Now that BOOM’s Darkwing Duck series has come to an end, Negaverse.net sits down with writer Ian Brill to get the inside details of his involvement with the ‘Terror That Flaps’.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of Negaverse.net.
1. To start with a fairly basic question: How did you get into writing the Darkwing Duck comic?
Ian: A basic question, but one I’m happy to answer with some peeks behind the scenes.
I was working at BOOM! Studios as an editor (overseeing titles like Farscape, 28 Days Later and, later, Planet of The Apes). BOOM! acquired the license for what is knows as “Disney Standards” a.k.a. “ducks and mice” around early 2009. I remember remarking to Paul Morrissey, who was then the editor of the Disney comics at BOOM!, “that means we can use Darkwing, right?”
I guess I brought the idea up because that was the first thing I thought of when it comes to the “ducks and mice” side of Disney. With all respect to these great characters, Mickey and Donald weren’t first in my mind; it was the Disney Afternoon shows I grew up watching, Darkwing being my favorite. Knowing we had the property in our hands, I figured “why not?” I had some recent success writing for BOOM!. I had written three stories for former Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid for the series Zombie Tales (these stories are now found in the collection Zombie Tales Omnibus: Outbreak…ask for it today!). I knew I’d like to try my hand at writing this property I had really enjoyed growing up.
Paul left and the editorship of the Disney books had changed but the “Darkwing Fever” was still going. More people in the office were getting into the idea. Folks around my age (I was born in 1983) remembered the show and were into the idea of bringing back the character. Eventually enough of us were talking about the idea of doing a Darkwing book that the Powers That Be at BOOM! approved doing a series. It would be a mini-series and labeled with the BOOM! Studios logo. It wouldn’t be branded as a regular part of the BOOM Kids! line, the idea being because the predicted audience would be older (again, around my age) coming back to the character after 20 or so years. This was the summer of 2009.
After a hard day’s work editing comics, I’d go home and plot the Darkwing Duck mini-series. I remembered I wanted to have Darkwing come out of retirement. The idea was that there would be something in the story that reflected the feeling that “Darkwing’s gone, now he’s back.” Why’d he retire? What would that mean for Gosalyn and Launchpad? These questions and more spun me into the story.
I looked up the e-mail in my Gmail archives. On August 24th, 2009 I delivered the beginning of the Darkwing pitch to my editor. That outlined first issue. Some differences: Quackwerks was called Quackutech and the CrimeBots were called Arrestroids. Looking back, I am SO happy I changed the names. I think the final choices are much stronger. The other big difference is found in the document I sent my editor. Check out what is highlighted in the file, from a screenshot off of my computer (Google Doc URL erased):
Yep, Fenton and Gizmoduck were meant to have a role early on, working on the CrimeBots (a.k.a. Arrestroids). I believe I got rid of that because I didn’t want Fenton to be in league with the bad guys consciously.
The Gmail archive tells me two months later, October 15th; I delivered the whole shebang, that is the pitch for the entire four-issue mini-series. Here’s how it starts:
Yes, “mysterious new cooperation.” Hey, when you’re making history you’re allowed a flub or two! Also, the opening bit with Megavolt ended differently.
Here’s another thing from that story that didn’t appear in the original book. See highlighted section.
Yes, these Arrestroi—er—CrimeBots were going to be all singing and all dancing when hit with water. I wanted to pay tribute to the Disney films I watched growing up, in this case Little Mermaid. When we got notes back from Disney one of them was that we couldn’t use songs, because then that involves the songwriters, etc. etc. Ah well. And yes, I was looking up what exactly a “cooperation” was in Google as I was taking these screenshots! 😉
Another big change, see the paragraph highlighted below:
All of the Fearsome Five knew Darkwing’s secret ID. That was another note Disney had, that not all villains should know Darkwing is Drake. I think it made the story better. We got to set-up a clash between Negaduck and the other villains (especially Quackerjack) and Darkwing didn’t lose so much ground to the villains.
With those changed the pitch was approved and I then started the script. Things were getting exciting now. The idea of a Darkwing book was becoming real! I turned in my script to my editor and asst. editor January 18th, 2010. Some of you may be interested in seeing the original script. Here’s the first panel in script form (I erased my phone number and address found in the top of the script):
Dig that misspelling of “Launchpad” in the dialogue directions. I remember attacking this first storyline and script with a “go-for-broke” attitude. That’s why the Megavolt scene ended differently then was first pitched. I knew I wanted a big double-page spread that just said “DARKWING DUCK IS BACK.” Here’s how that was written in the script:
James drew that brilliantly and that splash become part of the publicity that BOOM! Studios used to spread the word about the book. What that splash is to me is the result of me processing all my memories about the show and spilling them across the page. I like to think that enthusiasm came across to the audience.
