By Carl Barks (Gladstone)
Gladstone Publishing began re-releasing Barks material – and a selection of other Disney comics strips – in the 1980s and this album is one of the very best. Whilst producing all that landmark innovative material Barks was just a working guy, generating covers, illustrating other people’s scripts when necessary and contributing story and art to the burgeoning canon of Donald Duck and other Big Screen characters, but his output was incredible both in terms of quantity and especially in its unfailingly high quality.
Printed in the large European oversized format (278mm x 223mm) this fabulous delicacy reprints the contents of Uncle Scrooge #17 (1957) and adds satire and Cold War commentary to Bark’s phenomenal list of narrative attributes. When a totally new element is discovered the Mallard Magnate liquidises a large part of his fortune (One trillion dollars and six kitchen sinks!) to secure the entire supply – a ball of “Bombastium” approximately the size of a large turnip.
Moreover even if nobody knows what exactly the stuff can do everybody knows Bombastium evaporates unless it remains frozen. Terrified that his acquisition will melt before he can make a profit Scrooge drags Donald Duck and his nephews on a voyage to the South Pole to safeguard his investment but has not reckoned on the ruthless determination of the Brutopian agents he outbid to achieve it…
This is one of Barks’ greatest tales: action, comedy, tragedy, politics and old fashioned sentiment all work together to produce a superbly memorable adventure. The bored nephews make a fake Bombastium ball to freak out the adults, a lonely, love-hungry penguin adopts and tries to hatch the element, and there’s gags and travail aplenty as the tale ranges from spy-thriller to absurdist fairytale and back.
The dialogue is a pure gold (“Greetings… Rich Pig of a Duck…”) and will delight anyone old enough to remember the peculiar dialectic and rhetoric of the East/West divide.
Also included here are the precautionary one-pager ‘The Secret Book’ and ‘All at Sea’, a tale pitting the Ducks against the depredations of the scurrilous Beagle Boys from Uncle Scrooge #31 (1960). and the book ends with another sterling one-page gag strip from Uncle Scrooge #5 (1954).
From the late 1940’s until the mid-1960s Carl Barks worked in productive seclusion writing and drawing a vast array of comedic adventure yarns for kids, creating a Duck Universe of memorable – and highly bankable characters like Gladstone Gander (1948), the Beagle Boys (1951), Gyro Gearloose (1952), and Magica De Spell (1961) to augment the stable of cartoon actors from the Disney Studio, but his greatest creation was undoubtedly the crusty, energetic, paternalistic, money-mad gazillionaire Scrooge McDuck: the star of the show wherever he goes.
Even if you can’t find this particular volume (and trust me, you really want to) Barks’ work is now readily accessible through a number of publications and outlets. No matter what your age or temperament if you’ve never experienced his captivating magic, you can discover “the Hans Christian Andersen of Comics” simply by applying yourself and your credit cards to any search engine. The rewards are there for the finding, you poor, culturally deprived pig of a fan, you…
© 1990, 1960, 1957, 1954 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.