Monday, December 31, 2012

A History of DuckTales Comic Books, Part Five: The Short-Lived 2010-11 Revival

To expedite the creation of this post, I'm going to quote (and modify) an older post of my own:


[From late 2009 through early 2010], 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 [publisher] BOOM!'s Disney comics. At first, I boycotted most of the line during Wizards of Mickey/Ultraheroes/Double Duck phase, (or the "Yeah, THIS is the kinda thing kids'll think is WAY COOL!!!!" phase...)

I was floored when, in March of 2010 -- still mired in the "Yeah, THIS is the kinda thing kids'll think is WAY COOL!!!!" level of Hell -- it was announced that, a),  BOOM! would begin publishing a Darkwing Duck series, and that, b) starting with #392, they'd devote the pages of Uncle Scrooge to DuckTales content. It's an understatement to say that this news was 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 conceiving of these projects and getting them off of the ground  Darkwing was an instant success -- yet for some reason, Sparrow was fired by BOOM! even before issue #4 was released...


Thus, Uncle Scrooge #392-399 consisted entirely of European DuckTales stories from the `90's. A couple of these were average, a couple more were mediocre, and there was one pretty darn good one (in no small part due to the dialogue penned by David Gerstein for American readers), the 44-page "The Curse of Flabbergé", split between #394-395 (and which I've previously given attention to -- see: here.)

While this seven-issue stretch of DuckTales issues of Uncle Scrooge overall found a lukewarm reception, BOOM!'s Darkwing drew a considerable amount of favorable buzz and even acclaim (and, from what I understand, sales were impressive...for an American Disney comic released in 2010...) It was considered enough of a hit so that several months later after DW's debut came the advent of a new Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers (intended-to-be-)ongoing comic...and then, another few months later (May 2011), the occassion of a new DuckTales (intended-to-be-)ongoing comic... (Okay, here's where things start to get hairy...)

The innaugural four-issue story arc, "Rightful Owners", indicated earnest, well-meaning enthusiasm and ambition...that was undermined by a rushed production schedule and, consequently, not only an under-developed story, but an ill-defined internal "world", or "universe".

On the one hand, the plot conceit was incredibly simple...not that it was devoid of potential, but by the time Part Four/issue #4 -- the pre-designated "arc" "conclusion" -- came around, it seemed as though we were still in what Robert McKee would call Act One, and then were abruptly plunged ahead to (what resembled) the last couple of sequences of Act Three (which, as McKee would insist, is innately the final act of any "proper" story).

And then there were the rotating (even within the course of a single issue!) artists (and the infamous "Photoshop job" of a page in #3, which has been given enough -- but fully warranted! -- attention eslewhere...); the blatant inconsistency could only sour whatever optimism one had that the comic was being produced under the best of circumstances.

Well, as "Rightful Owners" was wrapping up (...I really use the term "wrapping up" lightly, because I can only think of it with a lingering sense of unresolvedness...), I was struck by a word exiting the grapevine that the final two issues of BOOM!'s Darkwing (#17-18) and the final two issues of BOOM!'s DuckTales (#5-6) would present to the world a full-blown DuckTales/Darkwing Duck crossover. Needless to say, not only was I intrigued, but I was giddily enthralled at the prospect...even despite reservations that it would be handled satisfactorily...

I was wise to at least be aware that my enthusiasm would best be curbed (heheh...)...for, in the end, I suffered the sickliness of an embarrassingly mischaracterized Negaduck, multiple pages wasted (starting with the sequence's very first panel) on the inanity of the nephews being mutated into a rampaging, city-trampling, three-headed, King Ghidorah-proportioned giant monster, and a bizarrely-cast (and peculiarly forgettable) incorporation of the Phantom Blot.

But those were actually but the lesser offenses. The major sins:

1. Why are the nephews, Launchpad, and Webby characterized as having long known of Fenton/Gizmoduck's dual identity? On the show, they never were privy to this secret; only Scrooge and Ma Crackshell were...and here, the latter is shown, in present tense, just learning that her son is Gizmoduck! (" mean it's been YOU galavanting around in that suit all this time?!")

2. Since when is Donald an outspoken rabble-rousing activist demagogue, and what the #!*!!#* does "find your inner Donald" mean?


Returning to my older post...having just read the story's concluding installment, I wrote:

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 [back to when BOOM!'s DuckTales and Darkwing endeavors were first announced] , 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.


...oh, would you look at that: I also used "inane" in describing the "nephews/Honker-mutated-into-giant-monster-abberations-of-themselves" gimmick last time I wrote about it! (I hadn't yet reread the passage quoted immediately above this paragraph when, a few paragraphs further yet above, I newly wrote of the scene in question.) Telling, eh?

And by the way, I wish that in the long run, "relishing" the uniqueness of the crossover is what stuck with me...

... but here's the thing(s):

1. I still have a printout of the prose story I began writing early in the fall of `91, while I was in fourth grade, using the word processor program on my family's primitive `80's Epson computer in which Fenton decided to "investigate" Launchpad's "disappearance" from Duckburg, leading to a Gizmoduck-Darkwing Duck teamup. However, my intentions were soon eclipsed by the premier of "Just Us Justice Ducks"...and while I was enthralled by Gizmoduck guest-starring, it irritated me that his upper armwear was white instead of black. A couple of weeks later, when ABC premiered "Tiff of the Titans" (even though it SHOULD have been premiered BEFORE "Justice Ducks" was), I was no less compelled and enthralled...though I was immediately (and still am) irked by Scrooge's face inexplicably beaming at passerbys from the face of the "Welcome to Duckburg" billboard (what, is he a movie start) and the question of when Fenton and Launchpad had become such close friends (or more than passing acquaintances, for starters!) so as to have developed an elaborate secret handshake. But I managed to cope with these incongruities. ;)

2. A few years later, I ecstaticly followed the DT-DW crossover that spawned the last two installment of Bobbi JG Weiss and Cosme Quartieri's the "Legend of the Chaos God", which was faithful to the spirit of both shows and accounted for a post-DT, "Launchpad's now in St. Canard" continuity in a perfectly logical, common sense, no-fuss-no-muss, seamless manner.

Afterwards, it wasn't long before DT and DW comics were completely phased out of DA...and when BOOM!'s reincarnations came along, I'd long since written both franchises off as having whithered away to dust (to use a cliché). In that light, you'd think I'd have low expectations of a DT-DW crossover...but I couldn't help but let my inner (, perpetually outer? :D ) 10-year-old self get the better of me. Admittedly, I should've been more protective of him...because totally botching the matter of who are Fenton's confidantes in his secret identity and unleashing upon the world the all-time most bogus, delusion-addled conception of Donald Duck has left him forever traumatized. ;)

-- Ryan

A History of DuckTales Comic Books, Part Four: Marvel's Disney Afternoon

...anyone even remember my History of DuckTales Comic Books series? Well, whether or not you do, it's been left hanging since...(yikes!) September 19th, 2011! Well, with only a few hours to go, I'm now determined to enter 2013 having seen this project through, dagnabbit!


Some time ago, in a blog comment, Joseph Adorno mentioned to me Marvel's 1994-95 Disney Afternoon comic, which had a 10-issue run. By way of what's perhaps been selective memory (Disney Comics' pre-Implosion DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, and TaleSpin comics had left much more of a lasting impression...), then if not for Joseph, I don't think that it ever would've occurred to me to account for that title in this series...

...and as most issues were devoted to Darkwing Duck and Rescue Rangers content, it's very easy to disregard that comic when operating from a DuckTales-oriented frame of the entirety of DT's representation in those 10 issues was in the form of two one-page gags (...only one of which I'd actually remembered, until skimming just now through the Inducks entries for each issue!)

