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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Comic Reviews

Uncle $crooge #373 (January 2008).  To say that this issue "features" my second contribution to Disney comics – to wit, the dialogue for the well-aged Egmont Launchpad McQuack story, "Fool for Fuel" – provides this six-page "filler" fare with a cachet it frankly doesn't deserve.  The story, originally written by Gorm Transgaard and drawn by Jose Maria Millet Lopez, is one of a clutch of Launchpad stories that Egmont cranked out before DuckTales had passed what was thought to be its "sell-by" date for European Duck fans.  It's a comedy-of-errors thing in which Launchpad, while racing Scrooge's race car, accidentally puts some soap into his gas tank instead of McDuck Industries' new "hyper-octane" fuel, with the expected chaotic consequences.  I did the best I could to punch up the pallid plot and give it a modern twist with several references to NASCAR ("Team McDuck" is participating in "The Gallop for the Gooseneck Cup" – get it?).  You really have to look sharp, though, to catch my reference to an obscure "one-hit wonder" singing group from the 1970s.  I did enjoy writing Launchpad and Scrooge and hope to get another chance at doing so someday with somewhat better source material.  I think you'll vastly prefer my upcoming Junior Woodchucks script in the March issue of WDC&S.

This ish's featured story finds Scrooge attempting to become "The Last Hero of Banania" in a 60s Italian tale by the troika of Rodolfo Cimino, Romano Scarpa, and Giorgio Cavazzano.  In order to lay claim to valuable medals owned by ancestor Maol Mhuire MacDuich, Scrooge must prove his valor by exhibiting successful military service.  After a doomed effort to crash the Duckburgian defense forces, Scrooge goes the supposedly "easy" route of signing up to serve a "one-month position as patrolling scout with the Bananian National Guard."  If you think Scrooge is going to slide through as slick as what-Patton-said through a goose, you've got another think coming.  A very bizarre story which, thankfully, doesn't go the obvious route of beating the McDuck family tradition of being "merchants in battle" to politically correct death (though HD&L do get a negative comment or two in edgewise).  David Gerstein's dialogue is, as per usual, excellent.

Sticking with the "Scrooge's World of the Weird" theme, the Lars Jensen, Chris Spicer, Travis Seitler, and Vicar story "Slightings" sees Magica De Spell infiltrate the Money Bin by disguising herself as a piece of junk mail.  Yes, really.  When Donald and HD&L try to stop Magica's escape with the Old #1 Dime, Magica "papers Scrooge over" in the exact same way.  You can justify just about anything with magic, can't you?  Scrooge's "loose-leaf life" does elicit one very amusing sidebar gag (involving, of all people, Flintheart Glomgold) before the gang tracks down Magica at Mount Vesuvius.  Scrooge returns to… er, "normal" as a paper-thin plutocrat and uses his skinny status to help Donald save Old #1.  The impact of Scrooge's sojourn as a "folio fowl" is somewhat diminished by Vicar's insistence on drawing him "head-on" so that it's difficult to see that he is, in fact, extremely thin.  Bill Van Horn in his prime might have had a lot of fun with this story, but, as told here, it's almost matter-of-fact.

The Beagle Boys and Donald get unusual (unique?) co-star billing in Kari Korhonen, Gerstein, and Rodriques' funny story "Way Out of Africa."  Growing a brain at long last, the Beagles realize that Flintheart Glomgold's South African money bin might make almost as tempting a target as Scrooge's – besides which, Flinty may not be prepared to withstand their onslaught.  Catching wind of the Beagles' plan, Scrooge sends Donald to the Valley of the Limpopo to help convince the Beagles that they should stay in Africa for good by showing them an "insanely [not to mention inexpensively] good time."  Don, in disguise, is soon showing the B-Boys more than that when he gets conked by a bottle and forgets who he is.  Drawing on residual memories of working on Scrooge's Money Bin alarm system, the amnesiac anser is soon helping the Beagles plan their raid on Glomgold's bin.  After the group barely survives the local wildlife and gets inside the bin, however, Don conveniently brains himself again just in time to warn Glomgold (can't you just smell the irony??).  The turn-about  theme is legitimately clever and allows us to explore Glomgold's home territory for a change, but the amnesia business is so doggone contrived that I can't help but wonder whether the Beagles should have been solo stars here.  The story might not have been quite as ambitious, but the logic would have flowed better, and the same point (the Beagles learning to appreciate Duckburg as never before) could have been made.

