The much-anticipated debut issue of BOOM! Studios’ “Darkwing Duck” is on sale this week, featuring the return of the 1990s Disney Afternoon hero and his crew. Written by Ian Brill with art by James Silvani, fans’ enthusiastic response to the book’s announcement earlier this year saw “DW” expand from a four-issue miniseries into an ongoing. The cartoon originated in 1991 as a spinoff of “Duck Tales,” which featured the adventures of Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, as well as new character Launchpad McQuack; BOOM! also recently revived this concept in “Uncle Scrooge” #392. “Darkwing Duck” starred the purple-clad avenger and self-professed “terror that flaps in the night” who punished evildoers in the city of St. Canard, and managed to parody the superhero genre while at the same time embracing it.
Following the announcement of BOOM!’s “Darkwing Duck” series at Emerald City Comic-Con, CBR News spoke with writer Ian Brill, who revealed that the comic opens with DW retired from superheroing and working a 9-to-5. Soon, though, he will be called back into action. With the arrival of the first issue this week, we spoke with artist James Silvani for his perspective on the series, and check back soon for an exclusive first look at “Darkwing Duck” #2.
CBR News: Reaction to the announcement of the DW series has, I think, been a lot bigger than a lot of people expected – it was expanded from a mini to an ongoing before the first issue hit stores. Were you surprised by the enthusiasm generated by Darkwing Duck’s return? Does that put a bit of added pressure on you as an artist to live up to the hype?
James Silvani: Pressure? What p-p-p-pressure?
When I first started with BOOM!, editor Aaron Sparrow assigned some covers and threw in a “Darkwing Duck” cover almost as an afterthought. So when the announcement came out for the miniseries and all these websites and message boards dedicated to Darkwing suddenly sprang to life, you could say I was “unprepared.” Plus it wasn’t just the comics fans who were excited. My wife is an attorney and when she (proudly) mentions to her colleagues the her husband is drawing “Darkwing Duck” comics, guess who the big shot in the room is? The cartoon had a lot bigger reach than I could have ever imagined
For me, though, the pressure is on three fronts. The hype of the actual book is of course huge, but this is also BOOM!’s first book creating original (non-Pixar) Disney stories. The Mickey and Donald material that is published now are reprints of proven European material. But I think Ian Brill and Aaron Sparrow have really gone above and beyond. Their passion for this project has really shone through.
But the real pressure for me is carrying on the legacy of the Disney Ducks in comics. Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stories were my first comics growing up. The mixture of the adventure and humor has influenced me like no other way of storytelling has.
It is very humbling to be on a book that was first conceived as a four issue mini-series, and then changed to an ongoing before the first issue even ships! The fan response and demand for this material is just amazing.
What is your own history with Darkwing? Did you watch the cartoon as it aired, sometime later, or were you coming in fresh with this project?
Aah, the early nineties were a magical time for me. Fresh out of college and drawing t-shirt licensing art for a living. I was working with a few other cartoonists, and we would work our breaks around the “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Duck Tales” and “Darkwing.” DW was actually so refreshing at that time because it had the classic Disney characterization with a brand-new style of humor – probably the last of the cartoons where you could get away with guns and explosions and falling off of buildings.
You’ve recently wrapped up “Muppet King Arthur” for BOOM!, which also features non-human characters. How does the physicality of a Muppet or a mallard play into the way you draw an action scene, or expressions, and so on? Would you say it’s more difficult than working with human leads? Less? No different?
When it came to the kind of comics I wanted to create, I was never really a “superhero” kind of guy. Barks’ “Scrooge” or Jeff Smith’s “Bone” were always more interesting to me than Superman because you can get a greater range of emotion from a face whose expressions have no boundaries. In the same sense, it’s much more interesting and fun to draw action sequences where your subjects have no physical limitations.
All those years of being told my work was “too cartoony” have finally paid off.
Diving into DW, were there any scenes you particularly enjoyed drawing, or, were there points reading Ian’s script where you thought, “I can’t wait to draw that!?”
I really like when Ian gives me a chance to tell the story with just the pictures. Especially when it’s just a character’s reaction to something. Capturing the right facial expression in one panel can be just as compelling as a 6-page fold-out action spread
That being said, Ian Brill has really gone over the top with the action. I’ve needed a nap after some of the pages I’ve drawn for issue 3.
For readers, especially young readers, who might not be familiar with Darkwing Duck, what would you say they’ll enjoy about the series? For those who eagerly tuned in after school (like me), what’ll they like about the new take?
The Family of Disney duck characters are recognized by all ages. Younger readers who know Donald Duck can pick up Darkwing and fall right in to the fun and adventure that’s really missing from a lot of today’s comics
But in reality, this book was created as a labor of love by and for the original audience of the show, and this take on “Darkwing Duck” has matured as his fans have. It’s not “CSI-St. Canard,” but we did take everything we loved about DW and brought it to a place you only dreamed about seeing on the Disney Afternoon.
Fill in the blanks: “I am the ____ that _____.”