Book and Comic
and Friends #337 (March 2006). DD&F fetes St.
Patrick's Day with a trio of good stories focusing on the evergreen (heh)
themes of luck and leprechauns. Kari "O'Korhonen", David "O'Gerstein",
and Daniel "O'Branca" provide the prize of the lot with "Brother, Can
You Spare a Pot of Gold?", in which a down-on-his-luck Donald joins
covetous Scrooge, complacent Gladstone, and other Duckburgians on a
"leprechaun hunt" to commemorate Cornelius Coot's legendary encounter
with one of the wee sprites. Donald's Nephews, adorably dressed in
lepra-garb, are hiding in the woods, with the lucky person who catches
one of them slated to win a ladle of lucre. HD&L badly want Donald to
win, but how can they do it without cheating to help him? As it turns
out, Don himself – almost without realizing it – furnishes his own
means of winning the contest in a most unexpected way. Yes, even
with Scrooge and Gladstone involved, Don actually comes out on top!
The notion that the fate of Duckburg once depended upon an encounter
with a leprechaun is a bit much, even as the excuse for a typically zany
"Duckburg tradition," and Scrooge sours the milk by explicitly cheating
even though he claims not to be doing so (whatever became of
"making it square"?), but the mere fact that Donald triumphs in a venue
where he has had so little success before – the no-holds-barred contest
– is enough to lift the tale a few extra notches in my estimation.
Branca's artwork doesn't hurt, of course. Just to make sure the Ducks'
"universe" is reoriented back to its default setting, the back of the
book contains a reprint of Carl Barks' 1961 story "Duck Luck."
Donald dismisses an exceptionally negative fortune he finds in a Chinese
fortune cookie, but events conspire to convince him to beat a hasty
retreat home to bed. Ahh, that's more like it… The sandwich story is
Sarah Kinney and Xavi's "Leapin' Leprechauns," wherein Mickey
jeers at the notion that leprechauns exist – only to face an apparent
invasion of the maddening, décor-muddling beasties in his own house.
Unlike "Pot of Gold," the "surprise" ending here isn't much of one, but
the story is OK overall. The book wraps with "Byte Makes Right,"
a Disney Studio tale from waaaaay back (you can tell because the
"modern" computer that's supposed to revolutionize Scrooge's office work
sports reel-to-reel tape). The main claim to interest of the two-page
quickie is that it features artwork by Tony Strobl, who hasn't appeared
in American Disney comics for a while. Along with his work for Western
Publishing in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Strobl also did stories for
Disney's overseas Studio program, and "Byte" is one of them.
and Friends #286 (March 2006). Pleaping plizards, Eega
Beeva's back in a pbrand new pstory -- Stefan Petrucha and Rodriques'
"Coming up Short." Mickey's weird pal from the future provides the
necessary technological marvel – an "interdimensional travel ring," to
be precise – allowing him and The Mouse to sojourn off on an adventure
in an unfamiliar location. There are several hints before the end that
the "travel ring" may be used in future adventures of a similar sort.
The gimmick isn't a bad one, and arguably necessary to sustain Eega's
career as an occasional Mouse sidekick (personally, I think that the
"wacko out of his time" gags that helped keep Eega afloat in the daily
strip for so long have pretty much been played out). This tale puts
Eega and Mickey into a future (for Eega, actually, it's past)
land ruled by a tyrannical shrimp named King Tonga, who amuses himself
by shrinking unfortunates and forcing them to joust with one another.
Not ones to fail to measure up (hyuck) to such a situation, our heroes
help some émigrés lead a rebellion against Tonga. The tale makes good
use of the old conceit that Eega's dog (actually, wasn't he originally a
"thnuckle-booh"?) Pflip turns red when he senses danger, so Petrucha
clearly did his homework for this assignment. (In the Tonga of 2225,
however, shouldn't the conventional pigfaces and dogfaces already
be mutating into "men of tomorrow" like Eega?) I certainly wouldn't
mind seeing more stories in this vein. Second on the menu is "The
Insult Robot," a Dutch offering that finds Donald and Neighbor Jones
separately commissioning Gyro to build robots that will sustain their
argument whenever they run out of imaginative insults to hurl at one
another. There's enough libel-lobbing here to sicken even Don Rickles,
and most of it is actually rather funny. "Green Dogs and Jams",
a 1953 Pluto story drawn by Paul Murry, and a one-page Chip
and Dale gag wrap the issue.
