Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: The Race to Death Valley (Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Classic Collection volume 1)


By Floyd Gottfredson & various; Edited by David Gerstein (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-441-2

Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey Mouse was first seen – if not heard – in the silent cartoon Plane Crazy. The animated short fared poorly in a May 1928 test screening and was promptly shelved.

That’s why most people who care cite Steamboat Willie – the fourth Mickey feature to be completed – as the debut of the mascot mouse and his co-star and paramour Minnie Mouse since it was the first to be nationally distributed, as well as the first animated feature with synchronised sound.

The film’s astounding success led to the subsequent rapid release of its fully completed predecessors Plane Crazy, The Gallopin’ Gaucho and The Barn Dance once they too had been given new-fangled soundtracks.

From those timid beginnings grew an immense fantasy empire, but film was not the only way Disney conquered hearts and minds. With Mickey a certified solid gold sensation, the mighty mouse was considered a hot property and soon invaded America’s most powerful and pervasive entertainment medium: comic strips…

Floyd Gottfredson was a cartooning pathfinder who started out as just another warm body in the Disney Studio animation factory who slipped sideways into graphic narrative and evolved into a pictorial narrative ground-breaker as influential as George Herriman, Winsor McCay or Elzie Segar. Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse entertained millions of eagerly enthralled readers and shaped the very way comics worked.

He took a wild and anarchic animated rodent from slap-stick beginnings, via some of the earliest adventure continuities in comics history: transforming a feisty everyman underdog – or rather mouse – into a crimebuster, detective, explorer, lover, aviator or cowboy, the quintessential two-fisted hero whenever necessity demanded.

In later years, as tastes – and syndicate policy – changed, Gottfredson steered that self-same wandering warrior into a more sedate, gently suburbanised lifestyle via crafty sitcom gags suited to a newly middle-class America: a fifty-year career generating some of the most engrossing continuities the comics industry has ever enjoyed.

Arthur Floyd Gottfredson was born in 1905 in Kaysville, Utah, one of eight siblings born to a Mormon family of Danish extraction. Injured in a youthful hunting accident, Floyd whiled away a long recuperation drawing and studying cartoon correspondence courses, and by the 1920s had turned professional, selling cartoons and commercial art to local trade magazines and Big City newspaper the Salt Lake City Telegram.

In 1928 he and his wife moved to California and, after a shaky start, found work in April 1929 as an in-betweener at the burgeoning Walt Disney Studios.

Just as the Great Depression hit, he was personally asked by Disney to take over the newborn but ailing Mickey Mouse newspaper strip. Gottfredson would plot, draw and frequently script the strip for the next five decades: an incredible accomplishment by of one of comics’ most gifted exponents.

Veteran animator Ub Iwerks had initiated the print feature with Disney himself contributing, before artist Win Smith was brought in. The nascent strip was plagued with problems and young Gottfredson was only supposed to pitch in until a regular creator could be found.

His first effort saw print on May 5th 1930 (his 25th birthday) and Floyd just kept going; an uninterrupted run over the next half century.

On January 17th 1932, Gottfredson created the first colour Sunday page, which he also handled until his retirement. In the beginning he did everything, but in 1934 Gottfredson relinquished the scripting role, preferring plotting and illustrating the adventures to playing about with dialogue. His eventual collaborating wordsmiths included Ted Osborne, Merrill De Maris, Dick Shaw, Bill Walsh, Roy Williams and Del Connell. At the start and in the manner of a filmic studio system Floyd briefly used inkers such as Ted Thwaites, Earl Duvall and Al Taliaferro, but by 1943 had taken on full art chores.

This superb archival hardback compendium – part of a magnificently ambitious series collecting the creator’s entire canon – collects those initial daily romps, packed with thrills, spills and chills, whacky races, fantastic fights and a glorious superabundance of rapid-fire sight-gags and verbal by-play. The manner in which Mickey became a syndicated star is covered in various articles at the front and back of this sturdy tome devised and edited by truly dedicated, clearly devoted fan David Gerstein.

Under the guise of ‘Setting the Stage’ the unbridled fun and revelations begin with gaming guru Warren Spector’s appreciative Introduction ‘The Master of Mickey Epics’ and a fulsome biographical account and appraisal of Floyd Gottfredson and the Mickey Mouse continuities in ‘Of Mouse and Man – 1930-1931: The Early Years’ by historian and educator Thomas Andrae.

The preliminary scene-setting concludes with ‘Floyd Gottfredson, The Mickey Mouse Strip and Me – an Appreciation by Floyd Norman’. Incorporating some preliminary insights from Gerstein in ‘An Indebted Valley’ the strip sequences then begin in ‘The Adventures: Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse Stories with Editor’s Notes’

At the start the strip was treated like an animated feature, with diverse hands working under a “director” and each day seen as a full gag with set-up, delivery and a punchline, usually all in service to an umbrella story or theme. Such was the format Gottfredson inherited from Walt Disney for his first full yarn ‘Mickey Mouse in Death Valley’ which ran from April 1st – September 20th, 1930. The saga was further complicated by an urgent “request” from controlling syndicate King Features that the strip be immediately made more adventure-oriented to compete with the latest trend in comics: action-packed continuities…

Also roped in to provide additional art and inking to the raucous, rambunctious rambling saga were Win Smith, Jack King, Roy Nelson & Hardie Gramatky. The story involved a picaresque and frequently deadly journey way out west to save Minnie’s inheritance – a lost mine – from conniving lawyer Sylvester Shyster and his vile and violent crony Peg-Leg Pete, whom Mickey and his aggrieved companion chased across America by every conveyance imaginable, aided by masked mystery man The Fox facing every possible peril immortalised by silent movie westerns, melodramas and comedies…

Next up – after brief preamble ‘Sheiks and Lovers’ – is another lengthy epic, featuring most of the early big screen repertory cast. ‘Mr. Slicker and the Egg Robbers’ (inked by Gottfredson, Gramatky & Earl Duvall and running from September 22nd – December 29th) starts with Mickey building his own decidedly downbeat backyard golf course before being repeatedly and disconcertingly distracted when sleazy sporty type Mr. Slicker starts paying unwelcome attention to Minnie. Well, it’s unwelcome as far as Mickey is concerned…

With cameos from Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, goat-horned Mr. Butt and a prototype Goofy who used to answer – if he felt like it – to the moniker Dippy Dog, the rambunctious shenanigans continue for weeks until the gag-abundant tale resolves into a classic powerplay and landgrab as the nefarious ne’er-do-well is exposed as the fiend attempting to bankrupt Minnie’s family by swiping all the eggs produced on their farm. The swine even tries to frame Mickey for his misdeed before our hero turns the tables on him…

A flurry of shorter escapades follow: rapid-fire doses of wonder and whimsy including ‘Mickey Mouse Music’ (December 30th 1930 – January 3rd 1931 with art by Duvall), ‘The Picnic’ (January 12th – 17th, Gottfredson inked by Duvall) and ‘Traffic Troubles’ (January 5th – 10th with pencils by Duvall & Gottfredson inks) before Gerstein introduces the next extended storyline with some fondly eloquent ‘Katnippery’

With story & art by Gottfredson & Duvall ‘Mickey Mouse Vs. Kat Nipp’ proceeded from January 19th to February 25th 1931, detailing how a brutal feline thug began bullying our hero a sad state of affairs that involved tail-abusing in various inspired forms, after which ‘Gallery Feature – “He’s Funny That Way”’ reveals a later appearance Sunday strip of Kat Nipp in a story by Merrill De Maris with Gottfredson pencils and Ted Thwaites inks. The excerpt comes from June 1938.

