Episode 7 September 13, 1991 Animation: Hanho Heung-Up Co., Ltd.
The ink is being removed from the city’s bank notes. J Gander Hooter is then abducted by FOWL agent Ammonia Pine, a former professional cleaner. Darkwing goes head to head with the bureacratic agent Grizylkoff in order to rescue Hooter and solve the case.
The theme of the episode is how we don't always need to stick to the rules in order to get ahead. The chaos-causing villains plot feeds into this, and clean and tidiness function well as a metaphor for working by-the-book.
Dirty Money has great stakes, and some really lovely, imaginative set pieces involving over sized bubbles. Among these are a flight scene and the inspired, swashbuckling finale. These give a sense of wonder to this introductory episode and prevent Ammonia Pine from being a one joke gimmick.
The night time setting really adds a sense of atmosphere, and the SHUSH training scenes are spectacular, with enough violent cartoon firepower to make Yosemite Sam look like a pacifist. A diaper truck stake out is a very clever gag too.
Amusingly, the episode at one point goes slightly Orwellian, when Grizzlykoff requests 1984-style paperwork from SHUSH, which becomes a sign off for even more paperwork! It's a great gag observing the contrast between Darkwing's maverick working methods and the by-the-book bureaucracy of the spy world.
There is a fun moment where Hooter sneakily throws a paper bill like a paper plane.
Much of the episode is very dialogue driven, such as the entire off-camera backstory of Ammonia and her giant trap.
Launchpad and Jambalaya Jake in Can't Bayou Love.
52. Can't Bayou Love
Episode 16 September 26, 1991 Animation: Walt Disney Animation (Japan) Inc.
Villain Jambalaya Jake has come to St. Canard with his alligator Gumbo. They attempt to steal the money from a Save The Bayou fundraiser, but are intercepted by Darkwing and Launchpad. Back at the tower, Launchpad bakes child Brownies. After Darkwing thwarts Jake's bank heist, Gumbo finds one of the Brownies and picks up the scent, with Jake intended to use Launchpad as bait...
Jambalya Jake may come across as an exaggerated Cajun stereotype, but the episode is really about how condescending city folk think too highly of themselves. From the opening gatecrash of a snooty Save the Bayou fundraiser, the episode is thematically focused on how we shouldn’t underestimate the seemingly unrefined, be it the villains or Launchpad’s awful Chili Brownies. Or his shadow puppets. While Darkwing sneers at the seemingly simple minded villains, they undertake expert detective work that leads to the impressive abduction of Launchpad.
Jambalya Jake and Gumbo together are an unpredictable duo. The accomplice especially has an immense personality, and it’s fun to watch the creature jump between playing a pet and an anthropomorphic animal. Great moments of physical comedy include an accidental skydive through a building and a concrete explosion.
Disney Japan’s energetic animation is a joy to look at and Philip Giffin’s wall to wall playful music in a Southern style is nothing short of infectious.
Darkwing Duck in Aduckyphobia
Episode 23 October 7, 1991 Animation: Sunwoo Animation
Moliarty is stealing Canardium, a radioactive isotope, in order to aid his latest plan to take over the world of surface dwellers. When Darkwing intervenes, he is exposed to the Canardium and is bitten by a radioactive spider. This give him the powers of a super arachnid,
Lorenzo Music uses his calming voice as the hyper naive and well meaning spider. It really adds heart to the story’s message of how we should never threaten and hurt others, but do what is nice.
There is also an exceptional sight gag in which Darkwing shouts so loud that he is heard by an alien on a far distant planet.
The overall channeling of classic Spider-man and silver age comic logic mixes well with Moliarty. Something of an anomaly in this fully clothed animal universe that Darkwing inhabits, he has to live underground, exiled by daylight on the surface. His Wind-O-Matic device is one of the series most loving tributes to silver age comic panel technology.
The angular background art in this episode is delightful to look at; like a 1960s comic book come to life. A spiderweb above a street, full of aircraft is perhaps the shows most direct homage to silver age Marvel Comics imagery. There are some comic panel accurate hero poses too.
3 Gosalyns and Megavolt in Frequency Fiends
54. Frequency Fiends
Episode 84 October 17, 1992 Animation: Sunwoo Animation
Darkwing receives a new weapon from SHUSH while Gosalyn is loudly playing the Son of Whiffle World video game. During a power cut, Darkwing loses his temper on his new toy, and Gosalyn copies his actions, kicking a ball at the screen that then damages his new machine. This causes three mischievous electrical clones of Gosalyn to appear: Lightwave, Heatwave and Radiowave.
