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 FlabbergĂ©", 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 clichĂ©). 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!