Ducks: the All-Terrain Animal. It's generally agreed that ducks are cute, particularly ducklings. They're also sort of funny, what with the webbed feet, the quacking, and the goofy waddling to and fro. Heck, even the word duck is funny on its own. But there's also something slightly sinister about them: the beady eyes, the low-pitched quacking, or of course the song about them, "March of the Sinister Ducks". Although rarely outright evil in cartoons (these roles are generally reserved for reptiles, rats, or humans), ducks are rarely heroic either. They might be an Anti-Hero, or The Lancer, or maybe a Trickster, though. They've got knives, you know.
Donald Duck is most likely the Trope Maker.
This trope can also cover the less-than-friendly geese and swans that the avid bird-watcher might meet in fiction. Or real life.
Named for Morally Ambiguous Doctorate, who's usually a different sort of quack
open/close all folders
You know the one. He's not all that sinister, but does have a bit of a temper. He's always trying to get people's attention about something, but we just can't recall what...
An Australian add for AAMI car insurance had the usual chain of accidents caused by someone braking for a line of ducks crossing the road.
Anime and Manga
In Ranma ½, Mousse qualifies: he's an antagonist in roughly three quarters of all his appearances, though not necessarily always a duck. He's no less lethal in avian form, however, most notably dropping explosive eggs. Where they come from, exactly, is best left unconsidered.
They come from a live chicken he keeps up his sleeve. Also, he doesn't use the explosive eggs in duck form, favoring conventional bombs and throwing daggers instead. Mousse is a master of concealed weaponry, even without clothing to conceal them in. Er, wait...
Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, after explaining that Zeus took the form of a swan to mate with Leda, shows her four children as having birdlike traits. This trope probably explains why Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon is made so much more horrifying by her having a duckbill.
Herbert the duck in Dungeon is not only morally ambiguous at first—lying his way into a job and proceeding to bungle and philander his way through the rest of the story—but by the start of the third series, he has painted himself black and gained his own evil agenda.
In a What's New? with Phil and Dixie issue about spy games, one of the spy gadgets identified by a recruit as a trainee test is a rubber duckie. Apparently not a normal one, as he points out that it's capable of killing several people simultaneously (and has a plastic squeaker device in its mouth, too).
In Hell Boy and B.P.R.D. when we finally get a good look at the evil Eldritch AbominationBigger Bad of the Mignolaverse known as the Ogdru Jahad, its seven bodies resemble nothing so much as duck-billed dinosaurs with cephalopod and crustacean bits attached.
In Unforgiven, Little Bill misreads a dime novel title as The Duck of Death. When he's corrected that the real title is The Duke of Death, he irritably responds, "Duck, I says."
In the alternate universe of the Thursday Next series, ducks went extinct long ago. Dodos, on the other hand, are household pets.
In the textbook 'Physics Concepts and Connection' (Grade 11) by Irwin Publishing, a number of pictures have a cute duck for generally no concrete reason as to why it had to be a duck.
Dave Barry claims to have been in a band in college called the Federal Duck.
We were originally called The Stomp Jackson Quintet, and then The Guides (don't ask), but we came up with our new and final name one night when we were lying on the bank of the Haverford campus duck pond, and some ducks started waddling toward us in what looked like a purposeful manner, and as we watched them with increasing alarm, the thought struck us that these ducks might be working for the government. And if you are wondering why that particular thought would have struck us, you did not experience the '60s.
"...there was a hissing noise like a tyre bursting in a nest of cobras, and out of the bushes to my left there popped something so large and white and active that I have ever done in my puff, I rose like a rocketing pheasant ... I was parked up on the roof beside the Right Hon. gazing down at one of the largest and shortest-tempered swans I had ever seen."
The Redwall books have a few encounters with swans, notably in Mossflower, where three mooks try to kill a swan and steal its eggs, thinking the swans will be docile. THEY'RE NOT.
The Legend of Luke also has Martin and co. battling a swan.
And Gilmore Girls, where a swan gave Jess a black eye. His embarrassment over the source and refusal to reveal what happened leads to a terrible first impression with Emily and a fight with his girlfriend.
Some would cite this as an example of cygnine heroism.
Well, since you're including that Ducky, why not Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard. He isn't morally ambiguous in the least, but he's had an interesting past that includes torture victims and a guy and his mother who went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge just for him.
