Don Karnage is a wolf and the cunningly sly leader of a band of villainous Air Pirates, and frequently crosses paths with Baloo and his pilot-controlling mini-assistant Kit Cloudkicker. Karnage’s secret hideout, Pirate Island, is located inside a volcano somewhere near the coastal city.
He is renowned for his strange jumble of several accents, and can best be described as a combination of some types of French and Italian (although he mainly speaks with a Spanish accent), and his misuse of the English language (such as often saying "salivations" instead of "salutations"). Karnage fancies himself a throwback to the image of a romanticized pirate from a bygone era, dashing and debonair, but he's still a ruthless criminal.
Despite his usual criminal behavior, he is shown to be "a man of honor" in the episode "Stuck on You", in which he saves Baloo instead of killing him due to the unfairness of the fight, and upholds his end of a truce between him and Baloo, even after the deal was technically over. In the three-part comic The Gates of Shambhala, he also shows gratitude for Lucius saving his life, and agrees to work for him, later also questioning Baloo to see if they were even, as Baloo also saved his life.
He is very egotistical, which often motivates his crimes, and leads to his downfall. He is shown to be far more cunning than his crew members, and is very quick to temper when his crew messes up or fails to understand his plans; however, he is still frequently outsmarted by Baloo and company, usually as they use his ego and emotions against him. In an interview with Jim Cummings, it was stated that he is indeed clever, but that his emotions often cloud his judgment. This is demonstrated in "Stuck on You", where he ruined his own effective plan for the sake of making a dramatic entrance and foolishly left Dumptruck in charge, despite Mad Dog (who is supposedly considered the first mate) being second-in-command.
He is never seen particularly close to anyone, but at one point seemed to see Kit as a pupil; however, this ended with Kit's betrayal and he eventually attempted to kill the boy for his defiance. Everyone else on his crew is considered an underling and treated harshly. Despite this, Karnage is under the impression that his crew (and even enemies) adore him, despite clear evidence to the contrary, including attempted mutinies.
Don Karnage is a red wolf with orange-brown fur, a cream muzzle, a black nose, thick eyebrows, and a double triangle-shaped notch on his left ear. He wears a blue captain's coat with red and gold accents, light blue pants, and black boots. He carries a sword (presumably a cutlass) alongside him.
He is an expert sword fighter, claiming in The Gates of Shambhala to be a black-belt in it. He is also a skilled pilot, and is very clever, often devising a large array of plans with varying effectiveness.
Don Karnage is a recurring character, serving as an adversary to Baloo and his friends. In the series' movie pilot, Karnage steals a stone from Khan industries and then tries to retrieve it from Kit Cloudkicker, who had stolen it from him in turn. In the series, his Air Pirates often patrol the outskirts of Cape Suzette in his flying fortress carrier called the Iron Vulture. There they lie in wait within the clouds for unsuspecting pilots to pass so they can run an air raid. They have tried many times to get into the city to invade and plunder Cape Suzette, but are usually shot down by the artillery guns.
Don Karnage makes a guest appearance as the host of Episode 2, where he seeks to instruct the viewers on how to find buried treasure. After many hapless attempts, he does stumble upon a chest of gold at the end of the episode, but is then attacked by Captain Hook with no warning. Karnage and Hook duel in a memorable sequence, only for Hook to pin Karnage to a coconut tree and take the treasure away on a lifeboat rowed by Mr. Smee.
A rebooted version of Don Karnage first appears in the crossover episode "Sky Pirates...in the Sky!" of the reboot. This version of Karnage is just as narcissistic and ruthless as the original, only to be absent-minded as well. Additionally, his megalomania drives him to literally hound the spotlight in show-stopping musical numbers he constantly leads his crew into. As a result, his treatment of said crew is more akin to an instructor rather than a captain, albeit a harsh one (still willing to eliminate underlings who fail him). The end of the episode sees him seemingly coming to terms with how his crew feels mistreated and admitting he is harsh because he wants to help them improve their individual flaws—although this may just have been manipulative lies to ensnare them back into his service.
