Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Adventures: Voodoo Hoodoo

By Carl Barks (Gladstone Comic Album #16)

ISBN: 0-944599-15-X

Carl Barks was the greatest armchair (and drawing board) adventurer of his generation. A dedicated and voracious researcher who loved exploration and thrived on local colour and detail in his work, he seamlessly blended history, geography and the natural world into his rollicking rip-roaring light-thrillers. All Barks’ spectacular yarns were screened through a mesmerising lens of wonder and excitement and executed with riotous bursts of outrageous comedy that appealed to fun-starved fans of all ages. They still do.

From the 1940’s to the1960s Barks worked in seclusion, concocting a timeless treasure trove of golden myths and fables (ostensibly) for kids; forging a cohesive Duck Universe stuffed with memorable and highly bankable characters such as Uncle Scrooge McDuck, Gladstone Gander, the Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose, and Magica De Spell to augment the stable of cartoon actors from the Disney Studio, but his most exciting work always involved the rowdy, know-it-all nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie and their irascible, excitable, indomitable “unca” Donald Duck.

The boys’ assigned roles were as sensible, precocious and just-a-little-bit snotty counterfoils to their guardian whose intemperate nature caused him to act like an overgrown brat most of the time, but they often fell prey to a perpetual and natural temptation to raise a ruckus as well: clearly something in the genes…

West Coast publishing giant Dell/Gold Key held the license to produce comic-books based on Disney properties from the 1940s, generating a vast treasure-trove of graphic wonderment before grinding to a close in the early 1980s. Fan-based publishers Gladstone began re-releasing Barks material and a selection of other Disney comics classics at the end of the decade and this album is one of the best.

Whilst producing all that landmark material Barks considered himself just a working guy, drawing eye-catching covers, illustrating other people’s scripts to order yet still setting the bar for his compatriots with utterly perfect tales that added to the burgeoning canon of Donald Duck and other Disney properties. His output was incredible in terms of quantity and especially in its unfailingly high quality.

Printed in the large European oversized format (278mm x 223mm) this chilling departure into the realms of the unknown reprints one of his eeriest masterpieces with the lead tale from Dell Four Color Comics #238 (August 1949) and sees the author once more accessing darker themes via the sinister delights of horror movies – albeit seductively tempered with Barks’ winningly absurd humour (for more of the same see also Donald Duck Adventures: Ancient Persia).

Duckburg is all in a tizzy when a hulking undead brute begins loitering around town. Eventually Bombie the Zombie delivers a poisoned devil-doll to Donald which apparently makes him start to shrink. Zombies aren’t particularly smart and he/it had been trying for years to deliver the potent vengeance of his witch-doctor master Foola Zoola to the duck that swindled him … and unfortunately Donald looks a lot like Scrooge McDuck did seventy years ago!

Not believing in curses Uncle Scrooge is less than sympathetic but after experiencing the pester-power of Donald and the nephews he grudgingly funds an expedition to Africa to set things right. And only then do their troubles really begin…

Wacky and deeply satirical this tale was the subject of some controversy after it was first published, with Barks’ evolving drawing style skirting jarringly close to some pretty prejudicial and unwholesome racial stereotypes of the time, and considering the target audience it is a pretty scary story in a lot of places, but as ever, the wildly over-the-top madcap humour keeps everything addictively comforting and compelling.

Filling out this volume is another spooky fantasy fable starring Donald and the boys with a far more prominent role for their Bajillionaire relative as the entire family check out his latest acquisition. Scrooge has bought a castle in Scotland because a legendary treasure is hidden within it, but ‘McMerganser Macabre’ (from Donald Duck #26 November 1952) proves the old adage “buyer beware” as the old pile also seems to have an extremely agitated ghost as an unwelcome squatter…

However even when running for their lives and dodging certain death Huey, Dewey and Louie are pretty sure all is not as it seems…

Breathtaking and supremely hilarious this is a sheer graphic treat for fans of comics in their purest and most enticing form and still readily available from a number of online retailers, but even if you can’t find this specific volume most of Barks’ work is readily accessible through a number of publications and outlets.

As everything he’s ever done is well worth reading, no matter what your age or temperament, you’ve nothing to lose and all to gain by tracking down Barks’ captivating creations; so please do do – or experience the repercussions of the Voodoo Hoodoo…
© 1989, 1949 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.