A four-page Gyro Gearloose story by Carl Barks and a two-page Disney Studios gag drawn by Tony Strobl wrap the issue.  The Gyro offering finds the inventor using his "cat box" to translate the local cats' yowling – and being taken aback to find that the quarrelling felines "talk like the neighborhood crew-cuts" (I wonder what the appropriate teenage analogy would be these days – or do I want to know?).  Gyro turns the tables by having the box translate his singing into cat language, which, of course, is so dreadful that it scares the cats away.  "The Catch" is a piece of gossamer nothingness in which Scrooge keeps interrupting a magazine photo shoot by conducting business on the phone. 

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Comics Reviews

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #688 (January 2008).  You know William Van Horn is "coasting" when he creates a fabled lost treasure of Duckburg for the Ducks to seek and names it… "The Fabled Lost Treasure of Duckburg."  There's nothing truly wrong with "Winks," the Donald story that leads off this issue, except an almost palpable sense of weariness.  Time was when Van Horn would have created an unlikely treasure (remember the story in which Donald and HD&L ran across the "miser" caveduck who stored pine cones in a cave, a la Scrooge's Money Bin?) or, at the very least, a semi-loony guardian of said treasure.  Here, the "Lost Treasure" turns out to be something that has been used as a "red herring" treasure in other such stories (though, admittedly, not in any Duck story of which I am aware), and Donald and the boys don't even get to actually find it after a difficult trek through the snow and up a mountain.  Scrooge, at least, should've realized that the supposedly "worthless" treasure was actually worth something… to a numismatist, at least.  But then, if he paid any heed to dealers in economic ephemera, he wouldn't be Scrooge.

Bill's son Noel offers a much more lively effort in the Mickey story "Stir Crazy."  The basic idea is, believe it or not, sort of a riff on the final chapter of Marv Wolfman's "Scrooge's Quest," only this time, Mickey and Pete drive each other batty with paranoia.  The set-up is rather contrived, but the payoff is inspired, with M&P (presumably) battering each other senseless inside an abandoned submarine and the cops not arriving to break it up.  I hope Mickey's been practicing his judo lately.  Noel injects a certain sense of fatalism into the eternal struggle between Mickey and his most persistent adversary.  Pete gradually switches from glee over Mickey's sudden absence to enraged insistence that Mickey "must" be tracking his string of robberies because, well, that's what he does.  The trapped Mickey's frantic visualization of what Pete might do to Mouseton in Mickey's absence is also well-rendered.  An interesting take on the Mickey-Pete rivalry, all told… though Pete, like Goofy in the recent "Signs," is much better-spoken than he really ought to be.  Whatever happened to "I'll pulverize dat mouse," Noel?

Part one of another classic Floyd Gottfredson continuity, 1942's "The Gleam," also appears herein.  This was the last continuity turned out by the team of scenarist/penciler Gottfredson, writer Merrill de Maris, and inker Bill Wright – in my opinion, the best team ever to work on the strip during its heyday.  I doubt we'll see reprints of "Mickey Mouse, Super Salesman" (frankly, a blah effort) or "The Mystery of Hidden River" ("Canuck" and "Injun" stereotypes aplenty) anytime soon, so I'm going to enjoy this jewel-robbery caper for all it's worth.  If you pay close attention, the solution to the mystery is telegraphed right at the start, but newspaper readers in 1942 didn't have the luxury of looking at the whole story at once.

Donald is featured in two additional stories: Frank Jonker, Dwight Decker, and Bas Heymans' "Renewed Feud" and Carl Barks' 1946 tale, "A Guy Named Joe from Singapore."  The former's title is rather misleading, as the main plot of the story has to do with Neighbor Jones "snapping" and abandoning his home and his feud with Donald.  Evidently absorbing some of the leftover paranoia from the characters in "Stir Crazy," Donald is convinced that Jones' departure is the cover for some ultra-Machiavellian scheme (c'mon, Don; David Xanatos, Jones isn't!) and hastens onto the Duckburg Barrens (?) to find him.  An OK filler story, nothing more.  "Joe from Singapore" (which I'd swear was a reference to something in 1940s pop culture, though I have no idea what) squeezes as much as can possibly be "squoze" out of the "irascible parrot causes havoc" conceit.  The smart-alecky Joe, purchased by HD&L from a sailor for what turns out to be the vastly trumped-up sum of fifty cents, causes an unwitting Donald no end of grief – one of the few times in Barks' early "ten-pagers" that Donald honestly did not deserve the shabby treatment he received.  Joe is such a distinctive and funny character that I'm surprised Barks didn't see fit to bring him back at least one additional time.     