Gerstein’s introductory thoughts on the next epic – ‘High Society: Reality Show Edition’ – precede the serialised saga of ‘Mickey Mouse, Boxing Champion’. Running from February 26th – April 29th by Gottfredson, Duvall & Al Taliaferro the hilariously episodic tale relates how ever-jealous Mickey floors a big thug leering at Minnie and becomes infamous as the guy who knocked out the current heavy lightweight boxing champ.

Ruffhouse Rat’s subsequent attempts at revenge all go hideously awry and before long Mickey is acting as the big lug’s trainer. It’s a disaster and before long he champion is in an inexorable physical and mental decline. Sadly, that’s when hulking brute Creamo Catnera hits town for a challenge bout. With Ruffhouse refusing to fight it falls to Mickey to take on the savage contender…

Having accomplished one impossible task, Mickey then sets his sights on reintroducing repentant convict Butch into ‘High Society’ (April 30th – May 30th with story & pencils by Gottfredson and inks from Taliaferro). The story was designed to tie-in to a Disney promotional stunt – a giveaway “photograph” of Mickey – and the history and details of the project are covered in ‘Gallery Feature – “Gobs of Good Wishes”’

‘Mick of All Trades’ introduces the next two extended serial tales, discussing Mickey’s everymouse nature and willingness to tackle any job such as the Taliaferro-inked ‘Circus Roustabout’ which originally ran from June 1st – July 17th.

Here a string of animal-based gags is held together by the Mouse’s hunt for a cunning thief after which ‘Pluto the Pup’ takes centre-stage for a ten-day parade of slapstick antics before Gerstein’s ‘Middle-Euro Mouse’ supplies context to the less-savoury and non-PC historical aspects of a long tale featuring wandering gypsies.

‘Mickey Mouse and the Ransom Plot’ ran from July 20th through November 7th and follows the star and his pals Minnie, Horace and Clarabelle on a travelling vacation to the mountains. Here they fall under the influence of a suspicious band of Romani who exhibit all the worst aspects of thieving and spooky fortune-telling. When Minnie is abducted and payment demanded, Mickey knows just how to deal with the villains…

Essay ‘A Mouse (and a Horse and a Cow) Against the World’ leads into fresh employment horizons for our hero as Gottfredson & Taliaferro test the humorous action potential of ‘Fireman Mickey’ (November 9th – December 5th) in another scintillating cascade of japes, jests and merry melodrama whilst the glimmerings of real continuity sub-plotting and supporting character development shades a budding romance under the eaves of ‘Clarabelle’s Boarding House’ taking us from December 7th, 1931 to January 9th 1932 in fine style… Although the chronological cartooning officially concludes here there’s still a wealth of glorious treats and fascinating revelations in store in The Gottfredson Archives: Essays and Archival Features section which follows.

In the Beginning: Ub Iwerks and the Birth of Mickey Mouse’ by Thomas Andrae offers beguiling background and priceless early drawings from the star’s earliest moments, as does David Gerstein’s ‘Starting the Strip’ which comes packed with priceless ephemera.

As already stated, Gottfredson took over a strip already in progress and next – accompanied by covers from European editions of the period – come the strips preceding his accession. Frantic gag-panels (just like scenes from an animation storyboard) comprise ‘Lost on a Desert Island’ (January 13th to March 31st 1930, as crafted by storyteller Walt Disney and artists Ub Iwerks & Win Smith) and are augmented by Gerstein’s ‘The Cartoon Connection’ and additional Italian strips by Giorgio Scudellari in ‘Gallery Feature – “Lost on a Desert Island”’

Even more text and recovered-art features explore ‘The Cast: Mickey and Minnie’ and Sharing the Spotlight: Walt Disney and Win Smith’ (both by Gerstein) before more international examples illuminate ‘Gottfredson’s World: Mickey Mouse in Death Valley’ whereafter ‘Unlocking the Fox’ traces the filmic antecedents of the hooded stranger. With priceless original art samples in ‘Behind the Scenes: Pencil Mania’.

More contemporary European examples taken from early collections tantalise in ‘Gallery Feature – Gottfredson’s World: Mr. Slicker and the Egg Robbers’ before Alberto Beccatini and Gerstein’s ‘Sharing the Spotlight: Roy Nelson, Jack King and Hardie Gramatky’ supplies information on these lost craftsmen.

‘The One-Off Gottfredson Spin-Off’ by Gerstein highlights a forgotten transatlantic comic strip collaboration with German artist Frank Behmak whilst ‘Gallery Feature – The Comics Department at Work: Mickey Mouse in Color (…And Black and White)’ presents lost merchandise and production art before ‘Gottfredson’s World: Mickey Mouse Vs. Kat Nipp’ and ‘Gottfredson’s World: Mickey Mouse, Boxing Champion’ offer yet more overseas Mouse memorabilia.

‘Sharing the Spotlight: Earl Duvall’ is another fine Gerstein tribute to a forgotten artisan supplemented by ‘The Cast: Butch’ and ‘Al Taliaferro’ after which ‘The Gottfredson Gang: In “Their Own” Words’ by David Gerstein with texts by Mortimer Franklin and R. M. Finch reprints contemporary interviews with the 2D stars, garnished with publicity tear-sheets and clippings rounded off with more foreign covers in ‘Gallery Feature – Gottfredson’s World: Strange Tales of Late 1931’, ‘The Cast: Pluto’ and a stunning Christmas message from the Mouse as per “I have it on good authority” giving Gottfredson himself the last word.

Superb work of scholarship and a damn fine read too…

Gottfredson’s influence on not just the Disney canon but sequential graphic narrative itself is inestimable: he was among the first to produce long continuities and “straight” adventures; he pioneered team-ups and invented some of the first “super-villains” in the business.

