Dynamite’s Disney comics have not only brought out nostalgia for those of us who ran home for Disney Afternoons but have also introduced classic characters to new readers. Darkwing Duck is one of those legendary characters, and creator/writer Tad Stones is working with the publisher on graphic novel collections available now for die-hard fans on Kickstarter

Darkwing Duck

The Beat chatted with Stones about how he created Drake Mallard’s infamous alter ego and how he feels about the new wave of popularity for the character.  

DEANNA DESTITO: How did you come up with Darkwing Duck? 

TAD STONES: Jeffrey Katzenberg, late of Dreamworks but back then was overseeing all movies and animation at Disney. He told me to develop a show with the name “Double O Duck.”  He thought the name was catchy and would draw interest to a new series. Launchpad McQuack had been featured in a DuckTales episode of the same name but the whole point was to create a brand new character as the lead.   

My first attempt at a straight parody failed. Jeffrey said it was missing ”Disney Heart.” The new take didn’t click until we added Gosalyn, a rambunctious adopted daughter who refused to stay at home. That locked in the heart and added to the humor and possible storylines.

At the time. all the staff writers and story editors were on term contracts, hired for x many years instead of the duration of a single show, so I could use them as a Brain Trust. Duane Capizzi looked at the existing art which was a generic Disney duck in a tuxedo, mask, cape, and fedora. He said it looked more like a pulp hero like the Shadow or Green Hornet than it did a spy. I loved that stuff and had heard tapes of the old radio shows. The pulps suggested a different template for assistants, sidekicks, and what-not instead of the typical James Bond cast. But ultimately we had too many characters to service in an episode. Launchpad McQuack had always been hanging around in the various pitches, so we settled on the trio of Double-O Duck, Gosalyn, and Launchpad. 

When we were told that we didn’t have the rights to use the Double-O name, he was rechristened “Darkwing” and I used it as an excuse to move away from the spy tropes and into the Silver Age of Comics that I read as a kid. Of course, SHUSH and some spy missions remained part of the show.

DESTITO: What makes this duck different than the other ducks in Disney’s universe?

STONES: From early in development, I described the tone as a 22-minute classic animated short with “Disney Heart” and more plot. I thought we could be irreverent as the classic Warner Brother shorts, including acknowledging the audience from time to time. That hadn’t been done in any of our shows. An executive asked me how we could have real jeopardy, especially before a commercial break when Darkwing can survive a safe falling on him. I said the onscreen characters would take the danger seriously, and we would play scary music. That seemed to work.

DESTITO: How do you feel about the resurgence of excitement around Darkwing and all his companions/villains?

STONES: I love it! It’s hard to know how seriously to take it because the various algorithms put me in a Darkwing Duck bubble. But seeing how hard the DuckTales reboot crew fought to include him in their show, and his appearance at the end of the Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers movie amazed me. And the fact that Dynamite Comics put out Justice Ducks and Negaduck comics in addition to their Darkwing Duck series makes me think there might be some real excitement outside of my bubble.

DESTITO: Have you read any of the new comics based on your creation and if so what do you think?

STONES: I have to preface this with two things. First, when I was developing Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers, I was thankful that I didn’t have Jack Hannah over my shoulder telling me the chipmunks don’t wear clothes and should always be fighting with Donald Duck. So when people are using characters I developed, I don’t expect them to mirror the show perfectly. Darkwing is recognized as a hero in St. Canard in this universe, something he longed for in the show but was constantly frustrated. He’s more of an inventor in the series which is used well in the comics.

Secondly, I have a petty streak in me that resists paying Disney for merch based on “my” characters, although I did get a Negaduck Funko at a Saskatoon Con for a really reasonable price. But with these comics, how could I resist? I bought physical copies of the first two Darkwing Duck issues and got digital copies of two more. I’m subscribed to Jeff Parker’s Negaduck run, and Dynamite just sent me the first four issues of Justice Ducks.

I’m enjoying them all. Amanda Diebert captured the tone of our show right off the bat and portrayed Morgana Macawber exactly right, better than she was in several of our episodes. Pitch perfect. Jeff Parker blended more Darkwing personality into Negaduck than we usually did which not only makes sense but makes him a more nuanced character. Seeing Negaduck as the lead in a series without DW to play off was fascinating. I think Justice Ducks might be my favorite of the three, almost answering the unasked question, “What if Carl Barks wrote Darkwing Duck?” Most of the issues are stand alones. He sets up the stories at lightning speed, packs every page with gags, keeps the personalities of the team separate, and massaged their roles to make a more entertaining team. I’m going to nag Dynamite for the rest of the run. If I just sell some commissions, I can just buy them myself. But I won’t be happy about it! Grrr, curse my pettiness.

DESTITO: Why is this character still holding strong after so many years?

STONES: I have no clue. Maybe a little one. When I was first invited to guest at conventions, I was surprised to have some fans get emotional over the bond between Drake Mallard/Darkwing Duck and Gosalyn. Some had difficult childhoods and that relationship was an emotional anchor for them. So I think Jeffrey’s request for “Disney Heart” paid off. Plus there’s the general pull of nostalgia for what people loved in their youth.

DESTITO: For new fans of Darkwing, how would you describe the character and his world?

STONES: Geez. After 33 years you’d think I’d have a pat answer to this. Darkwing Duck is a massive ego dressed in a mask and cape. He has a clear sense of right and wrong unless the possibility of fame and recognition clouds it for a bit. He loves his daughter, even though she drives him crazy, and would sacrifice everything to keep her safe. Filter all this through a Roger Rabbit, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny universe where physical threats can be on one hand non non-consequential, and on the other, absolutely deadly.

DESTITO: Favorite character besides Darkwing?

STONES: Within the show, Gosalyn. While we were working on the show, I put her above DW. She took stories in completely different directions than expected in a superhero show, and the voice acting by Chrissy Cavanaugh was unpredictable and hilarious.

BTW, I don’t want to end this without acknowledging Jim Cummings. Obviously, different actors portrayed Darkwing Duck internationally, but Jim was OUR Darkwing. The character he created was the soundtrack all the writers heard. It was a marvelous feedback loop with Jim interpreting the writing, and the writers incorporating Jim’s acting and improv into the scripts. 

To get your Darkwing Duck collection, head to Kickstarter.