Wolves and swamp folk fill in the issue's cracks.  Carl Buettner's "Red Riding Hoodwinked" (1946) is yet another fine story in the style of #686's "Zeke's tall tale" effort.  This tale has a definite Goof Troop feel in the theme of Li'l Bad Wolf fretting over always displeasing his dad.  Zeke, for his part, gets engrossed in the story of Little Red Riding Hood and even tries to emulate it (I guess this would qualify as "career-based research") until he learns of the unpleasant (for the wolf, that is) ending.  A Dutch two-page Br'er Rabbit story finds Br'er Bear trying, and failing, to outsmart the "bun-rab" in a dice game.  There's a probability exercise for my students hidden in this gag somewhere, I'm sure of it…

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Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures: The Barks/Rosa Collection, Volume 2.  I can't say as I expected THIS particular portmanteau – three Barks short stories teamed up with three Rosa sequels, or semi-sequels, to same – to be the second collection in this series.  There are plenty of derring-do-dominated doppelgangers that came to mind more readily.  However, Gemstone probably had little choice in the matter, since two of the most significant Rosa sequels – "Return to Plain Awful" and "Return to Xanadu" – were reprinted in Uncle $crooge in recent years.

We start with a restored version of Barks' "Donald Duck's Atom Bomb" and Rosa's "The Duck Who Fell to Earth," which (as Rosa himself admits in the inevitable text piece) has little to do with Barks' original apart from the reuse of supporting character Prof. Mollicule.  When "Bomb" was reprinted in The Carl Barks Library, Daan Jippes had to be called upon to restore a good deal of the artwork (hopefully, he at least got a bowl of Cheerios – the modern kind, I mean, as opposed to a box manufactured in 1947, when this giveaway story first appeared -- as payment).  This reprinting is much more the real Barks deal; just compare, for example, the facial features of evil spy Prof. Sleezy in the two versions.  It's a pretty good story that slipped through a narrow window of time during which atom bombs were sufficiently novel to warrant jokes about them.  Despite Sleezy's ominous reference to "death," Donald's would-be boom-boom merely defoliates people's hair, in a goofy manner akin to the Get Smart-based feature film "The Nude Bomb."  In "The Duck Who Fell to Earth," Rosa tries to be a little more scientifically precise, but space-scavenging Don's dive to (apparent) doom still takes a huge slice of "cartoon logic" to accept, as does Scrooge and Mollicule's survival of atmospheric re-entry without an apparent heat shield.  In his comments on the story, Rosa seems to "de-canonize" it a bit, pointing out that references to a "weather satellite" and "space junk" contradicted his standard 1950s setting.  I'm not going to argue the point.

Next, we get the two "Super Snooper" stories, Barks' superb original from 1949 and Rosa's slightly "rehashy," but equally excellent, sequel from the early 1990s.  Isotope-powered Donald's super-shtick is pretty much the same in both cases, but Rosa's story ups the quotas of frustration and sentiment.  Goaded by a cutting comment from Dewey (or Louie, depending on the panel you're looking at), Donald is determined to show his comics-cherishing Nephews that he, too, can do mighty deeds, but one thing after another thwarts his plans.  Don is ultimately forced to exert the last bit of his super power to save the boys from being crushed by a piece of a salvaged ocean liner.  Unbeknownst to their uncle, though, HD&L have come to realize that Donald "has raised us well and cared for us all along… and we've sometimes been ungrateful and horrible to him" and mentally raise the downtrodden duck above Super Snooper in their pantheon of admirable figures.  Yes, it's a little gooey, but so what?  It has the inestimable advantage of being true.  Barks, of course, plays Donald's doomed effort to impress the kids for laughs, with Don (who has taken dyspepsia medicine in the mistaken belief that he's re-energizing himself) running headlong into a wall and knocking himself cold.

