- “The city of St. Canard is home to a thousand criminals. But not one of them dares make a move, for this city has a shadowy protector who hunts them like a phantom in the darkness. I am that guardian. I am the terror that flaps in the night. I am the winged scourge that pecks at your nightmares. I am Darkwing Duck!”
- ―Darkwing's opening monologue in the episode "That Sinking Feeling"
Drake Mallard is the not-so-mild-mannered alter-ego of St. Canard's resident superhero Darkwing Duck and the titular protagonist of the animated TV series with the same name. He is also the adoptive father of the orphaned Gosalyn Waddlemeyer. He made his debut along with Gosalyn in The Disney Afternoon title sequence in 1990. He is loosely based on DC Comics superhero Batman.
The original Darkwing Duck series had three episodes depicting different, seemingly contradictory origins for how Drake Mallard became Darkwing. Creator Tad Stones stated that these were done deliberately for the humor, and would've written more backstories had the series run longer. These entailed the following:
- "Paraducks", the first episode to delve into Drake's backstory, relates how Darkwing himself, traveling back in time, was the inspiration for young Drake Mallard to dream of becoming a superhero one day.
- "The Secret Origins of Darkwing Duck" relates a hyperbolic pseudo-Superman tale, which is implied to be somewhat of a tall tale.
- And in "Clash Reunion", a teenaged Drake saves his high school from his classmate Elmo Sputterspark (who eventually became the villainous Megavolt) and makes his debut as Darkwing Duck.
Similarly, the DuckTales reboot, which featured Drake as an occasional guest star, came up with its own story for how he became Darkwing, detailed below.
According to the comic book adaptation of "Darkly Dawns the Duck", Drake was a Junior Woodchuck in his youth, as he still makes use of his Junior Woodchucks Guidebook (the actual episode instead refers to it as a generic "boy scout handbook").
In a 2021 interview, comic writer Aaron Sparrow mentioned that he wanted to write a four-issue mini-series titled The One True Origin of Darkwing Duck, which would've presented four more contradictory origins for Darkwing, all told by several Junior Woodchucks. At the end, Darkwing would reveal to Gosalyn his true origin... which, in the flashback that would be shown, would comedically be a lot less dynamic (he simply noticed that there was a lot of crime in St. Canard, and he had a lot of gadgets with which to fight crime).
Darkwing is a short anthropomorphic mallard duck with white feathers, a large forehead, orange bill and webbed feet. When in civilian attire, he wears a salmon collar shirt, with a green vest over it.
Darkwing's costume consists of:
- An oversized blueish-gray fedora with a black band.
- A dark purple mask which goes over his eyes.
- An electric-purple coat with four shiny golden buttons on his torso, and two on each arm.
- A teal Turtle-Neck sweater (Which is under his coat)
- A dark purple silk cape, with a red inside.
As a non-powered superhero, Darkwing utilizes a variety of gadgets in his fight against crime. His most used weapon is his gas gun which not only fires gas but a variety of weapons. It is also designed to function as a grappling hook. For transportation, he will either use the Thunderquack, a duck- head shaped plane built and piloted by Launchpad, or the Ratcatcher, his motorcycle.
While having no superpowers, Darkwing is still a toon, and seems virtually indestructible: he often gets defeated in a painful way, gets crushed, flattened, even blown away by explosions, but always rises back. He is not unstoppable, however, as he sometimes needs to wear bandages after being seriously injured. Darkwing suffers several injuries in a slapstick manner throughout the episodes.
Darkwing is an expert in martial arts, despite a large degree of clumsiness. It is mentioned that he was trained in Quack Fu by Goose Lee. From his great-great-aunt, who was a sideshow contortionist, he also learned a number of skills that would prove useful during his encounters with villains.
In "Going Nowhere Fast", due to the effects of Negaduck's Particle Accelerator, Darkwing Duck temporarily gained the power of super speed, which caused him to age rapidly the more he used it, which could be reversed by running in reverse.