Anyway, a little background: approximately a year and a half after Disney Comics had closed up shop and the "Gladstone II" era began, Marvel began publishing a separate line Disney comics, having been granted the "modern characters" license, as opposed to Gladstone's "classic characters" license. (Now, I always knew the difference between, say, "The Band Concert" and The Little Mermaid, but this was the first time in the U.S. that, as far as I understand it, an unmistakeable was drawn between the corresponding two types of comics.)

(While it made sense for branding reasons, I always thought it was awkward to title a comic book The [something] Afternoon... Also, by the time the first issue hit the stands, Darkwing and Rangers had long been in reruns, so the comic wasn't as "with the times" as you'd expect of Marvel's (presumed) marketing geniuses...)

So, here's Inducks' scans of the first of the two gags, "Fins Ain't What They Seem", from The Disney Afternoon #4 (Feb. 1995):

Basically, Scrooge is enjoying a swim in the money bin, he spots what appear to be four shark fins "swimming along the surface" ... and we're then shown that it's the Beagle Boys wearing shark fins on their heads, and they momentarily revel in thinking that they've fooled Scrooge and scared him off ... but then they're "sent packing" when Scrooge bores down over them in a battle ship "asail" on the sea of money...

For a one-page gag, this bit, well, it's okay. Swimming in the money bin and defending his money bin from a Beagle Boys raid is pretty Scrooge-esque, and attempetd said raid is pretty Beagles-esque, on their part. But it strikesm e as this was written by someone newly wrestling with the concept of Scrooge swimming in his money (...but that may just me being snobbish...)

And here's Inducks' scan of the other gag, "Cinematic Cycling", from The Disney Afternoon #6 (Apr. 1995):

*yawn* ...Gyro appears to be riding a bicycle through vastly diffent settings, but in the last panel, it's "revealed" (if you've avoided looking at the bottom of the page until you'd reached the last panel...) that he's been riding a stationary "exercise" bike in front of movie projections.

As a wordless, purely visual sequential gag (it's interesting to note that both this and "Fins" were exclusively pantomime), the construction is decent. It's just that...well, the gag isn't that much of a knockout...and how is using an exercise bike and a home movie projector at the same time at all Gearloose-ian?

I find it very curious that, besides Gyro and the Beagles having been rendered employing their DuckTales character designs, despite this ostensibly being a product of Marvel having the "modern" license, these two gags only included "classic" Barks characters, and no "modern" DT-exclusive creations like Launchpad or Webby!

Next up: Part Five (of Five), followed by a supplemental entry... Stay tuned...

-- Ryan

Saturday, December 22, 2012

[SPOILERS!!!] A Muppet Family Christmas and its MAJOR Fraggle Rock continuity paradox...

This Christmas television special (featuring not only "the" Muppets of The Muppet Show and pretty much anything else ever branded "Muppet", but the Muppet cast of Sesame Street...and the Fraggle Muppets of Fraggle Rock, which is where I and my looming rant come in...) first aired -- according to Wikipedia -- on December 16th, 1987. It's pertinent to note that this was several months after the very last episode of Fraggle Rock, "Change of Address", was first broadcast (specifically, on March 30th, 1987); that allows enough lead time where it seems a safe bet (though not a given fact) that this Christmas special was conceived subsequent to, after five season, Gobo, Wembley, and the others' acclaimed TV series had been called a wrap. (The relevance of this timing should become apparent soon...)


Sunday, December 16, 2012

a (linguistically impaired) review: Topolino #2975 (Dec. 4th, 2012) -- Part Two

...quick! Better get on with this, or it will wind up yet another thing I never finished!

re: "l'avventura nella giungla oscura". 25 pages. Written by Augusto Macchetto. Drawn by Sergio Astenti.

At first glance (and as I'm accustomed to not minding the story titles when reading Topolino, as I can', can't read them...), I assumed this was "officially" a Mickey Mouse story that, as is the norm in this day and age, in atuality sees Mickey and Minnie as the co-leads. Turns out...nope, I was mistaken. It's actually a Minnie Mouse "solo" adventure story, at that!

The setup: for some reason, Minnie is leaving on an expedition with a team of archeologists/professors/whatever to a jungle/rainforest/whatever to find some sort of elusive Bigfoot/wild ape/whatever entity. Mickey appears on the first couple of pages -- for some reason, he's portrayed as Minnie's hapless, bungling boyfriend who's turning her meeting the rest of the expedition team at the airport to board their flight into an embarrassing disaster. (Was this written for Daisy and Donald?!)

Anyway, from what I gather, it appears that, over the course of the expedition, the rest of the expedition team is kind of inept, and so they make some bad decisions/choices, and dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole that seems pretty difficult to climb out of; i.e., they're screwed. But then, it appears, Minnie figures stuff out and solves everything.

 Then, in the last few panels, Mickey greets her upon her return flight's arrival at the airport, gaga-eyed, supplicative, and exceedingly relieved: clearly, during the entirety of her absence, he's been non-functional and desperate to her again. Er, is there something I've lost in (sub-)translation? ...something in the text explicitly relating that this is meant to be a "turning on the head" of the stereotypical hero-heroine dynamic? And if so...given the modern canonized take on Mickey and Minnie in comics (Italian and otherwise), why are they being made an example of here? (If that's even what's going on; I really have no idea, one way or the other.)

The plot, from my pedestrian vantage point, appears to be nothing groundbreaking, but clever enough. The art is disorted, but not in the angular, Cavazzano-esque variety; it's more rounded, but somewhat squashed, as well as rather cluttered and busy. (But  as far as "cluttered and busy" goes, it's sparse in comparison to, say, Don Rosa...) It's appealing and likeable enough.


Two more stories to go -- both heavily tilted on the comedy/farce end of the spectrum....

re: "Fino all'ultima frittella". 7 pages. Written by Marco Bosco. Drawn by Marco Mazzarello.

Fethry and Jubal Pomp indulge indulge in a shared delusion of grandeur (that has something to do with opening a diner), and, much to his lament, rope an unwitting Donald into the operation. At the end of the story, city inspectors/officials/whatever show up to close the joint down...because Fethry and Jubal had never bothered to get (any of) the requisite permit(s). This is news to Donald, and, as I recall, it prompted him to do something to the effect of tearing his hair (er, feathers...) out, or repeatedly slamming his head against the wall/countertop/hard surface of some type/whatever.

Between the comically foolish behavior of Fethry and Jubal, Donald's comically-played reservations, reluctance, and ultimate bemoaning and regretting, and the frenzied, "zany" art (of the "angular" variety; see above), this "filler piece" is, from wall to wall, unabashed silliness. Admittedly -- though it was from a combination of legitimately being amused by the story on its own terms and rolling my eyes at it for being so trite --  one way or the other, it did put me in a slightly giggly mood...which set the stage for our last item of concern...


re: "176-PdP sei dei nostri". 30 pages. Written by Valentina Camerini. Drawn by Andrea Lucci.

Who doesn't role their eyes upon realizing that they're subjected to yet another retread of the "mistaken identity" (or, considering post-1950's sci-fi/fantasy pop culture, "body switch") trope? I'm not sure if it was the (yet again) frenzied, "zany" art (of the "angular" variety), but witnessing the hullabaloo that follows when Scrooge and a Beagle Boy accidentally trade their outer shells/visages exacerbated my giggliness that had started in the previous story. (Naturally, the Beagle can only stay true to his inner nature...flash-forward a day or two, and Scrooge [as he's literally seen as the perpetrator!] has become notorious, and wanted by the law, for a brash string of burglaries!)