Some say The Stig is afraid of ducks...and that he knows two facts about ducks and both of them are wrong...
The Stig note Really Michael Schumacher posing as the Stig: Well, obviously they can't fly...
Jeremy Clarkson: Yeah, they're right, you don't know anything about ducks.
Ernie of Sesame Street is so hung up on his rubber duckie that it's a bit sad. If he wants a yellow bird friend so badly, why not go talk to the giant one down the block? Clearly, rubber duckie has some unnerving influence over the guy....
In an episode of Perfect Strangers, Larry goes duck hunting with a business associate he wants to impress. To his surprise, Balki agrees to come along, claiming to passionately hate ducks. Yet when the ducks appear, Balki tries to stop the hunt. It turns out that Myposian "ducks" are huge, dangerous, hideous birds, totally unlike normal ducks. Balki describes one, and Larry responds, "Balki, that's not a duck. That's a pterodactyl."
On How I Met Your Mother, while everyone else likes ducks, Marshall says, "Have you ever been in a fight with a duck? (...) Ducks are jerks!"
In Arthurian legend, Lohengrin had a swan as his standard. You think that's a wimpy creature for a knight to emulate? Pah! In the opera, Lohengrin's boat is pulled by a swan. That puts him on par with the guy who rides a bear.
The tenor Leo Slezak was once playing the Swan Knight when the mechanical device controlling the boat misfired and the swan perversely took off without him. He turned to the stagehands and asked the celebrated question, „Wann fährt der nächste Schwan?" "What time does the next swan leave?"
In Greek Mythology, the god Apollo is occasionally depicted as riding a chariot pulled by swans. Considering that he tends to be a classic example of Light Is Not Good...
In "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I Want A New Duck," the narrator complains about the ways his duck has acted against him.
There was once a rock band called The Sinister Ducks, which had Alan Moore in it. They were the ones responsible for "The March of the Sinister Ducks" mentioned above.
A mischievous but harmless example occurs in The Duck Song, about a duck who harasses a lemonade vendor by asking for grapes when he knows the vendor has none. Eventually, the vendor caves and buys the duck some grapes, but then the duck says he's not in the mood for grapes; he wants lemonade instead.
In the Far East Movement song "Get up" the video has a bunch of hoodies throw a brick into a pond that kills a duckling. In return the ducks leave the pond and massacre said hoodies.
Ducks in The Far Side are generally sinister and nasty. Even if they're not actually malevolent, they're usually associated with badness.
A less sinister example: On the October 2, 2000 WCW Monday Nitro, Disco Inferno started carrying around a plastic duck, which he called his "Disco Duck," a reference to Rick Dees' 1976 #1 hit "Disco Duck."
Stewart Lee has a routine about making March of the Mallards, an imaginary counterpart to feelgood nature documentary March of the Penguins. While penguins are the exemplars of niceness and family spirit, mallards (a type of duck) are pure evil.
RuneQuest has Ducks (a.k.a. Durulz) as a potential PC race; they're either waterfowl cursed with intelligence and arms, or humans cursed with feathers and bills, nobody really knows. Sure, they look humorous, and sometimes even act humorous ... but watch out for a knife in the night ... It should be noted that they have a special affinity for one of the local death (and truth) gods.
The original Munchkin game had the "Duck of Doom!" trap. "You should know better than to pick up a duck in a dungeon."
"The Devil Adores A Duck" from card game Misery.
Gloom (in which you have to make your own characters miserable, then kill them off) has the death card "Done In By A Duck", which requires a duck marking on the victim. It can be gained by, among a few other things, the event "Molested By A Mallard". These people lead horrible and also strange lives.
Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal is home to the Qwack-O-Ray, which turns your enemies into ducks. Normal ducks at first, but following the upgrades of the weapon, the ducks become more and more morally ambiguous. To the point of being fanged phoenix ducks from hell. You read that right.
Dink Smallwood (the game, not the character) has something against ducks. They lurk in sinister fashion throughout the game. And then you get to the inescapable violent fast ducks in Hell.
In Suikoden III one of the Grassland tribes is made up of anthropomorphic ducks who would fit right in in Howard's universe. While not evil by any stretch, the one you interact with most is a war veteran who puts reason before honor.
The Durulz of RuneQuest make an appearance in The King of Dragon Pass. Every human tribe mistrusts them, but bullying them off of their land brings dire results in the form of their allies' retaliation.
In the old PC game Crazy Drake, you play a duck-turned-superhero who needs to retrieve some stolen golden eggs (he was charged with watching them while his parents were away, but was distracted when playing videogames), and its implied that the only reason he dons a superhero outfit is so that nobody will recognize him. In addition, he sics a futuristic ray gun at enemies who are much more helpless.
Off: The Batter's true/symbolic form kinda sorta looks like a demonic duck, once you get over the initial "WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT" reaction. The local Bonus Boss would agree.
Kingdom of Loathing has an optional sidequest at level 12 where you have to save a farmer embattled by enormous ducks. While unprepossessing at first, the Adventurer's actions inadvertently imbue them with vampirism, firebreathing, drunken rage, and a variety of other sinister super-powers.
And in the last panel of a comic describing the rise of the Heterodynes, a terrifying new threat appears: Jägerducks.
On a related note, in honour of the above mentioned panel the Girl Genius Yahoo group's mascot is a Jaegerduck named Hovart (previously known as Howard), who occasionally comments on the comic via one of the posters and apparently regularly wreaks havoc on said poster's apartment.
Daiyu: Never mention that I helped you with this abomination! .... What is a duck? A bird? Yes. One that not only masters the air, but walks proudly upon the Earth... And yet, friend Shankraft, it makes its home in the water! A master of air, earth and water! Do you know how unnatural that is? Yet now it fears not even fire! It is a master of all the elements. No creature should have that much power. How can humanity survive it?
If you're a duck in Reynard Noir, chances are you're crooked. Or annoying.
The one-page comic from Hook, Line and Succor here, teaches a valuable lesson: You don't fuck with the duck.
Recent portrayals of Daisy Duck are pretty obnoxious. She wants to steal the spotlight from Minnie, or takes unfair advantage of Minnie's friendship. In earlier cartoons, she had a temper just as bad as Donald's from time to time. Or she seems to push Donald a little too hard on minor faults such as his tendency to be The Unintelligible. Carl Barks considered Daisy to be a "Loose Woman" and a "Shrew" and wasn't too fond of her either.
Scrooge McDuck is pretty much the resident Anti-Hero of the Disney crowd. Also, a fair number of the villains in the comics and in DuckTales are ducks, most notably Flintheart Glomgold and Magica de Spell. (In fairness, most characters in the Donald/Scrooge comics are ducks, so pointing out that several villains are is a bit like pointing out that most real-life crooks are human.)
Launchpad McQuack would be heroic if he wasn't a bumbler.
GladstoneGander. Although not actively evil so much as incredibly, openly smug about his luck and extremely lazy, he is still an insufferable Jerk Ass.
Aversion: There's nothing particularly unpleasant about Professor Ludwig Von Drake, though in his original appearance he was immensely arrogant, and every bit of his "wisdom" that Don chose to take for a fact led to loss of money, or humiliation.
Subverted with Abagail and Amelia Gabble from The Aristocats. They appear to be a pair of geese who are both very rude, but then they agree to help Thomas O'Malley climb out of the water while rescuing Marie from drowning near the middle of the film.
And then their's their Uncle Waldo, who apparantly bit a chef's finger in a restaurant as an attempt to avoid being killed and eaten there!
Of course, if you played its sister game Martian Revenge, you'd know that Bugs saved the day and Daffy would indeed go on to make a TV movie of his own supposed heroism, infuriating Marvin enough to return to Earth as a Villain Protagonist.
One old episode, "What Price Porkey", had the chickens and a farmer squaring off against the ducks in an all-fowl war after the ducks kept stealing their feed. In the end, the last remaining duck is trapped in a large metal cage. However, he gets the last laugh when he (she?) lays a bunch of eggs that hatch into ducklings who run out of the cage, snatch the chicken's victory corn, and bring it back to their parent to gobble up.
Hanna-Barbera seems to have a company wide aversion. No nasty ducks at all.
Little Quacker, the duckling who turned up now and again in Tom and Jerry, was usually well-mannered, polite, and depended on Jerry to save him from Tom.
Yakky Doodle had a tough bulldog pal, Chopper, to protect him from his enemy, Fibber Fox.
