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, H├ęctor 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!]

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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.

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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!

8 comments:

  1. "(Curiously, 'for a Dime' features Bubba [...] 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.)"

    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.

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  2. David,

    Thank you -- you're invaluable! You've really helped to fill in one of the gaps in my knowledge. (Besides double-checking dates, digging up pertinent quotes, and raiding Inducks for scans, these texts were largely written off of the top of my head. Busy schedule...)

    The thing is, I should've known better...for I own the issue of Uncle Scrooge in which Gemstone reprinted "Back in Time in Time for a Dime!"(!) But, while cobbling this post together, I completely "spaced" on said reprint. I'll revise the post accordingly -- it's the least I owe you!

    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.

    Even as a child, I noticed how weird and contradictory it came off! It's never addressed that Bubba's returned to his own era! (...er, factoring in a 150-million-year margin of error...) He never exclaims, "Bubba HOME!!!; one of the nephews never remarks, "Gee, Bubba, how does it feel to be back in your own time again?!"; nor anything of the sort! Bubba asserting, "This Bubba time! Me protect Scrooge!" flirts with the issue; we can infer that the reason that it's "Bubba time" is that dealing with dinosaurs is his forte...but it needed to be directly acknowledged. Leaving it ambiguous was sloppy, and the effect just plain annoying.

    Do you know offhand if any other DT Magazine comics included Bubba or Fenton/Gizmoduck? (I suspect you might have revisited all of them when preparing Rosa's for US #369.) As I said, I no longer own a single issue (thanks to a near-sighted purge of all my "kids' stuff" that I executed while in college), but to the best of my knowledge, Bubba's appearance in "Dime" was singular. (I guess, for a blog, my "Just know that I'm going by memory here..." disclaimers are acceptable and excusable. But my preference would be for comperehensive sourcing and verification!)

    I think I've asked you this before...but even if I haven't, I don't want to bother you...so I'll just throw this out there, and you can respond, or ignore it, as you will. :) Do you know if Disney Comics' DuckTales #19, Mickey Mouse Adventures #19, TaleSpin #8, etc. were in the works before their collective cancellation was decided upon? And if so, how much, if anything, for the would-be issues was written and/or drawn? I've been wondering about this for 20 years...in fact, I rhetorically asked the same question in Part Two, so I'm on-subject! ;)

    Ryan

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  3. They were all in the works. But I don't know how much of the cancelled material survived—with help from my colleagues at Disney, I've searched for it in various publishers' archives on behalf of both Boom and Gemstone, only to come up almost completely empty-handed.

    MICKEY MOUSE ADVS 19 survives, but it was only to have been a reprint of Paul Murry's "The Phantom Fires." It had a nice enough new cover, though, so perhaps that can be used on a modern reprint someday.

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  4. Marv Wolfman was given script credit to the Chaos coin story when it was reprinted in Colossal Comics Collection. I thought Scrooge looked like his younger brother Gideon in the flashbacks.
    Bubba only appeared in the Don Rosa story. Gizmoduck/Fenton made no appearances - the magazine came and ended just after they made their tv debut. I suppose had they appeared, the writers would have had to hazzard a guess at their characterization. I remember subscribing to it and getting the last two issues before they switched me (with a "We're Sorry" letter)to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Magazine. I wasn't quite as demanding a fan (I was 8) as I can imagine most duck fans are and liked it. It was actually following a formula that a lot of licensed kids magazines at the time had, like MUPPET, DISNEY, PEANUTS, LOONEY TUNES, TINY TOONS,TMNT and GARFIELD.
    I recall Talespin promised a story about spies that involved the detective from the sky writing episode - plus, Bobbi claimed to have an idea for an origin of the iron vulture. Mickey Mouse Adventures was offering a reprint of The Phantom Fires, Roger Rabbit's titles were both offering return appearances from a popular new character, Nigel Squirell. Ducktales last issue had no letter column (that was the only clue, just an abrupt wrap-up to a time travel arc and a reprint of a strip from Ducktales Magazine (the one with the palce rug pattern turns out to be a map). Credits were sandwiched into an editorial on the inside back cover.

    Joseph Adorno
    ComicBookRehab

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  5. Ryan,

    The "Ask Webby" thing in DUCKTALES MAGAZINE was actually a feature with Webby "interviewing" various DT characters, such as Bubba. Remember some of the other features, such as BEAGLE BOYS BELLY LAUGHS and GYRO'S TOTALLY RADICAL (sic?) INVENTIONS? (The spirit of the last-named feature seems to have been revived, after a fashion, in the KEENBEAN'S CORNER gags in the Ape RICHIE RICH.)

    I had decidedly mixed feelings about "Chaos God" when it came out, as you might remember if you read my reviews in WTFB. You make the immediately ultra-relevant point, however, that Bobbi JG, whatever the flaws in her story, DID have a very clear idea as to the way in which the DW and DT continuities should relate. Wish I could say the same for "Rightful Owners."

    Chris

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  6. "Chaos God": I never read that second chapter before, so that link to all the stories is great. It would be nice if whoever takes over the Disney line reprints this arc, it's very good. Solego sounded more like a character from the 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo than a Disney villain, but as a link he serves well enough.

    Joseph Adorno
    ComicBookRehab

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  7. The Dream Scheme had Magica taunting Scrooge in his sleep so that he would have to give her the dime if he wanted to have a good night's sleep again. Scrooge decided to fight back by having Gyro build a long-range holographic projector which allowed Scrooge to taunt Magica while SHE slept, with images of him teasing her with the dime. She called it off pretty soon after that. :)

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  8. Really need to play catch-up here!

    David: That's too bad that (besides that cover you mentioned -- yes, hope there's a chance for it to be used!) no material for the cancelled issues has ever turned up. (For the past two decades, I've been dreaming, off and on, about what could have been!) Well, anyone have contact info for Quartieri or Langhans? Or, Cosme and Bob, any chance you guys are lurking? ;)

    Chris: Ah, that was the what the Webby feature was like...it and the other features you mentioned are kind of coming back to me -- thanks for the description! (You can see it really left a lasting impression on me!)

    You must have reviewed "Chaos God" before I joined WTFB. Very curious to know what you said about it at the time, and if applicable, any additional current thoughts on it!

    Joseph/rehab: Yes, I had a couple issues of some of those other magazines, and recognized their formula. (I'm sure they were all published by Welsh.) Ironically, being a child, I was their target audience, I thought those magazines were "stupid", and considered my Gladstones (and then my Disneys, but in a different way) to be far superior and much more substantial! (And I knew what was up, because, 20 years later, I still feel the same way!)

    Speaking of when I was a kid...at age 10, when I first saw 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo in reruns on USA, my reaction was, "FINALLY! They tried to do Scooby-Doo in a serious way; darker, scarier, and with higher stakes!" (Okay, those weren't the words I thought or said at the time, but that the sentiment!) Now, I assure you, I can see that it wasn't that a great of a show...but, *cringe*, that might explain why I liked "Chaos God" so much, and though Solego was a cool idea for a villain!

    Interesting tip about Wolfman being credited for "Chaos Coin" when it was reprinted in CCC. Turns out that in their entry for CCC #1, Inducks includes that information, but they've never corroborated it with the entry for that promo issue of Disney Adventures.

    Thank you for filling in the rest of what took place in "Dream Scheme" -- sounds like it was on the light, silly side of things (pretty typical of Disney Adventures, in other words).

    Ryan

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