Great characterization: 1. The interaction between the Beagle Boys and Grandpa Beagle (who's swelled-head, condescending but myopic leadership of the rest of the gang was a nice touch). 2. Scrooge at his wits end over the fact that he's been pubicly declared a criminal for robbing himself. 3. The panicked, confused behavior of Donald, the nephews, Scrooge's butler, and Scrooge's secretary as they try to make sense of, and figure out a way to resolve, this mess.

In short: an overused premise...refreshingly, enjoyably, skillfully used in an effort that's very spirited, tightly-constructed, acutely characterized, strikingly drawn, considerably original, actually funny way. Kudos, Camerini and Lucci. (Valentina and Andrea...both females? Not sure, but if so, an all-female writer-artist team in Duck comics is a rarity.)


Whew...done! (By the way, I've been subscribing to Topolino for the past few months, and every few issues, there's a bona fide gem. I'd like to -- and hopefully will -- go back and cover a couple of those in the near-future.)

-- Ryan

Friday, December 14, 2012

a (linguistically impaired) review: Topolino #2975 (Dec. 4th, 2012) -- Part One

What better way to relax the pressure on myself in writing my first post in months by reviewing a comic book that I can't even read?

As we all know, Topolino's a really big thing in Italy. Big enough that not only does a new issue comes out every week, but each one is comprised of approximately 150 pages of original Duck and Mouse comic book content.

Here's the cover of the most recent issue in my possession, #2975, released 10 days ago (according to Inducks):

The cover art represents this issue's lead story, which I guess is called "Brutfagor". Not the sepia motif -- it's used in every panel of the respective story, which is set in Paris in the 1920's (at least, I think that "anni 20" means the 1920's...), deliberate establishing an "antique"/"retro" context. Now, while the protagonist is recognizable to unprivileged Americans such as ourselves as Donald Duck, and if we've read the Ultra-Heroes issue of the BOOM! run of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, we'd be confident in identifying said protagonist as being, more specifically, Donald in his Duck Avenger guise ... and given that this is obviously a period piece, we'd think it a safe bet that this is a time travel story. How naive we are! The protagonist is actually someone known as "Fantomius" ... whom ... er, I guess ... is an antecedent of Donald/Duck Avenger ... or something. (And I'm actually pretty iffy as to if the heroine is supposed to be the equivalent of Daisy or not ... and I'm just gonna leave the matter alone ...)

Anyway, the story's hook involves an ominous, black-clad figure that appears every night (or at least with some regularity...) in a Parisian museum every night, freaking out the security guards. So, Donald and Daisy Fantomius and whoever-this-chick-is become proactive and hide out in the museum at night, exposing the ominous black-clad figure as having all along been the dorky antiques dealer across the street who had access to the underground tunnels between his shop and the museum. Er, it seems like, if you weren't trying to decode what's going on, this would be a really spooky, suspenseful, fast-paced, action-packed story.

Next up is an Uncle Scrooge story, "E L'Avventura Nella Giungala Oscura". Scrooge drags Donald and the nephews (I never say "Huey, Dewey, and Louie" ... if you don't know who I mean when I say "the nephews", you're reading the wrong blog...) into the wetlands of Ecuador, in pursuit of some sort of ancient/historical relic/treasure ... hey, I like this premise! And this cast! For some inexplicable reason, I'm really down with both! Now, despite the standardized Duck adventure trappings, writer Carlo Panaro has devised a succession of original conflicts and plot twists. Coupled with Ottavio Panor's (brothers?) exaggerated, squash-and-stretchy, in-your-face art, the story is dynamic, spirited, and fun ... and just original enough for the seasoned Duck adventure reader. (, if only I actually knew exactly what it was about, what's going on, and what the characters are saying!)


There's a few more stories in this issue yet ... to be continued!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guess who I didn't vote for today!

Those who knew me during George W. Bush's presidency and were familiar with my opinion of his administration might expect that I'd be inclined or predisposed to championing Obama. In actuality, I voted for a third-party candidate in 2008, but tepidly welcomed Obama's innauguration with a healthy mix of hopefulness (heh) and scepticism.

By the outset of 2012, it was obvious to me that my scepticism was warranted; Obama had given me several really big reasons to oppose him, and virtually no reasons to support him. I've stayed consistent, while all of the people at the anti-war protests in 2003 have proven fickle and blinded by partisanship.

When it comes to the crimes and injutsices Obama has commited, let  me count the ways:

1. Not just renewing Bush's reviled Patriot Act, but expanding it, too.

2. Bush sold war as war. Wannabe neocons/wannabe war hawks ate it up. Obama has continued and amplified Bush's interventionist, "We're the BIG GUYS on the block!" foreign policy, but he's been far more covert about it ... and that which he does acknowledge to the public, he spins as humanitarian efforts.

First of all, in 2007-08, Obama ran as an anti-war candidate, and made promises to return U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He, his administration, and his campaign say that he's came through on Iraq, and play up that they have some sort of really nifty, brainy longterm scheme to withdraw U.S. troops gradually ... when in actuality, they significantly escalated and prolonged the war in Afghanistan.

The Obama camp's line on Iraq is particularly disingenuous -- dubious, even. Consider: on February 7th, 2012, the Washington Post reported that "[t]he CIA is expected to maintain a large clandestine presence in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the departure of conventional U.S. troops as part of a plan by the Obama administration to rely on a combination of spies and Special Operations forces to protect U.S. interests in the two longtime war zones."

To make this easier for myself, I'll copy and paste some of bulletpoints from their "Obam Fact Speech", piggybacking their built-in links, some of which have further links, so you can follow the trail yourself and discover that this is actually verifiable, on-the-record information.

  • Waged war on Libya without congressional approval.
  • Started a covert, drone war in Yemen.
  • Escalated the proxy war in Somalia.
  • Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan.
  • Maintained a presence in Iraq even after "ending" the war.
  • Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan.
  • Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries.

I'll let Webster Tarpley elaborate:

Speaking of anti-war activism, remember Cindy Sheehan? She's still anti-war, and so, logically, she's anti-Obama. Here's Tarpley and Sheehan on the matter:

The left didn't want Sheehan around anymore, once Obama was elected. Being anti-war had become just so passe:

3. Very shortly after taking office, Obama signed an executive order to shut down Guantanamo Bay. Things looked good: the anti-war humanitarian Obama of his campaign was proving to be the real deal. Now, in Guantanamo, detainees -- who are allegedly suspected of being bogeymen terrorists (and probably a whole bunch of Middle Easterners whom U.S. intelligence officers know full well aren't terrorists, but the CIA is a really twisted bunch) -- are denied the innate rights of due process and humane treatment.
Four years later: Guantanamo is still in full operation. I can't help but picture Obama, when in private, crows uproariously over how he suckered with all that "Can't we all just get along?" baloney.
4. Obama actually has a -- get this -- a "secret kill list". Sounds like the behavior of a caricature of a tyrannical dictator in a dystopian novel or film, right? Or like something all those kooky anti-government militia types in the middle of the country would dream up, right? (Actually, there's anti-government types who are softspoken activist filmmakers who are commendable researchers and are working to expose injustices and not let the perpretators go accounted for.)

5. Obama likes killing innocent civilians by remote control. Here, instead of getting impatient by my fumbling attempt to teach you about this subject, I'm sure might find it more palatable if it's relayed by Abby Martin.

Abby's acutely aware of the irony of Obama having won a Nobel Peace Prize. (It's a lot like ... well, George W. Bush winning a Nobel Peace Prize.)

And here's Ben Swann, a local TV news reporter from Cincinatti (and an outstanding one), covering this issue:

6. This past New Year's Eve, when few would be paying attention, "President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield."

