Normally, it’s fair to say that I stick to the tights and capes genre of comic book reading. With the exception of the stray Vertigo title ( Y: The Last Man, 100 Bullets) or some cultural touchstone, probably written by Alan Moore (and arguably some form of tights and capes at that!), I don’t venture out of this corner of the industry. That isn’t to say that I’m not interested…in fact of late I have been making major stride to broaden my exposure and see if’n the other areas are of interest to me. In seeking this out, I came to some good advice about reading faire from a friend of mine, Nick Newert (director, AV guy, and Copy editor extraordinaire) to read Don Rosa’s “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”.
At first, when he first proposed this sometime back, I was reluctant; not because it wasn’t the capes and tights genre but rather because it was a Disney Comic. With other pressing matters at hand, and a lack of time to track down and read this volume of tales cataloguing the rise of the world’s richest duck, it sat in the back burner of my mind. Now, I have had many a heated discussion about the tights and capes genre with Mr. Newert, and besides respecting his intelligence, I respect his taste in comics (almost a higher, if-not-equal compliment IMO) so when there was a little bit more space in my life for comic book reading again I made sure that his suggestion was on my pull list.
I don’t know why I waited so long. All of my reluctances over the quality of art and writing in the comic due to my perception of what would be acceptable in a Disney book were assuaged almost immediately. The volume develops the character of Scrooge McDuck from a wee lad of 10, earning his #1 Dime in Glassgow, Scotland to the wealthy, tightfisted, and cantankerous old duck that the world has come to know as Uncle Scrooge with humor, intelligence, and a sophistication that appeals to both adult and child readers. For example: in the first chapter “Of Dimes , Ducks, and Destinies” Magica De Spell (that evil sorceress duck with the haircut that my wife had in her senior yearbook photo) travels back in time to steal Scrooge’s #1 dime (as is her M.O.). As part of fitting into the scenery she uses a spell to don clothing more appropriate to the time period—a duck is sitting in a nearby window having a drink from a brown bottle. This duck might not be suspicious at first, but after De Spell’s clothing have changed an arm is seen reaching out of the window pouring the drink to the ground. It is a simple, yet easy joke aimed more at an adult audience in acknowledgement in the fantastic nature of magic (if not anthropomorphic ducks and dogs) more so than children, despite their level of involvement with alcoholic hallucinations.
As a man born in the 1980’s I have an especially soft spot in my heart for Disney’s ducks as I was reared on a healthy diet of Duck Tales. The adventures of Scrooge, along with his grandnephews Huey, Dewey,and Louie and their most inept pilot, Launchpad McQuack are a cornerstone of my childhood. While I have somewhat less attachment to Donald (probably it only goes so far as the Dancing Donald Duck toy I had as a kid and my general predilection to incomprehensible sailor babble) I found it interesting that little effort is made in the comics to emulate his characterist “ducky” voice. His characterization, though limited in the long life span of his
miserly uncle (the tale spans 1877 to 1947) is interesting as I never really know what the hell he was saying before (perhaps Donald is only drunk in motion pictures). However, as characters like the afore mentioned De Spell,
it is interesting to see how they operate in different contexts. Additionally, I found particular joy in guessing a largely unnamed Afrikaner Duck who played the role of villain in “The Terror of the Transvaal” was in fact McDucks arch nemesis Flintheart Glomgold, as well as reading the formation of the Beagle Boys Gang in “The Master of The Mississippi”.
All in, reading the character of Scrooge develop from a 10 year old with a shoe-shine kid to an intrepid and adventurous teenager, to a hardened man of his twenties (stopping only to look for “tail” from Goldie O’Gilt –another character I remember from Duck Tales), all the way to a penny pinching, coin swimming, money bin hoarding, old man (duck) looking to connect with some family on Christmas Day is quite the ride; and a refreshing departure from my normal comics faire. The art, while maintaining the Disney character design and manual of style is remarkably dynamic, consistent, and relays at times the same amount of sophistication and humor as the writing does. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” is a marvelous and fun read for any comic book fan and Don Rosa’s 1995 Eisner Award for it is well deserved, as is the 1997 Comic’s Buyers Guide Favorite Reprint award. I recommend it whole heartedly, and assert that anyone who can’t enjoy this comic book probably can’t enjoy comic books at all.
P.S. Finding out that Duckburg is located in Calisota, USA made me laugh. If only The Simpsons had come up with so simple a solution.