The collection concludes with Barks' 1951 story "Donald the Coin Collector" (Gemstone couldn't think of a peppy title, and neither can I) and Rosa's "The Money Pit."  Barks' tale is one of my favorites from that era, with Donald, for once, getting the upper hand on Scrooge by purchasing rare coins from him at rock-bottom prices and then selling them to a coin dealer.  Of course, Don's gambit is slightly underhanded, but, with Scrooge still something of a hard-edged character at this time – we were still about a year away from "Only a Poor Old Man" – one can't help but root for the much-put-upon mallard's success.  Scrooge finally gets wise and tricks Donald into flooding the market and getting $10,000 into debt, but, thanks to HD&L's numismatic research, Don at least winds up ahead on the deal (both financially and physically, i.e., in front of an angry, pursuing Scrooge).  "The Money Pit" is rather notorious as (1) Rosa's one effort for Disney Comics before his dispute with the company over the return of original artwork reached the point of no return; (2) Rosa's veiled shot at the comic-book collectors' market (with Scrooge ridiculing coin speculators who use price guides and put "meaningless collections" in "plastic sleeves").  Barks, of course, made a point similar to (2) in his own story, but only as a character bit for Scrooge.  Thankfully, the rest of Rosa's story is solid, though it comes to a sentimental conclusion as opposed to a funny one (a la the Super Snooper sagas).  Donald's attempts to dig rare coins out of the bottom of Scrooge's bin – with his uncle's blessing, this time – result in a massive landslide that leaves Don buried and apparently doomed.  The Ducks save his life with the aid of a rare coin that Donald shoots through a vacuum hose (which seems to be buried in the money in one panel but is sticking out of the money in the next – bad form, there, Mr. Rosa), and the tearful HD&L convince greedy Donald not to sell the coin by appealing to his sense of "what's truly valuable."  There's a nice coda, too, in which Rosa reveals that he's been researching the value of other sorts of collectibles, as well.  The original 1990 appearance of "Pit" was distinguished (or not) by the Ducks' having blue eyeballs, so this more "normal"-looking reprinting is most welcome.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Before tackling the latest review, a few remembrances…

(1)  RIP William F. Buckley, Jr.  What a unique and wonderful character, and so sociologically significant to boot (Time cover, circa 1967: "Conservatism Can Be Fun!").  I'll never again be able to hear his voice without immediately being reminded of Frank Welker's peerless parody in the DuckTales episode "Bubba's Big Brainstorm."

(2)  Brett Favre retired yesterday.  He was the very model of an NFL quarterback.  I still rate him behind Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas on the all-time list, however.

Comics Review

Walt Disney Treasures Volume 2: "Uncle $crooge: A Little Something Special" Fittingly, on the occasion of the sixtieth calendar year of his debut, Disney's most enduring "made-for-comics" character gets the Treasures spotlight all to himself.  Not intended to be a medley of "McDuck's Greatest Hits," this first-rate collection samples from various periods in the old miser's career.  As it should, Carl Barks' work gets pride of place with the leadoff reprinting of Uncle $crooge #7's "The Seven Cities of Cibola."  As David Gerstein notes in his introductory essay, "Cibola" catches Scrooge just as he was rounding into peak form as an adventure character.  Unlike "The Old Castle's Secret," "Only a Poor Old Man," and "A Christmas for Shacktown," among other earlier stories, Scrooge's focus here is not on protecting what he has already earned.  Instead, he's hankering after new, untried opportunities for money-making – in this case, joining Donald and HD&L for an arrowhead hunt in the desert.  There, the Ducks uncover relics of long-lost Cibola – aaaaaand they're off, closely trailed by the Beagle Boys.  Before all is done and said, George Lucas has gotten the idea for the famous "rock-rolling" sequence in the first Indiana Jones movie (true story!).  Actually, despite its clean, classical art and pristine treasure-hunting lineaments, "Cibola" has always struck me as being one of Barks' weaker early $crooge efforts.  The problem is mainly one of story-telling logistics.  The Ducks originally stumble upon the Cibolan gold after a sandstorm that has left them stranded in unfamiliar territory.  After assaying the swag, Scrooge immediately dashes off to "find [Donald's] car" and consult expert opinion.  Uh, how would Scrooge know where to look to find either the former or the latter?  This may perhaps be excused as a convenient way of saving panels and keeping the story moving forward, but far more troubling to me is the tale's perfunctory ending.  Having barely survived the (literal) fall of Cibola, the Ducks and Beagles, suffering from amnesia thanks to bumps on their noggins, cluelessly wander off into the sunset.  Mind you, they're in a portion of the desert that hasn't been fully explored in centuries.  Unless Scrooge thought to attach a very long string from his coat to the car, or to carry a homing device in his pocket "just in case something happened," exactly how are they expected to make it back home in their present bedraggled condition?  It's downright baffling to me that Barks, the acknowledged master of storytelling, could have managed to overlook that little detail.  Maybe he couldn't think of a better windup (within the allotted panel space) and decided to cut his losses.  It takes more than an appeal to "Cartoon Duck Syndrome" (as in: "Hey, relax, it's only a story about cartoon ducks!") to untangle this particular knot.