Darkwing is known for his rather large ego and pride, and can initially be mistaken for a bumbling superhero. Rather than be a hero for justice or just helping others, he does it for fame and glory. However, when pushed, as symbolized by the utterance of his catchphrase, "Let's get dangerous," he can become very competent, proving his skill. He usually works alongside his crossover lackey from DuckTales, Launchpad McQuack. He typically works at night, appearing with smoke effects and a unique introductory statement. As a hero, Darkwing is often forced to balance his desire for fame with his desire to be a father to Gosalyn and do good in St. Canard.
As a civilian, he is known as Drake Mallard (a reference to Kent Allard, the civilian identity of The Shadow) and he lives in the suburbs with his adopted daughter, Gosalyn Mallard, and his sidekick Launchpad McQuack. His next-door neighbors are the dimwitted Muddlefoot family, who, (with the exception of their younger son, Honker, Gosalyn's best friend) are ignorant of his double life as a superhero. There is also Morgana Macawber, whome is a reformed criminal sorceress, and the object of Darkwing's affection.
Interestingly, the pilot episode shows that Darkwing had given up his civilian identity in favor of full-time crime-fighting. At that point, he lived in a secret lair at the top of a bridge. Darkwing's return to a civilian alter-ego was fueled by his adoption of Gosalyn.
In Time and Punishment, Gosalyn was sent into the future and Darkwing went mad with depression when Gosalyn went missing; believing she had run away because he did not allow her to help him that night against Quackerjack and Megavolt. One night, he came across someone who was in need and reminded him of Gosalyn. Rediscovering his purpose, he became Dark Warrior Duck a much more public menace and deadlier than many of his foes such as Steelbeak and NegaDuck. However simply defeating the supervillain menace of St. Canard is not enough for Darkwarrior; and he becomes a militaristic dictator, declaring martial law over St. Canard. He would punish anyone for minor offenses. Launchpad is no longer a sidekick to him because Darkwarrior accused him of being too soft on crime after he said criminals should be arrested before they were sent to the electric chair. Gosalyn was able to travel back to her present and that future never happened.
Darkwing Duck appears in the reboot series of DuckTales, debuting in the episode "Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System!", when Launchpad shows the Darkwing Duck show to Dewey. In this continuity, Darkwing Duck is the fictional star of a superhero television show, instead of someone who exists in the show's universe. Because Darkwing is a fictional role, two different incarnations appear in the show, the first being the actor who played Darkwing, Jim Starling, and Drake Mallard, who happened to be a fan of Jim's Darkwing Duck character in his youth (alluding to the character's origin in "Paraducks").
In "The Duck Knight Returns!", Drake Mallard makes his debut as a fresh actor and fan of Darkwing Duck cast as the character for the upcoming Darkwing Duck movie that Scrooge McDuck is producing. However, Jim Starling was not happy with Drake taking on his role as Darkwing, and set out to steal it from him. Jim had Launchpad trap Drake inside his trailer and held him hostage. However, the two of them got to know one another and bonded over their passion for Darkwing Duck. After seeing how true of a fan Drake is, Launchpad lets him go and they both head out to find Jim. Drake finds Jim trying to hide away two guards he knocked out. He apologizes to him for being cast instead of him but also expresses how much of an inspiration he has been to him. He hopes they can work together on the movie, but the egotistical Jim instead throws him in with the guards and gets onto the stage. However, Drake escapes and, dressed as Darkwing, confronts the now-insane Jim, with Launchpad's help. He almost loses when Jim threatens to kill him with a chainsaw. However, Launchpad tells Jim to stop, reminding him that he was not a villain. When one of the set props is on the verge of blowing up, both Drake and Jim save Launchpad, but Jim is presumably killed when the set explodes. Afterward, Scrooge has decided to cancel the movie. At first, Drake feels hopeless that his chance to inspire kids is over, but Launchpad encourages him to become a hero for real. Drake is not so sure at first but accepts. (Unbeknownst to them, Jim did survive and hides out in the sewer, having been turned into Darkwing Duck's new archenemy, Negaduck, but the series was cancelled before he could make another appearance.)
