was a huge accomplishment, considering it was just after the Cold War, and Russia was very strict about what American media could be shown in the country. 

So, I’m sure you’re wondering why Darkwing Duck was cancelled. I mean, it was a hit. Well, technically, it wasn’t cancelled. You see, at the time, Disney would order 61 episodes of a cartoon and then just rerun them as much as they could. There was never supposed to be more than that. However, Darkwing was so popular that more episodes were ordered, and the show ended with a total of 91 episodes.  

So in December of 1992, the last produced episode of Darkwing Duck was aired, and fans said goodbye to the terror that flaps at night. Until 2017, Darkwing Duck returned to the small screen on the Ducktales reboot. In this continuity, Darkwing is a fictional character from a now-cancelled TV show. The original actor, Jim Starling, has become bitter and tries to sabotage a movie reboot of his TV show. Drake Mallard is an actor and president of the Darkwing Duck fan club. This new Darkwing fights Jim Starling, who has now taken up the mantle of Nega Duck.

The Darkwing Duck episodes of Ducktales are some of my favorites, I highly recommend you go watch them. 

So the question is, will Darkwing get a new series? Well, since 2020, a reboot has been in the works with Tad Stone as a consultant. But as of now, there has been no news about developing a new series. This has led many fans to worry that the new Darkwing Duck project is stuck in development hell. 

I hope not. I will say that the new Rescue Rangers film has proven that those classic Disney Afternoon cartoons are a valuable I.P. So Darkwing is definitely on the high-value list. hell even in the Rescue Rangers movie, Darkwing himself has given the battle cry to fans to demand he return to the small screen. 

At this time, if you want new Darkwing Duck content, then I highly suggest you pick up the new Dynamite Darkwing Duck comics. Amanda Deibert has penned some great stories for the series and Carlo Lauro’s artwork is amazing.

But if you’re interested in seeing the classic Darkwing Duck episodes, you can find them on Disney Plus…well, almost all of them. There is one episode of Darkwing Duck that was originally banned and I think Disney Plus may have either accidentally or purposely excluded this episode from their library. 

The episode in question is called “Hot Spells.” It involves Gosalyn making a deal with the devil. I don’t think I have to say why it was banned. It’s pretty obvious. Still, last time I checked someone had uploaded it to YouTube and I believe you may be able to watch it on Disney Plus outside of the United States. But since I live in the U.S., I can’t confirm it.

So I would say that tonight I think you should don your cape and hat. Sit back on your couch with your trusted remote and watch the greatest duck superhero be the terror in the night. Just watch out for his pesky gas gun.

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