When Disney killed the continuities in 1955, dictating that henceforth strips would only contain one-off gag strips, he adapted seamlessly, working on until retirement in 1975. His last daily appeared on November 15th and the final Sunday strip on September 19th 1976.

Like all Disney creators Gottfredson worked in utter anonymity, but in the 1960s his identity was revealed and the voluble appreciation of his previously unsuspected horde of devotees led to interviews, overviews and public appearances, with effect that subsequent reprinting in books, comics and albums carried a credit for the quiet, reserved master. Floyd Gottfredson died in July 1986.

Thankfully we now have these Gottfredson Mickey Mouse Archives collection to enjoy and inspire us and hopefully a whole new generation of inveterate tale-tellers…
© 2011 Disney Enterprises, Inc Text of “In the Beginning: Ub Iwerks and the Birth of Mickey Mouse” by Thomas Andrae is © 2011 Thomas Andrae. All contents © 2011 Disney Enterprises unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.

Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge: Back to the Klondike – Gladstone Comic Album #4


By Carl Barks (Gladstone)
ISBN: 978-0-94459-902-0

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.

His greatest creation was undoubtedly the crusty, energetic, paternalistic, money-mad gazillionaire Scrooge McDuck: the star of this show.

So potent were his creations that they fed back into Disney’s animation output itself, even though his brilliant comic work was done for licensing publisher Dell/Gold Key, and not directly for the studio.

Throughout this period, Barks was blissfully unaware that his work (uncredited by official policy, as was all Disney’s cartoon and comicbook output), had been singled out by a rabid and discerning public as being by “the Good Duck Artist.” When some of his most dedicated fans finally tracked him down, his belated celebrity began.

Gladstone Publishing began re-packaging Barks material – and a selection of other Disney comics strips – in the 1980s and kept on going until 2008. Since then cultural saviours Fantagraphics have begun reprinting all the Barks material in a series of snazzy hardcover compilations. Once they’ve done that I’ll start reviewing those but until then this still readily available paperback album is one of the very best you can still find…

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/or art to the burgeoning canon of Duck Lore.

This album is printed in the large European oversized format (278mm x 223mm) and features one of the best tales Barks ever told.

It’s taken from Four Color Comics #456 (September 1952 and technically the second full story to star the multimillionaire mallard). To further confuse matters, the Byzantine numbering system used by Dell also lists this issue as Uncle Scrooge #2.

‘Back to the Klondike’ is a rip-roaring yet deeply moving yarn, a brilliant comedy and even a bittersweet romance, which added huge depth to the character of the World’s Richest Duck, even whilst reiterating the superficial peccadilloes that make him such a memorable and engaging star.

Scrooge McDuck is old and getting forgetful: he can’t recall how much money he has seconds after he’s finished counting it, nor even where his traps to locate it are hidden. After one too many close shaves he finally shells out for a doctor who diagnoses “Blinkus of the Thinkus” and prescribes some pills to restore his scrupulous memory.

They work! Recalling a gold-strike he made 50 years previously, the old miser drags Donald Duck and his nephews to the Far North to recover the precious hoard cached and forgotten five decades ago, but as the journey progresses he also recalls the rough, tough life of a prospector and the saloon-girl who tried to cheat him of his find: Glittering Goldie O’Gilt

This superb yarn tells you everything you could ever need about the irascible oligarch. It’s the perfect character tale and rattles along like an express train, sad, happy, thrilling and funny by turns, and it’s supplemented in this book with a classic Gyro Gearloose tale from 1960.

‘Cave of the Winds’ is taken from Four Color Comics #1095, and finds Scrooge consulting the fabulously off-kilter feathered inventor on a perfect hiding place for the ever-increasing McDuck cash cache. The answer, sadly, is far from satisfactory…

The cartoon convolutions conclude with a short and punchy untitled tale from Uncle Scrooge #8 (1954) which has Scrooge run for City Treasurer – but without spending any money on expenses (or anything else)…

No matter what your age or temperament, if you’ve never experienced the captivating Carl Barks magic, you can discover “the Hans Christian Andersen of Comics” simply by applying yourself and your own purchasing power to any search engine. The rewards are there for the finding and far more valuable than mere money…
© 1987, 1960, 1954, 1953 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Adventures: Sheriff of Bullet Valley (Gladstone Comic Album #5)


By Carl Barks (Gladstone)
ISBN: 978-0-944599-04-4

From the 1940’s until the mid-1960s Carl Barks worked in productive seclusion, writing and drawing a brilliantly timeless treasure trove of comedic adventure yarns for kids, building a splendidly accessible Duck Universe filled with memorable – and highly bankable – stars such as 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. His most exciting works inevitably involved the rowdy, know-it-all nephews of Donald Duck: Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Although catalysts of comedic chaos in other situations when the mallard miser was around, the devilishly downy ducklings’ usual assigned roles were as smartly sensible, precocious and a just a little bit snotty kid-counterfoils to their “unca”, whose irascible nature caused him to act like an overgrown brat most of the time.

Nevertheless, all too often the kids reverted to type and 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 – still readily available – paperback album is another of the very best.

Whilst producing all that landmark comics material Barks was just a working guy, drawing unforgettable covers, illustrating other people’s scripts when necessary and infallibly contributing perfectly formed tales to the burgeoning canon of Donald Duck and other Big Screen characters. Barks’ output was incredible both in terms of quantity and especially in its unfailingly high quality.

Printed in the large European oversized format (278 x 223mm), this terrific tome reprints the lead tale from Dell Four Color Comics Series II #199 (October 1948) and draws much of its unflagging energy and trenchant whimsy from Barks’ own love of cowboy fiction – albeit seductively tempered with his self-deprecatory sense of absurdist humour. For example, a wanted poster on the jailhouse wall portrays the artist himself and offers the princely sum of $1000 and 50¢ for his inevitable capture…

Titular lead Donald Duck is also an expert on the Wild West – after all, he’s seen all the movies – so when he and the boys drive through scenic Bullet Valley, a wanted poster catches his eye and his imagination.

Soon he’s signed up and sworn in as a doughty deputy, determined to catch the rustlers who have been plaguing the locals. Unfortunately for him, the good old days never really existed and today’s bandits use radios, trucks and tommy-guns to achieve their nefarious ends. Can Donald’s impetuous boldness and the nephews’ collective brains and Junior Woodchuck training defeat the ruthless high-tech raiders?

Of course they can…

Also included here is a delightful comedy of farmyard errors from Daisy Duck’s Diary (Dell Four Color Comics Series II, #1150 December 1960), pitting the well-meaning old fussbudget against luck-drenched Gladstone Gander and consequently suffering from ‘Too Much Help’.

