He was the terror that flapped in the night. He was the fingernail that scraped the blackboard of your soul. He was Darkwing Duck, and he made a generation laugh and thrill with his crazy adventures. Following the success of “Ducktales,” the 1992 TV show “Darkwing Duck” was one of the first action-oriented shows on Disney’s block, and wasn’t like any other show on TV.
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Unlike other square-jawed superheroes, Darkwing Duck was vain and short-tempered, spending more time dealing with his clumsy sidekick Launchpad McQuack and his tough adopted daughter Gosalyn than supervillains. Yet he was still lovable and fought crime with cool gadgets and wisecracks. As the recent “Darkwing Duck” comic book series proved, there’s still love for the original TV show, so let’s get dangerous as we count down the 15 best episodes of “Darkwing Duck.”
15. QUIVERWING QUACK
Directed by Tad Stones and Alan Zaslove, and written by Dev Ross, “Quiverwing Quack” aired in 1992. In the episode, Gosalyn has decided to take up archery, and discovered she’s actually pretty good at it, so good in fact that she managed to beat Darkwing’s archenemy Negaduck with it. She decided to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a superhero by adopting the new superhero identity of Quiverwing Quack. Unfortunately, Negaduck decided to target her to stop her publicity.
Darkwing’s adopted daughter Gosalyn was a highpoint of the series, and this was one of the best episodes to showcase her, where she tried to become a superhero on her own. “Quiverwing” put the father-daughter relationship between them on a much higher level, where Darkwing found himself helpless to protect her. It also was sort of a “be careful what you wish for” scenario, where Gosalyn found out how being a superhero wasn’t as great as she thought.
14. FUNGUS AMONG US
“Fungus Among Us” was written by Dev Ross and directed by Tad Stones and Alan Zaslove, and aired in 1991. In the episode, Darkwing was on the trail of a series of robberies being carried out by creepy animals. It didn’t take long for Darkwing to realize the items stolen were all pizza toppings like anchovies and pepperoni. Along the way, he met Morgana Macawber, who ran a mushroom factory, and had a connection to the robberies along with its assorted creepiness.
This was the first appearance of Morgana Macawber, who would become Darkwing’s love interest throughout the series. The episode also had a genuinely creepy vibe with monsters and blood dripping down the screen at one point, illustrating how this show was pushing the Disney envelope. This was also a smart and funny episode that didn’t try to dumb down its content, as shown by the M.C. Escher-type stairs Darkwing found at one point.
Written by Steve Roberts and edited by Duane Capizzi, “Negaduck” aired in 1991, and introduced one version of Darkwing’s nemesis, the ruthless Negaduck. In this episode, the villain Megavolt tried to use a device that split Darkwing into a good version (Posiduck) and an evil version (Negaduck). Gosalyn and Launchpad raced to put Darkwing back together again before Negaduck could take over.
Chronologically, this was the first appearance of Negaduck but with a different origin, which can confuse fans who watch the show in the order it first aired. Negaduck later showed up with a different appearance in the first season episode “Just Us Justice Ducks.” We’ll get more into that episode later on, but this episode was a fun twist on the good versus evil character, showing how the two halves of Darkwing Duck needed to be together. It was also just really funny.
12. THE STEERMINATOR
“The Steerminator” aired in 1992, written and edited by Tad Stones and Dev Ross. It marked the return of Taurus Bulba from the very first pilot episode, “Darkly Dawns the Duck.” In “Steerminator,” the criminal mastermind was rebuilt into a cyborg by the evil organization F.O.W.L. Bulba immediately turned on F.O.W.L. and set about getting his revenge on the Duck Knight for his earlier destruction. The fact that Darkwing Duck was in a wheelchair didn’t help.
The episode was an obvious parody of “The Terminator,” but in a kid-friendly form. Bulba’s cyborg enhancements ran the gamut from rockets to telescopes, and he had a glitch just to make things harder for him. There was also a nice callback to the pilot, making Bulba an even more dangerous enemy. Darkwing having to deal with his injury also made him seem a little more vulnerable, but also proved how he was determined to be a hero, no matter what.
11. DUCK BLIND
Airing in 1991, “Duck Blind” was directed by Tad Stones and Alan Zaslove, and written by Len Uhley. In the episode, Darkwing Duck’s persistent electric-powered enemy Megavolt blinded the hero, leaving him feeling helpless and not knowing when his sight would return. Putting the literal dark into Darkwing Duck, the Duck Knight struggled to fight crime without his vision, using his other senses and various tricks and gadgets to stop Megavolt.
Darkwing Duck had always been arrogant and egotistical, and “Duck Blind” forced him to face his limitations like never before. It was also great fun to see how he tried to use a walkie-talkie and other gimmicks to try to overcome his blindness and trick his enemies into thinking he could still see. In the end, when he tried to throw in the towl, Gosalyn and Launchpad were able to rally around Darkwing and teach him to rely on others while never giving up.
10. BEAUTY AND THE BEET
Another one of Darkwing Duck’s most popular enemies was Bushroot, a duck who was mutated into a plant-like creature. “Beauty and the Beet” first aired in 1991 (written by John Behnke, Rob Humphrey and Jim Peterson, and edited by Kevin Crosby Hopps) and gave the origin of the hapless Bushroot. In the episode, a meek scientist named Reginald Bushroot was bullied by the other scientists and secretly in love with his lab partner. In an attempt to save his funding, Reginald experimented on his own body and turned himself half-plant, half-duck, gaining the power to communicate with and control plants.
Bushroot is another favorite of Darkwing’s Rogues Gallery, and his origin has a touch of pathos from his longing to be accepted by his true love. This episode also included some of the only real deaths on the show, which once again pushed the envelope for a children’s program, especially a Disney show.
9. TWITCHING CHANNELS
1992 brought the surreal “Twitching Channels” (John Behnke, Rob Humphrey, Jim Peterson, Kevin Crosby Hopps) to the series where Darkwing Duck, for all intents and purposes, went into the real world. In the episode, Megavolt created a device that put him and Darkwing Duck into the TV world. While fighting with each other, the two were sent to an alternate reality where Darkwing was only a TV show and “beakless mutants” ruled the world. Darkwing set out to stop the studio from profiting from his likeness.
The episode was a hit with fans because of its meta commentary, riffing on the idea of Darkwing going to the TV studio where he was created to wreak havoc. It also had a “Roger Rabbit” kind of vibe, even though the so-called “real world” was still a cartoon world. “Twitching Channels” followed the great tradition of Looney Tunes cartoons where the characters complained about how they were made, and got even with their creators.
8. THE HAUNTING OF MISTER BANANA BRAIN
In 1992, comic horror returned to “Darkwing Duck” when writer Dev Ross and story editor Tad Stones unleashed “The Haunting of Mister Banana Brain.” Mr. Banana Brain was the mute puppet and sidekick of Darkwing Duck’s zaniest villain, Quackerjack. A cross between the Joker and Toyman, Quackerjack had often wreaked havoc and laughs on the city of St. Canard, but he went too far when he released an evil spirit named Paddywhack from a jack-in-the-box. Paddywhack took over Mr. Banana Brain and used it to spread fear and chaos.
Paddywhack was a genuinely creepy-looking creature, a duck with spidery long arms and legs who fed on negative emotions. Once again, this episode of “Darkwing Duck” brought mild scares to children while staying kid-friendly, but definitely straying to the dark side. If Stephen King’s “It” was a children’s cartoon, it would probably look like “The Haunting of Mr. Banana Brain”
7. JAIL BIRD
In the 1992 episode “Jail Bird” (by Doug Langdale and Michael Maurer), Darkwing Duck had to undergo one of his most dangerous missions: going to jail. When the Fearsome Five (Megavolt, Bushroot, Liquidator, Negaduck and Quackerjack) tried to steal the Mystic Eye of Quackzalcoatl, only Negaduck escaped, but with the gem. Darkwing decided to go undercover in the prison to find the gem’s location from Negaduck’s partners, but has trouble getting the trust of the others.
The premise on this episode was a great one, but the powers of the gem took this one over the top. It turned out that the Mystic Eye could transfer the powers of one person to another, and Negaduck used it to steal the powers of the Fearsome Five, turning him into the gigantic Mega Negaduck. Try saying that five times fast. Darkwing’s attempts to pass as thinly-veiled supervillains like Roller Duck also brought plenty of laughs.
6. TWIN BEAKS
In 1992, a year after the end of “Twin Peaks,” Tad Stones and Jan Strnad produced their own tribute and satire of the show in “Twin Beaks.” When Darkwing Duck travels to the mysterious town of Twin Beaks, he discovers a weird collection of oddballs obsessed with giant cabbages and a collection of clones straight out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Behind it all lay Dr. Bushroot who at times seemed to be the mastermind and at others the victim.
Its hard to explain in the year 2016 why a parody of “Twin Peaks” would be so revolutionary, unless you think about the fact that not many kids watching “Darkwing Duck” would have been a fan of the surreal and horrifying “Twin Peaks.” Making a satire of a show few children of the 1990s would ever watch proved they weren’t making “Darkwing Duck” just for kids. They were aiming for the parents or adult fans who might be watching the show or they were just making it for themselves. There’s also the fact that the “Twin Peaks” references are spot on, and the explanation for the talking log actually made more sense than the original show.