Drake also appears in the Season two finale, "Moonvasion!" as part of Scrooge McDuck's army against the Moonlanders. While being recruited to join the battle, he devises a plan during a meeting to fight against the Moonlanders by using his ability just as Scrooge devises a foolproof plan. Scrooge leads the army of recruits to join the battle. Later while trying to approach Lunaris, Darkwing tells him to go slower due to newspapers landing on his face causing him to interrupt his speech. He tells him about his plan to get to Lunaris to which he tells him that the Moonlanders are not afraid of him. Scrooge, however, wears Darkwing's outfit while arriving at the Money Bin just as the Moonlanders attack Darkwing wearing Scrooge's outfit. The battle, however, ceased with Lunaris defeated just as Darkwing and the other citizens celebrate.
Drake reappears again in the Season 3 episode, "Let's Get Dangerous!". As Launchpad McQuack and Dewey Duck are at Drake's secret lab, the two happily encounter him on his motorcycle. He then explains to Launchpad about his relationship with Gizmoduck, explaining to the two that he can't stand the villain he used to face. Launchpad shows Drake the villains that Darkwing fought in the TV show he originated from, to which he explains the villains he used to fight are fictional. As Dewey asks W.A.N.D.A. to know if there are any criminals for Darkwing to face, it is then known that there are no crimes for Drake to face ever since Zan Owlson became the new mayor of St. Canard, much to Drake's shock. Darkwing then devises a plan to devises a crime. At the city of St. Canard, Launchpad and Dewey are filming Darkwing's plan to fight crime in the city to which no villain preparing to ambush the two appears behind the group. Drake then confuses a group of All-Nite Movers employees as criminals to which Drake feels exhausted after failing to find a criminal who would fight against him. Upon seeing Gosalyn Mallard, Drake enters the Ramrod area and spies on Gosalyn who has entered the lab.
As Scrooge meets Darkwing in the lab, Taurus Bulba takes Darkwing to a ceremony where he is presented as the hero of St. Canard. Later during an interview with Dewey, Gosalyn sneaks up on the conversation, explaining to him about Dewey's show. As Gosalyn introduces herself to Darkwing, she then clarifies to him about her relationship between Dr. Waddlemeyer under Bulba's to which after talking about the flashback. As Gosalyn devises a plan to find Waddlemeyer and stop Bulba from taking over the world, Darkwing asks her to know if she has proof in finding Waddlemeyer, to which Gosalyn then risks herself to find Waddlemeyer by herself.
Darkwing explains that St. Canard needs him to protect the city from crime. Later, Darkwing goes with the group in a plan to find Bulba and take the Ramrod key to find Gosalyn's missing grandfather. Later arriving at Bulba's office, Darkwing finds a photo with a relationship between Bulba, Waddlemeyer, and Gosalyn to which he Bulba explains to him about his relationship with Waddlemeyer and the backstory of him being unsuccessful in trying to fix the Ramrod, much to Gosalyn's worry. Darkwing then tries to stop Gosalyn who has the key to which Gosalyn refuses and continues to find her grandfather to which she explains to Darkwing about proof for Waddlemeyer's disappearance which would be about Waddlemeyer trapped in another dimension. Later as Bulba fights against Gosalyn, Darkwing confronts him but notices Bulba throw Gosalyn off the building. While saving her, Gosalyn ties Darkwing's cape on his feet so that she and Darkwing can land safely at the spot where Launchpad is standing at.
Later at Darkwing's headquarters, Drake, Gosalyn, and Launchpad listen to the news about Bushroot, Liquidator, Quackerjack, and Megavolt who are summoned by Taurus Bulba and are wreaking havoc in the city of St. Canard just as Darkwing explains that he has a low chance in saving the city, much to W.A.N.D.A. explaining to him that fear doesn't make Darkwing confident. Later as Gizmoduck is talking to the three, Darkwing explains that there is no time to listen to him, much to him being attacked by Bushroot. Gosalyn then devises a plan to work together and fight against the supervillains.