Radio host Alex Jones was on top of this right away, posting an alarm-sounding YouTube video on New Year's Day:

Here's an NDAA tutorial courtesy of, again, Ben Swann:

Abby, of course, also knows what's up:

And, tying in some of the above-discussed jobs, here's Swann being heroic:

Now, if you're an Obama supporter, a lot of this might be new to you. You might be convinced this is rightwing propaganda. It's not. These are all matters of fact (regardless of the opinion of anyone appearing in any of the videos I've linked), and I'm not villifying Obama just because he's a Democrat. I have staunch anti-war, pro-human rights principles. That's where I'm coming from. It's true that I resent Obama for his crimes and his supporters for their ignorance, so it may seem like I am an "opponent". Given all of free passes and continued adoration he gets, can you blame me?

Here's a clever experiment executed by Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange: approach people in Times Square and ask if they support Obama. If they say yes, cite all of the things discussed above (drones, the NDAA, the kill list, etc.), but attribute to Romney. Even though this is the first time they've heard about any of this, they immediately accept it as fact and are not shy about adamently decrying these policies. When Luke reveals the truth to them, their reactions suggest the proverbial deer in headlights. Some even do a 180 and accuse Luke of lying, even though they had no qualms about taking Luke's word for it when they thought they were being fed new reasons to revile Romney.

No matter what the outcome of today's electio, this will stand as a summation of what I observed last year, and the conclusions I could only draw. If Obama wins, some of the rabid abortion-on-demand-demanding Obamanoids that I know would surely relish me "losing". They'll be shoot out of luck if they expect me to scrap my principles and ethics, though. As a civil rights activist from our shared history said, "you can't kill an idea."

I'll leave you with a short video making light of all of this madness. Ceasing to be against stuff that you used to be against -- or at least quieting down about it -- when "your" party is in power is inane. Here's Alex Jones, capturing the absurdity of partisanship (and not principle) perfectly:

See you tomorrow, when we'll know (well, maybe...) the election results...

-- Ryan

Sunday, November 4, 2012

article about Carl Barks from another blog...

Here's an outstanding post that cuts to the chase as to how awesome Carl Barks is. (If you don't already realize how awesome he is, read it. If you already do realize how awesome he is, it's like porn.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Neal Adams' Batman: Odyssey -- A Defense

You know what you could do that would make you really cool online? Trash Neal Adams' Batman: Odyssey.

You know what would make you even cooler? If you were to review Batman: Odyssey without acknowledging that it was the duo of Denny O'Neil and this very same Neal Adams that created the character of  Ra's Al Ghul and Talia Al Ghul, both of whom -- alas, largely due to Hollywood and the video game industry -- are now popularly seen as unequivocally integral to the Batman mythology. Despite the (unlikely) coincidence that the problematic, thorny, irreconcilable Batman-Ra's-Talia love-hate triangle forms the very crux of Odyssey's plot, you'd be a fool not to strive for "cred" by writing some place on the Internet as though Neal Adams were some senile, doting old kook ... which, even if Adams were such, he and O'Neil are wholly responsible for the very existence of two (out of three total!) of the aforementioned (possibly fatally) interwined, incompatible characters. (And besides Ra's and Talia, there's surely a whole bunch of stuff in Odyssey that we take for granted as part of the Batman universe [any of `em, even that of the atrocious "New 52"...] and mythology that we're indebted to Adams for...)

But, I mean, we all have been told that the harrowing Dark Knight Returns and the unreadable, pretentious Arkham Asylum set the bar for Batman "graphic novels" impossibly high, right? Knowing that, sahem on Neal Adams for not accepting that Batman has moved on without and that he's unworthy of a new Batman story featuring his creations Ra's and Talia Al Ghul, right ? I mean, living under the shadow cast by the landmark, apparently unanimously-celebrated (scroll down...) "Hush", an old fuddy-duddy like Adams has a lot of nerve asserting that he can tell a new Batman story, right?

Come on already. If you're not hopelessly passé like Neal "whoever" Adams is, here's a first-rate example of the type of self-reflection that would drive a Batman story (particularly a 12-issue one):
“Woah, that way totally crazy, unthinkable thing that just happened totally could only have been masterfully planned and executed so as to manipulate me ... which I'm just gonna allow it to do, 'cause it will be behind everything that I think, say, and/or do from now. The most important question ever is: what’s REALLY going on here?! How can I be sure that the world-renowned landscapist that I hired to maintain the Wayne Estate grounds REALLY mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedges, or if he just made it APPEAR that he had? This is a life-defining personal crisis ... and it very well may unlock all the secrets of the universe., really, I swear, if you know what to look for, I'm at this very moment right at the very center of the BIGGEST THING EVER. That means When the Joker and Harley Quinn shows up and do Joker and Harley Quinn stuff, that's just what they WANT you to think is happening. They're mere pawns in the BIGGEST THING EVER, which revolves entirely around me. I know it. I can sense it. I can feel it. I can see it (but not fully; not enough). And it’s taking its toll on me. Mentally and physically, I am being worn down to a point beyond what should have been my very last reserves. I have been outwitted and defeated. This is even bigger than the last year-long storyline with all the contrived crossover issues that you couldn't keep track of where this happened to me.”

Well, the thing is ... wordy-by-word, the above modus operandi interpretation applies equally to "Hush" and Odyssey. ("Hush" is in quotes because it was a story published in Batman. Odyssey is in italics because it was its own mini-series.) Seriously, 100% of that is what Batman is thinking in both stories. And, NO, I will NOT retract that ... not ANY of it. Just chew that over, already...
At the outset of Odyssey, "that way totally crazy thing that just happened" is ... (drumroll, please, if you'll entertain me) ... someone in a really good Riddler costume doing a really good Riddler impersonation firing a bullet into a child. Not preventing that from happening really infuriates Batman, nearly driving him psychotic and coming within a hairsbreadth of killing someone. But then, he takes a deep breath, and realizes that'd be a bad thing to do. ("That would've been exactly what THEY wanted ... it would've been exactly what THEY had planned ... it was meticulously orchestrated for the very purpose of driving me to do THAT WHICH I'D SWORE TO NEVER DO ... and it nearly DID!" [Paraphrased. But not that far off.]) 

On the other hand, at the outset of "Hush", "that way totally crazy thing that just happened" is ... (another drumroll, I implore you!) ... a rope breaking in two. (Yes, okay. It was a Bat-Rope, which are supposed to be uncuttable, or something. Well, there has to be the occasional bad batch, right?) Now, after what Bane put Batman through in "Knightfall", I can't really blame him for being paranoid (even though releasing everyone who'd been imprisoned Arkham seems way more of a coup than making one cut through a rope).(But in regards to "Hush" by itself, I'm not sure what's kookier: Batman being convinced that a shoddy rope breaking in half meant that Killer Croc doing Killer Croc stuff, Joker and Harley doing Joker and Harley stuff, Batman and Catwoman getting it on, and Batman and Superman doing "contrasting archetypes" stuff was all part of some intricate grand scheme ... or the fact that it really was all part of some intricate grand scheme.)

But, I digress. My point is ... well, let me put it to you like this: you're more likely to suspect that "there's more to this than meets the eye" when, A), you think it's unfathomable that swinging thousands of feet in the air between skyscrapers using a rope would prove hazardous, or, B), you're a superhero and you're in the process of beating up a villain that you've beaten up hundreds of times before and so he's practically family to you, but then it's revealed to you that you're actually beating up someone doing an uncanny impersonation of said villain, and your resulting confusion throws you off your game and you fail to prevent a little girl from getting shot. Hmm, in which of the above two scenarios seems more likely to have been intricately orchestrated and coordinated? I'm going with the one involving a REALLY good actor with a REALLY good costume-and-makeup job.