Carl Fallberg and Tony Strobl's 1964 Disney Studios tale "Getting that Healthy, Wealthy Feeling" has acquired a certain level of notoriety for supplying one of the few "now commonly accepted" details of Scrooge's life that did not originate with Carl Barks.  Even before Don Rosa had incorporated it into his "Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck," DuckTales had borrowed the incident of Scrooge earning his Old #1 Dime by shining a Scottish ditchdigger's mud-caked boots for the 1987 episode "Once upon a Dime."  The bulk of this story, however, is somewhat tetchier insofar as "Scrooge canon" is concerned.  Worried that he's somehow lost the thrill of making money, Scrooge permits Donald and HD&L to be "guardians of the Money Bin" while the tycoon spends some time away from his vast wealth.  Soon, however, Scrooge's businesses begin to bleed red ink, prompting the panicky plutocrat to track down his relatives so that he can touch Old #1, an act that has "always brought [him] luck."  As a result of the harrowing experience – and some hard labor he'd been obliged to perform along the way in order to get bus fare -- Scrooge regains an appreciation of "hands-on effort" and gets the titular feeling back again.  Recapturing an appreciation of hard work… by appealing to a lucky talisman??  I haven't seen a "mixed message" like that since I stirred my bowl of alphabet soup a few too many times.

The Italian "Maestro" Romano Scarpa contributed numerous supporting players to the $crooge cast during his long career, and the riotous 1966 story "Witless Persecution" gives long periods on stage to several of them.  The tale is actually presented in the format of a Daisy Duck's Diary entry, but Daisy's role is strictly a supporting one.  When Scrooge and would-be go-getter Jubal Pomp get into a car accident, witnesses Daisy and Brigitta MacBridge disagree over who was at fault.  In order to prevent Brigitta from testifying against him, Scrooge agrees to marry her at last (!!!!), which leads to a marvelous, wordless panel in which Scrooge's longtime amorous pursuer leaps with unrestrained glee while holding Scrooge's (recycled) engagement ring.  You know this "wedding of the wealthy" isn't coming off, but, before the donnybrook is over, Scrooge has reason to be very thankful that Jubal's would-be hair restorer (yes, really) is as big a flop as all of his other previous attempts at getting rich quick.  Along the way, another Scarpa creation, replevin-wrangling lawyer Quibble DeWrit, makes his (very funny) debut in American comics.  David Gerstein outdoes himself in the dialoguing department, but I have to ask: why are Daisy and Brigitta addressing one another as "girl" at various points in the story?  Was this originally written as a Queen Latifah vehicle, or something?  I also can't say I enjoy the story's art, which reflects a period of time when Scarpa (here, assisted by Giorgio Cavazzano of World of the Dragonlords fame) had a disquieting tendency to inflate the lower bodies of his characters.

