Sunday, July 13, 2014

(Some of) my assorted thoughts on: Mickey and Donald #2 (Gladstone, cover date May 1988)

For the second issue of Gladstone's first double-billed (, only one has a bill...) ongoing title, the proper -- much more Gladstone I-esque -- front cover title logo is introduced; in his recreation of the 1948 Firestone Giveaway cover for M&D #1, which just happened to designate itself as Mickey and Donald, Daan Jippes closely mimicked the original's lettering design.

 This time out, we're treated to yet another vintage cover -- this time, a reprinting and recoloring (with some new background effects) of Walt Kelly's cover for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #41 (cover date Feb. 1944).

As we'd expect of Kelly, the art is full and rich, featuring very appealing renderings of the characters that are both iconic but not devoid of personality.

The gag that Kelly's drawing is based around is a variation of the familiar "Mickey as Golden Boy, whereas Donald exists so as to suffer" trope. I have to wonder, when did this whole thing actually begin? In the golden era of studio's theatrical shorts (i.e., "Clock Cleaners", "The Band Concert"), Donald was certainly the butt of his fair share of jokes, but Mickey was no charmed angel. From what I can surmise, it came about as the studio began producing fewer Mickey shorts, he -- as David Gerstein has described in his writings for the Gottfredson Library -- became more of a square, and then with the advent of the Disneyland/Walt Disney Presents/Wonderful World of Disney anthology TV series and The Mickey Mouse Club, in the way that the characters were portrayed in what original animated sequences there were, where Mickey is some sort of aloof, above-it-all ringmaster. All I can think of is the short (or was it something produced for the anthology series? That's the only place I've ever seen it, and I was very, very young) where Donald becomes insanely jealous of the nephews' enthusiasm for The Mickey Mouse Club, and hijacks the television set to replace it with "Donald Mouse!"

"The Grounded Air Taxi". 8 and 3/4 pages. Written by Call Fallberg, drawn by Jack Bradbury. From Mickey Mouse #64 (cover date Feb. 1959).

Speaking of Mickey as straight man ... no, I like this a lot more than the Bradbury story that led off #1. It features minimal adventure story trappings (unless you count a biplane), so it doesn't really disappoint. It's curious that Goofy seems to acknowledges Gottfredson continuity by suggesting that Mickey teach him to fly, but "preppy" Mickey has lost any of his plucky ambition, frequently lamenting in thought balloons things akin to, "Oh, great! ANOTHER one of Goofy's harebrained ideas!"; "I should get out of this before things go awry"; etc., even though he and Goofy mutually conceive of and pursue the ice taxi service. Mickey seems to subconsciously need to differentiate between himself and Goofy. Hmm, it seems he has a rather negative image of his supposed friend! Interesting. Very, very interesting. And telling. *takes notes*

A very simple story structure: on a couple of occasions, Mickey and Goofy (NOT Goofy alone, Mickey) lose control of the plane, and it wreaks havoc on around the lake, sending the ice fisherman and some children that had been building snowmen fleeing. Mickey and Goofy are forced to run and hide from an angry mob (who are so irate, one guy is ready to take his ax to the plane, paying no heed to racking up a vandalism charge), but everyone forgets that they were mad at them when they're able to use the plane's propeller to blow the snow off of some skiers who'd been buried in an avalanche. Interesting how the mob was out for blood, but then suddenly are so compassionate toward some complete strangers. Now, you could argue that in their eyes, the skiers were innocent, or at least hadn't "wronged" the locals the way Mickey and Goofy had, but, still, does the minimal effort Mickey and Goofy put into rescuing the skiers absolve them of their "crimes"?

