Sunday, November 20, 2011

A numerological curse?

I knew well in advance that the conclusion of "Dangerous Currency" was also going to be the bow-out of the Darkwing Duck comic. 

So, a certain fact has been staring me in the fact for literally months, but the significance of it didn't register with me until during the past few days...

Certain folks will know exactly what I'm talking about...  Now, let me ask you, how many issues total has Darkwing ended up having?  What was the number assigned to the final issue?

Think about it for a second....

...you see what I'm saying.  YEAH

*cue Twilight Zone theme* 

I guess the timestream has a way of balancing things... ;)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

DuckTales #6 and Darkwing Duck #18: Immediate Thoughts

I regret having not posted in a while.  Unfortunately, my life has been more chaotic and ungrounded than I'd like. 

Soon, I'll be posting posting the final entry in my "History of DuckTales Comic Books" series -- consider this a prelude...

It's the end of an era" I've just read DuckTales #6 and Darkwing Duck #18, Parts Three and Four of the "Dangerous Currency" story arc, and the last two regular issues of any Disney comic series that BOOM! will publish.  (I believe there's still a couple trade paperback collections on the slate.) 



   



There's a lot I haven't liked about "Dangerous Currency"  The plot was illogical and relied too much on derivative giant monster invasion/apocalypse spectacle, and characterization was off.  (I don't think Ian Brill is very familiar with DuckTales...) 

[Memo to BOOM!: In case you didn't see me proclaiming this at The Old Haunt, if in the "Dangerous Currency" trade you correct the relevant dialogue so that Drake and Fenton acknowledge having met in "Tiff of the Titans" and it doesn't appear that Ma Crackshell has ever known her son's secret identity -- even though she has from Day One! -- I'll buy the trade, even though I've bought every one of the individual issues.]

But by the final few pages, rather than disgust and the sensation of cringing, I was, surprisingly, overwhelmed by sentiment.  Not because the story was moving (or even particularly good), but because I became acutely aware that I had reached the last several moments of a distinct era of my life. 

Don't get me wrong -- I'm glad to be done with BOOM!  They were unknowledgeable and mismatched in regards to Disney comics, contemptuous toward and resentful of life-long fans, and their overbearing, bombastic hype/PR style was insufferable. 

Nonetheless, for the past two years, for better or for worse, my regular visits to the comic shop and many of the Internet-based discussions that I followed (and sometimes participated in) centered around BOOM's Disney comics.  At first, I boycotted the respective titles during the Wizards of Mickey/Ultraheroes/Double Duck, or "Yeah, THIS is the kinda thing kids'll think is WAY COOL!!!!" phase -- but ended up catching up on all of them to enhance my reading of Chris Barat's reviews.  (Yes, the comics were supplemental to the reviews, not the other way around -- oh, the irony!  And testimony to the hold this hobby has on me, and the value I put on the fan community in general and certain friends' writing.)

I was floored when, in March of 2010 -- still mired in the "Yeah, THIS is the kinda thing kids'll think is WAY COOL!!!!" stranglehold on the line, it was announced that BOOM! would begin publishing a Darkwing series and that starting with #392, Uncle Scrooge would be devoted to DuckTales content.  It's an understatement to say that this development was completely unexpected.  I reiterate: this was 2010.  Neither DuckTales nor Darkwing had been in contemporary productions for close to 20 years, and were completely nonexistent in the public eye.  Of course, we now know that it was a gentleman by the name of Aaron Sparrow who was responsible for the launch of these comics.  Darkwing was an instant success -- yet for some reason, Sparrow was fired by BOOM! even before #4 was out...  (Sparrow has shared a lot of behind-the-scenes details here...)

More often than not, when I purchased a new issue of Darkwing (and BOOM!'s short-lived Rescue Rangers comic, launched in the wake of Darkwing's success), I'd read it as soon as I got back in my car, before driving home!  I'd been dreaming about new Disney Afternoon comics for 20 years; it was inevitable that I'd be captivated...

When Darkwing's second and third story arcs suffered harsh criticism at ToonZone's Disney Pixar forum, I would stick up for BOOM!, rallying, "Guys, just be happy someone's doing these comics at all!"  And before long, between the Disney Afternoon titles and the content of Uncle Scrooge, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck during the "Classic are back!" era, it seemed that the line had attained near-perfection.  But things started to sour when, early this year, the "classic" titles were cancelled, without there having been, to this day, any official acknowledgement from BOOM! on the matterRescue Rangers didn't make it past #8...and even before it was cancelled, it had already evinced drudgery...as became the case, more and more, with latter-day issues of Darkwing...  And meanwhile, DuckTales was given its own title, but we all know how that went...

Anyway, for all of the writing's flaws, as "Dangerous Currency" was winding down, I found myself once again thinking, "Well, this is it.  I guess I should just be glad someone made these comics at all!"  Silvani's double-page spread of various DuckTales cameos was largely the impetus for this...Bubba!?  Genie from
DuckTales: The Movie?!  Coming full-circle, I marveled, "This is 2011?!!"  Never thought I'd get to see a full-blown DuckTales-Darkwing Duck crossover.  In spite of the MAJOR continuity gaffes, in spite of the inane-ness of the nephews and Honkers being transformed into giant monsters, I've relished it as much as I can.

Ian: I believe you gave this your all.  James Silvani (and Amy Mebberson, whom word on the street is contributed to the crossover's art...): your work shines and inspires!  Aaron: thank you for fighting so hard to get these comics off the ground, and your continued dedication to them!  I hope that they're picked up by another publisher in the near-future, and you're at their helm!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New York Comic Con 2011 -- Saturday (officially Day 3; my Day 2)

Um, did you notice how in yesterday's post, I mentioned that I hadn't slept the night before?  Consequently, I ended up...sleeping all day today.  No Bone 20th Year Anniversary Retrospective with Jeff Smith present, Green Lantern: The Animatd Series presentation by Bruce Timm, DC All Access Superman and Justice League panels, Adult Swim's Delocated panel, or MTV's new Beavis and Butt-head presentation by Mike Judge for me!  But my overall physical health and well-being is probably the better for it. 

I still have tomorrow, including the screening of a Jim Henson documentary!  (Joe and David, it wasn't intentional on my part that you missed me today -- I'll be in touch tomorrow!)