Donald and the nephews then return, finding themselves at odds with the self-same fowl of fabulous good-fortune in an untitled yarn from Walt Disney Comics & Stories #212 (May 1958), wherein our hard-luck hero and Gladstone race around the world in rocket-ships, cheerfully provided courtesy of that feathered modern Edison Gyro Gearloose. The diminutive ducky lads can only watch in nervous anticipation of inescapable disaster catching up to the feuding “adults”…

Even if you can’t find this specific volume (and trust me, you’ll be glad if you do) Barks’ work is now readily accessible through a number of publications and outlets and every one of his works 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.

Always remember, a fan’s got to do what a fan’s got to do…
© 1988, 1960, 1958, 1948 The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved.

Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse in The Lair of Wolf Barker – Gladstone Comic Album #3


By Floyd Gottfredson & various(Gladstone)
ISBN: 978-0-94459-903-7

Some of the most potent, effective and long-lived comics strip material in world history is not self-originated but actually comes from spinning-off existing properties. This is never more evident than with animated characters such as Betty Boop, Felix the Cat or assorted Walt Disney silver screen stars.

Cartoons starring cartoon stars became a huge circulation-booster in the decades following the First World War. Translated into newspaper strips – and later comicbooks – gags and continuity adventures of celluloid sensations reached and affected untold millions of readers around the globe, making household names of many characters and, occasionally, the writers and draughtsmen who crafted them.

Usually though, recognition was for the property owner and the unsung, pencil-pushing maestros who turned silver-screen gems into polished gold remained largely anonymous.

One of the most talented was Floyd Gottfredson; a cartooning pathfinder who started out as just another warm body in the Walt Disney animation factory before being diverted to become a narrative groundbreaker as influential as Herriman, McCay, Segar or his old work associate Carl Barks.

Gottfredson took company icon Mickey Mouse from his wild and anarchic animated rodent roots and slap-stick beginnings, through to the gently suburbanised sitcom gags of a newly middle-class America that syndicate policy eventually forced upon him. The gradual daily and weekly metamorphosis was accomplished via some of the earliest adventure continuities in comics history, with the Mouse playing detective, explorer, aviator and cowboy. Along the way he produced some of the most engrossing amusing and unforgettable comics the industry has ever seen.

In 1905 Arthur Floyd Gottfredson first greeted the world in Kaysville, Utah: one of eight siblings born to a Mormon family of Danish extraction. Injured in a youthful hunting accident, the lad whiled away a long recuperation drawing and studying cartoon correspondence courses, and by the 1920s had turned professional, selling cartoons and commercial art to local trade magazines and Big City news periodical the Salt Lake City Telegram.

In 1928 he and his wife moved to California, and after a shaky start found work in April 1929 as an In-Betweener at the burgeoning Walt Disney Studios. As the Great Depression hit, he was personally asked by Disney to take over the newborn and ailing Mickey Mouse newspaper strip. Gottfredson would plot, draw and often script the strip for the next forty-five-and-a-half years.

Veteran animator Ub Iwerks had initiated the feature but was swiftly replaced by Win Smith. The strip was plagued with problems and young Gottfredson was only supposed to pitch in until a regular creator could be found.

His first effort saw print on May 5th 1930 (Floyd’s 25th birthday) and just kept going; an uninterrupted run over the next five decades. On January 17th 1932, Gottfredson created the first colour Sunday page, which he contiguously handled until 1938, and then almost continually until his retirement.

At first he did everything, but in 1934 relinquished the scripting role, preferring plotting and illustrating the adventures to playing with dialogue. Collaborating scripters included Ted Osborne, Merrill De Maris, Dick Shaw, Bill Walsh, Roy Williams and Del Connell. Gottfredson briefly used inkers such as Al Taliaferro, but re-assumed full art chores in 1943.

Partially scripted by Ted Osborne and inked by Al Taliaferro & Ted Thwaites, the main story in this superb – and still readily available – compendium collects the very first extended Mickey Sunday colour epic which originally ran from January 29th to June 18th 1933.

Lurking behind a cover by Daan Jippes, ‘The Lair of Wolf Barker’ is a rip-roaring comedy western featuring the full wide-screen repertory cast: Mickey, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, and the prototype Goofy, who used to answer to the moniker Dippy Dog.

The gang head west to look after Uncle Mortimer’s sprawling ranch and stumble into a baffling crisis since the cattle are progressively vanishing, with the unsavoury eponymous villain riding roughshod over the assorted characters and stock figures, before his ultimate and well-deserved come-uppance. This is action comics on the fly, with plenty of rough and tumble action, twists turns and surprises always alloyed to snappy, fast-packed gags.

Rounding out this full-colour, album-sized paperback book is an early Mickey gag – ‘Spring S’prise’ from 1932 and tragically uncredited – plus another landmark Sunday strip tale. ‘Mickey’s Nephews’ introduced rascally prank-plying Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse in a short romp (September 18th to November 6th 1932) full of waggish behaviour and wicked japery.

This sequence was inked by Al Taliaferro, who recalled the story five years later when he and scripter Ted Osborne needed a quick plot for their latest assignment. That job was the new Donald Duck strip and their response was the infamous ‘Donald’s Nephews’ which introduced Huey, Louie and Dewey to the world…

Gottfredson’s influence on not just the Disney Canon but graphic narrative itself is inestimable: he was one of the first to produce long continuities and (relatively) straight adventure stories; he pioneered team-ups and invented some of the first “super-villains” in the business. When Disney killed the continuities in 1955, dictating that henceforth strips would only contain one-off gags, Gottfredson adapted easily, working on until retirement in 1975. His last daily appeared on November 15th and the final Sunday strip on September 19th 1976.

Like all Disney creators Gottfredson worked in utter anonymity, but in the 1960s his identity was revealed and the voluble appreciation of his previously unsuspected horde of devotees led to interviews, overviews and public appearances, with effect that subsequent reprinting in books, comics and albums carried a credit for the quiet, reserved master. Floyd Gottfredson died on July 22nd 1986.

This huge untapped well of work is only available in tiny snippets like these old Gladstone albums, but hopefully now that Disney own a major comics company some bright spark will realise the potential of the artistic treasures they’ve been sitting on and we’ll soon seen a Gottfredson Mickey Mouse Epic Collection even if only as digital editions.

And since we’re wishing I’d still like World Peace, total parity and equality between all ages, races, genders and outlying pigeon holes but especially that Red Ryder 200 Shot BB Gun I didn’t get when I was eight…
© 1987, 1933, 1932 The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved.

Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge volume 1: Pure Viewing Satisfaction


By Rodolfo Cimino, Alberto Savini, Jan Kruse, Bas Heymans, Frank Jonker, Paul Hoogma, Romano Scarpa, Andrea Freccero, Luca Boschi, Maximino Tortajada Aguilar, Tony Strobl & various (Disney Comics/IDW)
ISBN: 978-1-63140-388-0

Scrooge McDuck premiered in the Donald Duck tale ‘Christmas on Bear Mountain’ (Four Colour Comics #178 December 1947): a mere disposable comedy foil to move along a simple tale of Seasonal woe and joy.

The old miser was crusty, energetic, menacing, money-mad and yet oddly lovable – and thus far too potentially valuable to be misspent or thrown away. Undoubtedly, the greatest cartoon creation of the legendary and magnificent story showman Carl Barks, the Downy Dodecadillionaire returned often and eventually expanded to fill all available space in the tales from scenic metropolis Duckburg.

The comicbook stories and newspaper strips of the Disney studios quickly travelled around the world and were particularly loved and venerated in Europe where Italy, Germany, The Low Countries (that’s the Benelux region of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), Britain and especially the Scandinavian countries all made them their own, with supplemental new adventures and frolics that often surpassed the efforts of all but Carl Barks himself.

During the latter part of the 20th century Disney US downsized their own comics output, and eventually Barks and latter-day American giants like Don Rosa graduated to producing new material for the monumental continental Disney Comics publishing machines such as the Gutenberghus Group and Disney Italia.

In recent years the best of that Continental canon has been seen stateside in comicbooks and collected albums such as this one celebrating the pecuniary parsimony and eccentric antics of the Richest Duck in the World… and about time too!

Bold, brash, lightning-paced, visually spectacular and hilariously funny, this compilation – reprinting the American IDW comicbooks Uncle Scrooge #1-3 (lettered throughout by Tom B. Long) – commences with the epic saga of ‘Gigabeagle: King of the Robot Robbers’ – translated and polished by Jonathan H. Gray from an original Italian epic written by Rodolfo Cimino, limned by Romano Scarpa & Giorgio Cavazzano with colours by Digikore Studios.

The monstrous nightmare begins with Scrooge wracked with worry. The nefarious Beagle Boys have escaped jail again and the tension of waiting for their inevitable raid on his mammoth Money Bin is moving the miserly mallard to distraction. Determined to calm the old coot down, Donald and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie take him camping.

…And that’s where sleep-deprived Donald first encounters the gigantic robotic bandit the Beagles have built to empty Scrooge’s vault…

The Brobdingnagian brute is clearly unstoppable, but the bandits have foolishly built their ponderous puppet too well and before long the ducks are triumphant once again…

Longer yarns are counter-pointed with short, smart strips such as the eponymous ‘Pure Viewing Satisfaction’ (Alberto Savini & Andrea Freccero with translation and colours from David Gerstein over the original Disney Italia hues) which offers a unique interpretation of television luxury before ‘Stinker, Tailor, Scrooge and Sly’ – by Scarpa, Luca Boschi, Sandro Del Conte, Disney Italia, Digikore, Gerstein & Joe Torcivia – finds Scrooge hunting a shabby vagabond who keeps stealing the Fantabubillionnaire’s favourite coat.

It transpires that many years ago the mystery man hid a map to ancient Aztec artefacts in the lining and once the duck is appraised of the situation, a frantic race begins…

Crafted by Jan Kruse, Bas Heymans & Sanoma, ‘Shiver Me Timbers’ then finds three generations of Duck on a fishing trip and catapulted into a treasure hunt where three accursed ghost-pirates bedevil them whilst attempting to save themselves from damnation…

Single-page laundry lampoon ‘Yo!’ (Savini, Freccero Gerstein & Disney Italia) segues neatly into another fanatical financial feud with wealthy rival Flintheart Glomgold as the old enemies vie for possession of a fallen star in ‘Meteor Rights’ (by Frank Jonker, Paul Hoogma, Maximino Tortajada Aguilar, Comicup Studio, Sonoma, Long, Gerstein & Torcivia).

Scarpa & Cimino – with Disney Italia, Digikore, Gerstein & Torcivia – then detail Scrooge’s attempts to scupper the monetary reformation of three spendthrifts in ‘The Duckburg 100’

After Scrooge’s own bank gives $100 each to Donald, would-be wheeler-dealer Jubal Pomp and Beagle Boy 231-132 as a promotional stunt to encourage investment, the ancient miser moves heaven and earth to scupper their get-rich-quick schemes and get back “his” cash. Sadly, however, the fates are against him and their unlikely, if temporary, success near bankrupts the old fool…

These comic cavortings conclude with ‘Donald’s Gabby Guest’ by the legendary Tony Strobl – aided and abetted by Digikore and translator Thad Komorowski – as Scrooge’s latest plot to bend Donald to his grasping monetary philosophies goes sadly awry after the nephews cunningly reprogram the gift-parrot he had previously indoctrinated to constantly spout sound financial advice…

Graced with a superb art-gallery by Cavazzano, Gray & Jake Myler, Marco Rota, Disney Italia & Shelley Pleger, Andrew Pepoy, James Silvani, Derek Charm featuring nine-scintillating covers, this is an exciting, exotic and eye-popping riot of raucous romps in the wholesome yet compelling blockbusting Barks manner: blending wit, history, madcap invention, plucky bravado and sheer wide-eyed wonder into a rollicking rollercoaster ride for readers of every age and vintage.

Whatever your opinions on the corporate mega-colossus that is today’s Disney, the sheer quality of the material derived from and generated by “The House that Walt Built” is undeniable, and no fan of comics and old-fashioned fun should avoid any opportunity to revel in the magic – preferably over and over again…
© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit – the Official Comics Adaptation



By Daan Jippes, Don Ferguson & Dan Spiegle (Marvel)
ISBN: 0- 87135-464-0

The filmed interpretation of Gary K. Wolf’s novel ‘Who Censored Roger Rabbit?’ is the barest shell of the 1981 fantasy which starred comic strip icons, not cartoon characters, so please be aware that I’ll be concentrating here on the graphic adaptation of the film which resulted from a Byzantine 7-year transformational, legal odyssey rather than the source book (which I highly recommend you read, too).

After years of grief, celluloid shuffling and rewrites, Disney and Amblin Entertainment finally released a movie which easily stands on its own oversized, anthropomorphic feet and consequently spawned a couple of pretty impressive comics epics.

You probably know the plot: in the years after WWII, Hollywood was a town in transition with big business moving in and tearing up the good old ways. Animated features were still boffo box office but in this world the animated characters were real: whacky actors called “Toons” starring in live-action productions and incredible creatures who could choose which laws of physics they obeyed. They mostly lived in their own separate enclave; a bizarre ghetto called Toontown.