Keep in mind, my published comics work at this point didn’t even add up to 22 pages! I had a big challenge in front of me. My strategy was to put everything I would like to see in Darkwing comic into this book. The jokes, the action, the character moments. It was scary to take this job on, but at the same time it was so much fun to be the one to write new adventures, especially to write dialogue for Darkwing, Gosalyn and Launchpad.
Then there was the joy of seeing James’ highly detailed, energetic artwork on the pages. Such a great feeling. Then Andrew Dalhouse’s amazing colors, and Deron Bennett’s fantastic lettering. I felt inspired all over again by this amazing team.
Then, there was the amazing news that issue #1 had done so well in pre-orders that BOOM! Studios decide to turn this into an ongoing series. I have to thank you fans for that. For you to turn out and support this book like that is amazing, and my gratitude is enormous.
It’s a good thing we got green-lighted for more Darkwing issues because my ideas for the property kept coming. My visit to my Gmail archive reveals that in November 2nd, 2009 that my editor and I had a chat that saw the beginning of “F.O.W.L. Disposition” idea. I wrote, “I do, in all seriousness, want to do a Darkwing Duck story with Duckthulhu.” Cthulhu stuff was all around BOOM! Studios, once I figured out the play on words I felt there was something there. There was talk of introducing Morgana there, but of course you know that happened much sooner.
As soon as we got word that the series had been “upgraded” to ongoing I went to work on plotting the second storyline, “Crisis on Infinite Darkwings.” I looked up the e-mail, I sent the document on May 10th, 2010, and the story was originally known as “The Real Darkwing.”
Here’s my inspiration for that story. I loved Negaduck and the whole parallel dimension ideas. I also love playing with Darkwing’s ego. So I figured let’s have a bunch of Darkwings from many parallel dimensions invade our hero’s world. It would be a challenge to him. Teaming up Negaduck and Magica…it just felt, right. It would make a great teaser to end issue #4, especially after we had those cameos from Gyro, Scrooge and the nephews. I also wanted to introduce Morgana there for various reasons. I wanted a romantic story for Darkwing. We already had this great dramatic engine with Darkwing/Drake Mallard being torn between being a superhero and being a dad. I wanted to double-down on that and play with Darkwing having a love in his life, a love that started in his superhero life and would bleed into his domestic life. Plus, we had this Darkwing vs. Negaduck fight being set-up. Why not set-up a Morgana vs. Magica fight?
These were all done before the first issue ever came out. I was glad to be knee deep in work by the time the book was on the stands, but there was still this sense of “will people dig this?” Announcing that the Darkwing property would come back got a great reaction. But would readers dig my work on the book? Well, when the series saw issue #3 get higher sales then issue #1 I felt I must be doing something right. I was certainly communicating my love of these characters to other people who shared that love. Writing is always a quest for self-improvement and my path is no different. But I knew I was off to a good start.
All right, I feel I’ve gone on long enough for this question. You probably didn’t expect this much info! 😉 Let’s get to the rest.
2. Of all the issues you wrote for the Darkwing series (including the DuckTales crossover stories) which issue or story arc are you most satisfied with? Which is your favourite?
Ian: I’m very happy with the first issue, because I think it set the tone for the series well. For myself, I wanted the book to do superhero action, comedy and character development in equal measure. I like to think that first issue hit all those targets successfully, showing it can be done.
I’m proud of my story in the Darkwing Duck Annual, “Toy With Me.” I was inspired by the sentiment expressed by Tad Stones that he wanted Quackerjack to be more menacing that he ended being in the cartoon. I played with that in “The Duck Knight Returns.” For a single-issue story, I felt QJ would make a great subject. I’ll get more into why I feel that way in an answer below.
Sabrina Alberghetti, Lisa Moore and Deron knocked that story out of the park. They were all amazing. I’m happy and humbled, to say the least, that people responded well to that story. So yeah, it’s a coin flip between those two as my favorite.
3. During the run of the series, we had a chance to see some new characters, particularly a fresh set of villains. Which characters did you play a hand in creating? Which is your favourite?
Ian: Here’s how the new villains came about. Wrapping up the first year of Darkwing I had a feeling we should introduce some new villains. If the show kept going they’d introduce new villains, right? Well, why should the comic be any different? So I figured we’d start the new year of Darkwing, issue #13, with a series of one-off stories that introduced new villains, which also congealed into a plotline on its own. This was also going to start the new over-arching plot that introduced Phantom Blot and the substance that turns people into villains.