Ryan

Friday, October 14, 2011

New York Comic Con 2011 -- Friday (officially Day 2; my Day 1)

Attended two panels:

1. Will Eisner's The Spirit and Bob Kane's The Batman with Michael Uslan, Dennis O'Neil, Paul Levitz, and Chris Couch; moderated by Danny Fingeroth.  Ostensibly, a discussion and analysis of the parallels between Eisner's and Kane's careers and each of their iconic most creations.  Because the panelists were seated at the same level as the crowd and I was at the back, I couldn't see all of them and wasn't always sure who was talking.  Early on, I believe it was Couch and Levitz who were dwelling on Eisner's and Kane's business savvy, and I though we were heading off-track.  But when O'Neil took over and asserted how the earliest Batman were clearly pulp-derived, while Spirit stories "read practically like Yiddish fables", I knew we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

I'm pretty sure it was Levitz (though it could've been O'Neil) who was explaining how the creation of the rift between Kane and Bob Finger over their versions of Batman's played out in interviews with and letters from both in fanzines of the '60's.  To contextualize how it was via such venues and during that era that comic creators were first uncovered and celebrated, Levitz (I'm 90% sure it was him, anyway) gave the example of the identifying of a "great funny animal artits who'd created all these characters" dispelled the myth (that the studio deliberately perpetuated) that Walt Disney himself drew all the Disney comics...I was giddy waiting for Paul to say it, and sure enough, "Carl Barks" was uttered.  Right there, my day was mad.e

The Q&A degenerated into persistent inquiries about "who really" created Batman.  Levitz and O'Neil implored that it doesn't matter and isn't that black-and-white, as, from their decades of writing comics, when working as part of a creative team where things are clicking, it's not always clear afterwards how and in what order things transpired.  Levitz censured, "Look, it's fun to speculate and bet on it from out there on the sidelines, but really, that's not what it should be all about."  (Paraphrased.)  This appeared to evoke some offended murmuring in parts of the audience, but I don't think that was Levitz' intention -- Levitz proceeded to beg, "The amazing thing is that 70 years later, we're here, still talking about this stuff"...over and over, several times, with slight variations in the wording.  It started to feel like an effusive, over-the-top, histrionic display of sentiment and idealism, but I was completely on board with what he was trying to say.

2. DC All Access: Green Lantern with Brian Cunningham, Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard, and Peter Tomasi; hosted by Bob Wayne.  As the whole point of the New 52 is to be an unquestionable jumping-on point, I've finally started reading the Green Lantern titles.  But they're still very much informed by what's preceded them, so I'm still sketchy on a lot of the characters and the mythology, so for a lot of the panel, I didn't really know what was being talked about...and, to top it off, the fact that I hadn't slept at all last night finally seemed to catch up with me, and I thought my head was about to just plain drop.  But things really became lively with the sense of polarization when, during the Q&A, when a fan asked about the specifics of Kyle Rayner's retconning, Bedard and Tomasi started extolling that the relaunch has been freeing and has opened up lots of exciting possibilities, advising that fans shouldn't get so hung-up on continuity. 

Bought wayyyy too many comics.  Won't list all of them, or show all of the covers, but here's some choice example's of the day's haul:

















Weathered the dealers' floor and had dinner with Joe Torcivia and David Gerstein.  Lots of talking about comics, including, naturally, David and Joe enthusiastically recounting some of their freelance experiences, and David his work at Gemstone.  All sorts of insight gleaned. 

Very much in need of some sleep.  More panels, comics, and hanging out with friends 'til the end of the weekend!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Less than a week away!

If all goes according to plan, I'll be at New York Comic Con next weekend, doing what Don Rosa's seen doing here, at this year's San Diego Comic Con:






(If this isn't foreign territory to you and aren't sure what exactly he's doing...he's carefully browsing through boxes of old comics, looking for ones that he wants to buy!  This is at one of the many, many dealers on the convention floor.) 

(This picture was taken at last year's San Diego Comic Con.  Someone at DCF linked to where they'd found this picture, but it part of a lonnnnnnnng thread of pictures, and I had wait a long time for the whole page to load, and scroll forever to find this one.  So, I wasn't eager to bookmark the page -- snatched up this picture, and got out of there!  But because of that experience, regretably, I can't give credit for this photo to where it's due.)  (Well, I could, if I really, really felt like sifting through DCF to find the thread where I'd originally followed the afore-mentioned link, and enduring that bloated photo thread again to single out whoever posted this one of Don [amongst hundreds of others...])

It's not likely that Rosa will be at the New York convention.  But I really hope that I get to meet him someday, and show him my very first comic (same copy!), Uncle Scrooge's Adventures #5, which featured "Last Sled to Dawson", one of his earliest stories!

European Disney Afternoon Comics

This is a post I've been intending to create for a while.  And will there ever be more of a prime opportunity to sort-of tie-in with Geo's new review of "The Curse of Flabbergé"?  More importantly...could there conceivably ever be a better opportunity?  Why, of course not!  :D  (Though perhaps it's not so appropriate, as Geo might not be too big on the heavy Disney Afternoon orientation of this post...)

The Inducks page for "Flabbergé" cites "Disney Europe" as the story's "origin", and "1992" as its "Date of first publication".  Scroll down to its publication history, which is divided up by country, and you'll see that it was printed in Finland, France, and Italy in 1992.  So, which was first?

In Finland's case, we see that the story was printed in Disney waltit #3.  Note that the only publication date given is a generic "1992".






On the other hand, it first appeared in France in Disney Club #6, and the entry gives a much more specific date: February 1992.






Finally, Inducks dates its premiere Italian printing, in Fumetti Disney Club #2, to September 1992. 






So, nless I'm misinformed about February preceding September during the course of a calendar year, we can ascertain that France beat Italy to the punch.  ;)

And presuming that Disney waltit #3 wasn't released in January or February, (not likely, given that #1 and 2 are also generically dated "1992"), then I'd wager that the French printing was the first. 

Now, note the similiarity in the titles of the French and Italian publications, and that all three used the same cover art for the issue featuring "Curse of Flabbergé"; it would seem that these were regional versions of the same periodical, yes?

Indeed, if you peruse the Inducks pages for Disney waltit #3 and France's Disney Club #6 and play around by clicking on, each in their turn, "Previous" and "Next", you'll find that both periodicals printed the same stories, but in a different order.  (Judging by the contents of its two issues, it looks like the same was intended for Italy's Fumetti Disney Club, but Inducks turns up no further issues.)

What I'm getting at is... for a hardcore vintage-era Disney Afternoon fan like me, a glimpse of these series is like a peek into a long-lost, long-sought treasure trove.

Let's take stock, shall we.  We'll stick with the French Disney Club, since that entails a couple curiosities that the Finnish version doesn't.

Ready?

__________________


Disney Club #1 (France, January 1991) features a 44-page Rescue Rangers story, "L'ombre du croisé".  Inducks says that the stories "origin" is the mysterious Disney Europe. 






Inducks' scan of the first page of a version printed in Spain:





__________________


Disney Club #2 (France, September 1992) featured a second 44-page Rescue Rangers story, "La légende du Silverhorn".  This one also "originates" with Disney Europe...as do the stories featured in all successive issues, except where I'll note.  (Spoiler: #5 and 7 didn't use Disney Europe-"originating" material.)






Inducks' scan of the first page of ""La légende du Silverhorn" is from Sweden:





__________________


Disney Club #3 (France, September 1993...wait, huh?!  That's later than the date for #6!  This is completely out-of-whack...okay, scratch everything I've said about dates so far!!!) stayed true to tradition, offering yet another 44-page Rescue Rangers story, "Le sommeil hanté".