Eddie Valiant was a tired old private eye eking out a pitiable existence and still bearing a grudge over the loss of his brother, killed by a red-eyed Toon who had never been caught. With the world rapidly changing around him and everything good being bought up and torn down by the Cloverleaf Corporation, the despondent Shamus, against his better judgement, took a job with R.K. Maroon, head of the city’s leading cartoon studio…

It seemed their top star Roger Rabbit was unable to concentrate on his job because his wife Jessica was fooling around…

When Mrs Rabbit’s indiscretions lead to the murder of Marvin Acme, owner of Toontown, and with Roger firmly in the frame for the killing, Eddie was plunged into the lethal lunacy of battling murderous and/or boisterous toons, a ruthless land-grabbing syndicate, corrupt and obsessively homicidal magistrate Judge Doom and a mysterious mastermind determined to take control of Toontown and all of California…

With additional dialogue from Don Ferguson, the movie was adapted by European cartoonist Dann Jippes (Bernard Voorzichtig: Twee Voor Thee, the Gutenberghus Donald Duck, Junior Woodchucks and more) who collaborated with American comics legend Dan Spiegle (equally paramount in realistic comics dramas such as Crossfire, Space Family Robinson, Blackhawk and Terry and the Pirates, a magnificent succession of licensed cartoon adventure properties from Shazzan!, Johnny Quest and Space Ghost to full-on stylised Hanna-Barbera Bigfoot icons such as Scooby-Doo, Captain Caveman and many others) to mimic the unique look of the film.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was produced with live stars interacting with state-of-the-art animation and here Spiegle and Jippes created a seamless blend of drawing styles that is a perfect amalgam of the real and surreal.

For most of the middle 20th century Disney comicbooks were licensed through the monolithic Western Publishing’s Dell/Gold Key/Whitman imprints, but by the time of this release the printing company had all but abandoned the marketplace and the American edition was released as the 41st Marvel Graphic Novel, joining such creator-owned properties as Dreadstar and Alien Legion, proprietary Marvel tales such as The Death of Captain Marvel or Revenge of the Living Monolith and licensed properties like Conan and Willow in the same glorious oversized European Album format (285 x 220mm on chic and glossy superior paper stock).

As such this fast-paced, fun, above average, all-ages adaptation is one of the very best of its (often substandard) kind and a graphic novel well worth your time and money.

And remember, Jessica isn’t bad: she’s just sublimely drawn that way…
© 1988 The Walt Disney Company and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.

Walt Disney’s High Jinks on the Matterhorn and The Rain God of Uxmal


By Adolf Kabatek and the Gutenberghus Group, translated by Anne Kilborn (London Editions)
ISBNs: 7235-95038 and 7235-9502X

Scrooge McDuck premiered in the Donald Duck tale ‘Christmas on Bear Mountain’ (Four Colour Comics #178 December 1947) as a disposable foil to move along simple tales of Seasonal woe and joy. The old miser was crusty, energetic, menacing, money-mad and yet oddly lovable – and thus far too potentially valuable to be misspent or thrown away. Undoubtedly, the greatest cartoon creation of the legendary and magnificent story showman Carl Barks, the Downy Dodecadillionaire returned often and eventually expanded to fill all available space in the tales from Duckburg.

The comicbook stories and newspaper strips of the Disney studios quickly travelled around the world and were particularly loved and venerated in Europe where Italy, Germany, Britain and especially the Scandinavian countries made them all their own; with supplemental new adventures and frolics that surpassed the efforts of all but Carl Barks himself.

As Disney US gradually downsized their own comics output, eventually even Barks himself and latter-day American giants like Don Rosa were producing new material for the continental Disney Comics of the Gutenberghus Group.

By the 1980s Disney’s once-prodigious presence on the British comics scene had dwindled to almost nothing and latest license holder London Editions began releasing collected albums in the European manner and using all-European talent, and these two oversized, 48 page books (288mm x 218mm) were first released in Germany in 1983.

High Jinks on the Matterhorn opens with an ailing Money-mad Mallard diagnosed with “Cupiditas Pecuniae” and in desperate need of a break away from the pressure of his all-consuming financial empire. Donald and the ever-helpful nephews take him on a restful jaunt to Switzerland, but as soon as the restless octogenarian smells a fresh opportunity to make money the be-feathered brood are plunged into a breakneck scheme involving unlimited cheese production, super-milk and a frantic race up the mighty Mount Matterhorn in search of a legendary super-food for cows…

Bold, fast-paced, visually spectacular and hilariously funny, this worthy successor to the inventive satirical lunacy of Barks is full of all-ages thrills and creamy cartoon goodness.

These volumes come with an educational feature at the back and the space here is occupied with comprehensive and enticing history of the mountain and the men who first conquered it.

The Rain God of Uxmal returns to classic adventuring as Donald and the boys go in search of Uncle Scrooge after catching a conman who has sold the elderly entrepreneur a non-existent palatial holiday-home in Mexico…

Enlisting the aid of eccentric inventor Gyro Gearloose the would-be rescuers head South in an outrageous, off-beat flying car, but by the time they reach Mexico Scrooge has already stumbled into an incredible situation. The crusty capitalist had been abducted and adopted by a lost tribe of supposedly extinct Mayans and taken to their hidden city of Uxmal. Apparently Scrooge was the spitting image of their ancient god Quaxc-Quaxc and expected to bring rain to the drought-parched hidden kingdom…

After a remarkable journey and some scarily close calls, Donald and Co. turn up in the very nick of time, but seem destined to fail in their rescue bid until mysterious providence takes a terrifying hand in the proceedings…

This is an exciting, exotic and eye-popping romp in the wholesome blockbusting Barks manner: blending wit, history, madcap invention, plucky bravado and sheer wide-eyed wonder into a rollicking rollercoaster ride for readers of every age and vintage.

This volume also describes in fascinating detail the secrets of the real lost city of Uxmal.

Whatever your opinions on the corporate mega-colossus that is Disney today, the quality of the material derived from “The House that Walt Built” is undeniable and no fan of comics and old-fashioned fun should avoid any opportunity to revel in the magic – preferably over and over again…
© 1983, 1985 Walt Disney Productions.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories


Adapted by Shiro Amano translated by (TokyoPop)
ISBN: 978-1-59816-67-37-8

Regular readers (if any of you are still alive out there and not bored to death by my pithy ramblings) will already know that I am utterly immune to computer and video games. Nevertheless the industry has generated some intriguing comics material and occasionally I’ll take a peek at what you youngsters are spending your cash on…

Kingdom Hearts is a series of games which stars a new young hero named Sora working in combination with characters and scenarios from Disney’s globe-girdling cinematic canon and elements of the Fighting Fantasy electronic franchise.