From the archives I see I e-mailed James along with editor Chris Burns in December 29th, 2010 with ideas began the development of these characters, including new characters that you never saw. This was all based upon my big idea: that we would bring back The Phantom Blot and he would have a mysterious substance that would give people superpowers. Here’s what I wrote:
So I’m thinking of future Darkwing stories. The big overarching plot has Phantom Blot getting his hands on this substance, this Dark Matter, that is local to St. Canard and gives people superpowers. I have a few in mind:
One-Shot (a character like Bullseye, he’ll probably in #13, which is a done-in-one issue, hence the name)
Continuity Cop (an ex-cop that paralyzes people by having them think of all their personal history at once, is infuriated by Darkwing because he doesn’t have a continuity that makes sense)
Cat-Tankerous (a cat character that’s sort of like Juggernaut or the Rhino)
Anne E. B. Else (not really a superhero, she has super-charisma and runs against Darkwing and Launchpad when the two run for mayor. She is meant to signify that not everyone exposed to Dark Matter ends up evil)
Are there any ideas or things you want to draw that I can turn into new characters? I want to have PB really give DW and team a challenge, to the point that there’s a “Han in carbonite” moment, when all seems lost. That would be in the middle of this next year. I want to have maybe eight or so new characters, some good and some bad, that play into this mega-plot that’s going to go throughout the book. Any animals, superpowers, etc. that you’d like to draw let me know.
Another idea I have is an older Golden Age hero, The Golden Goose, that explains the Dark Matter. He explains how it used to give St. Canard citizens superpowers and made the town the place for superheroes, sort of explaining why St. Canard has a reputation for superheroes while the rest of the Disneyverse doesn’t. The Golden Goose’s look should be influenced by Golden Age character like Mr. Terrific, Hourman, and Starman. Stuff that would only look good when superheroes first started. He can kind of be like an Obi-Wan character.
Let me know if you have suggestions. I don’t have these ideas in order (although the first four issues will probably be like this #13 – One Shot, #14 – other villain, #15 and #16 – DW and LP run against each other for mayor). Thanks man!
From there we worked on the development of these characters as I started to think of what stories would make up these next issues. I loved seeing James’ design sense as he brought these characters to life.
You may wonder what happened to the characters you didn’t see. Let’s see, I liked the idea of Continuity Cop but I believe couldn’t figure out a way to fit him into issues #13-16, what with there also be these mayoral race happening at the same time. Anne E. B. Else ended up being Constance A. Dention /Suff-Rage. The Golden Goose was going to be part of the Phantom Blot storyline if we had more time to delve into that. I’ll get more into that below. Also, I hadn’t come up with the idea of connecting Blot’s substance to Negaduck yet, but that would come soon.
Going back further, coming up with the alternate Darkwings was a lot of fun. I knew I wanted to have one face the tragedy of losing Gosalyn. Originally I saw that as a “Darkwing as Superman” type, someone who would really make Darkwing jealous. Then I figured I could draw on both Darkwing and Gosalyn’s history and make this “Darkwing as Quiverwing Quack.”
Actually, here’s a screenshot of a document I wrote. It’s from the beginning of writing the second storyline. This wasn’t e-mailed, it was just for myself, so it’s just a Word doc on my hard drive:
(This is where my desktop is from. All hail Dam Harmon and COMMUNITY)
Bowling Ball Darkwing I really enjoyed writing. He was just a silly idea. That six-panel page where he crashes through the guy’s office was a joke I thought of. I expanded it from there. He might be my favorite new character.
I was also happy to pay tribute to a favorite show of mine, The Avengers, with Femme Appeal (inspired by Emma Peel). I dig that super-spy stuff, so writing her and all the F.O.W.L. and S.H.U.S.H. business was a lot of fun.
4. On the BOOM! Forums, both you and editor Chris Burns hinted heavily at a future story involving the Negaverse. Are you willing to share some of the details of what this story was about?
Ian: Just to set up a timeline, because this touches on a few answers I have here, when it came to the second year of Darkwing I was planning for the crossover but then also what would happen after the crossover. All the stuff with Phantom Blot, Negaduck and Morgana I wanted to happen after the crossover. When I get word both books were ending with the crossover, I folded those ideas into the crossover itself.
I don’t want to give too much away, because who knows, some of this stuff might get revisited, but in re-introducing Negaduck we were planning on doing an issue that was all him, some of which would have taken place in the Negaverse.
5. Another sub-plot fans are curious about: At the end of F.O.W.L Disposition, J. Gander Hooter discusses “an even greater threat on the horizon”. Was that in reference to the crossover or something else planned?
Ian: If I had the issues to delve into the Blot story by itself it was going to feature more villains and more of the Darkwing universe. This includes and idea that involved S.H.U.S.H. but also featured Bushroot heavily. I feared poor old Bushroot wasn’t getting his due and wanted to change that. In the end, he never really got the spotlight. Oh well, maybe someday!