(At this point, for efficiency's sake, I'll attribute all of the scans in this post to Inducks.  I'd be lost without them.)  The scan of the first page of "La légende du Silverhorn" is actually procured from the French version, and so, for once, the cover that we're showing is unified with the interior page that we're showing:






A note of more contemporary relevance: I am betting that one of these three Rescue Rangers stories is the one "that had never been printed in the U.S." and qualified as "a fun story with great art" that when he was still at BOOM!, Aaron Sparrow had wanted and tried hsi damnedest to serialize in four issues of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories -- as he recounts in the second post in this thread at The Old Haunt.  (He's awesome for sharing such behind-the-scenes stories.  And it's even greater that he's promised to one day, possibly in the near-future, tell even more!)

__________________


Disney Club #4 (September 1991...er, so #4 pre-dates #2 and 3?  *commence screenplay mode*  Possessed Little Girl: Something's not right here... *end screenplay mode*) featured a 41-page TaleSpin story, "The Volcano of Gold".






I actually know what the title translates to, because this story was, until "Curse of Flabbergé", the only one of these stories to have been imported to the U.S., appearing in (and even represented on the cover of) Disney's Colossal Comics Collection #5 (September 1992):






In light of me actually being acquainted with this story, its fitting for this post that Inducks' scan of the first page is from this U.S. version.  (Squint real hard, and you can read the credits in the margin.  Bobbi J.G. Weiss provided the English dialogue -- in those days, she'd claimed TaleSpin as her domain!  Rightfully so -- without the least bit of strain, you can hear the show's voice actors delivering  these sharply-written "lines"!)






I'd always thought "Volcano" was a fantastic, high-flying (no pun intended) adventure story with exquisite art that nailed the aesthetic of the TV show (enhanced  by the rich coloring).  (However, on the occassion of recently re-reading it, I found the ending to be more than a tad silly and far-fetched...but overall, it still stands as an impressive effort!)  I'd pined for more like it, anguishing over the fact that, wherever it'd come from, there very well might've been!  (Okay, I'm exaggerating in my use of words like "pining" and "anguishing"...for[melo]dramatic effect!)

Thus, I was very excited to find these Inducks pages.  And I made a special point of re-reading Uncle Scrooge #394 and 395 (thanks, David!) when I realized that "Curse of Flabbergé" was part of this lineage.  (Which the other DuckTales stories featured in Uncle Scrooge #392-399 are not.)

It turns out that "Volcano of Gold" was the only TaleSpin story that the shadowy "Disney Europe" entity produced for the Disney Club franchise.  (Thus, there weren't "more like that" after all -- at least in terms of TaleSpin.)  (The quality of "Volcano of Gold" is a big part of what inclines me to think that it was one of Disney Europe's three 44-page Rescue Rangers stories that Sparrow was referring to in the above-linked Old Haunt thread.) 

__________________


Nonetheless, Disney Club #5 (July 1992...er, should I even bother citing Inducks' dates at this point?) was also devoted to TaleSpin, but the story featured was a translation of Bobbi J.G. Weiss and Oscar F. Saavedra's "Flight of the Sky-Raker" two-parter from Disney Comics' TaleSpin ("ongoing" series) #1 and 2).





__________________


#6, of course, we've already covered.  (It was comprised by "The Curse of Flabbergé", remember?)

__________________


Disney Club #7 (July 1992...and #6 was February 1992 -- finally, something that makes linear sense!) appropriated another story of Disney Comics/U.S. origin -- John Blaire Moore's adaptation of "Darkly Dawns the Duck", which had comprised Disney Comics' Darkwing Duck four-issue mini-series (November 1991-February 1992).





__________________


Disney Club #8 (November 1993...consistency!  We're on a roll, folks!) resumed the use of content produced by Disney Europe, presenting, in contrast to #7, an original Darkwing Duck story, "Mystermask règle l'addition".  (From the covers, have you picked up on that "Mystermask" is what they call DW in France?) 






Page one.  Spain again.





It's a moot point now, but I'd meant to urge BOOM! to commission a good translation and sharp English-language dialogue for this story, and include the results in a second volume of Darkwing Duck Classics.

__________________


#9 and 11 eschewed The Disney Afternoon, opting for material based on two of Disney's "blockbuster hit" animated feature films (that I won't name, so that my blog will never come up in searches for them!).  (Or, taking a cue from Geo and employing, er, conversational language: fuck that shit.)  #10, however, gave the spotlight to Goof Troop.  Like its predecessors, I'm not going to include any images, just because I don't want people to come to my blog and see Goof Troop...but I will state that I'm really curious to know what someone did in the course of a Goof Troop story that long!

__________________


If while at Inducks' entry for #11 (I emphasize: one of those issues that doesn't concern us...), you're to click "Next", you're brought to their entry for the first issue of a different French anthology series, which Inducks denotes as being entitled Hors Collection.  Interestingly, #1 showcased another energized forty-plus-page romp that we Americans were treated to in Disney's Colossal Comics Collection (in #9, to be exact): the Romano Scarpa-drawn Uncle Scrooge story "The Euro Disneyland Adventure".  Which was presumably created -- quite possibly commissioned -- as a tie-in with the opening of...well, come on, I think you can guess...  ;)





Is there a reason Inducks favor the Colossal Comics Collection versions, when applicable?  Page one:





__________________


I really would like to read those three Rescue Rangers stories and that Darkwing story.  Hell, the Goof Troop story, too.  Finding and purchasing them online might be tricky (dealing with international shipping would be near-inevitable, but not insurmountable.  Acquiring the relevant [insert language here]-to-English dictionaries and Beginner's Guide to [insert language here]-type books would be the easy part.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cantus, addendum.

The episode's finale, when all have "found their song":






At 1:21...WOAH, Jerry's voice really does record well.

This and "Let Me Be Your Song" (or whatever its actual title is) are probably my two favorite musical numbers from the show's entire run, really.

The most honest thing I can do is gush about this stuff.  Have I attained this level of fervour?  ;)  (Thanks, GeoX!)

Cantus.

There's nothing arbitrary about my Blogger user icon. 

Since my post about "The Lost Treasure of the Fraggles", if I was ever again going to do another one about Fraggle Rock, it was going to be about a later first season episode, "The Minstrels"...and/or, possibly -- all within the same post -- all of the episodes to feature the character named Cantus.

Consider this post a belated recognition of the 75th anniversary of the birth of Jim Henson (9/24/36)...really, as temporal matters go, when will there be a more appropriate occassion?  (Ideally, I wouldn't be a few days late with this...but on the 24th, I was preoccupied being a groomsman at my sister's wedding.  For the record, I -- completely unexecptedly -- cried when my mother and grandmother walked my sister down the aisle.  The proclamative, trumpet-dominated musical accompaniment played no small part in my reaction.  Evidence that to rival movies, real life needs to be scored.)

