Sunday, September 06, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Darkwing Duck -- Let's Get Dangerous!

The last time I looked at an entry in the syndicated Disney Afternoon block was waaaaay back in April of last year, so I figured it was time to hop back and talk up another weekday animated series from the Mouse House. After DuckTales finished out its extraordinarily successful four seasons, development began on a spin-off for the skein. After briefly mulling a James Bond parody, they instead invented the new character Drake Mallard, an ordinary duck who spends his nights prowling the streets as...Darkwing Duck:

Premiering in syndication in fall of '91, Darkwing Duck was part of the second Disney Afternoon rotation. As created by Disney vet Tad Stones, Darkwing's oversized hat and "I am the terror that flaps in the night" was evocative of "masked avenger"-type heroes like the Shadow or Batman, but with a Dis twist. The DuckTales connection was made explicit in the presence of Launchpad McQuack, Scrooge McDuck's pilot, who would end up as Darkwing's sidekick.

Each weekday, Drake would take on comical baddies like Megavolt, and Steelbeak, and Tuskerninni, all the while trying to raise his smarter-than-him adopted daughter Gosalyn. What distinguished the character was that he wasn't a straight-ahead hero-type. Rather, he was a bumbling doofus whose ego was bigger than his skill set. As such, it played on two levels: the action hero, derring-do stuff worked as its own thing, but it also played as a parody of comic book and superhero tropes.

I really dug this show. I still do! The great thing about Darkwing Duck is that, while it exists within the same "duck universe" that Carl Barks created in comics and which DuckTales brought to vivid animated life, it managed to be entirely unique as well. As with most Disney Afternoon shows, both the writing and animation were far above par when compared with other stuff from the same era. And of course there was the merch, including an extensive action figure line from Playmates.

All told, Darkwing Duck lasted an impressive 91 episodes, just shy of the hundred episodes that mothership DuckTales logged during its run. It remained part of the Disney Afternoon's rotation off-and-on through the syndicated package's final year in '96-'97. Today, despite the fact that it remains beloved nearly twenty-five years after its debut, only the first fifty-four episodes have been released to home vid. Come on Disney, get on it! Let's get dangerous!

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Run, Joe, Run -- It's The Fugitive With a Dog

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Star Trek's Animation Enterprise

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Two Decades of Batman: The Animated Series

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