Don't get me wrong -- after each installment of "Hush"'s twelve-month run in Batman, I couldn't WAIT for the next one. I'm just saying: it's an awesome story, if you don't think about it too much ...  but if you do, what semblance there is of a plot seems pretty nonsensical. So why should the nonsencial "Hush" be celebrated, but the almost-as-(but actually less)-nonsensical Odyssey be maligned
Well, one thing that "Hush" does NOT share in common with Odyssey is that about half of the latter takes place in a realm at the center of the Earth in which dinosaurs, Cro-Magnon tries, and mythological Egyptian deities (or what seem to be such) still live and thrive. From what I gather, this really agitates readers who see Adams as "shoehorn[ing] his expanding Earth conspiracy theory into a Batman comic."

But the thing is ... this story doesn't push any type of ideology or belief system insofar as species thought extinct and undiscovered parts of the world any more than The Lost World or King Kong. Maybe Odyssey was the first fictional story -- let alone the first fantasy story, or perhaps first comic book -- that any of its most vocal detractors had ever read.

-- Ryan

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Greatly-appreciated homage in IDW's Popeye #6!

When I was a child in the `80's, the first VHS tape that my family ever owned was one of those low-budget, EP mode-using, approximately 30-minutes-in-length hodgepodge of (bad prints of) vintage animated shorts that had fallen into the public domain, released by small VHS entrepreneurs and sold in department stores. Specifically, it was a Popeye-exclusive tape, consisting of the two classic color Fleischer featurettes (17 minutes each), "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor" and "Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves". Within the next year or two, I watched both countless. But in the two-plus decades since, whenever I revisit them, I appreciate them all the more. The animation is fluid (the Fleischer-invented technique of rotoscoping was surely used at times), the comic sensibilities and timing are delightful, and the three-dimensional miniature model sets used for select scenes are ingenuous. (I believe that the cels were shot between two upright glass panes placed at the appropriate point upon these sets, or something like that.)

Here's Popeye and the Forty Thieves' leader, "Abu Hassan" ("played" by Bluto), in a standoff:

(Note: This is not one of the scenes using the miniature sets.)

I was delighted to find that IDW's Popeye #6, released last week (and which, like every issue thus far, comes highly recommended by this blog), pays visual tribute to "Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves"! (But I won't spoil it, in a specific way!)

If you're at all a Popeye fan, buy this thing (and any other IDW's Popeye and Popeye Classics that you can!)

-- Ryan

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In memory of the REAL Oliver Queen/Green Lantern...

This morning, while checking my e-mail, I was subjected to a web advertisement for -- as I surmised -- tonight's premiere of a new prime time action/drama series on "The CW" apparently entitled Arrow.

For a second, I thought nothing of it. Then, as things started to click, I did a double-take. It went something like, "Wait ... the font used for the title is distinctly green ... oh, no ... is this what I think it is?" Turns out ... yeah, it was.

I'm sorry, but Oliver Queen works best for me as a middle-aged guy. I'd much rather see him played by Liam Neeson or Sean Connery (those might not be the best choices, but off the top of my head, they're close enough to what I have in mind to give you an idea, I think...) than some strapping young "hottie".

I may be wrong, but could it be that the more youthful Green Arrow/Ollie Queen of The New 52, a "reboot" that was in effect just over a year ago now, was coordinated with the development of this new post-Smallville "teen"-geared TV series?


Here's Oliver/GA the way I prefer to think of him, as rendered by Neal Adams:

And later, by Mike Grell:

Of course, the bearded version of the character was a redesign, courtesy of Adams (first used for Brave in the Bold #85 (Aug.-Sept. 1969), its cover shown above). The character had been around since More Fun Comics #73 (Nov. 1941), and had pretty much always looked more or less like this:

Arguably, the original conception of GA, with his short hair and clean-cut, boyish face, is closer to the New 52 version than the Adams/Grell/etc. version! So who am I to complain about the "reboot"? Just some stubborn ol' crank, I guess! :D

-- Ryan

Friday, October 5, 2012

Who let all these cretins and floozies in the money bin?!

Scrooge is gonna have to pull a "'Back to the Klondike' flashback scene" whenever he gets back from wherever he is!* (Uh oh ... you don't think they have him held captive somewhere, do you? ... maybe in Guantanamo?!) :-O

(Not sure of the cartoon's origin, but I came across courtesy of We Are Change, who have "shared" it on Facebook.)

* (Actually, Scrooge has no right to be upset -- none of it's his. He didn't built it.)  ;)  :D

-- Ryan

...hmm, haven't posted in a while, eh?

...thus, here's a "breaking myself back in"/"getting my hands dirty again" post ... (a new, REAL post will follow soon...)


I consider myself a huge, lifelong Barks fan ... and a huge, lifelong Rosa fan ... and -- more and more, with each passing day, week, and year! -- a huge, lifelong European Duck comics fan (hello, Branca, Jippes, and Verhagen!) ... but, in regards to each of the above, whether considering them individually or as a whole, I suspect there are those who would consider my being a lifelong DuckTales fan to be a "betrayal" and a "sin"!  :D 

To further incriminate me ... though I can more than see its flaws, I persistently remain fond of DuckTales: The Movie! I was eight years old when it was released, and my father took me to see it on opening day. (Quite generous of him!) The following spring, the VHS of the movie was waiting for me in the Easter basket given to me my by my grandmother. (Quite generous of her, too!) I'm surprised that I never wore out the tape -- it may still just hold the record for being the movie I've seen the most number of times.

Worse yet ... not only do I like that not-very-well-regarded movie ... but Dijon and Merlock have never relinquished hold of (as the cliché goes) "a special place in my heart". Oh, I now recognize that to an extent, they're standard, cutout cartoon villains: evil sorcerer wanting to "take over the world" and bumbling comic relief sidekick ... but I still just like `em!

(...hence the overly-ambitious fanfic sequel I gave a shot at writing when I was 13, which I still think had some "awesome" scenes, despite its, as I consider it, er, "tragic", er, "publication" and "distribution" history ... which was largely due to an abysmal, massive editorial oversight and failure that was never fully owned up to or even so much as apologized for ... [...unless you count an "Oops!"...]) (...well, finally got that one off my chest!)

...anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I used up some idle time by browsing through the eBay search results for "DuckTales", and came across a set of DuckTales: The Movie "German lobby cards". Some of them were stills representing my favorite scenes, moments, and characters ... so I couldn't resist clicking the "Buy It Now" button...

They arrived today. I've taken the liberty of scanning my favorites, so have a look!






"Collie Baba, you old dog -- I finally found it!"


"...besides, I don't think he knows about me yet!" (...a line actually said before Scrooge is actually in the room, but I couldn't resist -- it's quite possibly my favorite!)


"Silence. I wish you would cast him out of my house." (Christopher Lloyd, sending chills down my spine, every time.)*


... think I should get at least these five framed.  ;)

* Christopher Lloyd is a featured guest at NYCC this year. ...considering that not only did he voice Merlock, but played Dr. Emmett Brown (if not my favorite fictional character of all time, definitely my favorite live-action movie character and performance of all time) ... well, let alone catching up with longtime friends, that's a pretty good reason to go, right there! (Hmm ... and I should really bring along those of these "lobby cards" featuring Merlock, and see if I'll find a chance to ask him if he'd autograph them ... asking him about the experience of voicing Merlock would be surreal!) (Maybe that I found and purchased these on eBay a couple weeks ago was fate ... well, we'll see!)  :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

...scratch "imminent" (see previous entry!) -- Chris Barat's DuckTales At 25 retrospective has begun!

