It's been almost 20 years since last we saw him -- but now, in our time of greatest need... the Duck Knight shall return.
Coming out of the ether like a puff of smoke, BOOM! Studios will bring the masked mallard back into action this June with a four-issue miniseries: Darkwing Duck: The Duck Knight Returns. We caught up with series writer and BOOM! editor Ian Brill to talk about our hero, his supporting cast, and what lies ahead for the future of St. Canard.
Newsarama: Ian, to you, what sets Darkwing Duck apart from other Disney properties? What's your favorite part about the series?
Ian Brill: The major thing that sets Darkwing apart is that he’s a pulp superhero, very much inspired by Batman and The Shadow. He takes on supervillains like Megavolt and Quackerjack. He appears out of smoke to intimidate his enemies. The same way that the Uncle Scrooge DuckTales stories brought a distinct Disney feel to adventure stories, Darkwing brings a similar energy to superhero stories.
My favorite part about the series as a whole is combining a genuine superhero story with humor. The stakes are just as high as anything you’d fine in a serious superhero comic, but we also have plenty of humor in the book. That’s the kind of storytelling the show did, that’s what we’re doing here.
Nrama: It's been nearly two decades since last we saw Darkwing Duck. With that in mind, how are you approaching this comic in terms of its premise? Is this a reboot or an origin tale for new readers? An evergreen adventure story? Or will "The Duck Knight Returns" make reference to the character's hiatus?
Brill: There’s something a bit meta at the start of the series. Like the property itself, Darkwing the character has been out of commission. He and Launchpad don’t work together anymore. As you’ll see early on, the whole city of St. Canard has changed. But soon a few events occur that demands Drake Mallard dawn the Darkwing uniform once again!
I’m doing my best to create a story that entertains everyone, from Darkwing fans to general Disney fans to superhero fans. I’m lucky to have so many great characters to work with, especially Darkwing, Launchpad and Gosalyn. I have to do right by the fans that love these characters as well as the talented people who worked on the actual TV show, especially show creator Tad Stones. I have to deliver a story that’s entertaining in the unique way a Darkwing Duck story is. That’s what I tell myself every time I start a script!
Nrama: As a character, tell us a little bit about Darkwing Duck. Who is he, where's his head at in this story?
Brill: Darkwing is an exceptional individual who took it upon himself to protect his beloved city of St. Canard from wrongdoing. But that confidence to propel him to be a crimefighter can also get the best of him. He can be a little too full of himself at times. Sometimes he doesn’t question himself when he should. That’s why Launchpad and Gosalyn are so important. They force him to think about someone other than himself and prevent him from becoming an egomaniac.
Darkwing’s not in a great place at the start of the story. St. Canard has no use for a masked crimefighter anymore. A giant corporation, Quackwerks, has taken control of everything, including law enforcement. Now lowly Drake Mallard has to share a cubicle with a certain familiar face. But that Darkwing spirit is still inside him. That spirit will come in handy, as you’ll soon see.
Nrama: Something people loved about D.W. was his supporting cast and villains. Do you have any favorite characters you're excited to play with? And are there any new additions you've created?
Brill: Darkwing does have a fantastic rogues gallery, and it’s something I take advantage of in the mini-series. By the time you’re done with the first issue you’ll see multiple villains. I don’t want to give away whom you’ll be seeing just yet, though! I will say they are fearsome but there isn’t five of them…
Of the supporting cast I can tell you Gosalyn is a blast to write. She’s young and full of energy so she doesn’t hide too much, nor does she do a lot of thinking before she acts (although she’s far from dumb). That makes her a real fun character to have come alive on the page.
There aren’t any new characters in this story, although you will see old characters in new ways. Some of them you’ll see in very new ways.
Nrama: Now, you've been making the rounds the past few years, moving from comics journalist to BOOM! editor to writing comics in your own right. Can you tell us a little bit about your career story, how you've made this transition?
Brill: Oh, it feels just like yesterday I was interviewing Grant Morrison on this very site! I’ve always enjoyed writing both journalism and fiction. I took to journalism better early on and was able to make that into something of a career. Tim Leong of the late Comic Foundry magazine was kind enough to publish my first piece of fiction. That was around the time that I wanted to switch gears and get into the creative side of things. As luck would have it BOOM! Studios was looking for a new editor and I was able to make the leap to the other side of the comics world.
I still had the bug for writing fiction and have had the occasional Zombie Tales story published. Now with Darkwing I’m lucky once again, because BOOM! believed in me enough to let me tell this story. Editing still takes up most of my time, which is fine because I love doing it. Thing have worked out so that in the off-hours I can work on scripts.
Nrama: How about your art team? Who's on board for Darkwing? What sorts of strengths to they bring to the project? And how has your background as an editor colored how you've interacted with your artistic collaborators on this book?
Brill: James Silvani, who provided art for Muppet King Arthur, is doing an amazing job as the interiors artist as well as covers. Reading his pencils for the first issue gave me a second wind for this project. I threw a lot of weird stuff at him, Darkwing lives in a weird world after all, and he pulled it off like it’s nothing. Issue one alone has at least four crazy sequences that James just hits out of the park.
Having experience as an editor, the main thing I’ve learned is how to clearly communicate things to an artist. I trust myself to find that special balance of directing what I want on to the page while trusting James to bring what he wants to the story. With Darkwing we’re in a great place where James, myself, and editor Aaron Sparrow are all on the same wavelength. It’s a consistent vision being put forth.
Nrama: For those who are still on the fence about this book, what can you tell them to bring them onboard?
Brill: Equipped with Darkwing, Launchpad, Gosalyn and one of superhero fiction’s greatest band of villains, those of us working on this book are ready to deliver an experience full of adventure, humor and pathos. To spend energy perfecting just one of those categories is a challenge but with Darkwing Duck you have to go for all three. There are a lot of choices for today’s fans. We’re burning the midnight oil to make sure this is worth your time and money.
Nrama: Ian, just to give us a taste of your writing style -- D.W. used to have some outrageous introductions when he swooped into the scene. "I am the terror that flaps in the night!" As a pop quiz of sorts -- give us a Darkwing-esque introduction for yourself!
Brill: I am the writer that types through the night…I am the interview subject that prattles on and on…I HOPE YOU BUY AND ENJOY DARKWING DUCK!