Sunday, June 29, 2003

[COMICS] Disney's throwbacks

The first comic book I remember reading was an issue of Richie Rich. It was sitting in "Crossroads", one of those restaurants small towns have which are open for breakfast and lunch but not dinner (of course, the name might have been different; I can remember it being called "Crossroads", "Fran's Place", "Atienza's Cafe", and "Stone's Restaurant"), right next to the newspapers there for adults to read while drinking their coffee. It had multiple stories, simple layouts - indeed, whenever the layout got a little complicated, there were arrows to lead the reader from panel to panel - and a house style so uniform that it could have been one artist or many.

The two "new" Walt Disney comics from Gemstone are kind of like that, only bigger and, yes, more expensive. At $6.95 each, they're on the pricey side, but that does get you approximately 60 full-color pages. That's about the same per page as a $2.95 22-page book (color optional), and if you're looking for good comics for kids, you could do a lot worse. The books have a good balance between long and short stories, and there's absolutely nothing in them that would worry a parent.

The word new is in quotation marks in that last paragraph because these aren't really new book; they just haven't been published for four years. "Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge" is #319, and "Walt Disney's Comics" sports a whopping #634, which would be over fifty years of monthly issues. For the most part, though, there aren't any continuity issues. Kids getting the books for the first time might wonder who this "Phantom Blot" character Mickey is fighting with is (unless the Blot has been showing up in ABC's Saturday Morning cartoon; the local station doesn't run it). I myself admit that it took me some time to reconcile the versions of some of the characters in this book with the versions that appeared on DuckTales 15 years ago. (Ain't multiple continuities a pain?)

Going forward, I don't know if I'll keep picking up "Walt Disney's Comics"; I just didn't hear the characters' voices while reading it (especially not Donald's), and it was pretty short on Mickey while being entirely Goofy-deficient (also no Pluto, Chip & Dale, and Daisy). I am, however, hooked on "Uncle Scrooge".

Part of the reason is that I really did like DuckTales as a kid, and that series was inspired by these comics, but mostly for the Don Rosa story that leads the issue off, "The Dutchman's Secret". It's 24 pages of great comic book - easy enough for a kid to understand, but filled with solid storytelling with plenty of adventure and humor for all ages. And it seems like a funny thing to say about a comic book about talking ducks, but it is meticulously researched. It's clear that Rosa put a lot of effort into this story even before reading his editorial where he talks about how "The Dutchman's Treasure" is actually the most famous lost treasure in the United States, and how he worked at making sure all the facts in the story are accurate (save, of course, the presence of Scrooge McDuck). I could tell that certain elements, like the "secret Spanish symbols", were likely genuine, because of how well everything fit together.

It makes for fascinating reading, as Scrooge, Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie bring their intelligence to bear on the problems in the story. And it's really encouraging to see someone paying that much attention to detail. We're in the middle of the season where people advise you to "turn your brain off" during a movie, and seem to simply not understand when you suggest that getting things right might make for a more interesting story that can be enjoyed by more people. Don Rosa gets it, though, making "Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge" my favorite comic from the past week.

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