Archive for July 1st, 2008


What I’m Reading: Walt Disney Treasures-Uncle Scrooge, A Little Something Special

Uncle Scrooge-A Little Something SpecialIf there’s one area where I’m a bigger Disney fan than my buddy Chase, it’s when it comes to the comic books. I’ve built up a fairly sizable collection of Disney comics, beginning with the Gladstone series of the 80s, through Disney’s attempt to publish their own comics in the 90s, back to Gladstone, and to the Gemstone series of today. (I’ve also got older comics from the Dell, Gold Key and Whitman lines, but in much smaller quantities.) Point is, I’ve got a lot of Disney comics.

And of all the Disney characters, my favorite is Scrooge McDuck. The best Scrooge stories are the far-flung adventure yarns, the treasure hunting tales, the journeys to the center of the Earth. The likes of Carl Barks, Don Rosa and William Van Horn have created some of the most exciting comics ever published — Indiana Jones adventures before Indy was even thought up. David Gerstein, from Gemstone Comics, was recently good enough to get me a copy of their latest collection of Scrooge tales, Walt Disney Treasures: Uncle Scrooge-A Little Something Special.

This is the second of the Walt Disney Treasures comic book collections (cleverly given the same trade dress as the DVD series of the same name), and it’s certainly proving to be a true treasure trove. This collection is full of excellent stories that cover virtually the entire spectrum of the characters in Scrooge’s universe, with some nice commentary by Gemstone editors and writers, all wrapped up in a fantastic cover by my personal favorite Scrooge creator, Don Rosa.

The book begins with “The Seven Cities of Cibola,” an adventure from 1954 by Scrooge’s creator, Carl Barks. Desperate to find a new way to make money, Scrooge joins his nephews on a search for Indian arrowheads, only to stumble upon a secret that may point to way to the fabled lost cities of gold. This is the perfect example of why I love Scrooge — these sorts of adventure stories, peppered with the occasional piece of real history or culture to give it a more legitimate flavor, and very funny as well. Right away, this story shows us why Scrooge is such a brilliant creation.

“Getting that Healthy, Wealthy Feeling,” a 1964 piece by Carl Fallberg and Tony Strobl(another classic Scrooge artist), again shows a Scrooge growing bored with his business and his wealth. Of course, with three cubic acres of money, one would imagine you could buy a little excitement, but still… Donald suggests he try starting over from scratch, building a fortune the way he did the first time: by the sweat of his brow. As Donald’s suggestions often do, however, this tends to end in disaster.

From 1966 we get “Witness Persecution” by Romano Scarpa and Giorgio Cavazzano, with English dialogue by David Gerstein. (Like many of the best Disney comics, this was originally published in Europe and had to be translated for its American presentation. Interesting fact — in Europe, Disney comics are much bigger than they are in the States. Uncle Scrooge kicks the X-Men’s butts over there.) In this story, Daisy is hanging out with Brigitta MacBridge, a woman that is intent on becoming Mrs. Scrooge McDuck. (This is another character created in Europe that isn’t as well-known over here.) When Daisy and Brigitta witness a traffic accident between Scrooge and his rival, Jubal Pomp, each girl claims a different party is responsible. To prevent Brigitta from testifying against him, Scrooge is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice — marry her.

Marco Rota’s “The Money Ocean,” from 1974, is my second-favorite story in the collection. Scrooge’s fortune has grown so vast that he needs to build auxiliary Money Bins all around town to hold all the cash. Feeling down, he commissions Gyro Gearloose to design a new bin, an enormous bin, to hold the entire fortune. The result is a bin so huge that the boys can get on a boat and sail across an ocean of money. What he doesn’t know, though, is that Magica DeSpell has slipped a coin of her own into the mix. Magica is one of my favorite Scrooge villains. Her shtick is that she wants to create an amulet to give herself the “Midas Touch,” the ability to turn anything into gold. The last ingredient for her spell, though, is the first coin owned by the world’s richest man — i.e., Scrooge’s number-one dime. It makes her more devious, more crafty, and more single-minded than a simple robber like the Beagle Boys.

The Swedish tale “Pipe Dreams,” from 1980, takes Scrooge and the boys back to the Klondike, where he made the foundation of his fortune mining for gold. Scrooge has come back to supervise the construction of a new oil pipeline, only to discover a bear and a fence guarding a section of land they need to cut through… a section owned by Scrooge. I love the rarely-seen (but often thematically-present) supporting character this story focuses on, but it was probably my least-favorite story in the book. Not that it was bad, it’s just that the rest of it was so much better.

“Windfall on Mount G’Zoontight,” by John Lustig and William Van Horn, is a 1989 tale from the Ducktales series of comics. Scrooge, his nephews, and the ever-bumbling pilot Launchpad McQuack, head to the windiest mountain on Earth in search of treasure. I love Van Horn’s really zany art style — he packs in a lot of really surreal visual gags that sets his artwork apart from many others. Plus, it’s fun to see Launchpad. My love for the tales of Uncle Scrooge really does date back to the Ducktales cartoon I loved as a kid, and while I now see how the best episodes were based on even better comics, I have a soft spot for Launchpad that makes me happy whenever they drop him into a comic these days.

“A Little Something Special,” the Don Rosa story from 1997, is the story that gives the volume its name. Rosa, spiritual successor to Carl Barks, wove an amazing Duckburg-based adventure to celebrate Scrooge’s 50th anniversary. As a mysterious benefactor sponsors a million-dollar contest to guess the best 50th anniversary present for Scrooge, a coalition of his nastiest foes plans to blow the celebration wide open. Rosa puts together Scrooge’s three most well-known enemies, whose goals are not mutually exclusive: Magica DeSpell just wants his dime, the Beagle Boys just want the rest of his money, and Flintheart Glomgold (ah, the excellent Flintheart Glomgold) wants only for Scrooge to be ruined. I always love an epic Scrooge adventure, but I particularly love how Rosa managed to create one of the grandest adventures ever without actually leaving Duckburg itself. Scrooge is often a globe-trotter, which I like, but this homebound adventure was unique and thrilling.

The volume ends, appropriately enough, with the 2006 Polish comic, “Whatever Happened to Scrooge McDuck?” Set 100 years in the future, a group of schoolchildren are given a museum tour of “The Scrooge McDuck Legacy Room,” where they hear the tale of his final adventure — how Scrooge vanished after Magica made his number-one dime disappear, how Donald and the others had to fight to save his fortune, and how the world changed as a result. It sounds a little bleak, but the ending has a brilliant twist that recasts the entire preceding story, making it exciting, memorable, and still manages to leave Scrooge’s future wide open.

Gemstone really has set a high bar with their collected editions. This is an excellent sampling of wonderful Scrooge stories, suitable to share with your kids or to read yourself. Fans of Disney comics, of Ducktales, and of Scrooge himself need to pick up this book.

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