- “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 protagonist of Disney's 1991-1992 animated television program of 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.
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 Drakey 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 (the person who eventually became the villainous "Megavolt") and makes his debut as Darkwing Duck.
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").
Darkwing is a short mallard duck with white feathers, a large forehead, and orange bill and webbed feet. When in civilian attire, he wears a salmon collar shirt and a green vest over it.
Darkwing's costume consists of a gray fedora with an oversized brim and black band, a mask, a cape, and a long-sleeved coat over a turtleneck. The vast majority of his outfit is in shades of purple, with the exception of the turtleneck which is an aqua color.
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 sidekick, 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, except for their younger son, Honker, Gosalyn's best friend, who also knows of his identity, ignorant of his double life as a superhero. The sorceress Morgana Macawber is a reformed criminal who has become 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.
Darkwing Duck appears in the reboot series of DuckTales, debuting in the episode "Beware the B.U.D.D.Y. System!". 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 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"). Drake eventually grows up to get the part of Darkwing in a movie adaptation, but after an all-out brawl with Jim Starling that results in the movie being canceled, Drake decides to don the Darkwing mantle for real.
In "The Duck Knight Returns!", Drake Mallard makes his debut as a fresh actor cast as Darkwing Duck 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 has other ideas as he throws him in with the guards and gets onto the stage.
However, Drake escapes and confronts an insane Jim, dressed as Darkwing Duck. With Launchpad's help, he battles against Jim. Despite everything that Jim throws at him, Drake keeps on going. He then battles Jim in a fist fight and almost loses when he 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, but the explosion causes him to become completely insane and his clothes to be miscolored, turning him into Darkwing Duck's new archenemy: Negaduck.
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 appear 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 announced the cancellation of the Disney INFINITY series after the release of 3.0, however, Darkwing will not be a 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.
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-nemeses 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 would also face 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 seems 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.
- Darkwing is the third character where Jim Cummings reprises his role from the original in a remake or adaptation to something, after Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in Christopher Robin.