Every superhero has an arch-nemesis and in the '90s Darkwing Duck was no different. From the cult cartoon to the comics, Darkwing (aka Drake Mallard) always met his match when he opposed Negaduck was the Joker to his Batman.
What really shaped Negaduck as a sinister villain was his lack of stated history or background, truly making him an agent of chaos and evil. He simply existed as the polar opposite to Drake. However, in the DuckTales reboot, Negaduck finally gets an origin story and his metaphorical birth is deep-rooted in Darkwing's backstory.
In the reboot, the vigilante isn't a real-world hero like the old cartoon, but a pop culture icon who's faded from memory. In "The Duck Knight Returns!" Jim Starling (voiced by original Darkwing Jim Cummings) played Darkwing on a TV series and is trying to make ends meet. Even at fan expos, he's a forgotten face. However, he refuses to accept his heyday is over. When Scrooge McDuck's film studio decides to reboot Darkwing as a gritty movie for a new generation, Jim rushes over thinking he'll be reprising his role.
He goes insane, though, when he finds out the younger Drake (in this reboot, he's an actor and stuntman, rather than a billionaire) has taken over the role. Jim proceeds to kidnap Drake and attack the set, using the props, which turn out to be real lasers, to kill everyone on set. Luckily enough, Drake and Launchpad fight him off, paying homage to their team-ups in the old cartoon. However, it's clear by then, Jim has lived long enough to see himself become the villain. When he wields his signature chainsaw, he sees his crazed reflection in the blade, and accepts he's no longer the hero of the story. Jim pushes Drake away to safety before a massive explosion, but this only kills his old identity.
Jim ends up in the sewers under the studio, with his costume disfigured and a mad look in his eyes, laughing menacingly like the Clown Prince of Crime. Whether from the chemicals, the smoke and fumes, or a broken psyche, Jim's officially dead. And so too is the old Darkwing. What remains, as you can see from the color scheme, is Negaduck.
The '90s Negaduck was from the Negaverse: the dark inverse to St. Canard, with Negaduck being a sadistic version of Drake. But we didn't get much more into his upbringing and why he enjoyed being a menace to society. All we knew was he was an expert in martial arts, boasted a vast array of weapons and also commanded all the city's villains. His motivation was mostly to take over Darkwing's world and he was unapologetically ruthless. It remains to be seen what route this new Negaduck will follow and how much of an extremist he'll be.
Admittedly, Jim doesn't have the skills of his old counterpart, but he does push Drake to his limits in battle, so it seems the reboot is fashioning both as more grounded versions of their past selves. Nonetheless, Jim's descent into villainy will be met by the rise of another Darkwing, as Drake has officially taken up the mantle to honor Jim's past. He doesn't know his idol has broken bad and gone off the hinges, so it'll be quite engaging to watch both men duke it out, and it's almost certain Drake will attempt to bring Jim back to the light. This adds a lot more nuance to his rivalry with Negaduck, and certainly ties them to each other forever.
Starring David Tennant, Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, Bobby Moynihan, Kate Micucci, Beck Bennett, Toks Olagundoye and Tony Anselmo, new episodes of DuckTales debut Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. ET/PT on Disney Channel.