Starting with this post, I plan on taking a comprehensive look at some of what, I think, are the more outstanding issues in my collection of free comics from this year’s Free Comic Book Day. This is something I have wanted to write about since I started this blog, and I can’t wait to show you what each new issue has to offer.
One of my favorite issues thus far has been the Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comic from Disney and Fantagraphics Books. This crazy cartoonish comic features two spectacular stories by Don Rosa, a veteran Disney comics writer and artist. He has been the premier chronicler of the Duckberg denizens’ adventures for over two decades. Rosa also presents an essay in this issue in which he recounts how he got started in the comics world and explains some of the interesting details regarding the two featured stories.
(One small correction before we move on: In my previous Free Comic Book Day post, I stated that this issue featured work from Carl Barks, the legendary creator of Scrooge McDuck. Actually, it’s just Don Rosa for this issue; the last few years have featured Barks’ work exclusively for the Free Comic Book Day issues, so I guess I just had him on the brain. Still, Rosa is commonly viewed by Disney comics fanatics as the heir apparent to Barks’ lofty throne and, in my opinion, he has done just as much if not more to make the ducks’ escapades some of the funniest, most exciting comics ever published, so we’re still in good hands here, folks. I do, however, apologize for my slip up.)
The FCBD 2014 US&DD (Yes indeedy!) issue contains two fun Don Rosa tales from the 1990s, a time when Disney comics were not as widely circulated here in America as they were in other parts of the world (Italy, mostly), so for many readers, me included, this is the first time these stories have been widely available. I can safely say that both of them have been well worth the wait. The first story, “A Matter of Some Gravity,” involves Scrooge, Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey, and Louie attempting to prevent the evil Magica De Spell from stealing Scrooge’s lucky Number One Dime. Magica casts a spell on Scrooge and Donald which inverts their personal senses of gravity. They are forced to walk along walls and across ceilings, as well as desperately grab at any foothold they can find, as they chase Magica down.
This story is very entertaining to me, mostly from a visual standpoint. Don Rosa employs a clever arrangement for the comic panels: the top half of each page presents events from a “normal” point of view, while the bottom half shows things from Scrooge and Donald’s “gravitationally challenged” (Don’s own words, couldn’t have said any better myself) perspective. These clashing perspectives were fun for me to keep track of, and I enjoyed seeing how the ducks tackled seemingly simple tasks like negotiating a steep hill and riding a bus, made nearly impossible to complete when one’s perspective has been inverted. I’ve encountered this same kind of fun in ’60s Superman comics in which science and conventional laws of physics seemed to run amok, and I think Rosa captures much of that whimsical spirit here as well. I also feel that this story is a fantastic introduction to the Disney duck comics and a great imagination-sparker.
The next story in this issue is a Donald Duck yarn entitled “The Sign of the Triple Distelfink.” While it was not as entertaining for me as “Gravity,” I think it still provides some fascinating food for thought. The main character is not the Don himself, but rather his less famous, but no less iconic, comics-based cousin, Gladstone Gander. According to Rosa’s essay, he wrote this tale for Gladstone’s 50th anniversary, and again, I think it serves as a wonderful intro to this great character. The gander’s claim to fame is that he has outrageously good luck: he wins sweepstakes, gets out of tough scrapes through wildly improbable coincidences, and generally goes through life with little trouble, a trait that gets on Donald’s nerves. However, in this story, Gladstone is faced with a day of outrageously bad luck. It’s his birthday, you see, and every year on this special day, his normally good luck is reversed.
Donald, Scrooge and various other members of the extended duck family throw a birthday party for Gladstone, but he doesn’t want to attend because he fears his bad luck might cause undue harm to his loved ones. He spends the majority of the story trying to avoid the party by taking a train, boat, plane, and other methods of travel to escape, but his bad luck interferes every time. The accidents that pile up and the other characters’ reactions to Gladstone’s bad luck are what made this story stand out to me. The “bad luck” bits did get a bit predictable, but I thought the way things were resolved in the end was quite clever. And don’t worry, Gladstone is back to having good luck by the end; no cooked goose tonight!
The Free Comic Book Day issue of Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck is one of my favorite issues from this year. I think it contains a healthy dose of fun and some clever stories from a sound craftsman in Don Rosa. Even better, there’s a promo in the front of the issue which states there is a new collection of some of Rosa’s other Disney work coming in July! I can’t wait!
There’s more fun from FCBD 2014 on the way here at Kellog Thoughts! I do not plan on covering every single issue I collected from this year’s festivities, but I do want to feature the comics which I think are simply outstanding, so stay tuned! Leave your thoughts on this issue, Donald, Scrooge, Disney, and comics in the comments, and happy reading!