This plucky lad travelled to different realms trying to rescue his two best friends Riku and Kairi who had fallen into the cracks between worlds after a wave of Darkness enveloped all the myriad worlds of creation and wicked creatures named The Heartless were unleashed on the kid’s idyllic land of Destiny Islands.

Once the many Realms were separate; barred to each other by Dark Doorways, with a single Chosen One who carried an ultimate key to all locks, able to pass easily between them.

In his quest Sora was joined by Donald Duck, Goofy and Jiminy Cricket who were similarly searching for their lost King Mickey. During the saga Sora came into possession of the fabled Keyblade which can hurl back the Heartless and unlock all doors…

The comic tie-in Kingudamu Hātsu began in 2003 as a serial in Square Enix’s Japanese Monthly Shōnen Gangan before making the inevitable jump to book collections. Subsequent game releases have been similarly incorporated into the print adventures.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memory – which bridges the gap between the first and second games – opens with Riku and Mickey having sacrificed themselves to keep Ansem, the mastermind behind the chaos, sealed behind the  Doorway to Darkness (trapping themselves there as well) and Sora, Jiminy, Donald and Goofy still searching for a way to rescue them.

In their travels the questers encounter a mysterious stranger who directs them to the Castle Oblivion, but on entering they find that the eerie citadel is stealing their memories, making the shadowy stranger’s confusing predictions and warnings even harder to decipher…

Unaware that they are being manipulated by a shady cabal called Organization XIII, the assembled heroes travel to more incredible worlds with the aid of “Memory Cards” arriving in seedy Traverse Town where the heroic Leon helps them defeat a marauding band of Heartless, after which they are accosted and tested by the sinister Axel before arriving in the Arabian town of Agrabah just in time to assist Aladdin and Princess Jasmine in their struggle against the nefarious Jaffar…

Meanwhile on the other side of the Dark Divide Riku is being tempted and tested by the forces of Evil, but at least he has the indomitable strength of the ghostly King Mickey to help him resist the terrors and seductions of the Disney witch Maleficent and the charismatic Ansem…

Fast-paced and engaging, this tale offers some fascinating moments for fans of classic Disney movies and the Fighting Fantasy universe, but generally it reads like a computer game (probably, to be fair,  Shiro Amano’s intention and brief) so if you’re a narrative purist the ride is likely to feel confused, bumpy and little information-intense in all the wrong places.

If you’re open-minded and clear-headed there’s joy to be gleaned from this peculiar all-ages tome but I rather suspect that more traditional fans might prefer to leave their assorted media unalloyed and sedately separated…
Original manga by Shiro Amano/Enterbrain Inc. © Disney. Characters from Final Fantasy © 2005 Square Enix Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. English translation © 2006 TokyoPop Ltd.

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and the Junior Woodchucks


By Carl Barks and others (Gladstone Comic Album #18)
ISBN: 978-0-944599-18-4

Amongst the other benefits to derive from the radical shake up of the American comics industry in the 1980s (specifically the creation of a specialist retailing sector that ended the newsstand monopoly by sale or return distributors) was the opportunity for small publishers to expand their markets. A plethora of companies with new titles quickly came and went, but there was also the chance for wiser or luckier heads to get their product seen by potential fans who had for so very long been subject to a DC/Marvel duopoly.

Gladstone Publishing began re-packaging Disney strips in oversized albums based on a format popular for decades in Scandinavia and Europe. Reintroduced to the country of their birth the archival material quickly led to a rapid expansion and even resulted in new comicbooks being created for the first time since Dell/Gold Key quit the comics business.

Carl Barks was born in Oregon in 1901 and reared in the wilder parts of the West during some of the leanest times in American history. He had many jobs before settling into storytelling with pen and brush. He drifted into cartooning in the 1930s, joining the Disney animation studio before quitting in 1942 to work in the fresh field of comicbooks.

Destiny called when he and studio partner Jack Hannah (also an occasional strip artist) adapted a Bob Karp script for a sidelined animated short feature into the comicbook Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold (Dell Four Color Comics #9). Although not Barks’ first published work, it was the story that dictated the rest of his career.

From the late 1940’s to the mid-1960s Barks beavered away in seclusion writing and drawing a vast array of comedy-adventures for kids, based on and expanding Disney’s Duck characters stable. Practically single-handed he built a cohesive feathered Universe of memorable and highly bankable characters such as Gladstone Gander (1948), Gyro Gearloose (1952) and Magica De Spell (1961) and the great granddaddy of all money-spinners Scrooge McDuck who premiered in the Donald Duck Yule yarn ‘Christmas on Bear Mountain’ (Four Colour Comics #178 December 1947).

Throughout his working career Barks was blissfully unaware that his efforts (uncredited by official policy as was all Disney’s comicbook output), had been singled out by a discerning public as being by “the Good Duck Artist.” When some of his most dedicated devotees finally tracked him down, his belated celebrity began.

So potent were Barks’ creations that they inevitably fed back into Disney’s animation output itself, even though his comic work was done for the licensing company Dell/Gold Key, and not directly for the studio. The greatest tribute was undoubtedly the animated series Duck Tales, heavily based on his comics output of the 1950s-1960s, particularly on the exploits of the hilariously acerbic boy-scouting skits featuring Donald and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie – capable members of the unflappable “Junior Woodchucks”…

This irrepressible catalogue of delight opens with ‘Operation Rescue Saint Bernard’ (Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #125 February 1951) in which the kids, ever-hungry for Woodchuck merit badges and the concomitant glory they bestow, decide to train Donald’s useless, snow-fearing couch-potato dog in the fine art of Alpine Rescue. It would have gone so well if only Donald had not decided to take charge of the program…

Barks’ inestimable and lasting influence was felt around the globe, as the next tale, produced by the criminally anonymous Scandinavian-based Gutenberghus Group laconically reveals.

In ‘Protective Cacophony’ Woodchuck Supremo S.Q.U.A.C.K.B.O.X. (a running feature of the ersatz scout tales was outrageously faux titles and obscurely verbose acronyms for assorted ranks; thus Subliminal Quieter of Unctuously Athletic Caterwaulers and Kiboshers of Bombastic Oratorializing Xenophobes) orders the lads to ensure that a rare bird nesting in Duckberg remains undisturbed. However, when sometime twitcher (that’s birdwatcher to you and me) Donald insists on helping, his overenthusiastic participation almost gives the nervous avian a coronary.

