Darkwing Duck is about the adventures of the titular superhero, aided by his sidekick and pilot Launchpad. In his secret identity of Drake Mallard, he lives in an unassuming suburban house with his adopted daughter Gosalyn, next door to the bafflingly dim-witted Muddlefoot family. Darkwing struggles to balance his egotistical craving for fame and attention against his desire to be a good father to Gosalyn and help do good in St. Canard. Most episodes put these two aspects of Darkwing's character in direct conflict, though Darkwing's better nature usually prevails.
Darkwing Duck entered production roughly one year after DuckTales ended. Darkwing Duck was inspired by two specific episodes of DuckTales, Double-O-Duck and The Masked Mallard. The original concept had Launchpad McQuack as the star. Instead, Launchpad appeared as Darkwing's sidekick in the finished product. Gizmoduck, a character from the final season of DuckTales, also appeared in a handful of crossover-themed episodes. The name "The Masked Mallard" became an epithet often used to refer to Darkwing himself.
Where most prior Disney Afternoon series featured at least some characters from classic Disney animation, Darkwing Duck featured a completely original cast. Even the DuckTales characters it reused had no counterpart in early Disney shorts or even the Carl Barks Disney comics. It was also the first Disney Afternoon cartoon to emphasize action rather than adventure, with Darkwing routinely engaging in slapstick battles with both supervillains and street criminals. While conflict with villains was routine in earlier Disney Afternoon, actual fight scenes were relatively rare.
Darkwing Duck was also the first Disney Afternoon property that was produced completely as a genre parody. Prior shows would contain elements of parody in certain episodes, but would otherwise be straight-faced adventure concepts in the tradition of Carl Barks's work in the Disney comics. By contrast, every episode of Darkwing Duck is laden with references to superhero, pulp adventure, or super-spy fiction. Darkwing Duck himself is a satirical character. His costume, gas gun, and flashy introductions are all reminiscent of pulp heroes such as Batman, James Bond, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Green Hornet, and most especially The Shadow.