By Carl Barks (Gladstone Comic Album #10)
No ISBN: 0-944599-08-7
Carl Barks was the greatest armchair (or at least drawing board) explorer of his generation. A voracious researcher who loved adventure and exploration, when he worked, history, geography and the natural world were as much his tools as pen and brush. All his fabulous tales were screened through a captivating lens of wonder and excitement and carried on a riotous wave of outrageous comedy that appealed equally to fun-starved fans of all ages. They still do.
From the 1940’s to the1960s Barks worked in productive seclusion writing and drawing a brilliantly timeless treasure trove of golden yarns ostensibly for kids, creating a Duck Universe of memorable and highly bankable characters like Uncle Scrooge McDuck, Gladstone Gander, the Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose, and Magica De Spell to augment the stable of cartoon properties from the Disney Studio, but his most exciting works inevitably involved the rowdy, know-it-all nephews of Donald Duck: Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Their usual assigned roles was as sensible, precocious and a little bit snotty kid-counterfoils to their “unca” whose irascible nature caused him to act like a overgrown brat most of the time, but they too often fell prey to a perpetual temptation to raise a ruckus…
Gladstone Publishing began re-releasing Barks material and a selection of other Disney comics strips in the late 1980s and this album is another of the very best. Whilst producing all that landmark material Barks was just a working guy, drawing eye-catching covers, illustrating other people’s scripts when necessary and yet, still setting the bar for his compatriots with utterly perfect comics tales that added to the burgeoning canon of Donald Duck and other Disney properties. 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 wild ride reprints one of his earliest masterpieces with the lead tale from Dell Four Color Comics Series II #275 (from May 1949) and sees the author accessing contemporary mores in an eerie epic that sampled the sinister delights of horror movies – albeit seductively tempered with Barks’ winningly absurd humour…
Donald and his nephews – mostly the nephews – are troubled by the haunting presence of a lurking stranger in the neighbourhood, but when the kids begin spying on him they all end up shanghaied – Donald too – to Iraq, where the sinister villain forces them to dig in the trackless desert.
He might be crazy but he’s not uninformed and soon the Duck’s have uncovered the lost city of Itsa Faka, but the sinister scientist won’t stop yet. Archaeology isn’t his only speciality: the city holds the secret of raising the dead and he wants it badly. As usual there’s a moral and it’s “be careful what you wish for” as the ancient Persians revive and the luckless Donald is mistaken for the rascally Prince Cad Ali Cad, who jilted the daughter of King Nevvawaza millennia ago.
Thinking the Cad has returned the undead family prepares to conclude the thwarted nuptials – and they won’t take no for an answer…
Fast paced and wildly over-the-top, this sharp tale skates perilously close to being really scary, but as ever, the madcap humour keeps everything addictively comforting and compelling.
Also included here are two short fantasy fables featuring Donald and the boys, beginning with ‘Super Snooper’ a brilliant spoof of costumed comicbook crime-busters from Walt Disney Comics & Stories #107 (September 1949) and a fabulous untitled science-fictional yarn (Walt Disney Comics & Stories #199 April 1957)where the gang are hooked up to Gyro Gearloose’s Imagining Machine for a startling tour of familiar places made new again by dint of the fact that the spectators have been reduced to the size of bugs. Shades of the Incredible Shrinking Ducks!
With another single-page gag (from Dell Four Color Comics #263 February 1950) to round off the madcap merriment this is another superlative treat for fans of comics in their purest and most enticing form.
Even if you can’t find this specific volume (and trust me, you’ll be glad if you do) Barks’ work is readily accessible through a number of publications and outlets and everything he’s ever done is well worth reading. 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.
© 1988, 1957, 1950, 1949 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.