The stage-setting post can be found here. Like Peter Fernbaugh's retrospective on the very same subject, which got underway just last week, this will be an ongoing project, with an in-depth post for each of the series' 100 episodes. (What "synergy", that they started within a few days of each other, and will be running concurrently -- it's gonna be a good year-plus!)

For a good while throughout the early-to-mid-`90's, I was regular buyer and reader of Comics Scene. Certainly, a considerable number of the magazine's pages were devoted to contemporary Marvel and Image (and Marvel-esque and Image-esque) fare that wasn't to my taste or interest. But in any given issue, there was inevitably animation, feature film, and even some comic articles and news briefs on subjects important to me. So, purchasing and perusing each successive issue became obligatory.

(I recall a great article on Bone, published just as Jeff Smith's exquisite Walk Kelly-meets-Tolkien fantasy-adventure serial was first generating some "buzz", which paradoxically, said article served as a part of. In the article, Smith was quoted proclaiming Carl Barks as one of his foremost influences. Additionally, he explained that though "Barks is the best, bar-none", "you never got the sense that the ducks were in real danger" ... and in contrast, he wanted to give readers the sense that threats to his characters' mortality  probably has something." In these quotes, I kind of saw a man after my own heart, and if I hadn't read them, I may not have ever been as endeared to Bone as I became!)

During the twilight of the pre-Internet age, a regular Comics Scene feature, Bob Miller's "Animation Scene"column, comprised of blurbs on upcoming animated TV series and feature films, and other assorted industry news, was to me something akin to a lifeline. I hinged on every word Miller wrote. When I first read his tidbit that "two dedicated fans, Christopher E. Barat and Joe Torcivia" had self-published a DuckTales series' guide and included an address to contact the authors at, my heart jumped. I was annoyed that in syndication, the episodes were constantly shuffled around, so that I had no idea of the original airing order -- despite the fact that I had been watching since Day One. In fact, in my first letter to "Launch Pad Publications", I think the first thing I asked was if original air dates were included! (...and, oh, yeah, I used it to correct the completely fictional air dates cited in the DuckTales Wikipedia article. Internet: you're welcome.)

When I received my copy (and I believe my heart was racing as I opened the package), I was delighted to find that it was so much more than a string of episode titles, air dates, and story synopses. Besides a comprehensive introduction and several meticulous appendixes, an in-depth assessment was written about each episode, averaging two-to-three pages each (not counting the episode summary that preceded each analysis). I was absolutely riveted.

Oh ... I haven't established that at the time, I was 12 or so, have I? As young as I was, the book's episode critiques inspired me to wonder how it was that, in fact, a "critic" thought; thus, I began teaching myself, whether faced with an episode of a TV series (animated or otherwise), feature film (animated or otherwise), comic, or novel, how to break down and distinguish the plot, structural, conceptual characterization, and (if applicable -- i.e., not applicable to a novel) visual, etc. components. Without this catalyst, my ninth grade English teacher may not have said that I was writing at a college level.

That book was and is very important in my life on more counts yet: it's (obviously) how I became acquainted Chris and Joe, and led to me joining, at 13, the WTFB APA. (With boundless aspirations but the youngest member, I began having debilitating anxiety attacks during my tenure as a member, and left during my first year of high school, a DuckTales fan-fic serial that I'd started left uncompleted. For years afterwards, I felt disgusted with myself for that -- I think I've finally made peace with myself for it.)

Indeed, through our blogs, having revitalized my contact with Chris and Joe, and not mentioned made great new acquaintances like Geo, Pete Fernbaugh, and Joseph/ComicBookRehab, and feeling very accomplished in the work I've done thus far in grad school (a creative writing program -- one semester to go!), I've often felt that things have finally balanced out and settled in the "right" place.

...especially when you consider that with the advent of Chris' retrospective, it's kind of like I'm reading The DuckTales Index for the first time...again! I've always liked Chris' writing, but there's something about DuckTales where, when he writes about it, he's on fire! Maybe it's just because I'm partial to the subject. Either way, I'm really looking forward to both his and Pete's ongoing retrospectives. Here's to both!

-- Ryan

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fernbaugh's DuckTales homage is underway; Barat's is imminent...

I would be remiss if I did not plug, endorse, advocate on behalf, express my enthusiasm for, etc. Pete Fernbaugh and his  Caught at the Crossroads blog's recently-commenced and now-ongoing DuckTales' 25th-anniversary retrospective, the inaugural entry of which can be found here. To my understanding, Pete plans to write a post for every episode. The afore-linked first one is a thorough, on-the-mark A+ effort, and there's no reason to not expect the same of future entries.

Chris Barat, via his News and Views blog, will soon be launching his own DuckTales 25th-anniversary retrospective. I've long considered Chris the leading authority on the series(*), but this is based on writings that appeared in print in the late `80's and the early `90's and have never made it onto the Internet. Pete's and Chris' efforts will go a long way to "fix" the woeful under-representation of DuckTales coverage and presence on the Internet. For too long, a completely fictional list of original episode air dates was in circulation, and can still be found here and there.

(*) The older writings that I'm thinking of were collaborations with Joe Torcivia. In all reality, Joe is no less of an expert on the subject than Chris. But because I've always had the impression that Chris is, to whatever degree, fonder of the series than Joe is, and has been outspoken as an advocate of it, I think of Chris as THE DuckTales "guy".

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Scrooge McDuck's political values ( take, anyway!)

Just read "Time of Reckoning", written by Andreas Phil and drawn by Massimo Fecchi, by way of a newly-acquried copy of Gemstone's Donald Duck Adventures #1 (Jully 2003)

The scenario: Scrooge has been teleported to a dystopian future, where Duckburg has fallen under the tyranny of an artificial intelligence. Scrooge has found refuge with the surviving "natural-born duck" resistance fighters. For a particular reason, the following exchange, on page 17, jumped out at me:


I.D. (the enigmatic resistance leader): "Ego abolished all forms of currency, replacing them with credit cards and electronic banking. As a symbol of the new order, he destroyed all your bills and coins!

Scrooge: "I'll turn that chip-head into a waffled iron for this!"

I.D.: "You see, we have the same goal -- the return of cold, hard cash to Duckburg!"

...well, now more than ever, I'm convinced that Scrooge would be inclined to voting for Ron Paul!  :D  ;)


(And I can see Scrooge as a former Rush Limbaugh listener, until it was obvious that Rush had become an entirely compromised, yet shameless party shill, despite the fact that "both" of the establishment parties are beholden to the same bailed-out, "too-big-to-fail" banks*. Thus, naturally, Scrooge now tunes in to hear the broadcasts of Alex Jones instead.)  :D  ;)

* (Those crooked, corrupt, untouchable international banks, with their Mafia-like operating practices, are, of course, owned by Rockerduck! Hehehe!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Barks' "series finale"?

Moments ago, I finished reading, for the first time in my life, "The Doom Diamond", originally printed in Uncle Scrooge #70 (Gold Key, July 1967) the very last Uncle Scrooge adventure that Carl Barks both wrote and drew. (In the following issue, the finished version of "King Scrooge the First", the final entry in Barks' historic 15-year Uncle Scrooge run, was rendered by Tony Strobl, following Barks' thumbnails.) (And, of course, 30 years later came "Horsing Around with History", but that's another chapter of Barks' story...)

I always figured that each of the twilight stories of Barks 1942-62 run were "just another mid-`60's Barks story". However, I've found that "The Doom Diamond" exhibits a couple of very striking signs of a bowing-out.

