Sadly, the news that went viral this morning that Disney was reviving Darkwing Duck, the terror that flaps in the night, is a hoax. But the reaction to that hoax is a reminder how much the show is beloved, and a nudge to Disney that Saint Canard needs its defender again.
If you’re unfamiliar, Darkwing Duck follows the exploits of Drake Mallard, his adopted daughter Gosalyn, and sidekick Launchpad McQuack as he fights the villains that menace the city of Saint Canard with a gas gun, a mask, and an enormous ego. Think The Naked Gun meets The Shadow, although Darkwing, once he got over himself and got dangerous, always got the bad guy. It’s also a show besotted with the old pulps and comic books; every episode has a joke or two about superheroes and pulp heroes, right down to Darkwing’s name being a riff on the Shadow’s secret identity. It even cleverly anticipated much of the grim/dark trend in ’90s comics, turning Darkwing into “Dark Warrior Duck” a year before Batman would be replaced by a violent, homicidal avenger.
For the time, and even now, it was a surprisingly mature show and there’s never been anything quite like it before or since. This was an era where a renaissance of sorts was unfolding with afternoon animation in the wake of Tiny Toon Adventures proving that kids were smarter than marketing departments took them for. Darkwing Duck was, unusually for the time, a funny animal cartoon that put action first, and it wasn’t afraid to get heavy, either. The show even killed off Darkwing for an episode, and brought him back as a ghost to say goodbye to his family.
Darkwing hasn’t been completely forgotten. A comic from Boom! Studios was well-received, and will be relaunched this year despite an unfortunate behind-the-scenes dispute over credit. But the show’s not available on streaming, and you can’t even find him on Blu-ray.
And that’s a shame. Especially now that Disney outright owns Marvel, and superhero movies have only gotten darker, it feels Darkwing’s time has come again. The show’s satire of superhero tropes hid an enormous affection for stories of grandiose adventure and dialogue more purple than Darkwing’s hat. In the intervening twenty years, the show’s fans have grown up and had children of their own, and the excitement that surrounded this hoax says, if nothing else, people fondly remember the show.
If Disney is concerned about how a 2D-animated superhero parody might play in 2016, there’s an obvious solution: Put the show on Netflix. As we noted, it’s currently hard to find, but it’s got a fanbase. And if enough people go back to Saint Canard, perhaps in the future a Darkwing Duck revival won’t be a hoax.