In 2009′s The Dark Knight, Batman was asked to make an incredibly difficult decision: was he going to be the hero Gotham wanted, or the hero Gotham needed? He obviously chose the latter, running from the police and continuing to fight crime in his signature style. In 1992, Darkwing Duck was given the same choice. He ended up in the same exact spot by the end, but in many ways, he handled it in a much more responsible way. Why? Because he cares more about his city’s emotional well-being than Batman does, and is a better protector for it.
In the Bruce Reid Schaeffer episode “Let’s Get Respectable”, Darkwing gets a look at how St. Canard, the city he has sworn to protect, sees him. Children fear that he stalks them in the night, old women tell stories about how he knocked them over while apprehending foes, and construction workers complain that his fights destroy their buildings. No one denies that he gets the job done, but he does it at the expense of his reputation. Even with all of his hard work, the citizens are uneasy, which is something he decides to try and fix. If the people of St. Canard don’t like the terror that flaps in the night, he might as well try being the hero they do want.
So he does. In what feels like a commentary on public relations (and, strangely, politics), Darkwing lets Gosalyn and Honker revamp his image using polls and statistics. His priority shifts from getting the job done and keeping people safe to making the citizens like him. His overhaul comes with a silly new costume and a new set of rules, winning him public affection, but losing him effectiveness. Villains begin to take advantage of his new, naive ways, and after a few days he’s wearing his old costume, shooting Negaduck in the face with a gas gun, and going back to keeping people physically safe.
But at least he tried, right?
Batman is often put in the same situation. He saves people, dances on rooftops, and locks up the baddies, but many people think he’s a criminal–they don’t trust him. What does he do about it? Nothing. He doesn’t care. He’s the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, the world’s greatest detective. He only cares that the people are physically safe and the villains are horribly scared. That’s the balance he enjoys keeping.
This isn’t the right attitude to have, especially considering it wouldn’t be too much trouble to change public opinion. Batman actually has the funds to launch some sort of PR campaign to put people’s minds at ease. He’s making sure Gotham is safe from the many that would exploit it, but doing so as a hero, instead of a vigilante, would likely make the people of Gotham sleep easier. He doesn’t need to give up on cracking bones and breaking faces, he just has to use some of his swing towards having better PR.
Which is why, in many ways, Darkwing Duck is a better protector than Batman. They both have approximately the same success rate (proven by the fact that their cities are still both intact), but Darkwing has, on several occasions, gone out of his way to make sure the people know that he’s fighting for them. DW tries harder to make a safer, more comfortable city, whereas Batman would have the people of Gotham live in fear, as long as they’re safe.