Meanwhile as Bushroot, Liquidator, Quackerjack, and Megavolt plan to find Darkwing and defeat him to accomplish Bulba's task, Drake, Gosalyn, and Launchpad are at the toy warehouse Cranky Frank's to which the three notice Quackerjack preparing to chase the three. The three manage to escape from Quackerjack and Liquidator during the chase. Back at Darkwing's headquarters, Darkwing scolds Gosalyn to obey what he says, much to Gosalyn feeling remorseful about her argument. Later, Gizmoduck is talking with Darkwing that there is no safe plan to bring Waddlemeyer back to the real world safely just as Gosalyn overhears his conversation with Fenton just as Darkwing and Gosalyn rest together. Their rest, however, is interrupted when W.A.N.D.A. gives Darkwing and Gosalyn a warning about the Ramrod being powered up for the last time. Darkwing then plans to face Taurus Bulba and stop him from destroying St. Canard.
Gosalyn and Launchpad manage to help Darkwing in a teamwork in order to help defeat Taurus Bulba and stop him from destroying the city of St. Canard. During battle, a Darkwing and Launchpad fight against Bushroot, Liquidator, Quackerjack, and Megavolt during battle. Darkwing explains to Gosalyn to know if she found Waddlemeyer to which she explains to him that her attempts to find him were futile. Gosalyn, however, fires an arrow at the Ramrod's core to stop the rift from destroying everything. Afterwards, Darkwing later comforts a remorseful Gosalyn who found no attempts to find her missing grandfather.
Back at home, Gosalyn shows Drake the photo of her relationship with Taurus Bulba and Thaddeus Waddlemeyer just as Darkwing explains to Gosalyn if she could work together with him to which she accepts. Later after Darkwing, Gosalyn, and Launchpad listen to a recent crime happening in the city of St. Canard, the three plan to return to the city and stop crime once again.
In the final DuckTales episode, Drake attends Webby Vanderquack birthday party, and is seen as part of Scrooge’s team to take down FOWL. Later, he is accompanied with the rest of the team after Webby and Huey were taken by FOWL.
Darkwing made several cameos in Bonkers, specifically in the episodes featuring Miranda Wright as Bonkers' partner. His most notable cameo was in "Do Toons Dream of Animated Sheep?", in which he appears as the presenter for an award ceremony in a dream that Bonkers is having. Darkwing expresses discontent at the fact that he himself was not nominated for the award and is even more irritated at Bonkers being the winner.
Darkwing has a cameo at the very end of the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers movie, heckling the Rangers' comeback and demanding the people at Fan Con chant for him to make a comeback.
Darkwing appeared in various comics bearing his name. Around the time of the show's premiere, a four-issue miniseries, based on "Darkly Dawns the Duck", was published by Disney Comics. Like the TaleSpin comic book before it, the mini-series was intended to spin off into a regular publication, but the implosion of Disney Comics prevented that. After that, Darkwing stories were regularly featured in the magazine Disney Adventures from November 1991 to January 1996, as well as Marvel's Disney Afternoon comic book.
In 2010, Darkwing appeared in a new comic series, which opened with a 4-issue arc titled "The Duck Knight Returns". In the series, Drake has apparently quit the superhero business, for a cubicle job at the Quackwerks company which produces robotic police enforcers, and he is no longer speaking to Launchpad, ever since an incident where he accidentally leads Negaduck to discover his identity. He then returns to hero-work when finding that things aren't as they seem at Quackwerks and some of his old enemies start working together again. After defeating Taurus Bulba again, who was revealed to be behind Quackwerks all along in a scheme to control the city, Darkwing returns to the public spotlight again. As the comic progressed, he finds himself confronting numerous versions of himself from alternate universes and running for mayor of St. Canard. The comic was then continued by Joe Books but only lasted for eight issues.