On its surface, the story gives off an old-fashioned country homeyness; the aim is to instill in the reader's mind the picture of a morally black-and-white world, in which justice is so swift and prompt that if there's any sort of misunderstanding arising in animosity and conflict between individuals, someone else nearby will suddenly have their life placed in mortal jeopardy, allowing the innocent but socially-put-on-trial part(ies) to redeem themselves by coming to the rescue. And taken at face value, the plot is ready-made for a children's storybook, and charming in its rural winter setting. But it has a whole other side. The moral questions discussed above linger, and -- though fleetingly, and played off lightly -- we see man's base nature in all its rashness and fickleness. Disturbing, indeed., I'm kidding. I really did make these observations, but I'm not about to go all How to Read Donald Duck on you. That wouldn't be fair to the story's eight-and-3/4 pages, and I happen to like the old-fashioned country winter homeyness.

"A Sound Deal" by Van Horn.  4 pages. Original.

Essentially, a succession of gags each with the same motif: Donald, having taken up the job of bugle salesman, is at someone's doorstep, and each person, by their own quirk or distinguishing feature, rejects Donald or drives him away. Some of these gags are of the "Huh? Where'd that come from?" nature, but you can't say that any of them are unoriginal (except the vicious guard dog ... or is that a wolverine? Well, some sort of killer guard animal is still just as much of a cliche). The concluding twist is pretty much the very best that could be done with bugles being the sales item in question. Kudos to Van Horn, on the whole.

"Raven Mad". Story and art by Daan Jippes. Translation and script by Byron Erickson. Originally published in the 3/31/72 of the Netherlands' Donald Duck weekly. ("No. 13" on the cover, but that means its the 13th issue of 1972, which is why Inducks has it designated as "#1972-13", natch.)

Jippes doing a Mickey story! Why didn't he do this more/why doesn't he do it more! It looks GREAT! From very early in his career, so rough in comparison to his later work (especially, say, his Junior Woodchucks redrawings) -- but has more energy, momentum, elasticity, and dynamics than most anything else! The premise and gags wouldn't be much by a more limited artist, but Jippes REALLY breathes life into them. His Mickey reminds me of `40's Gottfredson ... though he's wearing the traditional red and yellow-buttoned shorts, they're "big" -- more pronounced at the bottom, bringing to mind Gottfredson's "pantsed" (I kind just made that up.) mouse. And this Mickey is no dull cipher leading a seemingly charmed existence -- he's prone to frustration, irritation, embarrassment, anger ... the story even ends with him in jail!

Just for kicks, let's look at a run-down of the comic in which this story originally appeared (cited above), per Inducks:

-- 3-page Donald story with art by Carol Voges

-- 2-page text piece using panel by Barks, Bradbury, and Strobl that seems to be some sort of faux newspaper about the Disney characters

-- Mickey strip from 2/22/62 -- I think this appears at the end of 2-page text piece

-- 4-page L'il Bad wolf story with art by Ed van Schuijlenburg

-- "The Looney Lunar gold Rush" Part Two (!!!) -- only 6 pages! They serialized it!

Only 20 measly pages. But with it being a weekly, they get more pages per month of one title than, on average, we ever have. But I would still be irritated to have the Barks stories broken up like that, and would envy Americans for getting them all in one book.

"Turkey Trot at One Whistle" by Barks -- Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #162 (cover date March 1954).

A 10-pager in which Donald is actually successful and heroic! A lesser-known story, yet with Barks, even those are gems. It's a train hold-up story with no irony intended, and its romanticism is catching. Some gorgeous scenic art.

There's two Donald Duck newspaper strips, one on the inside front cover, and the other on the outside back cover. Each is completely exemplary of its respective creators and era. Since there's only so much that can be said about them, I'll just show them to you...

Inside front cover (no letter column yet; old-school comic fans know the drill with letters usually appearing until a third issue) -- "The Bus Stops Here", 2/11/38drawn by Al Taliaferro, and Inducks says that the writing was by Homer Brightman (it seems that the original newspaper version's title was "Home, James!"):

And from the back cover (this would've appeared on all of Gladstone's books that month, so it's not really a proper part of this issue, but, aw, what the hell?) -- "The Ice Have It" 12/10/83, written by Bob Foster, art by Frank Smith:

Have a nice week, guys!