One of the prettiest looking episodes, set entirely in an atmospheric, late night rendering of St. Canard. The neon images of the three title characters against the empty city, the surrounding landscape and dark, navy blue night sky are very visually appealing. The pre-storm backdrop of St. Canard when we first see Megavolt is also spectacular.
There’s much pleasure to take from the video game Son of Whiffle World, which is a variation on Whiffle Boy from episode Whiffle While You Work. This iteration of Whiffle Boy is a Donkey Kong clone, with a hero dodging barrels and scaling escalating platforms. The pixellated effect to make it appear 8 bit enhances the effect, as does the accurately monotonous video game music.
The episode begins with Gosalyn copying Darkwing’s bad behaviour, resulting in three clones who copy her worst personality traits, making a point about how we should set a responsible example for others with the way in which we behave. However, Megavolt appears a third of the way in. He is introduced humming the Darkwing Duck theme tune, before being rejected by the title characters as accomplices. In an unusual twist, rather than resort to characteristically bad behaviour, he does not serve as the episode villain. His dynamic with the heroes this time is refreshing and it all works well with the theme of the episode.
Darkwing and Gosalyn are largely inactive in the finale, as Megavolt takes over, but it's a welcome and well earned change of pace. We also never find out why SHUSH gave Darkwing a weapon that creates evil energy beings; it just seems to be a throwaway gag.
Character Lightwave is voiced by EG Daily. This wouldn't be the last time she would play a version of a character begun by Christine Cavanaugh: A few years later she would voice Babe the pig in the sequel Babe: Pig In the City.
Darkwing Duck and Agent Derek Blunt with Phineas Sharp in In Like Blunt
55. In Like Blunt
Episode 50 February 24, 1992 Animation: Walt Disney Animation (France) S.A. & Sunwoo Animation
Darkwing is teamed up with his hero, retired spy legend Derek Blunt. They must stop Blunt’s arch enemy, the evil Phineas Sharp, from auctioning off the master list of SHUSH agents.
The central idea of teaming egotistical Darkwing with his gimmick-despising hero is a great one. Derek Blunt (a name play on James Coburn spy character Derek Flint) is a hands on, back to basics spy, so brilliant that he has inspired his own gadget-heavy movie franchise (17 motion pictures, the same number as James Bond at the time of the episodes release), which Darkwing has based his own career on. Blunt’s arc is satisfying, in which he comes around to appreciating his young admirer’s way of thinking. Peter Reneday and Jonathan Harris’ performances as Blunt and Phineas Sharp work in beautiful unison with Disney France’s expressive character animation. Its great to see cameos from other Darkwing and Ducktales villains, such as Steelbeak, Ammonia Pine, Magic De Spell, The Beagle Boys and Glomgold.
Disney France's animation, with Sunwoo, is slick, expressive and maximises the physical comedy. Darkwing's attempted handshake greeting with Blunt, in which his limb flops to the ground with rejection, is particularly humourous. There is a gag in which Darkwing tries to impress his hero with an oversized electronic pull-down map. The physical gag is realised by three dimensional animation worthy of Roger Rabbit.
Amusingly, the villains hotel lair resembles Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort, which had been constructed a couple of years prior. However, the episode is Darkwing’s tribute to the James Bond style spy world, yet it ultimately takes place in claustrophobic hotel rooms and jungle enclosures.
Features a great pay off with Launchpad. It also has one of the best lines in the series: “Never let an embezzler keep score”.
Nodoff and Darkwing Duck in Ghoul of My Dreams
56. Ghoul of My Dreams
Episode 30 October 31, 1991 Animation: Sunwoo Animation
Darkwing is dreaming obsessively about Morgana. Meanwhile citizens of St. Canard are committing sleepwalking burglaries. Darkwing and Launchpad follow the thefts to Morgana, who is using magical sleep sand from Nodoff, the ruler of Dreamworld, to execute these crimes. Darkwing intercepts another burglary and is himself taken to Dreamworld.