Yakky Doodle is almost the same character as Hanna-Barbera's earlier Quacker. The name change was mandated because Hanna-Barbera had gone independent from MGM, who still owned Quacker on paper at the time (as part of the Tom and Jerry property, which H-B only later reacquired).
Quack-Up from Galaxy Goof-Ups and Yogi's Space Race was, as the name suggests, just an idiot.
Pepper Ann had an episode where Nicki admitted she had an intense phobia of swans and they never managed to find out why or even be able to cure it. Then it was revealed her older sister had the exact same fear. At the end of the episode however, it is revealed to the viewer that their fear comes from an old toy now in their attic of a robotic swan with leering red eyes and a grating "SWANNIE. WANT. TO. PLAYYYYYYY."
Count Duckula is an interesting example: a nice — if somewhat snarky — guy who gets feared and loathed because he happens to live in a dark, spooky castle in Transylvania and is technically a vampire...
Mind you, some of his 'ancestors' come straight from gothic horror-fiction.
If memory serves, it isn't the same Count Duckula.
It is. As a matter of fact, Count Duckula made his debut as a minor villain in Danger Mouse and was spun off into is own show. Further information can be found on the Internet.
It's implied a few times in the Duckula series that Duckula's "ancestors" are just previous incarnations of himself. The spell that returns him to life at the start of the series also changes his personality in a sort of Time Lord like manner.
What made his latest incarnation a nice guy is that the folks who revived him used ketchup instead of blood to complete the ritual, so he came back as a vegetarian.
His closing theme song was still pants-wettingly terrifying.
There's the Duck! episode in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy where a phantom, invisible-to-others duck begins haunting Grim and consecutively all of Endsville. He makes farting noises in public, and the victim is always blamed for it.
One duck terrorizes Oscar Proud, but leaves his daughter Penny alone.
Birds in general are dangerous in Happy Tree Friends, but one must be particularly wary around what appear to be man-eating ducks in one of the episodes.
The University of York had in the early-mid '00s a very formidable-looking swan nicknamed "Notorious G", whose diet was reputed to include other waterfowl, cats and dogs and careless students. Some of the ducks also fit this trope, including the divebombers, the one that half flew and half paddled across the lake and crashed headlong into a bridge, and the one that charged the aforementioned Notorious G (possibly quacking the duck equivalent of Leeroy Jenkins).
Australia's University of Wollongong is home to several evil ducks, who live on a diet of first-year undergrads.
A woman was killed in Poland in 2003 when she drowned during a swan attack.
Recent research has shown that both male and female ducks are all chronic philanderers, with sleeping around, cheating, and nest-swapping all part of the norm. Kinda puts a new spin on Donald's three illegitimate "nephews", doesn't it?
Duck reproduction appears to be pretty unpleasant for the females. Also, male ducks are, erm, unusually equipped. See more than you ever wanted to know about the subject here
How about some Depraved Bisexual? The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae) by C.W. (Kees) Moeliker (page 243-247)
The badassery of the swan is so respected in Britain that the birds are traditionally associated with royalty and may only be killed by the permission of the reigning monarch; consequently, a stock joke about British nobility concerns a predilection for swan sandwiches.
Muscovy Ducks. Slightly resembling turkeys, they are extremely aggressive even among other ducks. In Belleview, a group of Muscovy ducks pecked five people, including a 60 year old woman who fell during the attack and broke her hand. Another resident suffering scratches, a fractured hand, and a torn fingernail trying to keep one giant Muscovy duck at bay.
Ducks, geese, swans and other waterfowl can be highly territorial, especially around a nest or source of food. Swans and geese have been known to break bones in an attack, and ducks can seriously harm children.
The Campus of the University Augsburg in Germany is a really pretty one, with some ponds and a stream... perfect living conditions for ducks. Ducks that are used to the students feeding them. God help you if you're ever stupid enough to eat your pretzel or your sandwich on the pond shore. God help you.
Geese used to be very effective house guards and once in a while are still used as such. Pity the idiot trying to break into a house guarded by a goose.
One of the most dramatic examples of the swan version of this trope, Hannibal the swan.
An author of a book on dangerous animals observed that in all of his research, he could only find one case of a bird killing a human being. Naturally, it was a swan, who attacked a homeless man in Central Park and induced a heart attack in the poor fellow.