One of my favorite new comic book series of 2010 has been Darkwing Duck, by Ian Brill and James Silvani. I was super-excited to see the return of the Duck Knight after years of his absence and was even more excited to have the success catapult the miniseries into a monthly book. It’s one of a handful of titles I really look forward to each month.
Sure, us twenty-somethings have nostalgia for the franchise, but Darkwing Duck is also an awesome series for you to pass on to a youngster in your life, and that’s why we’re featuring it during Kids Comics Month at TFAW.
We had the chance to chat with series writer Ian Brill and artist James Silvani to get their take on the fan response to the series, their favorite parts so far, and where the book is headed.
TFAW.com: You brought DW back this past summer after about 20 years. What was the most difficult part of resurrecting the franchise?
Ian Brill: I sit in front of a computer and think of things for a cartoon duck to say, it’s never THAT difficult. But I did spend a lot of time making sure this is a book that all generations can enjoy. Whether that was people who grew up on the show, people who just want a great comic or kids discovering Darkwing for the first time, I wanted to craft stories all people could enjoy.
James Silvani: Finding viable model sheets. Actually, DW creator Tad Stones and Disney have been great about providing reference. When you watch the videos of the past shows, the animation and characters varied so widely it was tough to capture a definitive look. I really wanted to present the characters and setting the way the readers would remember in their mind’s eye and the reference from the original source was a big help.
TFAW.com: Did you watch the TV show back in the day? What preparation did you do to step into the roles of writer and artist for an established story like Darkwing Duck?
Brill: I was a huge fan of it and all of the Disney Afternoon. I would finish my homework right after school so I wouldn’t miss the entire block. 1991-1992 was the highlight for me, because that was DuckTales, Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin and then Darkwing. The best.
I watched many, many episodes of the show. I still do. I thought a lot about what drew me to the show, what are the elements of these characters that I could mine for good stories. Things like Darkwing’s ego and Goslayn’s perpetual peppiness certainly stood out.
Silvani: The early ’90s was last great era of TV animation. The Batman Animated series, Duck Tales and DW were all part of my daily routine. It was great to pull out the DVDs to get back into the mode. My goal coming into the book was to make the readers at least visually feel like the cartoon was never gone.
TFAW.com: Fan response has been pretty amazing, both online and at conventions. Has there been a moment where you stepped back and marveled at it all?
Brill: Last year’s San Diego, which was the first time we signed the book, really did strike me. People were coming up to the booth in droves on Preview Night. And they kept coming, and coming. We eventually sold out by the time Sunday hit! To me that’s a testament to how great this character is, it still stands out and grabs attention.
Silvani: San Diego really caught me off guard. BOOM! had a few signings an a panel scheduled for me, otherwise I was just planning on walking the show. But from the time that I stopped by the booth on preview night to the end of the show on Sunday I was sketching and signing pretty much non-stop. Pretty surreal for someone who has been going to Comic Con for 30 years as a fan.
TFAW.com: The title was originally scheduled to be a four-part miniseries. At what point before the official announcement did you know that this was going to be a longer journey than originally planned?
Brill: I believe the pre-orders from the first issue were so good the decision was made to make this a continuing series. Certainly by the time issue #3’s numbers came in higher than number #1’s, boss man Ross Richie had made the decision to keep this thing going, for which I am forever thankful that he did.
Silvani: My editor emailed me and said “Remember that Muppet series we had lined up for you after Darkwing? Yeah, that’s not gonna happen…”
TFAW.com: We’re right in the middle of your “Crisis on Infinite Darkwings” arc where Negaduck and Magica De Spell have been collecting versions of Darkwing Duck from different dimensions. (Kitchen Sink Darkwing was hilarious, BTW) Do you have a favorite Darkwing that you’ve brought to St. Canard?
Brill: I love Bowling Ball Darkwing. I’ve since thought of this backstory for him: that he’s a scientific genius, his father was the greatest bowling ball detective but disappeared in a mysterious strike, there’s this subculture of bowling pins he has to deal with, that his archenemy is Negaball. Probably not going to use that stuff. It’s just the silliness you think about when you’re rewriting a page with a bowling ball character on it.
Silvani: I was beginning to wonder if anyone noticed that one. I think when I got the initial synopsis for the arc there were like 10 or so defined Alternate DW’s. And then I started thinking “The title is INFINITE Darkwings” so I just started filling up the backgrounds with whatever DW came to mind. I did draw the line at a Kate Gossalyn or Mussolini DW, but my favorites are scattered throughout the upcoming issue 8.
TFAW.com: There have been plenty of Easter Eggs for eagle-eyed readers. Which one of you has been putting those in?
Brill: James is the master of details, so most of those things he’s responsible for. I’m sure there will be things people will be finding years from now. It was my idea to put Flounder in issue #2. I wanted to pay some tribute to the Disney animated films that were coming out at the same time the Disney Afternoon was on. That was a fantastic time for both their feature and TV animation.
Silvani: I’ll take the blame on those. Disney has been great as far as giving us a lot of creative leeway on the book. I look to something like Who Framed Roger Rabbit as the great model for what you can get away with as far as Easter Eggs. Of course when they didn’t say anything about the Nightmare Before Christmas reference I slipped in, I figured the sky’s the limit.
TFAW.com: We’ve seen a handful of Darkwing’s villains appear in the series, but it seems like there were so many more villains in the TV show. How far out are you planning out, and will we ever see the infamous Dr. Slug?
Brill: I have plans for the second year and a bit of the third. I’m interested in what you can do with old villains as well as exploring new ones. Dr. Slug is one of those things, like Darkwing’s true origin, that I think should stay off-screen. I like that there are aspects of this world that are beyond what we see.
Silvani: I’ve been drawing Dr. Slug manipulating the scenes in the backgrounds since issue #1. Has no one noticed?
TFAW.com: I’m gonna have to go back through for a third reading!
TFAW.com: Writing and drawing an all-ages comic comes with its own unique challenges. What has been the the most challenging part of creating something that kids and adults alike will enjoy?
Brill: It’s really a matter of coming up with a clearly told story that has something that resonates with everyone. It’s finding that insight into the character that’s relatable and going with that.
Silvani: I think on the art end there’s a fine line between “comic-y” and “wacky.” The backgrounds and bright colors of the series wouldn’t necessarily work in a static comic book. I tried to give the characters a space they could actually move in within the confines of the comic panel. Plus I think colorist Andrew Dalhouse has done a phenomenal job of mixing the comic tones of the original series with the comic coloring sensibilities of today.
TFAW.com: What other all-ages books are you reading right now?
Brill: With regret I have to admit I barely have time to read new comics. I do revisit Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge stories and Jeff Smith’s Bone, which are two brightly shining guiding lights for me.
Silvani: Not to shill on just the BOOM! books but Roger Langridge’s Muppet Show is the best all-ages comics on the stands. And I’m happy that Jeff Smith is producing new Bone material. Just behind Carl Barks’ Duck stories, Bone is a must for readers of any age.
TFAW.com: Do you have any other upcoming projects you’re working on?
Brill: More Darkwing and more Rescue Rangers.
Silvani: After Darkwing Duck issue #500 I’m planning on taking over Batman!
Thanks for taking the time out of your schedules to talk with us about Darkwing Duck! Can’t wait to get my hands on the next issue.
If you haven’t caught Duck fever yet, make sure you check out Darkwing Duck!
Have you been reading Darkwing Duck from the get-go? Are you as happy to see this one arrive every month as I am? Let us know below.