5. CLASH REUNION
Is there anything more disturbing than a class reunion? Darkwing Duck found out the hard way in this 1992 episode, written by Bill Motz and Bob Roth, and edited by Doug Langdale. In the episode, Drake Mallard returned to his high school reunion, only to discover Megavolt was there, too. Worse than that, Megavolt had a score to settle, blaming two other students for causing him to lose his hair and become a villain. It was up to Darkwing to stop it, of course.
The awkwardness of class reunions perfectly contrasted the chaos of a superhero battle. It was also a great episode that gave insight into where Drake Mallard came from, but also where Megavolt came from. Most of the villains in “Darkwing Duck” never got an origin after their first appearance, so Megavolt was in rare company on this one. Of course, the fact that the episode is hilarious is one reason it’s been ranked so high.
4. DARKLY DAWNS THE DUCK
In 1991, we saw the first Darkwing Duck ever by Tad Stones, Jan Strnad, Jymn Magon, and Alan Zaslove. In the two-part pilot episode “Darkly Dawns the Duck,” we’re introduced to Darkwing Duck, egotistical but highly skilled superhero of St. Canard. In the process of trying to increase his publicity, he stumbled across a plot by the criminal mastermind Taurus Bulba, and tried to stop the villain from getting the anti-gravity Ramrod device. In the process, he met his biggest fan, Launchpad McQuack, and took him on as a sidekick, as well as adopting Gosalyn.
In the pilot, we got the setup for the entire premise of the show. They set up the conflict and father-daughter relationship between Drake and Gosalyn, the incompetent eagerness of Launchpad and the frustration of Darkwing trying to maintain his crime fighting career. “Darkly” was also just plain fun, full of action and comedy in equal amounts.
3. LIFE, THE NEGAVERSE AND EVERYTHING
Darkwing Duck wouldn’t be a superhero if he didn’t have an evil clone. Superman has Bizarro, and Darkwing has Negaduck. The only problem is figuring out which Negaduck he was. As we mentioned earlier, Negaduck made an appearance as a negative version of Darkwing Duck in “Negaduck,” but he returned in a completely new form later on. The new Negaduck showed up in “Justice Ducks” (which is next on the list) but with no explanation. “Negaverse” was the show that revealed where he had come from, and gave him a new origin.
In “Life, the Negaverse and Everything,” Negaduck revealed that he had a secret hideout, which turned out to be a portal to his home dimension, the Negaverse. Darkwing Duck traveled to the Negaverse, where he discovered a dark and reversed world. In the Negaverse, Negaduck ruled the ugly and dirty city of St. Canard, Launchpad was a warrior and Gosalyn was sweet and feminine. Darkwing joined the Friendly Four (superhero versions of the Fearsome Five) to save the city and return home.
2. JUST US JUSTICE DUCKS
It wouldn’t be a superhero show without a super-team, and the Justice Ducks fit the bill (pun intended). In the two-part episode “Just Us Justice Ducks,” Darkwing’s enemies teamed up for the first time to become the Fearsome Five. Despite his best efforts to fight them by himself, Darkwing reluctantly had to team up with his girlfriend Morgana Macawber, and three other superheroes: the gadget-loving Gizmoduck, a duck turned into a stegosaurus named Stegmutt and a mutated fish named Neptunia. The five formed the Justice Ducks, a team of superpowered ducks.
Obviously, the team satirized other superhero teams such as the Justice League of America, but the episode also highlighted Darkwing Duck’s weakness. His ego tended to get in the way of his heroism, and this episode forced him to do what he hated most: accept help from others. It was also great to see the two teams battle it out.
1. TIME AND PUNISHMENT
In 1992, Dev Ross and Tad Stones created “Time and Punishment,” one of the most epic and profound episodes of the show. In the story, Gosalyn climbs into a time machine (a time top) with Quackerjack and Megavolt, and travels with them into the future. There, she finds a city held in martial law by the Darkwarrior, who’s none other than Darkwing Duck. Driven by grief over Gosalyn’s disappearance, Darkwing became so ruthless that he would even arrest jaywalkers. Gosalyn had to find a way to stop him and return to her time.
The relationship between Drake Mallard and Gosalyn has always been the emotional core of the show, and “Time and Punishment” showed that better than any other episode. While Darkwing always openly treated Gosalyn as a nuisance, we always saw the love he felt for his adopted daughter. “Time” showed how he would fall apart without her. It’s an episode that stands the test of time (pun also intended).
What did you think of Darkwing Duck? Can you remember your favorite episode? Let us know in the comments!
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