Superheroes have been a part of my life, well, as long as I can remember. A neighbor when I was in kindergarten had a huge stack of comics, and when my mother was at these boring (for a kid) “adult” dinner parties, I was happily in that neighbor’s spare room, poring over old Marvel Two-In-Ones and Superman Family comics. So the seed was planted early. I call myself a herogeek, and get teased that I’m too serious about them sometimes… and I’ll even admit that’s fair, time to time. So it’s really amazing that, somehow or other, one of my favorite characters is a superhero parody that makes fun of the genre, the industry, and himself. But, when he came out in the 90’s, I became an instant fan of The Terror That Flaps In The Night… Darkwing Duck.
He had his own cartoon for several seasons, his martial arts skills and detective work only overshadowed by his overconfidence and utterly out of control ego. Many compared him to a comedic Batman, but I still say the Golden Age Sandman is a closer match (hat, gasgun, cloak). Whoever he was based on, Darkwing vanished aside from occasional and sadly short-lived comic series after his show was cancelled. Then, they rebooted Duck Tales, which was not only from the same era, but had crossed over with Darkwing a few times. Could the Masked Mallard be far behind?
Yes and no. As far as I know, there’s still no plan for a Darkwing reboot on tv or in comics. But, Duck Tales’ second season had an episode called “The Duck Knight Returns!” which was a nod to a comic story from a few years ago. Launchpad, the goofy pilot from Duck Tales (and sidekick to Darkwing in the original version) was revealed in season one to be a Darkwing fan, and Duck Knight expands on that with a lot of nods to the original.
In the episode, Darkwing is coming back as a major movie, but darker and grittier, like DC keeps trying to do with its characters for whatever reason. Actor Jim Starling (a nod to comics great Jim Starlin, maybe?), who played the character on the show in this world, tries to force his way into the production, and things go all sorts of haywire before Launchpad’s horrified eyes. The episode plays up the worst parts of Darkwing, but also manages to offer some hope for the character. It could have been terrible… but I loved it. In addition to Jim Starling being played by Jim Cummings, the original Darkwing voice, there’s also a cameo by Tad Stones, Darkwing’s creator. The episode ends on an interesting note, laying a possible foundation for Darkwing’s return, as well as an origin of sorts for one of Darkwing’s toughest enemies.
What I liked: Just hearing Jim Cummings as Darkwing again was fantastic. The parody of the superhero genre remains strong, pointed, and really well done. It’s even kind of a hero’s origin story, and a creative spin on one at that.
What I didn’t: I’m a fanboy, I admit it. This wasn’t quite Darkwing, or the reboot of the character I’d hoped for. As I mentioned, it played up the worst aspects of the character, and had a really odd reversal at the end.
For creativity, meta-humor, and parody, not to mention bringing back (sort of) a favorite character of mine, I’m giving this one a 4 out of 5. I’m still not a Duck Tales fan (Sorry to those who are), but I’ll for sure tune in if there’s another appearance by the Purple Powerhouse.