The plot of the cartoon involves Duck Dodgers' search for the rare element Illudium Phosdex, "the shaving creamatom", the only remaining supply of which is on the mysterious "Planet X." Just after Dodgers has claimed Planet X in the name of the Earth, Marvin the Martian lands on the same planet and claims it in the name of Mars. The stage is set for a battle of wits, not to mention various forms of weaponry, most of which tend to backfire hilariously on Dodgers.
Considering the period in which the cartoon was produced (the Red Scare was in full swing during the 1950s era), some scholars have used the cartoon to parallel the supposed futility of the Cold War and the arms race.
Duck Dodgers sequels
The first sequel, also produced by Chuck Jones, was titled Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24½th Century and was released in 1980. The plot of this sequel cartoon was nearly a carbon copy of the original though this time, Marvin says he is trying to solve the Earth's energy crisis (by blowing up the Earth); Marvin succeeds in launching his missile and at the end of the cartoon reminds everyone that it's only a cartoon.
A third short, titled Superior Duck was released in 1996, with Frank Gorshin as Duck Dodgers. In this short, the character instead went by the name Superior Duck.
A fourth short, titled "Attack of the Drones" was made in 2003 and was part of a series of new shorts, but because of the failure of Looney Tunes: Back in Action, they were not released theatrically. The shorts sometimes air on Teletoon in Canada.
Duck Dodgers also made an appearance in a Tiny Toon Adventures segment titled "Duck Dodgers Jr." (in the episode "The Return of the Acme Acres Zone"), where Daffy Duck's pint-sized protégé and student Plucky Duck also visited the futuristic world of Duck Dodgers. Here Marvin the Martian appears with another humanoid Martian, Marcia. Duck Dodgers also makes an appearance in Star Warners.
The original cartoon also appeared in a 1994 episode of the science fiction series Babylon 5, (also produced by WB) where it was revealed that Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century was Security Chief Michael Garibaldi's "second favorite thing in the universe". One episode shows Garibaldi laughing uproariously at the cartoon, as Ambassador Delenn watches it with him, appearing totally bewildered.
Duck Dodgers appears in the 2003 feature Looney Tunes: Back in Action when Daffy notes that the only character that could save the film's proverbial day was Duck Dodgers; he then realizes that Dodgers is his alter ego. He ends up defeating Marvin and saving humanity, after several jet packs exploded when he said his name.
From 2003 to 2006, Cartoon Network aired a Duck Dodgers TV series. In this show, Duck Edgar Dumas Aloysius Dodgers started out as a hapless soul that was accidentally frozen for over three centuries for reasons not known. He was later revived by Dr. I.Q. Hi in the 24½th century. Through scheming and lies he managed to trick everyone into believing he was a 21st-century hero. In reality, he was only a water-boy for the Midstate University football team, and "Quarterback Quack" shows that he only carried out this façade at the insistence of a time-traveling Martian Commander X-2, who unwittingly made Dodgers into the hero he was known as. Dodgers is arrogant, selfish, greedy, lazy, cowardly, gullible, and not particularly intelligent. However, he occasionally displays surprisingly high levels of heroism and competence, suggesting that he is not quite as daft as he appears to be, although he mostly succeeds through sheer dumb luck and the work of the Eager Young Space Cadet. Ironically, Martian Commander X-2 actually caused Dodgers to become a minor football star in the final game of the season, which is what he used to parlay himself into captaincy in the Protectorate, meaning that he is, technically, not lying when he claims he won a championship football game in his own time. It is implied that he can't read, though this is contradicted several times. He also has shown to have quite the ego, when he caused the energy core of his ship to explode while using the lasers to carve his name on a nearby planetoid for example, and burning out the auxiliary core to make toast. In "The Green Loontern," Duck Dodgers accidentally got his costume mixed up with Hal Jordan's Green Lantern costume at the dry cleaners where the rest of the Green Lantern Corps mistook him for Hal Jordan. He ended up fighting Sinestro until Hal Jordan arrived and regained his costume to help defeat Sinestro. Though he doesn't show it often, Dodgers cares deeply for his Cadet, even though he often demeans and puts him through humiliating situations. In "Of Course You Know, This Means War and Peace" Pt. 1, he is described by Psy Q. Hi as an ego-maniacal, bipolar, narcissist, and pathological liar with sociopathic tendencies.
The original Duck Dodgers cartoon is played during the Masquerade contest while the judges make their decisions annually. Dragon*Con occurs every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. The tradition was taken on by Dragon*Con when Dixie Trek, a preceding Atlanta convention, became defunct.