Actually, I was alerted to Jim's 75th birthday by -- of all things -- a Facebook memo reposted early last week by a friend from high school named Jeff, which I shall reproduce here:

"Next Saturday will be the 75th Birthday of Jim Henson, Creator of the Muppets!
If you are a fan, I ask you change your profile picture to one of your favorite Henson creations for the next week, or until the new film is released in October.
I would love to see my Facebook friends list have nothing but Muppets staring back at me. :) Repost if you like."


On said friend's "Wall", I replied:

"Oh, I'll do Cantus. Totally. Cantus was performed by Jim, and made one appearance per season of Fraggle Rock. Jim was not regularly a part of the production of the show. As a sort-of wise elder/Zen master bestowing the Fraggles with his rare stopovers, Cantus was a personification of, and parallel to, Jim visting the production, and working with the performers and crew."

(FYI: As a feverous credits-studier, the preceding was something I'd discerned as a child.  Ultimately, in the Fraggle Rock DVD special features, Karen Prell made comments that vindicated my understanding of Cantus' role in the show and Jim's relation to it.)

Thus, I proceeded to change my Facebook profile picture to the same one that I use for this blog:



 




Then, I immediately added the following comment to Jeff's reposting of the memo:

"Done! I give you: Cantus and Jim...or, as I like to think of it: Jim and Jim."

I've had the DVD box set of the complete sires for a couple years now, and have slowly been making my way through it.  "The Minstrels" -- the very first Cantus episode -- is amongst those of which that I've most recently made it through. 

I could compose an in-depth analysis/deconstruction of the episode and of the apparently completely intentional way in which Cantus was Jim's alter ego.  And by all rights, I owe Jim everything I have to give and offer.

...but, that's the thing: I'd only come up short.  In lieu of an "essay" or "review"...and if you'll indulge me...I give you the following musical number from "The Minstrels"...in which the Fraggles are enchanted by their first visit from Cantus and his tribe:

[Addendum: For a day after this was first posted, I'd linked the wrong version of the video -- on that was only 35 seconds total.  D'oh!  Fixed now.  (Unfortunately, the version I'd really like to use, one that's over five minutes and includes some worthwhile character and plot exposition -- here -- has embedding disabled.)]






...okay: at the outset, the woodwind-played melody announcing the minstrels' arrival begins the spell's weaving....and from there...well, at about 1:02, Cantus -- neigh, Jim -- walks on screen, and the euphoria commences...at about 1:11, Jim begins singing, the sensation of which I'll only completely fail in describing/encapsulating...soon, at about 1:22, the grey-and-purple-hued, banjo/lute/whatever-playing Muppet joins in, and thus we have Jerry Nelson harmonizing with Jim ("A great voice...it records very well", I recall Jim -- paraphrased -- saying in a videotaped interview)...and, well, I challenge you to present me a richer sound in all audially recorded history...I mean, the peak that Jim and Jerry jointly reach throughout about 1:29-1:31...um, the only words I have are: wow -- glorious!

With fully admitted complete subjectivity, I say that this song/performance/video is completely life-affirming.

R.I.P., Jim.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A History of DuckTales Comic Books, Part Three: DuckTales Magazine and Disney Adventures

From the summer of 1988 to the fall of 1990, as licensed by Disney, Welsh Publishing Group produced DuckTales Magazine on a quarterly basis.  It was entirely geared at children -- going by memory, its contents were along the lines of activities, games (e.g., simple mazes and crossword puzzles...you get the idea...), short stories told in prose with illustrations, fluffy articles, and silly, vapid columns (am I correct in remembering there being an Ask Webby feature, or something of the sort): 

The cover art was usually pretty nice, though.  (That reminds me -- as a child, I had an '88 or '89 DuckTales calendar, each month bearing a painting the ducks in some form of adventure and derring-do, some -- or all? -- of which were used as covers for the magazine.  My copy of the calendar ultimately had a child's scrawlings all over it, and is long-gone.  But I'd like to find a clean copy.)  Here's the first issue's cover:




The only component of this periodical of relevance to this history is its four-page comic stories -- one per issue (presumably starting with the second issue, as Inducks lists nothing for the first).  In spite of being credited to such honorable names as Joey Cavalieri, Héctor Saavedra, and Cosme Quartieri, the format's brevity -- and likely editorial preferences -- were incredibly constricting; from what I recall of them, these stories were simple, excessively light in tone, lacking in wit, and their pacing (understandably) felt rushed and truncated.  Carl Barks' strengths as a writer and artist were never compromised by doing 10-pagers or 4-pagers...which is why I suspect that the editors wanted written "down" to children. 

...I mean, DC's 1990 three-issue Bugs Bunny mini-series was written by Cavalieri.  It demonstrated cleverness and wit, and narratively, was acute and relatively subtle...especially in comparison to these four-page DuckTales comic stories!  So it's not like Cavalieri couldn't do funny animal stories. 

Even the one written by Don Rosa ("Back in Time for a Dime", in the spring 1990 issue) was completely generic and unimpressive.  (Looking at Inducks' scan of its first page, I note that Quartieri's art was inspired, though.)  (To read Rosa himself referring to DuckTales Magazine's comics -- one infers, even his own! --as "mindless drek", and his explanation of how Disney not allowing Gladstone to return his art to him had forced him look for work elsewhere -- I guess because he sold his own stuff to collectors? -- culminating in freelancing for the magazine this one time, visit the DCML's "Don Rosa on himself" page, and scroll down to "Story for DuckTales Magazine [script only]".)  (Curiously, "for a Dime" features Bubba -- I don't think he appeared in any of the magazine's other comics, andf that Fenton/Gizmoduck never appeared!  One would think that Rosa would've been reluctant to include characters created for the series, so his story being the exception in this respect is odd.)

[ADDENDUM: Regarding Bubba appearing in Rosa's story, David Gerstein added some vital information, and invaluable insight, in his comment below, reproduced here:

"Editors altered Rosa's story to add Bubba after Rosa submitted it. From my perspective, it was an incredibly damaging alteration: when the whole point of the story is to draw a distinction between modern Duckburg and the Stone Age, it confuses everything to have a caveman in the 'modern' scenario.

"The editors also altered Rosa's opening gag about the tremor running through the house, but at least I managed to restore that when we reprinted the story at Gemstone."


Because of David's thoroughness and dauntlessness, the "director's cut" of "Back in Time for a Dime!" -- rectifying the opening panel so that Scrooge's dialogue is what Rosa had originally written (the tremor gag to which David refers) -- was included in Uncle Scrooge #369 (Gemstone, Sept. 2007).

Thanks again, David!]

