Latest Blog Posts

July brings the latest volumes in Fantagraphics’ project to present the definitive catalogue of the two greatest ouevres in Disney comics: Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse newspaper strips and Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comic books.

Volume 3 of Mickey’s adventures chronicles 1934 and 1935, an era of increasing maturity and responsibility for the scrappy adventure-loving mouse as he deals with Wild West banditry and then comes home to run a newspaper that exposes racketeering and corruption at City Hall. After crusading for justice at home, he does his patriotic duty as a special agent inside a Nautilus-like submarine captained by a thinly-veiled Nazi villain several years before the war.

There’s still no explanation for how some animals are “humans” while others are just animals, like how Mickey can ride a horse in the West and then come home to be greeted by his pal Horace Horsecollar. Or the eternal quandary of why Pluto is a pet while Dippy Dawg (later Goofy) is a chum. Some mysteries won’t be resolved on this plane.

Quite often when I read mainstream American social science, especially of the “quantoid” variety, I’m reminded of much I appreciate literature. While acknowledging the importance of objective data collection and analysis in distinguishing social facts from all-too-fallible everyday perceptions, I also can’t help thinking that deeper, perhaps more significant meaning goes missing in the process.

“Barks was perhaps the most widely-read but least-known author in the world. Like other comic-book artists at the time, he was anonymous during the years he was producing his comics. At the same time, because his work was so exceptional, he developed a huge number of fans, who only knew him as ‘the good artist.’ His best work is ‘pure Disney’...and yet his work was so distinctive that it actually displaced the Disney vision in the direction of his own individual talent. His success thus depended on his anonymity as well as his autonomy.”

This insightful remark comes from Donald Ault’s introduction (more like a love letter) to this first in a series devoted to collecting Carl Barks’ Disney comics, over 6,000 pages from 1942 to 1966, reprinted in glorious color. This volume reprints tales from December 1948 through August 1949, when Barks was in high feather as a creator of breathless adventures and light comedies for his Ducks: Donald (handled by Barks as a resourceful Every-duck hero removed from his irascible screen persona), the billionaire Uncle Scrooge McDuck (a great creation of equal parts fantasy and frustration), the nephews Huey, Louis and Dewey, and supporting characters like the cursedly lucky Gladstone Gander.

Every now and again I get sucked into participating in one of those blogger memes where you have to pick out your favourite book. The thing is, I maintain a LiveJournal, and frankly get just a little bored with trying to ensure my picks show me off as deep and sensitive to a community that includes feminist rants about Firefly.

Thus, charter member of the Junior Iconoclasts that I am, I recently decided to get cute and pluck out something like the most obscure or weirdest book I own.

Over the decades, much has been lost from the world of newspaper comics. With the reduction in size came a reduction in scope, grandeur, and ambition.

In the ‘30s, the comic pages were littered with gag strips, adventures, and a wonderful screwball hybrid of the two. The most popular was Sidney Smith’s The Gumps, now shamefully forgotten. Others were Wash Tubbs (later Captain Easy) and Thimble Theater (later Popeye).

And then there was Mickey. Walt Disney started the daily strip in 1930 and turned it over to one Floyd Gottfredson as a two-week replacement. He stayed with the strip 45 years.

//Blogs

The Best and Worst Films of Spring 2015

// Short Ends and Leader

"January through April is a time typically made up of award season leftovers, pre-summer spectacle, and more than a few throwaways. Here are PopMatters' choices for the best and worst of the last four months.

READ the article