He is the terror that flaps in the night. He is the hangnail that ruins your day. He is the milk that smells funny even though you just bought it two days ago. He is the duck who will fight for your honor. He is DARKWING DUCK!
And he’s back!
BOOM! Studios has been gangbusters with the various Disney comics, so it brings me great joy to see one of my favorite cartoons growing up has been brought back to the forefront. With words by Ian Brill and art by James Silvani, the billed vigilante was originally set to return in a four-issue miniseries, but now it’s been stretched into an on-going. I picked up the first issue a couple weeks ago and it’s definitely lived up to expectations.
Then David Brothers told me that he personally knows Ian Brill and since David still owes me for that time I saved his life during that whole bullfrog incident years back (don’t ask), I called in that favor and had him put together this interview. Surprisingly, Ian agreed and questions and answers were had.
Now, then. Let’s. Get. Physical.
…DANGEROUS! I meant to say DANGEROUS! God, why do I keep doing that?
Let’s start at the beginning here. Darkwing Duck is a property that’s sadly fallen into obscurity with Disney. Lord knows I’ve been clamoring for a Saint Canard level in Kingdom Hearts for years. How did this resurgence project come to be?
BOOM! thought it would be a good idea to bring this character back. The Disney Afternoon animation block was huge and it reached millions of kids. Of those kids that grew up, some are now in comic book stores shopping every Wednesday. We saw an opportunity and went for it. Darkwing Duck is one of the most beloved of the Disney Afternoon shows and it taps into the superhero genre so prevalent in the Direct Market, so it made the most sense to bring that property back while at the same time running Duck Tales stories in Uncle Scrooge.
I wrote a pitch, we sent it to Disney, they dug it and now here’s the book! Thankfully our hunch was proven right, that people are hungry for more stories featuring characters from this era of television animation.
The greatest pitfall of doing Darkwing Duck as a comic book is that we miss out on Megavolt’s completely awesome voice. What kind of advantage does the comic medium have to make up for that disadvantage? But really, if I was Dan Castellaneta, I’d be speaking in that voice all day, every day.
There are a lot of ways I can approach telling Darkwing Duck stories differently than the show did, which I hope ends up being just as effective. I write in four issue arcs that allow for really epic stories, kind of like when they did the Duck Tales theatrical film. When planning storylines I do think of how I’m going to take all the elements of Darkwing Duck I love and turn it into a huge story, one that takes these characters on a real ride.
Plus there’s the fact that I do work hard to keep these characters’ voices the same as what they were on the show. That’s a major part of making these characters recognizable. It’s fun writing Megavolt because you do get to think of the Krusty the Clown voice in your head.
How did you prepare for this series? Did you lock yourself in a room and watch the entirety of the show for a couple weeks or what?
I did watch the show a lot, all while writing the pitch for the first storyline. While remembered what I loved from watching the show as a kid, what I really picked up on was the unique brand of humor, the character dynamics, stuff that made the show so endearing.
The first issue is obviously inspired by Dark Knight Returns in ways and there was an episode of the cartoon that was inspired by DKR in other ways (Dark Warrior Duck). Are there any episodes of the show that have inspired your writings here more than others?
It’s funny you say that, because even though the story is called “The Duck Knight Returns” the actual Frank Miller story wasn’t really in my head while crafting this. I love that story but for me it was really all about drawing from these characters and seeing what I can do to make an interesting story out of them. Reducing Darkwing to a lowly cubicle worker and returning him to his rightful place as Saint Canard’s protector, while at the same time mending his relationship with Launchpad and Gosalyn, was the goal and from there I just let the characters take their course (that probably makes it sound easier than it really was).
The two-parter Just Us Justice Ducks was an inspiration, this huge story where all the villains and all the heroes have teamed up against each other. The original Darkwing two-parter Darkly Dawns the Duck had a major impact as well.
