WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 2 of Disney's DuckTales.
Darkwing Duck became a cult figure in the 1990s, especially to fans of DuckTales. While the latter was a rollicking adventure that focused on Scrooge McDuck's family, Darkwing was a parody of classic characters like the Shadow and, yes, Batman. However, with the DuckTales reboot finally bringing Darkwing back into the fold, he's received a new origin that reframes the vigilante as something more than a playful spin on the Dark Knight.
You couldn't help but compare Drake Mallard and his Darkwing alter ego to Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader, especially in an era in which Batman: The Animated Series existed. In his case, Drake wasn't patrolling Gotham, but the dark, crime-ridden city of St. Canard. Drake didn't lose his parents and turn to a life of crime-fighting, but he did set up his own lair, and masquerade as a billionaire by day. He'd prowl on rooftops, backlit by flashes of lightning in the same fashion that Frank Miller brought the Dark Knight to life. Throw in Darkwing's gadgets (the gas gun, grappling gun, smoke bombs) and a family of sidekicks (his adoptive daughter Gosalyn, Launchpad McQuack, and a genius in Honker), and the similarities are undeniable.
Not to mention, "DW," as Launchpad called him, has his Thunderquack jet and the Ratcatcher motorcycle, just like Batman's customized modes of transportation. For good measure, Darkwing also trained in martial arts, learning from the likes of Goose Lee and the Venerable One, cementing his position as a worldly fighter. However, all of this was told with comedy, and in "Let's Get Respectable," Darkwing actually tried to make his character less intimidating to the public as a subtle shot at how dark DC's Batman was. That changes in DuckTales' "The Duck Knight Returns!," in which Darkwing's origin is completely remodeled.
Here, Drake is an actor and stuntman cast in Scrooge's "Darkwing: First Darkness" movie. Darkwing isn't a real-life superhero in St. Canard, but rather a TV character played by Jim Starling (voiced by Jim Cummings, who originally played Darkwing). Director Alistair Boorswan is filming a reboot in Duckburg, and he wants Drake to play the younger, hip version of the hero. Of course, Starling, a washed-up salesman, doesn't react well, and becomes obsessed with playing his old character, and even attempts to kidnap Drake, one of his biggest fans.
It comes to a head at the studio when Jim impersonates Drake and ruins the shoot. Drake breaks free, however, and with Launchpad's help he takes down Jim and saves the set. Following the explosions, drama and the spirit of justice, Drake realizes that rather than simply playing a hero onscreen, he can be one in real life. Launchpad encourages him to follow this new dream, setting them up to be partners down the line.
It's a whole new dynamic because Drake, a down-and-out actor, doesn't have the money the original Darkwing Duck had, nor does he have a connection to his old S.H.U.S.H. organization (St. Canard's version of S.H.I.E.L.D., with some Justice League thrown in).
He's starting from scratch, with little to nothing to his name, giving us the most grounded, bare-bones version of Darkwing Duck we've ever seen. As he sets off on this journey -- one that kills off one Darkwing and gives rise to another -- he may be biting off more danger than he can chew on.
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.