In the early 80s, a dreary time for American Disney comics fans, the sight of a few magnificent panels of Marco Rota's long adventure "The Money Ocean", reprinted in The Comics Reader, must have tempted at least a few jealous Yanks to consider taking out Italian citizenship, unstable government and inflationary lire be hanged.  The full story, originally produced in 1974, finally appeared in the U.S. during the Disney Comics era – sadly, right on the heels of "The Disney Implosion" of late 1991.  This appearance in Treasures occurs at a far happier moment in time (though Gemstone did have us worried there for a while), and it looks every bit as good now as it did then.  By this time, however, we have seen enough Rota stories to recognize that the quality of Rota's story-telling generally does not stack up to that of his art.  The disappointing "Night of the Saracen" was only the most flamboyant representation of that tendency.  Pitted against "Saracen," "Ocean" looks pretty darn sound logic-wise, though only because the strange "weather phenomena" that attend Scrooge's building of a super-sized money bin and creation of the headlined "body of wealth" within (complete with reefs, shoals, cliffs, and a beach??) can ultimately be explained as magical phenomena… and that pretty much gives away the game insofar as the story's antagonist is concerned.  From a strictly physical standpoint, Magica De Spell has rarely looked better than she does in this story, and her assault on Scrooge's pecuniary pond ranks as one of her all-time doozies – very much in the spirit of Barks' "For Old Dime's Sake," but less exaggeratedly far-flung and cartoony.  This may be the most danger that Scrooge, Donald, and HD&L have ever faced inside the Money Bin itself, unless you hold out for Don Rosa's scary, but far less ambitious, "The Money Pit."  The weakest part of the tale is the ending, wherein Scrooge suddenly starts losing money due to his "overly liquid capital" (was Rota channeling the future DuckTales ep "Liquid Assets" here?) and, somewhat irrationally, blames Donald, who had given him the idea of combining the funds from his "subsidiary Money Bins" in one location in the first place.  Rota appears to have been trying for a Barks-style ending here; if so, he tried too hard.  Still, this is one memorable story.

The blandest entry on this menu is the Egmont story "Pipe Dreams," a 1980 tale that brought back (for the delectation of European readers, at least) Scrooge's old Klondike love interest, Glittering Goldie.  Scrooge's trans-Yukon oil pipeline from northern Alaska (this was pre-ANWAR, obviously) runs into a snag when it encounters a fence on what is supposedly public property.  It turns out that Goldie bought the land as something of a "retirement estate" after having struck gold on Scrooge's "last visit" (cf. at the end of Barks' "Back to the Klondike").  Why does this remind me of the DuckTales episode "Ducky Mountain High"?  Actually, it's every bit as much a rehash of bits and pieces of Barks' original, with Scrooge, Donald, HD&L, and the work crew being comically terrorized by Goldie's bear Blackjack (with Donald, of course, serving as the primary "inanimate object" of terrorization).  Ultimately, Scrooge determines to charm his ex-flame into giving in to his business demands, but the wily old girl digs out her honky-tonk garb and beguiles him right back.  I think you can guess who ends up winning that battle.  Vicar's artwork is very nice, and David Gerstein does another great job with the dialogue, but, truth be told, I actually liked "Ducky Mountain High" better, "Canadian Beagle Boys" and all.

John Lustig and William Van Horn's peculiar-yet-endearing original stories for "Gladstone I"'s DuckTales title in the late 1980s were the primary means whereby these two gifted creators firmly established themselves with audiences.  Since it would hardly be a proper "Scrooge tribute" package without a respectful nod in the direction of DuckTales, John and Bill get their share of the glory with the reprinting of 1989's "Windfall on Mount G'zoontight."  This story will always bring back pleasant memories for me, insofar as I first read it in the immediate aftermath of successfully defending my Ph.D. dissertation in the spring of '89.  It features all the earmarks of John and Bill's approach: a loopy subplot (HD&L becoming obsessed with a line of sports trading cards), a zany antagonist (a reclusive "human air drill" who literally blows statuary into being), and (just in case you forgot that this is supposed to be a DuckTales-based story) a couple of good crash-related quips from Launchpad McQuack.  The overbite-bearing member of "The Brotherhood of Armchair Thrill-Seekers" who hooks Scrooge, HD&L, and Launchpad into the quest to locate the "fabled Williwallawa Treasure" is an excellent specimen of the sort of kooky throwaway character who usually played supporting roles in these stories (and has, sadly, pretty much faded out of Van Horn's pantheon in these latter, more sedate days).    