Karnage encounters the McDucks after successfully plundering them. Karnage later captures Dewey after the latter made his way onboard the Iron Vulture. Unfortunately for Karnage, he is met with opposition by his own crew and overthrown. Forced to work with the McDucks to get his crew back, Karnage boards their plane to get back to the Vulture just as the crew revolts against Dewey. Karnage rallies his crew back before he fights Dewey himself, but he is ultimately foiled by the combined efforts of the McDucks, leading him to declare Dewey a bane on himself when the Vulture crashes into a mountain.
Karnage later appears in the Season 2 episode "GlomTales!" as one of the supporting antagonists in the episode and also one of Scrooge's greatest villains ever fought, planning to defeat the McDuck family. He joined the group to gain revenge on Dewey Duck. However, this scheme eventually falls apart once Flintheart Glomgold, who brought all the other villains together, reveals that he was just using them to combine their respective fortunes so that he could beat Scrooge and win the bet they made, with the full intent of stealing all their fortunes afterward for himself. This causes him and all the others to turn on him and subsequently give chase when he flees, effectively dissolving their temporary partnership.
Karnage appears in the Season 3 episode "The Lost Cargo of Kit Cloudkicker!". He was chasing Kit Cloudkicker who was delivering a box containing the Stone of What Was for F.O.W.L., but the stone's magic causes a chicken and goat to fuse; scaring Kit and causing him to drop it somewhere over the ocean. Some time later, Don Karnage returns to search for the stone and when he sees Dewey alongside Kit, he attacks his two "greatest arch-enemies". Kit cloud surfs and defeats Karnage and the pirates by destroying their planes. In the middle of the ocean, Karnage solemnly sings about another failure when he sees a piece of the stone, which was chipped off when the Ducks were getting it back from him, and plots his revenge.
He appeared in the series finale, "The Last Adventure!", as a full-time member of F.O.W.L. He was last seen crashing into the Sunchaser's wing when facing Dewey one final time. He was not seen again after that, leaving his fate unknown.
Don Karnage often appeared at the Disney Parks, particularly at Disneyland at the Disney Afternoon Avenue location of the park during the time of the initial run of TaleSpin and the Disney Afternoon. After that, he was not seen at any Disney Parks for many years. In 2014, he resurfaced at Disneyland during the villain takeover of the Show Your Disney Side event. To date, Don Karnage makes extremely rare appearances at the Disney Parks, being very hard to find.
- Don Karnage is the only animal in TaleSpin to wear footwear, while all the other animals in the show go barefoot.
- Although he is revealed to be a wolf; possibly aRed Wolf (Canis rufus), he bears a resemblance to that of both a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) and a Dingo (Canis familiaris).
- When asked about Karnage's nationality, Jim Cummings responded: "He's got some Cuban and some Spanish and a little Ricky Ricardo". He also later in the same interview stated Karnage also has a little French in him.
- Fans have debated Karnage's species for years until an online interview with Len Smith confirmed that Don Karnage is, in fact, a wolf. This fact had actually been confirmed much earlier in an issue of the TaleSpin comic book in which Karnage answered the fan mail.
- Don Karnage was originally going to have no pants and almost to be named “Anthrax”, but the name had to be changed because of an American heavy metal band of the same name.
- He often calls himself "The Dread Pirate Don Karnage" as a nod to the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride.
- As a matter of fact, "The Dread Pirate" was initially going to be his title, and Jymn Magon says he was partially inspired by the Dread Pirate Roberts when creating Karnage.
- According to Francisco Angones, Don Karnage in the DuckTales reboot is not the same Don Karnage, but someone who is taking on the legacy title.
- In the Disney comic Rise of The Pillager Queen, it is revealed his deceased uncle was also an Air Pirate, suggesting he had a pirate upbringing.
- His last name is a modified form of the word "carnage", with the letter "k" in lieu of the "c" and pronounced with a flair on the last syllable, like a French person would.