-- Ryan


  1. Ryan,

    At the time of "A Sound Deal," my appreciation of Bill Van Horn was just starting to ramp up. I wasn't at all impressed with his earliest one-page gags, but this story foreshadowed the endearing wackiness that would inform his upcoming work.


  2. Chris,

    I'm more of a Van Horn appreciator than fan -- at somewhere around age 8, when I started reading Disney comics toward the end of Gladstone I, I wasn't very enthusiastic about any of his work. If now, at 32, I were seeing "A Sound Deal" without having seen any Van Horn before, I probably would be pretty lukewarm about it. So I approach it with a favorable bias, seeing it as being from his early developing-and-emerging period. There's actually something about the raw cartooning talent and the fairly original, slightly wacky used on a basic, skeletal structure that I actually do rather like.

    -- Ryan

  3. Ryan,

    I was searching for information on "Mickey and Donald" when I came across your old post. Why did this series receive so little exposure as opposed to other Mickey and Donald comics ? It's not even mentioned in Mickey's or Donald's wiki page. I noticed two similar series "Donald and Mickey" and "Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse" shared the same fate. Have they been overlooked since their publication? Do you happen to know any reasons? Thank you!

    Mickey fan

  4. Hi, Mickey fan,

    I'll do the best I can to help.

    In 1986, when Gladstone had acquired the license to publish Disney comic book periodicals in the United States, they started out with four titles: Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Uncle Scrooge. Western Publishing had started the first three of those in the 1940s and Uncle Scrooge in the 1950's, and kept all four going into the early 1980s. (Western's comics had gone under the Dell, then Gold Key, then Whitman brand labels.) When Gladstone continued those titles, they also continued the issue numbering for all four where Western had left off.

    Gladstone then tried their own line of 100-page bimonthly digests. There was a Scrooge one, a Donald one, a Mickey one and Walt Disney's Comics Digests, which lasted seven issues, while the other three only lasted for five issues. The digests did not sell as well as the regular-format comics.

    So then Gladstone decided they would complement Donald Duck with a new, regular format ongoing comic, Donald Duck Adventures. Uncle Scrooge Adventures soon followed. (Uncle Scrooge Adventures was going to be called DuckTales at first. A little while later, Gladstone did start a DuckTales comic based on the TV show separate from Uncle Scrooge Adventures.) Mickey Mouse Adventures might seem like the next logical choice, but instead, Gladstone came up with Mickey and Donald. From what I've heard, Mickey Mouse had not been selling as well as Gladstone's duck comics, so they felt if Mickey was going to have a second ongoing comic, he would have to share the title with Donald to boost sales.

    In 1990, Gladstone lost the Disney license when Disney decided to publish its own comics, and so Mickey and Donald ended with #18.

    When Disney Comics launched in 1990, they had one Mickey comic, Mickey Mouse Adventures. But in 1991, it (and several other titles) were canceled because sales were below expectations.

    Then, in 1993, Gladstone reacquired the license, and they resumed Mickey and Donald with #19... except they renamed it Donald and Mickey. After Disney Comics' Mickey Mouse Adventures had been canceled, it was believed more strongly than ever that Mickey did not sell as well as the ducks. And so that, as I understand it, was why they changed the title so that Donald's name was first.

    In 1995, they stopped publishing Mickey and Donald with #30, and replaced it with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, started over with #1. It was essentially still the same comic, and I'm not sure what the rationale was behind this move. It lasted until #7, when Gladstone pared its lines down to just two titles, Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, and converted them to the hardbound prestige format. By the end of the decade, Gladstone stopped doing comics all together.

    In 2003, Gemstone was founded. Mickey had not had his own comic since Disney Comics canceled their Mickey Mouse Adventures in 1991. But Gemstone resumed Mickey Mouse (adding "and Friends" to the title) with numbering Gladstone had left off with all the way back in 1990. And at every publisher that has had the license since, they've continued Mickey's own comic with that original number started by Western. In my opinion, this is much better than in the mid-to-late-1990s, when Mickey had to share a title with Donald and had no comic to himself!

    I hope that this helps! Best,

    -- Ryan