Speaking of specific episodes, did that Twin Beaks episode give you nightmares too? …and by “too” I mean… Actually, just omit the “too”. I mean, I certainly wasn’t freaked out by it.
I really liked that episode, even before I know what Twin Peaks was. It didn’t scare me, though. That’s an example of what the show was really good at and what set it apart as well, that it would go that absurd. That’s very freeing when writing these stories, although it also means I have to know the difference between “absurd-funny” and “absurd-stupid”.
Ha, yeah, really. I mean, to get that kind of reaction from a kid’s cartoon would be just sill–
OH MY GOD! BUSHROOT’S EYELESS CORPSE!
*spends the next ten minutes in fetal position, sucking his thumb as Ian patiently reads a newspaper*
Right, next question. Life is like a hurricane here in Duckburg. What would you say life is like in Saint Canard?
A typhoon of excitement and awesomeness.
Liquidator shows up on the last page of the first issue. I remember reading about how Liquidator only got one solo episode because the writers found him excessively difficult to write due to his powers and salesman quips. How was that experience on your end? Would you agree with that sentiment?
There’s that part of him that takes a while to get around. I guess I did what everyone else did, team him up with the rest of the villains and let him be part of the group. I like to think I give him his moments along with all the other villains. It does become a juggling act when you have four outlandish characters together with Liquidator, Megavolt, Quackerjack and Bushroot. Some come to the forefront more than others, and you’ll see that this group has a distinct leader. But they are all great characters and all have something to offer in the story.
Originally, Darkwing Duck was set to be a miniseries, but it’s been turned into an on-going. It’s great news, but what led to this? Lots and lots of pre-orders? Also, how has this changed your writing approach, if at all?
The response was so overwhelming that BOOM! decided to respond by giving people more Darkwing. It was so amazing to see, I’m so thankful.
This has allowed me to build on these character relationships more. You’ll see Gosalyn and Darkwing’s really start to change after issue #4. In some ways good and in some ways bad, but hopefully always entertaining!
I haven’t heard a single person not enjoy this series so far and I’d like to hope that it’ll be existing for quite a while. What kind of stories do you have on tap for our overly-introduced masked duck?
Well, there’s a villain you see in issue #3 that has a small but still significant role. He comes to the fore in a big way with issue #5. Plus he teams up with a villain that has never fought Darkwing before but is someone fans will know very well.
I bet it’s Kanye West.
Outside of Darkwing Duck, what else do you have going for you these days? Anything else you’d like to plug?
Anyone enjoying Darkwing Duck should pick up Uncle Scrooge #392, the start of the Duck Tales stories being run in the title. That’s two monthly series with Launchpad McQuack. Who knew we could say that in 2010!
Are there any other properties out there you’d like to get your hands on?
Hey, everyone’s got a dream list. I can tell you that around the same time I was watching Darkwing Duck, the humor and imagination in the video game Earthworm Jim hit me in the a similar way. There actually was a Marvel miniseries of Earthworm Jim written by Dan Slott in the mid-90’s, I’d love to read it one of these days. I think that’s a cool property to explore and I know they just released the game on Xbox Live. One of BOOM!’s designers even has Princess What’s-Her-Name on her desktop!
I also think every comic book creator has a good Batman story in him or her.
The Earthworm Jim mini really is worth checking out, though it does skew more towards the cartoon’s style than the games, if that makes any difference.
Thanks for your time, but I have to squeeze in one last question. BOOM! Studios has been doing right with Irredeemable. You think I could convince them to let me do a similar series where Comet Guy snaps and goes on a psychotic killing rampage? Eh?
I don’t know what I would fear more in that situation: Disney’s reaction or Waid’s!
Darkwing Duck and Uncle Scrooge are in stores now. Go pick them up and join me in prayer for a world where Launchpad McQuack gets more comic book appearances than Deadpool.
And while I’m at it, here’s one of the unsung great 8-bit themes of the NES era: Megavolt’s stage from the Darkwing Duck videogame.