First, all too poignantly, in light of Barks' imminent retirement, is, on page 2, Scrooge growing too weary, drained, and exhausted to persist in combatting the Beagle Boys' latest scheme to rob him. (A team of blue jays that they've specially trained are, in constant rotation, invading the bin, each bird, on each visit, snatching a single coin and bringing it to the Beagles' hideout.) The ensuing Scrooge-versus-the-Beagle-Boys conflict appeared to be rehash of "The Paul Bunyan Machine", etc. But the story's resolution essentially shocked me for being the remarkably apropos, understated, wise, reflective "iris-out" that I interpreted it as. B

asically, with less than two pages to go, the ducks are stranded at sea, while the Beagles rejoice that they're home-free, the money bin theirs for the taking. But then, they overhear a fateful radio transmission:"Scrooge McDuck, the financier, is presumed lost in a terrible storm in the South Pacific! Unless he returns shortly, Duckburg officials will remove his vast fortune to Fort Knox!" Devastated, the Beagles are forced to come to terms with that fact that if they don't rescue Scrooge, they'll have no chance of ever stealing any or all of his cash! We fade out on the Beagles loafing about as their trained blue jays continue to chip away at the bin's content, as a flustered Scrooge desperately continues to strain himself in fighting off the blue jays -- if this isn't Barks, in parting, professing (perhaps subconsciously) that a certain existential order will always be maintained and, when temporarily broached, restored, and assuring us that his characters -- on an archetypal level -- will live on just as we've long known and love them, well, then I don't know what it is! :)

-- Ryan

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"The Rain God of Uxmal" and "High Jinks on the Matterhorn"

I first heard of the early `80's German series Abenteuer aus Onkel Dagoberts Schatztruhe (Uncle Scrooge's Treasure Chest is generally considered the English translation of the series' title) from a letter printed in a Gladstone I letter column. The letter-writer was reporting his discovery of these 44-page adventure stories and urging Gladstone to print them. (I could've sowrn that I recently re-read said letter, but pouring through my Gladstone I comics, I haven't for the life of me been able to find it...) The "Treasure Chest" moniker and the exceptional story length imparted upon me -- whether warranted or not -- a sense of rich, lush, archaic, "classic" Uncle Scrooge adventures, and I believe that in the letters that I regularly mailed to a certain Prescott, AZ P.O. box during the Gladstone II era, these stories were amongst the material that I repeatedly hounded them about at some point including in their titles, to no avail.

(Another of my incessantly repeatedly requests, that for Scarpa's "Colussus of the Nile", may have played a part in it's ultimate serialized appearance in Uncle Scrooge Adventures #37-38. I didn't have as much luck getting them to print Mickey Mouse material in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories other than Gottfredson serials that had been published in albums -- that we all already owned -- just a couple years earlier, during the Gladstone I era ... at least until Gladstone's latter-day prestige format-era, but by that point, I was in high school, and my interest in Disney comics -- and comics and general -- had waned...for the time being.)

There were six total entries in the Treasure Chest series, originally printed between 1983 and 1988. To date, the only one to have appeared in the U.S., "The Great Paint Robbery", in Uncle Scrooge #353 (Gemstone, May 2006). "Rich, lush, archaic"? The fleet-footed, hyperactive pacing of Miguel Pujol's "follow the trail of clues"-plot drew upon real-world settings and historical and facts, but in a very passive, almost dismissive fashion, in comparison to Barks' firmly-grounded concern with specifics. À la Barks' "The Seven Cites of Cibola", "Great Paint" climaxed with the site and/or structure(s) that had been the objective of the ducks' temporarily-successful treasure hunt turning against them, self-destructing in a visually mighty-and-cataclysmic-in-scope, over-the-top fashion. Now, Barks' scheme for showing the execution of Cibola's built-in self-destruct safeguards had maintained the esoteric mystique of the story's very premise. On the other hand, "Great Paint" skewed decidedly in favor of "over-the-top", the spectacle of a continuous, seemingly unstoppable string of mammoth-sized sheets of paper being generated by a mammoth-sized printing exuding sheer silliness.

But if "Great Paint" had been depicted with stale, coloring book-worthy `70's Whitman-esque art, it would've been truly unbearable. Fortunately, that was not the case; José Miguel Tortajada Aguilar   and Maximino Tortajada Aguilar's art is dynamic, particular, involved, and versatile. Their exaggerated, wildly energized charcter poses -- uncannily unique, on a panel-by-panel basis -- are a delight to behold; and their backgrounds, especially in "wide-shot", especially those of double-sized or half-page panels, are gorgeously detailed and strikingly framed. Francisco Sabaté Montero, Marga Querol Manzano, and Maria José Sánchez Núñez's inking is positively dulcet -- see the near-noir panels during the Barcelona-set chase sequence.Ultimately, what we have is a nearly-perfected meeting point between Barks' realism and the take-things-as-far-as-possible, extreme, jagged, stylization of the Cavazzano school. The characters' poses and expressions are overdone, à la Cavazzano; but they're rendered fluidly and roundedly, à la Barks. In parallel, the panel compositions/framings/stagings tends to be overzealous, again à la Cavazzano ... but eschewing Cavazanno's starkness for a lush Barks-esque realism. In fact, this flexible "best of both worlds" sensibility is spiritually very akin to Ben Verhagen.

But despite using as much fancy language as I can to describe "The Great Paint Robbery", the bottom line is that, after the heightened, unrequited expectations I'd long had of the Uncle Scrooge's Treasure Chest series, were ultimately disappointed by what I felt was a  predominance of slapstick and silliness.


Last week, while playing around on Amazon, I decided to run a search for "Uncle Scrooge", to see what would come up. Before long, I discovered the British editions of the first two Uncle Scrooge's Treasure Chest stories (and the only two of which British versions exist), "The Rain God of Uxmal" and "High Jinks on the Matterhorn".


Used copies were (and still are, for anyone who might be interested) being sold at considerably cheap prices, so I couldn't help but order one of each title, especially given the current Duck comics dry spell that we're suffering in the U.S. They arrived late last week -- the copy I've acquired of "Matterhorn" is especially banged up, but both have proven entirely readable, and well-worth the several dollars that I paid for each.
Yesterday morning, I expeditiously, fervently whisked my way through both albums, enjoying them immensely. Was that due to lowered expectations, a result of my disillusioned reaction to "The Great Paint Robbery", possibly in conjunction with the desperation of the aforementioned "current Duck comics dry spell that we're suffering in the U.S."? Maybe, but either way, I'd prefer a positive spin -- that I was pre-disposed to embracing whatever would turn out to be both stories' better qualities...

Like "Great Paint", "Uxmal" and "Matterhorn" were also each written by Pujol. The plot momentum of each seem to possess an inherent casualness or fickleness, but this is deceptive -- Pujol's plotitng is, in fact, cleverly integrated. Key examples would be Donald's fruitless pursuit of bleeding backpay from Scrooge in "Uxmal" and the woodchuck (ahem...), with its "danger-indicating" emanations, that the nephews' adopt as a pet and "mascot" in "Matterhorn", both of which long seem to be mere running gags or extraneous embellishments, but ultimately come to the fore in the respective story's resolution. On the one hand, both of these subplots are near-blaringly forced... but I detect the aspiration of emulating Barksian plotting, and in truth, few could do better; the effort is commendable, indeed!