________________________


In November 1990, two months after the advent of both The Disney Afternoon and TaleSpin, and just as DuckTales Magazine was being phased out, Disney launched another children's magazine, this one a monthly: Disney Adventures.  Disney Comics promoted it and had some editorial involvement, but I'm not sure to what extent.  It seems likely that the non-comics portions of it were produced by another staff/department/division entirely.  It had far more distribution and more success than the Disney Comics line proper, early in its run making its way to being on display in grocery and department store checkout lines, right alongside the tabloids and TV Guide

Each issue boasted on its cover a currently-"hot", recognizable-to-kids celebrity; that, above all else, compounded with its popularity and its presence in checkout lines, should tell you the nature of the magazine, and why we need not concern ourselves any further with its non-comics contents (which were the majority of its contents.)  Needless to say, its target audience was not Carl Barks fan.

Because the magazine's launch was concurrent with the Disney Afternoon's, Disney saw an opportunity to further the hype surrounding the latter; during its first couple years, in the case of most issues, the celebrity featured on the cover was posed interacting with one or more characters from one of the four show in TDA's current lineup.  From the outset, each issue included three or four (give or take) comics.  At first, DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, and TaleSpin comics were featured exclusively.  When Darkwing Duck joined TDA, DW comics were incorporated; the same in the case of Goof Troop, and so forth.  As each year TDA dropped its oldest series, the older series' comics were phased out from Disney Adventures, but between the two, there wasn't a perfect concurrence in this respect.  Which properties were featured in comics form varied from one issue to the next. 

Prior to the official first issue, its launch was promoted, ca. late summer/early fall 1990, with a Kellogg's tie-in -- mail in so many proofs-of-purchase, and you would receive a special giveaway issue!  Being eight years old at the time, I was quite eager to take advantage of the offer, and feel quite nostalgic now as I recall raiding my grandparents' shelves to cut the UPC barcodes off of their Kellogg's cereal boxes!  

Not only did that "pilot" issue include two DuckTales comic stories, the cover was an unqualified DuckTales cover, uncorrupted by not a single celebrity!




Pretty cool, eh?  (Trust me, this is the only Disney Adventures cover you'll find me saying that!)  (Note how they forgot to color Launchpad's hair -- looks odd, doesn't it?)

One of the two included DT comic stories was a whopping 18 pages, divided into two chapters.  Here's Inducks' scan of part one, page one:





And part two, page one:




Inducks cites no creator credits for this comic.  Unfortunately, my Disney Adventures collection is long-gone (overall, good riddance!), so at present, I'm not able to reread this story in its entirety.  But going by memory, and judging by these isolated two pages, it was decent.  Think I'll start watching for this issue on ebay.

In the official first issue (cover date: November 12th, 1990), DuckTales was represented with an eight-page comic story, "The Dream Scheme".  Again, Inducks' scan of the first page:




Once again, I have no way of reading the rest of the story, but going by this scan, it seems it could've been decent.  The dynamics of the art, and the jump-right-in, off-the-ground-running narrative hook, are better than DuckTales Magazines' comics, to say the least.  (It's certainly worth noting that it was written by Bob Langhans!)

I don't particularly remember this story.  Same goes for most of the DuckTales comics created for Disney Adventures.  Generally, I think they ran from decent to mediocre; sometimes, perhaps a bit worse.  In all fairness, I'd have to re-read them to be able to say anything definite about them.  But given how enthusiastic I've always been about DT and yet how none of these comics have proven memorable...well, that speaks for something, no?

[...]

...there's one, DEFINITE, exception.  I will never, ever forget the five-part serial entitled "The Legend of the Chaos God", written by Bobbi J.G. Weiss and David Cody Weiss, and drawn by Cosme Quartieri, who's name should by now be familiar, and printed in the June, August "23rd" (there'd been a plain ol' August issue, but "Chaos God" Part Two was nowhere to be found therein; more on that below.  The August "23rd" issue was in lieu of the September issue...ya got me!), October, November, and December 1994 issues. 

In the all-too short run of Disney Comics' Tale Spin, Weiss had made some ambitious, commendable attempts at deepening the series' mythology, such as a story tackling Kit's past.  And an editorial comment in one isssue's letter column that a multi-part serial, courtesy of Weiss, delving into the "origins" of the Air Pirates' airborne fortress, the Flying Vulture was in the near-future; alas, this story was still slated for later when TaleSpin became a victim of the Disney Implosion.  (And again, I ask: how much work was done on the material for the next few issues before they were cancelled, and does any of it survive?)

And with this serial, Weiss once again "thought big".  And by all rights, the end results should earn a place of reverence amongst Disney Afternoon fans for all time.  What's the big deal?  "Legend of the Chaos God" is a veritable Disney Afternoon crossover...or quasi-crossover: it follows a jewel possessed by an ancient warlike, vengeful god as it makes its way from Cape Suzette (Part 1) to wherever the Rescue Rangers live (Part 2)(the "humans" are dogfaces in this case -- creative license taken so that the Rangers could exist in the same world that the other series do!) to Spoonerville (Part 3) to Duckburg (Part 4) to St. Canard (Part 5).  In each case, the malevolent god, Solego, manages to possess someone (or something -- a car, in the Goof Troop intallment), but doesn't escape the jewel until Part 5, only to then be defeated by Darkwing and Gizmoduck -- for at the end of Part 4, Solego had taken possession of the Gizmoduck suit and departed for St. Canard, with Fenton vowing pursuit!  The fanboy in me can't help but revel in how unabashedly "awesome" this transition into Part 5 is!






...see??!!!  ;)

Thus...the adjacency of the serial's DuckTales and Darkwing Duck installments, and Gizmoduck's bridging the two, is incredibly pertinent, because: BOOM!'s imminent DuckTales-Darkwing Duck crossover is actually not the first one that's ever even officially happened...nor is it even the first one that's ever officially happened in comics!

Bobbi's handling of the DT-DW "timeline" is very logical and simple: Launchpad's not in the DuckTales chapter because he now lives in St. Canard, where, sure enough, we find him in the Darkwing chapter, in the same capacacity that he is in any Darkwing story.  Thus, we infer that Bobbi's assumed that the entirety of the DW series takes place after the entirety of the DT series, and "Chaos God" (besides Part 1) is set well into the timeline of the DW series -- at least after Darkwing and Gizmoduck's first encounter.  So, this is a rare DuckTales story in that it's consciously set after the series and during the course of DW -- and the only exception that has to be made is that Launchpad's not in the DT chapter.  Otherwise, life seems to have continued as normal in Duckburg.   

Seems the obvious way to go, no?  But for some reason, BOOM! seems to have really muddied up this matter.  But we'll see how they address it once the actual crossover is underway.

Here's page nine of Part 5 -- Darkwing and Gizmoduck's (Fenton having by now reclaimed the suit) (and Launchpad's...kind of) showdown with the now-freed Solego!




This scan, and one from Part 4 above, iare courtesy of this site -- which, wonder of wonders, hosts scans of every single page of the arc!  For once, I can direct you to a place where you can easily access the entire thing, and, unlike almost every other comic that ever appeared in Disney Adventures, I have accesss to it myself!

Inducks notes that Part 2 is the last Rescue Rangers story to ever appear in Disney Adventures.  No such note is made in their entry for Part 4; however, by this point, DuckTales comics appearing in the magazine were few and far between, and after "Chaos God", there weren't many, if any.