Fun, fast and fanciful, this fable is a perfect example of the Barks method in action…

From Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #132 (September 1951) comes another memorable Barks original. ‘Ten-Star Generals’ is a wry and raucous romp wherein the rank-hungry duck boys attempt to win even more badges and attain high status among their fellow wilderness pioneers. Donald, whose own boyhood scout troop “the Little Booneheads” were far less stringent and ethical, wants to aid them in any way possible, even cheating on their behalf, but decency and Woodchuck moral fibre wins out in the end – as Donald learns to his cost…

The highly competent Gutenberghus Group also crafted ‘Course Play’ as the boys seek the admiration of their diminutive peers in a pathfinder competition only to once more suffer for Donald’s less than scrupulous meddling. As always, however fair play and quick wits win the boys their undeniable due in the end.

After a sharp single-page entrepreneurial gag starring the nephews from Donald Duck’s appearance in Four Colour Comics #408 (July-August 1952) this jolly jamboree ends in a classic confrontation in the eternal battles of the sexes.

‘The Chickadee Challenge’ (from Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #181, October 1955) finds the lads and the entire Woodchuck troop compelled to defend their prowess, pride and manly craft skills after an insulting dare from the rival Little Chickadee Patrol. Bristling under the implied insult of being challenged by mere girls the Woodchucks haughtily accept but nothing goes right for them…Donald, as always, thinks it best if he lends a surreptitious underhanded hand…

As always this album is printed in the large European oversized format (278mm x 223mm) – although dedicated collectors should also seek out the publisher’s superb line of Disney Digests and the comicbooks which grew out of these pioneering tomes for more of the most madcap, wryly funny all-ages yarns ever concocted.

Dry wit, artistic verve and sly satirical punch made Carl Barks supreme among his very talented contemporaries and one of the most important anthropomorphic storytellers in fiction. No matter what your vintage or temperament if you’ve never experienced the captivating magic of Barks, you can discover “the Hans Christian Andersen of Comics” simply by applying yourself and your credit cards to any search engine. So why don’t you…?

© 1989, 1955, 1952, 1951, 1950 The Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved.

Walt Disney’s Donald and Daisy


By Carl Barks and others (Gladstone Comic Album #12)
ISBN: 978-0-944599-112

Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon in 1901, reared in the rural areas of the West during some of the leanest times in American history. He tried many jobs before settling into the profession that chose him: storytelling with a pen and brush. After a succession of professions Barks drifted into cartooning and joined the Disney studio as an animator before quitting in 1942 to work in the newborn field of comicbooks.

His life-path gelled when, with cartoon studio partner Jack Hannah (himself an occasional strip illustrator) Barks adapted a Bob Karp script for an sidelined animated short feature into the comicbook Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold (published as Dell Four Color Comics Series II #9 in October of that year). Although not his first published comics work, it was the story that dictated the rest of his career.

From then until his official retirement in the mid-1960s Barks worked in self-imposed isolation seclusion, writing and drawing a vast array of adventure comedies, gags, yarns and covers, creating a Duck Universe of memorable and highly bankable characters such as Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose, Magica De Spell, the Beagle Boys and his greatest creation – the crusty, energetic, paternalistic, money-mad Quinquillionaire Scrooge McDuck to supplement Disney’s stable of cartoon actors.

Whilst producing all that landmark material Barks was just a working guy, generating cover art, illustrating other people’s scripts when asked and contributing stories to the burgeoning canon of Duck Lore. Although equally revered for his astonishingly impressive adventure sagas, slapstick romps and punchy page-gags he was just another cog in a big machine and diligently toiled on whatever his editors asked him to.

A solid example of how well he worked on characters he wasn’t invested in and scripts he hadn’t concocted is this Gladstone album co-starring Donald Duck’s occasional paramour Daisy…

So potent were Barks’ creations that they inevitably fed back into Disney’s animation output itself, even though his comic work was done for the licensing company Dell/Gold Key, and not directly for the studio. The greatest tribute was undoubtedly the animated series Duck Tales, heavily based on his comics output of the 1950s and 1960s wherein Daisy and her nieces The Little Chickadees, freed from the social constraints of the 1950s and 1960s, finally came into their independent own…

During this period “ladies” were not brash or forceful or potent – whether by Disney dictat, Dell editorial policy or simply in deference to the tone of the times is unclear – unless they were fallen or wicked, such as Bark’s own darker dames like Glittering Goldie (see Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge: Back to the Klondike) or sinister sorceress Magica De Spell, and as such were relegated to sternly disapproving partners or maternal role models. Even under these conditions however, Barks occasionally managed to inject a little spark into the distaff ducks…

Gladstone Publishing began re-packaging Barks material and a selection of other Disney comics strips in the 1980s and this intriguing tome is among the best – as they all seem to be. As always this album is printed in the large European oversized format (278mm x 223mm) – although dedicated collectors should also seek out the publisher’s superb line of Disney Digests and comics books that grew out of these pioneering tomes for more of the most madcap, wryly funny yarns ever concocted.

As discussed in Geoffrey Blum’s introduction Barks considered Daisy a “diluting influence” and often had to rewrite her parts, if not actually kill stories in which she played a stronger woman, but even on these terms the five short yarns here, one scripted by an anonymous writer but most by the master himself, are a striking example of triumph under adversity…

Daisy is little more than a bit-player in the untitled first tale (Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #101, February 1949) in which Donald and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie take a series of extreme measures to cure nightmares, whilst in the second ‘The Daisy Hunt’ she becomes an unwilling prize in a romantic duel for her affections between Donald and aggravatingly lucky rival Gladstone Gander (first seen in untitled Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #117, June 1950).

She plays a far more forceful but still ferociously domestic role in the untitled housecleaning yarn from Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #213, June 1958 wherein she mercilessly hunts Donald down after he breaks a promise to help her spring clean the house.

As the 1960s advanced and women became less fragile flowers and more potent partners Daisy had a short run of her own title under the umbrella of the Four Colour Comics tryout title. From #1055 (November 1959) of Daisy Duck’s Diary comes ‘The TV Babysitter’ (illustrated but not written by Barks) in which she ultimately fails to keep control of the nephews even with the help of Gyro Gearloose’s latest surveillance technology, whilst in ‘Donald and Daisy: The Beauty Business’ (Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #308, May 1966) her feminine insecurity almost ruins Donald’s latest career as a glamour beautician…

Even though not up to his usual uniquely high standards, it’s fascinating to see what Barks could do with stories that didn’t engage him 100% – and this collection is magnificent proof of his overwhelming creative and work ethic – as these stories all still contain the dry wit, artistic verve and sly satirical punch that made Carl Barks supreme among his very talented contemporaries and the most important anthropomorphic storyteller since Kenneth Grahame and Rudyard Kipling.

No matter what your age or temperament if you’ve never experienced this captivating magic of Barks, you can discover “the Hans Christian Andersen of Comics” simply by applying yourself and your credit cards to any search engine. So why don’t you…?
© 1988, 1966, 1959, 1958, 1950, 1949 The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved.