Although Darkwing Duck didn't begin production until a year after the end of the original DuckTales, the shows are forever linked in our minds because Launchpad McQuack was a supporting character on both, and they aired together on the syndicated Disney Afternoon block, in reruns on Disney Channel's "Block Party," and on the entertainment giant's channels around the globe. And despite Darkwing Duck creator Tad Stones declaring in 2016 that he considers the shows to be set in alternate universes, the belief persists that Darkwing Duck is a DuckTales spinoff.
So when DuckTales was rebooted in 2017, fans were wondering -- especially given the clear, unabashed Disney love of Frank Angones and Matt Youngberg -- when and where the Masked Mallard might show up.
The ultimate answer was at first a fun goof, but with the conclusion of the most recent run of DuckTales '17 episodes, was revealed to be a loving poke at superhero trends much like the original, while a fun tribute to what has come before.
When There's Trouble, You Call D.W.
On Darkwing Duck, Launchpad (Terry McGovern) was the biggest (and initially only) fan of the Terror that Flaps in the Night (Jim Cummings), which he parlayed in the events of the show's two-part pilot, "Darkly Dawns the Duck," into becoming Darkwing's pilot and sidekick.
Launchpad largely played the same part of comedic foil to Darkwing that he had to Scrooge McDuck, although in Darkwing, he was the third lead after Darkwing, aka Drake Mallard, and his adopted daughter Gosalyn (perhaps as a nod to how the show had been inspired by, among other things, the DuckTales episode "Double-O Duck," which saw him bumble into impersonating a secret agent). He truly was Drake Mallard's best friend; they referred to each other as "DW" and "LP," and stuck together even through all their mutual bumbling.
But when the new DuckTales came about, it took a more circuitous route ...
Let's. Get. Dangerous(ly Meta)
A few episodes into the first season of the DuckTales reboot, the new Launchpad (Beck Bennett) reveals that, besides flying and crashing aircraft, his biggest joy in life is Darkwing Duck, now an in-universe TV show starring Jim Starling (Cummings) as Darkwing.
That tweak allowed the show's staff to use Launchpad to poke fun at fandom and also touch on the real idea that, in a "three-Marvel-movies-a-year" world, superheroes really can, and do, inspire people to be better.
Some fans were annoyed at the reveal but on Twitter, Angones asked for patience. And sure enough, the wait paid off with (at this moment) the most recent DuckTales episode, "The Duck Knight Returns!"
Meeting Launchpad and Dewey (Ben Schwartz) at a furniture-store opening, Jim Starling is disillusioned by how far he's fallen and wants the biggest hit of his career to make a comeback. Learning from Dewey that a Darkwing Duck reboot was being produced -- funded by an out-of-touch Scrooge and shown as a clear takedown of Zack Snyder's DC Extended Universe films -- Starling convinced Launchpad to help him sabotage the movie so he could win his iconic role back from his younger successor (Chris Diamantopoulos).
Sneaking into his trailer to tie the guy up, Launchpad instead is awestruck by the actor's collection of Darkwing memorabilia -- Angones confirmed on Twitter it was based on real and unreleased Darkwing merchandise -- and wound up becoming friends with him over their fandom. But an enraged Starling, clad in his old costume, sabotages the set and nearly kills his replacement before being seemingly crushed by part of the set.
With the movie scrapped and his idol dead, the actor doesn't know what to do with himself. Launchpad suggests he could try being Darkwing, for real. Chuffed by the idea, the actor agrees, and signs Launchpad's Darkwing Duck poster, revealing his name is Drake Mallard.
With the episode's final moments revealing that Starling had survived but gone insane, living in the sewers and adopting the look and moniker of Negaduck (Darkwing's Evil AU counterpart on the original show), it's a given the new Darkwing will return. And the poster and trailer for the rest of Season 2 unveiled at Comic-Con International in San Diego confirm that. There's even a glimpse of a redesigned Gosalyn being introduced in the upcoming episodes (set to premiere in September).