Speaking of "Donald's fruitless pursuit of bleeding backpay from Scrooge in 'Uxmal'", the adversarial, love-hate dynamic between Donald and Scrooge is close to the most well-written-and-depicted, enjoyable element of both stories...possibly one of the most lucid non-Barks realization of said dynamic that I've ever experienced. Both plots are incontovertibly driven and continuously rerouted by, and contingent upon, an all-permeating tension between Scrooge and Donald, in much the same way as "Back to the Klondike" or "The Secret of Atlantis". (Don't get me wrong,in my book, Rosa actually tops Barks...but I'd be remiss to not admit that in some of Rosa's Uncle Scrooge adventures, Donald functioned arbitrarily.) For a delectable, prime example, see the first panel of the second tier on page 30 of "Uxmal", comprised of a symetrical, mirroring image of Scrooge and Donald, in silhouette, lividly screaming their heads off at each other. (Said panel is exemplary of both books' excellent art -- for more on which, see below.) Scrooge's callous-barking-of-orders at Donald as the ol' gang scales the titular elevated-mass-of-earth of "High Jinks on the Matterhorn" evokes Rosa's infamous "Donald abuse" that occurs in some of his stories ... but unlike the more painful examples of such, where Donald's sufferings are relegated to dismissive passing backgrounds gags, Pujol and the team of artists arguably cast Donald in a sympathetic, relatable light -- practically as the protagonist -- during the sequences in question. He comes off not as obligatory comic relief, but as a full-fledged character in his own right, at odds with, and a foil to, Scrooge...frankly, the plot is repeatedly and continously pushed forward by the mutually vindicative relationship between Donald and Scrooge.

Because of both stories' (very) strong points and (high) enjoyability, I'm quite willing to overlook the clunkiness of "The Rain God of Uxmal"'s plot being incited by Scrooge falling for the bogus pitch of a two-bit, sleazy salesman whom Donald and the nephews subsequently see clear through(!!!!!); the character of Professor Muchasgracias seeming to play an extraneous role, accompanying the ducks on the ups-and-downs and twists-and-turns throughout the latter two-thirds or half of "Uxmal", until his plot purpose is abruptly made blatant in the first panel of the third-to-last page; or the directionless, "random"-seeming progression of events up through somewhere between the first half and first two-thirds of "Matterhorn". And the latter example is testimony to the ingenuity with which, as the story comes to a head, these on-the-surface very disparate factors all come deftly, breathtakingly, convincingly organically rolling together, to a point of seemingly inevitable seamless unification.

Echoing "Back to the Klondike" and "Tralla La", "High Jinks on the Matterhorn" opens on, and is spurred forward by, Scrooge being afflicted by apparent senility and/or his health and sanity impendingly hinging upon a vacation, of sorts, from his work. Much like "Back to the Klondike", the first few pages of "Matterhorn" entail wild, abrupt, erratic, virtually bipolar shifts in Scrooge's temperament ... there's an unmistakable parallel in their buildup to a doctor's visit that's underway by the third page. However, I'm going to attribute the out-of-characterness indicated by the doctor's diagnosis, "In plain English, an insatiable craving for cash. It's quite common among millionaires. They usually catch it when they've bought everything money can buy" to negligent dialoging ... Scrooge is opposed to using his money to buy virtually anything. And as a matter of fact, throughout the rest of the story, Scrooge's conundrum is clearly not that, being an extravagant spendthift (as if...), there's no purchase he hasn't indulged upon, but that there's no form of business or industry that he hasn't conquered. Thus, if the doctor had instead stated, "They usually catch it when they've exhausted all conceivable, plausible avenues of honest, legitimate entrepeneurship", we wouldn't be given the impression that he's mis-assessed Scrooge, and it would be completely consistent and thematically uniform with the rest of the story. (Overall, the dialogue in both stories wasn't too bad. See more on this subject below...)

Per Inducks, the art team on both stories is comprised of essentially all of the same participants as "The Great Paint Roberry", with some variations and, importantly, variations: 1. No Maximino Tortajada Aguilar on "The Rain God of Uxmal", but both Aguilars worked on "High Jinks on the Matterhorn". 2. If Inducks is correct, the trio of Manzano, Montero, and Núñez were exclusively the inkers of all three of the stories discussed in this post. 3. Marçal Abella Bresco and acclaimed latter-day Mickey Mouse artist Cèsar Ferioli Pelaez both contributed to drawing "Uxmal" and "Matterhorn" (whereas as "Great Paint" is sans-Ferioli and Bresco, exclusively drawn by the Aguilar duo, hinging upon Inducks' veracity).

Virtually everything that I said and praised in regards to "The Great Paint Robbery"'s art holds true for "Uxmal" and "Matterhorn": the vibrant, singular character poses and expressions, exaggerated yet exhibiting more Barksian fluidity and less Cavazanno-esque jaggedness; the striking, dynamic composition; the resplendent, refined, deliberated backgrounds; and the subtle, intricate, discretionate, effective. However, the characters are, in endless variations, rendered and poised with a a certain glistening sleekness that surpasses that of "Great Paint" in acuteness, and that I suspect reveals the hand of Ferioli. The characters -- especially Scrooge -- are very Barksian in appearance, but not in a dependent, emulative way, but in a mastered, flexible, autonomous way. And the stunning, gorgeous splash panels (many of them exceeding the standard half-page parameter, engulfing an entire three-thirds of a page), especially the several of which of the valley and city of Uxmal, have unmistakeable Barksian echoes (note, for instance, the wavy, somewhat sketchy lines that define the rocks that make up the wall of the Uxmal valley). (And let's not overlook the whole idea of a forgotten, ostracized civilization continuing a self-sustained existence in an inaccessible, hidden, deep valley...) (Also, I shouldn't let it go unmentioned that the Gearloose-invented aircraft that Donald and the nephews use -- and not without incident -- to fly to Uxmal to rescue Scrooge has a charmingly Barksian design.)

However, much like "Great Paint", "Uxmal" and "Matterhorn" flirt with Barksian realism (note that the Uxmalians aren't dogfaces but have realistic human features, and in fact closely resemble the Native Americans of "Land of the Totem Poles"), but heavily skew toward unabashed silliness. An integral plot point of "Uxmal" involves the tired, trite, uninspired coincidence of one of the main characters being mistaken for a primitive tribe's prophesized, long-awaited messiah, forcing Scrooge into the slapstick-enabling, humiliating position of being expected to perform a culture-saving raind dance". Likewise, "Matterhorn" climaxes with Scrooge being tragically undone when the mechanisms of his cheese factory (its rapid production rate hinging upon a certain highly-localized Swiss secret the ducks had inadvertently uncovered in the course of the story...) go haywire, escalating into a spectacle of ferocious, wanton destruction (its inherently ridiculous nature akin to the climax of "The Great Paint Robbery".

And yet, despite such flippant sensibilities and the aforementioned plot flaws, my feelings toward both stories is overwhelmingly positive -- the art is by and large fantastic, and though not all of the kinks were worked out, the writing is earnest, inspired and dedicated, and exhibiting admirable, completely honorable complexities.

The Gemstone version of "The Great Paint Robbery" had benefited from "Americanized" dialogue by a good friend of this blog, Chris Barat. But based upon my sole previous experience with a British Duck (and Mouse) comic, Fleetway's Mickey and Friends #9 (1996), I approached these two albums braced for the worst. I was pleasantly surprised -- though the stiff, rigid typeset lettering(!) was jarring at first, the dilague -- although some of it was fairly generic -- was often inspired, fiery, witty, and pleasingly in-character. Examples: "...and became the proud possessor of a prime plot..." ...wouldn't you know it, bona fide alliteration! Or Donald griping, "They may think this is amusing, but I'm at the end of my tether!" having a double-meaning that's apparent when seen in the context of the panel its assigned to...

...anyway...well, if you have a few extra dollars on hand, I recommend ordering used copies of these via Amazon!

-- Ryan