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".