#350 (February 2006). Just in time for Valentine's
Day, a reprint of Don Rosa's 1988 epic, "Last Sled to Dawson,"
arrives (on dogsled, no doubt) to remind us just how refreshing Rosa's
dramatic appearance on the American Disney comics scene seemed back
then. The plot is relatively simple compared to those of Don's later
superproductions, but the sheer enthusiasm with which Rosa attacks the
Ducks' return to the Klondike and Scrooge's "reunion" with Glittering
Goldie (her appearances in DuckTales being set aside for the
nonce) is evident at every turn. In his accompanying essay about the
story, Rosa gives credit to the Tony Strobl-drawn 1950s tale "The Secret
of the Glacier" for inspiring the notion of Scrooge trying to recover a
long-lost dogsled frozen in glacier ice (with his adversary from "North
of the Yukon," Soapy Slick, trying to beat him to what Soapy fully
believes is a document that may give him control of Scrooge's fortune).
Early Rosa tales don't get much better than this.
Kari Korhonen, David Gerstein, and Vicar
serve up another winner with "Date with a Munchkin," in which
Magica, who's tried just about every magical scheme once to snare
Scrooge's #1 Dime, hits upon the ruse of disguising herself as Daisy in
order to pry secrets out of McDuck employee Donald. Little does Magica/Daisy
suspect that she may find it hard to extricate herself from her new role
– in fact, she may end up liking it! Towards the end of the story,
Magica reveals a new side to her personality that will linger in the
mind well after the tale is complete. The Beagle Boys pick up on the
"love" theme in the McGreals' and Maria Nunez' "Lovestruck Lugs,"
wherein they compete for the attention of a shapely human (!!!) female
crook who claims to be down on her luck. The book wraps with "What
Goes Around" by Lars ("TNT") Jensen, David (ditto) Gerstein, and
Marco Rota, which opens in such a bizarre manner that it reads like one
of Rota's own, loopier plots. Suffice it to say that when it is
casually dropped on page three that Scrooge and Goldie are having a
wedding anniversary (sic), you know you're not in the normal
Duckburg anymore. Needless to say, Scrooge gets it all straightened out
before the end, but the story sustains a level of disbelief until the
last couple of pages.
Comics and Stories #665 (February 2006). Old mixes
seamlessly with new in this fine issue. Bill Van Horn leads off with
"A Fluid Situation," which finds "Silly Billy," in a bit of a funk
of late, back at something close to the height of his powers. When
Donald, tormented by a dripping faucet, resolves to fix every single tap
in the house, the Nephews are quick to don slickers and rubber boots.
They ultimately do need them, but not quite when you'd normally expect.
After a short Mickey story by Donald Markstein and Rodriques, we
jump into the Wayback Machine for a 1945 Li'l Bad Wolf story and
an unexpected (but welcome) reprint of 1953's "Donald Duck and Robert
the Robot" by Dick Moores, one of the earliest lead stories in the
Donald Duck title after the latter spun off from the Four
Color series. Moores' plot (he both wrote and drew this one) is
loosely wound, to say the least, but I've always liked this yarn,
because the title supporting character reminds me so much of Armstrong,
the villainous robot in an early episode of DuckTales. Robert is
anything but villainous -- that wasn't Moores' style – but the visual
resemblance is remarkable.
Next comes what in my mind is the prize
of the issue: "Just like Pop" by Lars Jensen, David Gerstein, and
an artist named Daniel, which marks the return of Scamp to American
Disney comics! Lady and the Tramp's son had a long, successful run in
comics and on the newspaper pages, but his appearances in WDC&S
have tended to be lumped in with the rest of the magazine's
"children-oriented" backup features. Anyone who knows how much I love
feisty young male characters will probably understand why Scamp has
always been an easy "sell" for me. This tale does the character and his
setting (in this case, correctly depicted as turn-of-the-century
America) proud, and Daniel's art is utterly magnificent. If Egmont
refuses to turn out any more Scamp stories after this, they're
missing a trick, in my opinion. Speaking of returns, Floyd Gottfredson
finally, at long last, comes to Gemstone's pages with a reprint of
"The Picnic," a short Mickey daily strip continuity from
1931. David Gerstein informs me that this is just a warm-up for more
ambitious Gottfredson reprints to come.
The conclusion of Don Rosa's "The
Magnificent Seven (minus three) Caballeros" backstops the issue.