Don Rosa's fiftieth-anniversary tribute to Scrooge, 1997's "A Little Something Special," serves as the modern McDuck minder's contribution to the issue.  Given that the story originally appeared during the unlamented "soft-cover era" of "Gladstone II" (in the second and last issue of the barbarously titled The Adventurous Uncle $crooge McDuck), bringing it back ten years later seems only just, in spite of the dated diamond-jubilee doings.  Rosa evidently threw all caution to the winds when crafting this epic, so intent was he on involving every single significant friend and foe from Scrooge's first fifty years.  The result is an over-egged pudding that, for all its considerable entertainment value, ranks among Don's most frantically overbooked stories.  Granted, it's got plenty of spirit, plus a once-in-a-lifetime plot: Scrooge's oldest antagonist (in Rosa's "Life of Scrooge" continuity, anyway), Blackheart Beagle, involves Flintheart Glomgold, Magica de Spell, and the Beagle Boys in a scheme to steal Scrooge's fortune under the guise of a city-wide contest to determine "a gift of something special for the duck who has everything."  Worse yet, as a "diversion" to cover the getaway through the subway tunnels of abandoned old town Duckburg, the sinister Blackheart plans to "blow the foundations out from under downtown Duckburg!".  Oh, and there was something in there involving a kitchen sink, too, I think.  Seriously, only Rosa could possibly have dared to try and pull this unwieldy alliance off, and he generally succeeds in making it both believably threatening and appropriately comical.  Blackheart and Scrooge end up grappling mano a mano atop the gigantic statue of Cornelius Coot in a scenario that may have been inspired by one of Rosa's favorite movies, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  We also get a massive train wreck to rival that of the crack-up in Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth, not to mention some De Spell "transformation magic" gone amusingly awry and Glittering Goldie whispering what I would assume (in light of the later "The Prisoner of White Agony Creek") are sexual suggestions to a sweating Scrooge.  See what I mean about overdoing it just a wee bit?  All the good and bad inherent in Rosa's work in one gaudily wrapped package.  All in all, it's a fitting representation of Rosa's oeuvre, I'd say.                

The volume wraps with an intriguing "what-if" story, Lars Jensen and Maximino Aguilar's "Whatever Happened to Scrooge McDuck?".  A number of years ago, the German fanzine Der Hamburger Donaldist sponsored a contest to see who could best illustrate the query, "Hey, Daisy, whatever happened to Scrooge?".  Rosa's entry, a graveside scene (to reflect his contention that Scrooge "died" when Barks retired in 1967), is reprinted here; I also remember the "takes" of Marco Rota (a lecherous Scrooge chasing after Magica) and Tony Strobl (a rather unimaginative scene of a poor Scrooge begging on the street).  Jensen and Aguilar top them all, I think, with their effort, which bears a strong resemblance to the Darkwing Duck episode "The Secret Origins of Darkwing Duck."  The difference here is that Jensen's "historical projection" purports to be the truth, as opposed to a tall tale told by an ancient janitor who looks more than a little like Drake Mallard.  In the year 2108, a robot guide at the Calisota Historical Museum tells an enthralled group of visitors what happened to Scrooge and company after Magica De Spell accidentally transported the Old #1 Dime "to an unknown destination" and a heartbroken Scrooge abandoned Duckburg.  The remaining relatives and friends (I hope Gizmoduck was among them…) fought off multiple attempts by the likes of the Beagle Boys, Tachyon Farflung, and Chisel McSue to glom the McDuck fortune, then converted it into a non-profit foundation that ultimately provided the funding for "ecological research" (unsurprisingly, sponsored by an adult HD&L) that has made the world of 2108 pollution-free.  There's just one mystery left to be solved: Why did Old #1 suddenly reappear in the Museum a few years ago?  I'm not about to spoil the story's ending twist, but I will say that this rates as a thoroughly believable extension of what is commonly accepted as "the real facts" about the Ducks.  Using the McDuck Foundation to put Flintheart Glomgold and John D. Rockerduck "out of business" may seem a little harsh to some, but who's to say that they (or Flinty, at least) didn't have a hand in the earlier assaults on the Money Bin?  A very noble effort, and a worthy wrap to arguably Gemstone's best "special collection" to date.

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