________________________


I'll do either one or two "History of DuckTales Comics" posts on the BOOM! era, and one post spotlighting a certain story that's never gotten much attention or fanfare.  And I want to write about other subjects, as well.  But when any of that will appear, I'm not sure.  My sister's weekend is to take place during this coming weekend, and my work and school commitments are considerably demanding.  So, it might be a little while before I post again...but I hope I don't once again go longer than a month without a new -- and proper, full-fledged -- post!

A History of DuckTales Comic Books, Part Two: Disney Comics

It's been over a month since Part One, and since I've posted to this blog at all.  I assure you, I'd intended otherwise!  In the interim, I've been inconvenienced by not one but two spells, each lasting over a week, of not having Internet at home, due to technical problems.  On top of that, between work and school (including teaching a class so as to fulfill a degree requirement, when I have no prior teaching experience whatsover!), the past month has been especially hectic and chaotic.  Things seem to finally be in order again, though.

All right -- let's get down to business. 

1n 1990, "the Walt Disney Company itself decided that what Gladstone could do, Disney could do better", and thus "revoked Gladstone's license".  (See this article that, all the way back in 1996, David Gerstein wrote for the Disney Comics Mailing List's home page.)   And thus, an operation christened Disney Comics came into being -- a new arm (...or, more aplty, a new arm hair...) of the mammoth, sprawling corporation that bears the name of an innovative, audience-pleasing early-to-mid-20th century filmmaker.  In June (well, that's going by cover dates...so, that would've made it, in reality, what, April?), Disney Comics launched eight monthly titles, the majority of them featuring original, exclusive new material.
At this point, DuckTales, the TV series, remained a hit -- as now did a second syndiated Disney animated series, Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers.  Disney saw fit to give each an ongoing comic book series -- the first issue of each amongst the June 1990 debuts.  (In the case of DuckTales, Disney disregarded Gladstone's numbering.  Same for Donald Duck Adventures.) 

The cover of Disney Comics' DuckTales #1:






(Eh, too yellow for my taste.)  :)

(After TaleSpin -- and not to mention, The Disney Afternoon -- premiered on TV that fall, Disney Comics ran a "trial" TaleSpin four-issue mini-series.  Likewise, the advent of the Darkwing Duck TV series prompted a four-issue mini-series, but an ongoing, regular comic never came to fruition.  More on that below...)

Unlike the Barks reprints, the Lustig/Van Horn originals (which were arguably more Barksian than they were DuckTales-esque...but were more Lustig/Van Horn than anything else!), and even the limp Jaime Diaz Studio (which at least, on one level, looked like the TV series) stories that had accounted for Gladstone's version of a <i>DuckTales</i> comic, the Disney Comics version felt like a true tie-in with the show, exuding the flashiness, bombast, and kid-geared "coolness" characteristic of a popular contemporary animated TV series' merchandise. 

The comic lasted until #18, which bore a cover date of November 1991.  Then, Disney Comics' line was cut down to only Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck Adventures, and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories (in BOOM!-speak, classics were back), and by and large, they ceased producing original stories.  (When this "Disney Implosion" occurred, the Darkwing Duck "trial" mini-series was underway.  They waited out the scheduled four issues, and simply never again said anything about an ongoing series.  So...now you know!)

Their DuckTales run can be broken down as follows:

#1-7: "Scrooge's Quest" seven-part serial.  Written by Marv Wolfman.  Drawn by Cosme Quartieri and Robert Bat, et al.

#8: two Jaime Diaz Studio stories.

#9-15: "The Gold Odyssey" seven-part serial. Written by Bob Langhans.  Drawn by Cosme Quartieri and Robert Bat, et al.

#16: two Jaime Diaz Studio stories.

#17-18: "A Dime in Time" two-part serial.  Written by Bob Langhans.  Drawn by Cosme Quartieri and Robert.  (#17 was part of "The Time Tetrad" crossover...er, that month, Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck Adventures, and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories all featured stories involving the use of the same time machine.  In "A Dime in Time", thanks to Quartieri and Bat in their art replicating the appearance of said time machine in said European stories, the ducks once again used it to hop centuries...this brings up continuity questions that, for the time being, I'll spare you...)

Like the Jaime Diaz Studio material Gladstone had used, the stories in #8 and #16 had the trappings of a Duck comic, and sported "professional" art with very "on-model" characters.  However, they hit their cues only on a superficial level; both their narratives and panel stagings were uninspired and bland. 

But "Scrooge's Quest", "The Gold Odyssey", and "A Dime in Time", on the other hand...these serials were highly-energized, and amibitious, exhibiting the aspiration to be operating on an epic scale.  Kind of the rock 'n' roll version of Duck comics.  Notably, these stories -- as was Disney's wont -- eschewed the four-tiers-per-page model that Western had established as the standard and tradition for Duck and Mouse comics, opting for a three-tiers-per-page format, aping DC and Marvel.  Now, if you're going to use the same amount of space for fewer panels, then you're going to have bigger individual panels...and this may have had a lot, if not everything, to do with how bombastic the book seemed.

The art generally "got" the aesthetic of the TV series (even Scrooge's mansion looks as it did on the show!), and, for the most part, is lively, active, distinct, and dynamic, if perhaps more sloppier and rushed at some points than at others. 

Both seven-parters used the modus operandi of stringing together what were in truth a few self-contained adventures/episodes together with an overall arc that was-- so I'll admit, even though I'm inclined to "push" these comics -- thin, loose, and inconsistent.  Yes, over the course of the proceedings, Wolfman and Langhans, each in their own right, stooped to mindless action-adventure clichés, and, without question, the proceedings lacked the class and finesse of Carl Barks.  Nonetheless, these 100+ page Duck quasi-opuses were, again, ambitious -- it was exciting to see Scrooge and Co. traipsing through such "big" exploits, the suspense sustained -- in real-world time -- for months on end.  And in being competent, accurate reflections of the TV series, they did the trick, if that was your bag.

Chris Barat champions "Odyssey" as being superior to "Quest".  And, sure, I'd submit that my preference is also for Langhans' issues.  The individual chapters of "Scrooge's Quest" are probably more coherently realized.  And the tightness of his writing serves "A Dime in Time" well, its two issues having the same high-gear momentum of its longer predecessors.  And he probably wins out for having taken things as far as he could, and making them as "dark" (for a "family" comic that would've been subjected to Disney corporate scrutiny, anyway) as he could've -- take the occult-alluding third chapter, "The Once and Future Warlock":






But, in all respects, I don't think of there as being a huge disparity between the two seven-parters; I see them as being very much of the same nature, sharing not only the same shortcomings, but the same points of commendation.  (In short: as a whole, the arcs were anemic, made up of several disconnected scenarios that hinged on action-adventure clichés.  But for the most part [...I know I'm inviting condemnations of "Scrooge's Quest" Part Seven here!], both writers had a pretty good understanding of, and respect for, the show and its characters.  And...well, I mean, these are 100+-page Duck multi-adventures, the conflict and danger never relenting!  ...that's just cool!  Yup -- twenty years later, there's still novelty and guilty pleasure factors at play!)