Another episode that positions Morgana as a morally ambiguous mystery to Darkwing. Things aren’t always what they seem, as romance is this time likened to a dream. Curiously, Darkwing refers to a wedding dream sequence between the two of them as a nightmare. The sleepwalking crimes are cleverly executed, especially the fire brigade “saving” a bank vault from a non-burning building. The concept is executed visually with complete clarity. Darkwing revisiting his school exams and diving from high up into a pipette drop are comically nightmarish visions. There’s also a great opening dream, in which a giant Morgana swipes away all of Darkwing’s adversaries (a group shot of cameos).
Neil Ross gives an energetic performance as Nodoff, an impish character that looks like it’s wandered out of Dungeons and Dragons. The fantastical Dreamworld, a backdrop of swirling clouds and floating platforms of rock, is very interesting to look at, contributing greatly to the episodes magical tone and sense of atmosphere. Especially inspired is how the sky incorporates daylight when Nodoff is defeated. There’s a particularly imaginative shot of St. Canard resting atop a floating rock too, to show it under eternal sleep.
Morgana’s random justification for crime is paying back her student loan. There is a suitably well handled twist ending.
Oddly, along with episode Disguise The Limit, the image quality is noticeably murky. It appears to have been sourced from a duplicate film negative.
Darkwing Duck and Launchpad in The Secret Origins of Darkwing Duck
57. The Secret Origins of Darkwing Duck
Episode 33 November 13, 1991 Animation: Sunwoo Animation
In the future, Gozaloid and Honkulon (who look and act a lot like Gosalyn and Honker) are visiting a museum exhibit about the mythological hero Darkwing Duck, who was a character on a TV show. They accidentally stay after hours and meet an old janitor. He explains to them about the unlikely history of Darkwing Duck and his arch nemesis.
An absurdist homage to pulp science fiction world building, silver age comics and Saturday matinee serials, all rolled together and played for laughs. It is a self-aware retelling of Darkwing’s history from pure imagination. Deliberately not canon, and a celebration of the non-continuity world of silver age comic book storytelling. This is a story about storytelling and how its basis is always in some kind of truth.
The central conflict with Negaduck, now biologically linked to Darkwing, makes for an entertaining, trope heavy adventure. It even has a drawn out death scene with drawn out monologues. Herb Muddlefoot’s appearance as a genie in a bottle is also a delight.
The origin story is not dissimilar to that of Superman, complete with Jim Cummings doing a Marlon Brando impersonation (Brando played Superman's father Jor-El in 1978's Superman The Movie), but it’s rendered as an Alex Raymond Flash Gordon strip. Raymond’s design style recurs later in the episode too, with Negaduck’s ship. His apocalyptic destruction scene is well realised.
There are some very bold science fiction visuals throughout the episode. The future here has its own physics, where people hover as opposed to stand and walk. The design of the museum is a flat out abstract rendering of a duck face. Darkwing’s birthplace of Planet Zipton looks like an atom, but the buildings look like vegetables for no reason. It fully embraces the imaginative style of 1970s prog rock album artwork and 1970s Science Fiction novel covers.
There are some great shots of Darkwing and team falling towards the camera, once through clouds and another time through the city with Launchpad and Gosalyn as The Mysterious Masked Avenger of Evil, that radiate comic book cover adventure.
Gosalyn as the title character in Quiverwing Quack
58. The Quiverwing Quack
Episode 61 May 16, 1992 Animation: Sunwoo Animation
Negaduck is upset that he ranks below Dr. Slug as public enemy number one. Gosalyn wants to be taken seriously as a hero herself, and becomes superhero Quiverwing Quack. Quickly she receives praise as a crime fighter over Darkwing Duck, much to his annoyance.
Ego gets the better of both Darkwing and Negaduck; they are preoccupied with threats to their reputations as number one hero and villain. However, the episode is about more than rivalries, as things become much more nuanced with Darkwing and Gosalyn. Sometimes there’s a valid reason why parents may seem threatened by their children’s abilities. It is sweet to see an episode where Drake Mallard reveals his gated affection and protective nature for his adopted daughter. It is rare for an episode of the show to have the characters shed sincere emotional tears.
Gosalyn makes a naturally heroic Quiverwing Quack, reminiscent of the silver age version of DC comic character Arrow. Gosalyn's new talent for archery is established early on and drives her alter ego's credibility. She also benefits from strong visual entrances, with close ups of bows, arrow tips and striking moonlit silhouettes. The episode otherwise avoids the dynamic, comic panel composition and high contrast colour palette one associates with Darkwing Duck.
