Nov 15, 2014

Reviews: Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Son of the Sun

For whatever reason I don't really understand, comics with licensed-from-other-media characters such as Adventure Time, Scooby-Doo, and whatnot have a good number of restrictions that makes it difficult, though not impossible, for my comics shops and bookstores to order them. To make things easier for my shops, I buy these particular books from The Book Depository, an Amazon affiliate with smaller discounts but free shipping worldwide. Since I live in South East Asia, shipping can be a huge hurdle, so getting that cancelled out is a big help.

Unfortunately, what that means is I get these books quite late. I finally got The Son of the Sun a couple of weeks ago and read it, and now the next volume, Return to Plain Awful, and the next Carl Barks volume, Seven Cities of Gold, are on their way.

So anyway, that was really just a big plug for The Book Depository, which has FREE SHIPPING ALL AROUND THE WORLD. Let's talk about Don Rosa now.

There are certain kinds of fans, I think. There are the fans who are fans no matter what — for example, Spider-Man fans who'll buy anything Spider-Man and enjoy it regardless of factors like quality and continuity and drama, and who'll take the good with the bad. Then there are the fans who are fans of something for a long time, who then outgrow that thing and then move on — I was a huge G.I. Joe fan as a kid, and now I'm no longer even remotely interested unless Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow are involved. There are the fans who'll outgrow the things they're fans of and not know how to move on — see pretty much any Internet message board. And then there are the fans who become professionals and work on the characters they love, putting in as many references as they can and crafting the best story they can. Don Rosa is such a fan.

By his own admission in the back matter, Rosa inserted as many Barks Easter eggs and references as he could into the early stories, mainly because he didn't know how long he was going to have the gig. Additionally, he wasn't comfortable enough drawing the Ducks just yet, so he actually compiled a catalog of Barks' Duck poses for reference, admittedly copying poses as necessary. This all sounds like it's necessary for you to know the Barks stuff before reading Rosa, but while I've been reviewing the Barks books and have been loving them, I can't say that I'm fanatical enough to get every reference without being prompted, and that's just fine. Rosa's stories are still enjoyable regardless of whether you get the Easter eggs or not.

One thing the Rosa collections will have over the Barks collections is the fact that Rosa's books will be released in chronological order (Barks' books are being released in the order in which Fantagraphics believes the people are interested), so you're going to continually see improvement in the four to five years it will take to get everything released. For my money, the best single issue Rosa ever did was his last one, so it's fitting that the Don Rosa Library will (theoretically) end there.

I also really enjoy Rosa's artwork, crude though some of the early stuff may be, because of all the detail he puts into his backgrounds (the book is larger than the Barks books, to highlight Rosa's more detailed style), but also because of the fact that he's able to depict subtle expressions with cartoon Ducks.

The stories in Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Son of the Sun first appeared in Uncle Scrooge 219, 220, 224,226, and 227, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories 523, 524, 526, 528, and 531, Mickey and Donald 1, Uncle Scrooge Adventures 5, and Donald Duck Adventures (series 1) 5, dated July 1987 to August 1988, and are listed below.

Long Stories

  • The Son of the Sun. The title story of the book has Scrooge and his nephew Donald and grandnephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie competing against Flintheart Glomgold, the second-richest duck in the world, to find the lost treasure of Manco Capac. This is high Duck adventure at its finest. Flintheart Glomgold is always an interesting character because he's so similar to Scrooge but lacks the compass of the nephews to keep him upright and ahead of the game.
  • Cash Flow. The Beagle Boys finally make some headway into breaking into Scrooge's money bin by getting guns that neutralize both friction and inertia, and if I need to say anything else to sell you on that particular story, these stories are probably not for you.
  • Last Sled to Dawson. My favorite story of the bunch (predictably enough), since it relates to Scrooge's gold prospecting days in the Yukon. When he left for Duckburg, a sled of Scrooge's got trapped in the middle of an iceberg. Since it contained things that were really precious, he had his men keep an eye out for it for several decades. Now the iceberg's about to go, and it's time to get the sled back, but it's not going to be easy since Scrooge's old enemy, Soapy Slick, wants what's on it just as bad as Scrooge does. And also, the story features the Star of the North, the lost love of Scrooge's life, Glittering Goldie! This one actually tugged at what's left of my heartstrings at the end there, as Rosa's Goldie stories often seem to.

Short Stories (10-Pagers)

  • Nobody's Business. Scrooge doesn't like the fact that his two nephews, Donald Duck and Gladstone Gander, have no promising prospects for the future, so he gives them each a thousand dollars and gives them 24 hours to invest everything. Of course, Donald, the eternal bungler, screws everything up, while Gladstone, with his eternal luck, doesn't actually need to do anything to succeed. How do things even out in the end?
  • Mythological Menagerie. The nephews have to go on a hike to spot and identify some animals, and Donald decides to have fun with them by dressing up various animals so as to be unidentifiable. However, as it turns out, he ends up dressing them up to resemble mythical animals, and the boys, who have caught a unicorn before for Uncle Scrooge's zoo, are able to identify one animal after another. But that won't stop Donald from continuing to try.
  • Recalled Wreck. Donald has had the same car for years — once a year, he takes it apart, works on the pieces, then puts it back together. Chaos ensues when Neighbor Jones accidentally sells the parts during a garage sale, and Donald has to get them back from whoever bought them. Of course, they've all found various uses for the parts (the popcorn man is using the engine to run his popcorn cart), so Donald has to find ways to retrieve it and get rid of the effects of whatever they've been used for.
  • Fit to Be Pied. There's a pumpkin-carving contest in Duckburg. Donald has the best pumpkin-carving skills, but he has no pumpkins. Neighbor Jones has the best pumpkins, but he's a terrible carver. Can they put aside their differences long enough to win this contest? Of course not!
  • Oolated Luck. A contest for a free cruise involves entering raffle tickets, and since Gladstone Gander is in the contest, Donald decides that his only shot at winning is to get every single ticket — all 10,000 of them. But of course, it's Gladstone, so he still manages to get one. Will Gladstone's luck continue to hold up?
  • Metaphorically Spanking. The boys have to study literary devices, so Donald tells them to go to school. They decide to play hooky instead, but somehow, some way, wherever they go, Donald is there. This also features an ending I doubt would be published today by any big company.

The Really Short Ones. These are only two to five pages long each. It's interesting to me that Rosa didn't have a single one-pager, since those are Barks staples, but I do think they came more naturally to Barks:

  • Fir-Tree Fracas. Donald is determined to be the best Christmas host ever and goes all-out on the decorations. And we all know what happens when Donald is determined to do anything.
  • The Paper Chase. Scrooge goes after his newspaper, which is taken away by a strong wind. This one's a little interesting because the punchline is a pun. Since these stories are huge in Europe, translated, I wonder how the punchline came off.
  • Rocket Reverie. Donald has a dream that he and the boys are stuck on a distant planet (or the moon), and they're out of fuel. Interestingly, this one was written by Gary Groth, who didn't make it a dream sequence. Rosa didn't like that, because it disrupted the integrity of the Barksverse, so he made it a dream sequence. It's a fascinating point, mentioned all through the back matter, that Rosa valued the realism of the Barksverse enough that he wanted to be really careful not to screw it up, to the point that he didn't even like calling attention to the fact they were ducks with bills and feathers. And yet, we're talking about talking Ducks. I see his point but don't necessarily agree with him.
  • Fiscal Fitness. Scrooge trains for the Millionaires' Olympics.

This is a great start for the Don Rosa Library. High production values, high adventure, a solid sense of humor, and crisp writing.  Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Doc Savage said...

Now these are what comics should be like!

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