I have always wondered: given the unexpectedness of the "Disney Implosion", at least the next couple issues of the soon-to-be-abruptly-cancelled titles should've been well along in the editorial process.  So, had another Langhans-Quartieri-Bat serial been slated to begin in #19?  And if so, how much work on it, if any, was done, and does any of it survive?

It's worth noting that in 2008, Gemstone published trade paperbacks of both "Scrooge's Quest" and "The Gold Odyssey", both serials complete in one volume.  If you're interested, they're still pretty easy to come by.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hasty update...

Posting this from work.  For inexplicable reasons, my Internet at home is down, and Comcast's technicians won't be available until Wednesday.  (ARRGHH!!!)  So, the next installment in the "History of DuckTales Comic Books" series won't be appearing for several days.  (Full disclosure:  I'd actually intended to devote just ONE post to that subject, but as I was wrapping up the Gladstone portion, I realized, "Oh, it's time to go to work!  Hey, why don't I make this a multi-part series?!  ...this would be a good breakaway point!")

(P.S.  My comment at the BOOM! forum?  Besides being melodramatic, I was really just trying to get a rise out of them.  But really, I wouldn't have done that if it hadn't become trendy to vent about them, now that their days of publishing Disney comics are numbered -- so, I'm spineless!  Last night, I was mulling over how great the "Classics are back!" era that spanned the first half of this year had been, and how beautiful those books were ... but that's been overshadowed by abruptly the "core four" were cancelled, and how said cancellation has never been acknowledged or explained by BOOM! themselves.)

Ryan

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A History of DuckTales Comic Books, Part One: Gladstone

In light of the brouhaha surrounding BOOM! Studios' DuckTales #3, I think it'd be apropos to create a concise account of the history of U.S.-based comic book incarnations of the DuckTales franchise.

The animated television series DuckTales, which premiered in 1987, was based on Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge comics.  Thus, the conceit of an explicit DuckTales comic is, to an extent, paradoxical ... it may even be that the term "meta" -- which, per my impression, people in genre circles at some point during the past year or two became overly fond of using -- is applicable here.

The first DuckTales comic book periodical was published by Gladstone, lasting for thirteen issues, from October 1988 to November 1990.  (Note: I'm citing cover dates.)  When the first issue hit the stands, DuckTales was still Disney's sole syndicated animated series -- it was still still a year before DuckTales was packaged with Rescue Rangers, and two years before the advent of the full-blown Disney Afternoon.  Thus, comics based on Disney Afternoon shows were unprecedent ... there was no Disney Afternoon yet. 

On top of that, Gladstone had no experience producing a comic based on a contemporary animated cartoon -- their specialty and forte was Duck and Mouse comics in Barks and Gottfredson traditions.  I'm not sure how it was decided that Gladstone would do a DuckTales comic; whether it was their own idea or if they were prodded by Disney, one can infer that, given the TV series' success and popularity at the time, using the "brand" for a comic would make sense, marketing-wise.

The thing was, DuckTales was, arguably, the animation equivalent of Uncle Scrooge comics.  And Gladstone already had Uncle Scrooge and Uncle Scrooge Adventures.  Wouldn't DuckTales be redundant, and stick out like a sore thumb?

From day one, the title relied on DuckTales stories produced by the Jamie Diaz Studios for regional Disney comic publishers around the world (...that is, if I understand how these things worked/work).  These stories were patterned after the TV series: unlike in Barksian Uncle Scrooge comics and as on the show, Donald was absent, an created-for-TV characters (Webby, Launchpad, etc.)  My reading has always been that the Jamie Diaz Studios was excessively Disney-trained-and-sanctioned, so the characters were as on-model can be.  The backgrounds, settings, and "props" were rendered as perfect as could be ... but the art was, nonetheless, rigid and uninspired.  The type of adventure trappings that during its first season the show had identified itself with were employed in these comics ... but the story construction was more or less hackneyed.

Nonetheless, that material is exactly what I would've expected Gladstone to use, at that point.  What was weird, though, was the incongruent use of Barks reprints as backup stories!  #4 even reprinted a Tony Strobl Grandma Duck gag -- Grandma being a character that never appeared on the show!

Still, Daan Jippes' covers for the first several issues make owning a copy of each worthwhile.  Here's #5:




However, with issue #7, the book took a different direction: with the exception of #9 (Jamie Diaz Studio again) and #12 (featuring the length French story "The City Under the Ice" -- which I hope to devote an in-depth post to, very soon), subsequent issues were each led by a story created by the duo of writer John Lustig and artist William Van Horn (another exception: #8's "The Bedeviled Dime" was a solo outing for Van Horn).  Since early 1988, Van Horn had been freelancing for Gladstone, finding his footing with short gags and the occassional ten-pager.  His stint on DuckTales with Lustig was his first "starring role".  Van Horn is know for his distinguished, "stretchy" visual style and "wacky" themes and humor.  So, one would think he would've been an odd match for DuckTales.  And, no, these stories weren't the "straight" adventures of the TV series, but they were well-constructed, original, and smart, displaying acute pacing and characterizations. 

Here's Van Horn's cover for the final issue, #13:




This issue was concurrent with the end of Gladstone's entire Disney line (until the next go-round, a few years later).  When their licensed expired, Disney set up shop themselves...

To be continued...


A (probably unscientific) contrast, to give some perspective...

During the weekend of September 18-20, 1987, DuckTales premiered with the two-hour TV version of "Treasure of the Golden Suns".  (I am the safekeeper of this fact being maintained across the Internet, by the way.)

 Example A:




Example B:




I must note: Nice animation of El Capitan at 4:10, and Scrooge at 4:18. 

Now, I don't know if the general jerkiness is actually the animation being dated/not living up to my aggrandized memory, or if it's the result of degradation through the course of these being taped off of a television broadcast and transferred and uploaded to YouTube. 

Regardless, revisting these has reaffirmed to me that the series (and the "Treasure of the Golden Suns" serial in particular) still holds up, and that I'm not operating on just nostalgia.  And thus, when BOOM! Studios launched a new DuckTales comic three months ago (in the wake of the success of their Darkwing Duck series), they owed it better treatment than this (scan courtesy of Chris Barat's review):




Chris' aforementioned review had a galvanizing effect: a fury of discussion commenced at Duck Comics Revue and the Disney Comics Forum -- that is, places where one would expect this subject to be discussed (though the extent to which it has been is atypical and extraordinary).  What's been truly flabbergasting is the coverage elsewhere:


It's not a stretch, by any means, to say that I'd been awaiting this since the last issue of Disney Comics' incarnation of DuckTales, published in late 1991.

Finally, meanwhile, at the official BOOM! forums, the silence that persists in response to our queries is deafening.  [Pssst ... you may note my post at the end of the thread.  I'm already embarrassed about its melodrama!]

Ryan

Monday, August 1, 2011

"The Bathtub At the End of the Universe" by Michael T. Gilbert and Flemming Andersen

During Gladstone II, a cause of much frustration was being all too aware of, for all intents and purposes, an infinite reserve of European material that’d never seen print in the U.S. that we were being offered very little of.

With the arising of Gemstone, the tides turned.  In a major way.

I feel that Gemstone’s digests satisfied on two counts:

1. Keeping alive  Gladstone’s "[character name as a noun, NOT pluralized] Adventures" series title tradition/brand.  (And, at long last, once again, there was an ongoing Mickey Mouse Adventures! Alas, Gemstone’s incarnation only made it to #12, leaving Disney Comics' version holding the record, having ended at #18 … but by Gemstone's fourth or fifth issue [only!], they'd TRUMPED Disney Comics' MMA page count!)

2. The experience of regularly-published digests, each issue comprised of more than 100 pages, which were devoted to MULTIPLE bulky 40-to-50-page stories of the contemporary (or semi-contemporary, as to U.S. readers, these were imports -- we didn't have first dibs), lively, colorful, pure-candy-narratively-and-visually variety -- à la Topolino.

The story I’ll use as an example of the contents of Gemstone's digests is “The Bathtub At the Edge of the Universe” (curious discrepancy: in the table of contents, it’s denoted as “The Bathtub on the Edge of Forever”), which was written by Michael T. Gilbert and drawn by Flemming Andersen. (Printed by Gemstone in Donald Duck Adventures #17, May 2006; originally printed in Denmark’s Jumbobog #182, 1996 ... thanks, Inducks!)

Here’s Inducks’ scan of the first page (American version):


 



I’m quite fond of Andersen’s work on this story. Here, the ducks are squashed and distorted in a fashion that, in my evaluation, harkens back to `60’s Romano Scarpa. See how bottom-heavy Scrooge is, and how his ENTIRE HEAD seems that it’s being absorbed and truncated INTO his furrowing brow? See how long Donald’s beak is and the polarity in how big the front of it is and how narrow the middle is, and how those drooping eyelids -- the likes of which I’ve never seen drawn on him before -- convey his boredom and disinterest? (DDA #17's lead story, “The Search for Bigfoot”, also bears Andersen art, but dates from a few years later than “Bathtub”. Interestingly, we find that his ducks by then had become trimmer and sleeker.) I’m not always into heavily stylized, modern ducks -- I’m something of a Barksian traditionalist (never even really got into William Van Horn while I was growing up!). But Flemming somehow manages to enliven extreme exaggeration, jaggedness, and “grit” (…eh, not really fond of that last word…) with enough “fleshiness” to give the panels a considerable degree depth and substance, if not exactly a Barksian “warmth”.

I have to admit that I have egg on my face. In my earlier post about the array of Danish and Finnish Duck stories that Gladstone I featured, I asserted that there was a distinctly Italian approach to Duck comics. Well, I would’ve pegged “Bathtub” as being of Italian origin … but it was produced by Egmont, and Inducks identifies Andersen as being a Dane! D’OH! Still, I wasn’t wrong that the Egmont and Oberon stories that Gladstone I printed showed little indication of the Scarpa-derived lineage that I feel runs through Cavazzano, Andersen, and others ... whatever country they're from or whose Disney comics publishers they work for.

Before we go any further, here's the cover for Gemstone's Donald Duck Adventures #17 (I know, doesn't really make sense sequentially here, but I wanted the scan of the story's first page to be given precedence!):




All right, the plot…sure, the ducks have time-traveled before (and in a bathtub, to boot -- DuckTales ’ “Sir Gyro de Gearloose” should be given its due!). And dinosaurs have certainly been the object -- or at last a component -- of more than one of their previous adventures. But for this story, Michael T. Gilbert brought to realization a decidedly unique, original dynamic and narrative thrust. As Donald and the nephews, traversing the centuries and reality's fringes, scramble to track down Gyro’s time-displaced “100 mega-watts zigga-bomb” and prevent its explosion from wiping out history, they're relying on Scrooge and Gyro to keep up their end at “Mission Control” in Gyro’s lab back in the “present” ... where things DON’T go so smoothly. As they get precariously nearer the last wire, the sense of crisis and urgency is louder than in the average Duck comics -- usually, even when the stakes are high, they’re not regarded with so much fraught anxiety.

What’s really singular is the pairing of Scrooge and Gyro, and how their clashing neuroses create a certain dissonance -- that Donald and the nephews are depending on these two nervous wrecks greatly augments, exacerbates, and drives the story’s tension. To have Scrooge separated from his four nephews and partnered with Gyro is, of course, a variation from the norm. But to have Donald maintain a fair degree of confidence and heroism as he and the nephews brave the figurative storm (actually, no...it gets pretty literal!), while  Scrooge acts as scatterbrained and guility of as bungling as Gyro, is a bold twist. However, Scrooge’s characterization is completely justified: what's going down was spurred by his lust for the profits he was sure were to come from backing Gyro’s breakthrough inventions -- a lust that blinded him to the dangers of said technology. He isn’t shaken out of his myopic perspective of the matter until he virtually has his finger hovering above the figurative doomsday button (or should I use "literal" here, too?  ...nah, "figurative"; there's no actual button!  Well, there's buttons, but not THE buttoon...) …hence his jitteriness and subsequent clumsiness! Mr. Gilbert, I'm SOLD!

Finally, I must quote Gyro, at the story’s apocalypse-flirting climax, explaining what’s going on: “It’s the `Gilbert Proximity Syndrome’! A time paradox posited by Professor M.T. Gilbert! [A self-reference on the author’s part? Or was this an editorial embellishment? I'm assuming the original script would've been in English and was used -- supporting that, no translator or dialogue writer is credited -- so I'm uncertain.] If conflicting events in parallel time lines get too close, history will correct itself before the events occur!” Shades of the infamous eternally-debated Biff-of-2015-returns-from-having-changed-history-and-finds-that-he’s-starting-to-fade-from-existence deleted scene!

In all seriousness, in terms of time travel in genre fiction, I’m eternally grateful that we live in a post-Back to the Future world. We’ve come a long, long way from the Legion of Super-Heroes (in the 28th-or-whatever century) for some bizarre reason historically recognizing Clark Kent of the 20th century as having been SuperBOY and not SuperMAN, and the improbable coincidence that Superboy and the Legion’s successive time travel-enabled encounters with one another were linear in terms of BOTH of their lives…  (I'm pretty sure that if they ever agreed, "Okay, so we never get confused, let's make sure that on every occassion where we get together, the same amount of time since the last occassion has passed FOR BOTH OF US!  Let's not ever surprise each other by later on time-traveling before and between occassions where, in each of our respective linear lives, we've already hung out!", it was off-panel!)