There are instances of complex written choreography throughout the episode. One example is Launchpad describing to Drake how children must fly all by themselves, intercut with an escaping Gosalyn flapping her arms, falling from her bedroom window.
There is a hugely effective TV montage that unveils Quiverwing Quack to the public. At one moment, Quivering is said to appear on Quackaldo and Phil Donaduck, Disney Duck versions of then popular chatshow hosts Geraldo and Phil Donahue. Interestingly on Ducktales however, there was an existing character called Geralduck.
Dr. Slug is present once in name and a barely visible photo only, despite being a key part of the villain's motivation.
Darkwing Duck meets Morgana's family in Monsters R Us
59. Monsters R Us . Episode 79 September 12, 1992 Animation: Sunwoo Animation
Darkwing, Launchpad and Gosalyn cross over to a castle in another dimension, where they meet Morgana’s otherworldly family. Her father is unimpressed that Darkwing and company are “normals” and not Monsters. He turns them into Monsters to prove how much more difficult life is as one. However, they then try and escape as Monsters, breaking a pact with the normal villagers surrounding the castle.
On the surface this is a meet the parents episode, but it is really a clever take on the stupidity of prejudice and division. Morgana gets her finest moment in the series, cutting through the bickering idiocy of her father and Darkwing.
The Macawber family feel like a broad fusion of both Universal Horror and Charles Addams creations. That said, Jack Angel, who had previously portrayed Darkwing villain The Liquidator, voices Morgana's stubborn patriarch, Moloculo. He dominates the episode with a great sense of presence, helping to create a truly memorable new character.
Darkwing, Launchpad and Gosalyn as a wolf, bat and Frankenstein monster are very well executed. There are some moments of dynamic animation in places, including some close ups of a frightened Darkwing. Some of the images are genuinely frightening, such as a Horseman of the Apocalypse hiding in a closet, and, bizarrely, an army of evil shoes and umbrellas.
Monsters R Us gets more visually interesting as it progresses, especially in the final third, where we see background art in the perpetual warm light of dawn. The human villagers of this dimension speak with stereotypical Bavarian accents, and they even make a self aware joke about this. Along with their pitchfork waving, it gives the episode the overall ambience of a James Whale horror movie, before turning it on its head in the final act, where the imagery goes unexpectedly evocative of World Wars 1 and 2.
Darkwing Duck and Launchpad in Kung Fooled
60. Kung Fooled
Episode 64 May 19, 1992 Animation: Sunwoo Animation
Chased by Darkwing, Molitary burrows through the Earth and they end up in Asia’s Kung Pow City. Once Moliarty is arrested, Darkwing reunites with his old martial arts Master, Goose Lee. Master Lee is now a quick talking entrepreneur of a How To Video empire with an entourage of female models. He has dreams of opening theme park Ninja Land and expresses disappointment with Darkwing: his student could never master the special 'Belly Bounce’ move. A local gang are scaring away the citizens on behalf of a big developer.
The episode takes an interesting stance on how authority should sometimes be questioned in favour of independent thinking. Although it takes place in Asia, the differences between Darkwing and Master Goose Lee are unexpectedly not entirely cultural. We expect Darkwing to bring disappointment to Master Lee for becoming a Westernised gimmick at the expense of his ancient martial art of Quack Fu, with the hero journeying back to his roots. However, the mentor now lives a glamorous party life as a martial arts brand name, and wants to turn Kung Pow City into a Ninja theme park; a westernised tourist spot to spread knowledge of Quack Fu. Darkwing and Lee have a complex, nuanced relationship, and one that ends in mutual respect, despite failings on both sides. It is a change of pace from the shows usual comic book villainy.
The stroke of genius here is the dragon that the story builds towards, which completely goes against expectations. Keeping with the theme, it is established with great reverence as an ancient being that will bring destruction, but the subsequent Godzilla style attack on a city instead has the infant Dragon behave like a small child in a toy shop.
Darkwing briefly stars in one of Goose Lee’s self defence instructional videos, albeit with a fun reversal.
It is refreshing to see an episode begin with the tail end of another villain’s case. Especially inspired is the illustration of Moliarty burrowing through the earth, avoiding it’s core, as he journeys down south. It’s a great way to visually show Darkwing going back to his roots.