This tale appeared to be leading up to a smashing climax, what
with Donald, Jose, and Panchito hot on the trail of a legendary lost
mine and a vicious native chief in equally scorching pursuit… which is
why I was surprised that the windup turned out to be so perfunctory, the
characters' struggles with a giant (but comical) anaconda
notwithstanding. The chief's previous loss of a necklace that allowed
him to hold sway over a band of natives was set up as if it would be a
major plot point, but it's all but forgotten. Rosa apparently finds the
villainous chief such an uninteresting adversary that he doesn't even
offer him the courtesy of a total defeat; the bad guy is instead swept
over a spillway and into a tributary of the Amazon, rendering him
incapable of hindering the pals' escape. Donald, paradoxically,
achieves the Nephews' original goal of sending him to Brazil to help him
recover his confidence by… snapping under the strain of yet another
screw-up and rushing the chief headlong. Geez, Chip and Dale could have
received treatment like that. Even the "legendary Mines of Fear" turn
out to resemble nothing so much as a cave full of wall-mounted
jellybeans. Sorry to say it, but the story ends up falling a little
short of Rosa's original Caballeros revival.
Adventures #16 (Gemstone). Given my love of Tolkien,
you'd think that the featured story in this issue -- a full-scale parody
of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, with Donald in
the Bilbo/Frodo role of reluctant hero – would rate my imprimatur as the
best item of the lot. Instead, I actually preferred the middle
Mickey story, the McGreals' and Joaquin's "Pluto's Nose Knows."
Not only did this tale of the search for the legendary Golden Fleece –
which, contrary to legend, may not have wound up in Jason's
possession after all – prove quite entertaining in and of itself, it
gave a welcome prime role to Pluto, who has not been featured very much
of late in the Gemstone books. Here, Pluto's uncanny ability to smell
out "anything that has hide and hair" leads the unscrupulous
foreman on Professors Dustibones and Wagstaff's archaeological dig in
Greece to commandeer Mickey's mutt for a "seek and find" mission.
Dustibones, of course, was originally created by Floyd Gottfredson for
the Mickey comic strip, but Wagstaff is a McGreal original who's
making his first American appearance in quite some time here. The story
has nice pacing, plenty of action, and a dramatic/comedic scene in which
we see just how ferocious Pluto can become when Mickey is
threatened by someone.
The lengthy Tolkein parody, "A World
Beyond," produced by Spectrum Associates (why am I getting a vision
of a bunch of guys in suits sitting around a table?) and drawn by Cesar
Ferioli and Jose Maria Manrique, is pretty good in and of itself,
despite several scenes (the dwarves and the wizard "Sandalf" invading
Donald's house, for instance) that are entirely too close to the
original for my comfort. Unlike Frodo, Donald finds himself racing to
restore a magical device before time runs out. In so doing, he
realizes just what a fool he was to blow off helping his Nephews at a
Junior Woodchuck campout in favor of running a gaming marathon at his
house. (Don's a D&D fanatic in this tale, which explains the
single-mindedness.) I can't really quarrel with the story as
executed here, but compared to the wonderful World of the
Dragonlords graphic novel released last year, it seems just a bit
hollow and mechanical. The absence of Giorgio Cavazzano's artwork and
Byron Erickson's "Heart-y" scripting are definitely felt. Such "cutesy"
touches as a bunch of forest animals straight out of Bambi and a
grove of talking trees (not Ents, mind you, but real trees, sort
of like the apple-chucking arboreta in The Wizard of Oz) rather
undercut the more serious aspects of the plot. Also, it may have been a
mistake to split the artistic duties, letting Manrique handling the Duck
characters and Ferioli the dwarvish/elvish folk. Ferioli proved several
times over in the "Mythos Island" serial that he could mate Mice and
Ducks with mythological beasts (not literally, of course…) and
achieve satisfying results, so why not let him do the same here?
Manrique's cartoony Donald doesn't clash as dramatically with Ferioli's
characters as, say, Mickey and Goofy did with the realistic humans in
the short-lived Mickey Mouse: Super Secret Agent experiment back
in the 60s, but in a few scenes, at least, the contrast in styles is
Oh, there was a third story in
this issue, wasn't there? A relatively brief Uncle $crooge caper
called "The Bronze Gate", from the pages of the Italian
Topolino. Honestly, it didn't leave much of an impression on me.
However, this must be the first time ever that Scrooge has had to
graduate from school in order to tackle a treasure hunt…