Darkwing's costume can be worn by a townsperson in the second game. His motorcycle and gas gun appears as power discs.
A developer for Disney Infinity at E3 stated that Darkwing was very close to getting into the game, and was scrapped. He was one of many characters who were able to be voted into its sequel in a poll on the official Oh My Disney blog. He was the second highest-ranked choice on the poll, second only to Mabel Pines. Since Disney has cancelled the Disney Infinity series after the release of 3.0, however, Darkwing is not playable character.
Following the premiere of his series, Darkwing made semi-regular appearances at the Disney theme parks. He was most prominently featured in the Disney Afternoon-themed stage show at Mickey's Starland from 1991 through 1996.
Darkwing still makes occasional rare appearances at Disney's Animal Kingdom and, when it was still open, Mickey's Toontown Fair. Darkwing and Launchpad served as "training characters" for cast members in the walk-around character departments.
Today, he mostly appears for exclusive, special events such as the runDisney marathons meet-and-greet breaks. In 2016, Darkwing was available to meet in the Magic Kingdom for the Disney Vacation Club's 25th-anniversary party.
In 2013, Darkwing resurfaced at Disneyland Paris, for the Disney Dreamers Everywhere! Event. In 2018 during the Disney Fandaze event, he appeared for meet-and-greets and the farewell parade alongside Launchpad.
Though generally a lone hero, Darkwing occasionally works with other heroes. He sometimes serves as the leader of a network of superheroes called the Justice Ducks comprised of Launchpad McQuack, Stegmutt, Neptunia, Morgana Macawber, and Duckburg's own defender, Gizmoduck. Occasionally, Darkwing serves as a secret agent for the government agency known as S.H.U.S.H. Director J. Gander Hooter, Agents Double-O-Duck (Launchpad McQuack), Feathers Galore (double agent), Vladimir Gryzlikoff, Dr. Sara Bellum, and "Dr. G." (Gyro Gearloose) are all members of this secret organization, where Darkwing even serves as the leader of the Darkwing Squad (Darkwing Deer, Darkwing Dodo, Darkwing Donkey, and Darkwing Dog).
Darkwing's most famous arch-enemies are Megavolt, Bushroot, Quackerjack, and the Liquidator, as well as the villainous alternate-reality incarnation of DW, Negaduck. They usually work separately, but the first four along with Negaduck are known to group together in a group known as "The Fearsome Five" with Negaduck serving as a leader. In the Darkwing Duck comics, Negaduck would not be included in the group and Quackerjack would take over as the leader of the group of villains would be known as "The Fearsome Four".
Steelbeak, Ammonia Pine, Ample Grime, and the henchmen known as Eggmen all serve as agents of the nefarious F.O.W.L. (Fiendish Organization for World Larceny), an organization headed by Dr. Nogood. Taurus Bulba was even resurrected by F.O.W.L. to become a cyborg. Other notable adversaries of Darkwing include Splatter Phoenix, Tuskernini, Jambalaya Jake, Lilliput, Fluffy, Anna Matronic, and Professor Moliarty. In the Boom! Studios comic book series, Darkwing also faced off against classic Disney villains Magica De Spell, the Beagle Boys, and the Phantom Blot.
- Darkwing has been described as a cross between Batman and Donald Duck, but his costume and gas gun seem to be a reference to pulp fiction character The Shadow.
- Unlike most superheroes, how Drake Mallard finances all his equipment was mostly unknown, as he appeared to lack any level of public persona prior to adopting Gosalyn, and does not have any known job. This is actually called out by viewers of the show during the episode "Twitching Channels", with a confused Darkwing unable to answer. However, in issue #3 of the Boom! comic, Darkwing mentions that he received a monthly stipend from S.H.U.S.H. This is contradicted by DuckTales (2017), where the equipment is built by Gyro Gearloose and Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera.
- Many of the lines after "I am the terror that flaps in the night" were ad libbed by Jim Cummings. In fact, in the scripts, it was usually written, "It doesn't matter what I write, Jim's probably gonna come up with something funnier."