6. I’m particularly interested in your characterization of Negaduck, since you gave him more depth compared to his depiction in the cartoon. You hinted at him experiencing fear and loneliness. Can you give us more insight into your interpretation of Negs? Did you give him a background story? What was it that he “lost” and “will never see again” that he mentions in Issue 8? Did you ever come up with a concept for a NegaMorgana?
Ian: I’m interested in villains and their motivations. Here are characters that value themselves against all others and go to these absurd lengths based on such shortsighted feelings. There’s something really dramatic about that, I love to delve into it. Negaduck especially. He’s always got a scheme. He’s got a clear-defined goal, namely to get rid of Darkwing once and for all. He always has agency, and that makes for a fun character to write. I don’t really have that much of a back-story beyond what the show gave us. If we did that all-Negaduck issue, a story told completely from his point of view, I suppose I would have built on the back-story somewhat.
As for what he lost, well, I don’t want to go too deep into it. After all, maybe this story shall be told. But I will say this: I believe for characters to win big victories they must pay a cost. Scoring all the alternate Darkwings in the first place was a huge victory for Negaduck so I came up with something he would have to lose to get to that place. As for what it is…maybe we’ll see one day.
RE: NegaMorgana: I never had the opportunity to fully develop the all-Negaduck issue. If I did I certainly would have delved into his personal life. I find the NegaGosalyn and NegaLaunchpad we saw in the show fascianting. I think there is a lot of there to “uncover” regarding a “mirror universe” (I should know, I am a big Star Trek fan!). No set plans for what other characters I would have included but I certainly would have followed that thread further along and explored what romance/companionship means to a character like Negaduck and his world.
7. Similarly, the Annual story “Toy With Me” introduced a deeper side to Quackerjack, and even a love interest. What inspired you to take a more serious path with this character? Were you worried about how fans would react to Claire?
Ian: I wanted to explore what makes a person a villain, what drives them, in a more grounded way than Negaduck (“grounded” for this world that is). I wanted to show how why someone would choose villainy, even when presented with a genuine chance to change (which Claire personified) That kind of psychology fascinates me, and I wanted to see if it could be the engine of a story.
I wasn’t worried about reaction to Claire. I consider the audience in terms of making sure I write a clear and interesting story. But that’s all I can do. I can’t second-guess the audience when it comes to “who will love what” and such. That way lays madness.
8. Let’s pretend for a moment that the series wasn’t cancelled and you had time to do more stories. What would be different? Would Morgana, Quackerjack, and Negaduck have returned in the manner you set out in the crossover, or did you originally have other plans for them?
Ian: Morgana and Negaduck certainly would have returned the same way. That was something I thought of pretty early on in the beginning of creating the second year of the series, this choice that Darkwing would make. If there’s anything that “sums up” my take on Darkwing, it’s that choice had to make in issue #18. I think at the very core of Darkwing is a guy who chose to have an exciting life. He chose to be extraordinary. What that means is you have these extraordinary high points in your life, but the lows are also lower than normal. Choosing to bring back Morgana and Negaduck was me making a big moment of that part of Darkwing’s character.
Quackerjack I don’t know. I was thinking of something different for him and the other Fearsome Four that tied into the Bushroot/S.H.U.S.H. storyline I mentioned above. Keep in mind, these story ideas are all scribbling in a notebook; I didn’t have the opportunity to develop them in full.
I’m pretty pleased with how we wrapped everything up; especially in regards to getting Morgana and Darkwing back together. I do have story ideas beyond the Blot stuff but again…who knows 😉
9. Now that you’re finished the Darkwing series, what do you plan to do next? Are there any new projects in the works?
Ian: Things are brewing at a few different companies. A little different than Darkwing, these would be in the “teens and older” category. Plus some creator-owned stuff. There’s a one shot coming out in early 2012 I’m really excited about. In 2012 you’ll see a lot more of my stuff (for better or worse!).
10. And now the moment of truth! …Who wins for having the coolest set of gadgets? Darkwing or Batman?
Ian: I will say I think the ThunderQuack is cooler than the Batwing. Batmobile vs. Ratcatcher? I’d say they’re even. From there? Well, I can say there’s just something COOL about a gas gun, right?
11. Before we wrap up the interview, is there anything extra you’d like to add? (Advice, Final parting words, etc).
Ian: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all the fans for buying the book. Just as many “thanks yous” to those that shared such your appreciation of the book with me on-line. It means so much to me. To say that was “encouraging” barely covers it. Gratitude is endless. Be well.
Also, I’d like to do something cool for you guys. I’m attaching my script for Darkwing Duck #1 (I’ve removed my contact info up top). It’s a bonus for fans who’ve read the series to dig into it, to see how things went from script to page, see what’s different and see what a comic book script in full look like. And yes, I fixed Launchpad’s name in the dialogue directions for Panel One 😉
That wraps up our interview with Ian Brill. Thank you for taking the time to share some details with the fans!