Disney's Ducks, BOOM! and Grand Theft Bob Dylan

It's an accidental magic that brings up the perfect two-Dylan playlist for reading Darkwing Duck/DuckTales: Dangerous Currency, Disney's swansong at publisher BOOM! Studios. Or maybe it only seems accidental.

Darkwing Duck/DuckTales: Dangerous Currency (tpb)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Length: 178 pages
Writer: Warren Spector, Ian Brill, James Silvani
Publication Date: 2011-11

It's the accidental magic of not hitting repeat.

The artful and deliberated moribund of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (the momentous finale of Bringing It All Back Home) does not play again. Instead, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" shuffles up. The latter song is a different time, a different temperature, some three years earlier than "Baby Blue". The magic of the segue is an accidental magic, but a powerful magic nonetheless. And it's that flow from the grand finale of 1965's Bringing It All Back Home to the midpoint-song of 1962's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan that keys into something primal about Dangerous Currency.

Dangerous Currency is its own kind of finale. A collaborative swansong for both Darkwing Duck and Ducktales. Both are titles based on characters and settings owned by Disney and popularized during the so-called Afternoon Revolution that broke during the late 80s-mid 90s. And both currently enjoy the distinction of being core Kaboom!, the line of kids' books from publisher BOOM! Studios.

The full scope of the segue doesn't hit me until much, much later in "Don't Think Twice", somewhere around Dylan crooning "you just wasted my precious time". I was warm and safe, and above all happy in 65, in "Baby Blue". By the end of Bringing It Home Dylan had clearly outgrown the scene that had birthed him. It was time to move on. But "Baby Blue" hits like a love song more than a heartbreaker. A love song in the sense that although the situation's changed dramatically, everyone gets to leave with their superpowers intact. Everyone's still the same, by the end of it.

Ironically, "It's Alright" is where the real breakup is at, and where the real heartbreak comes bubbling up. Whoever she is (I don't know all the Dylan footnotes and marginalia but Wikipedia assures me Dylan's singing about Suze Rotolo), she "just wasted (his) precious time". "Baby Blue" is about moving on more or less intact (even after having grown), "It's Alright" is about a secret betrayal, about the thing that shouldn't have mattered as much as it clearly did.

There's no way to be present at the moment of this segue from one Dylan to the next and not allow it to frame the association between Disney and BOOM! Studios, particularly now that this association draws to a close.

Over the past few years we've come to parallel worlds version of Disney; a Disney we recognize, but at the same time one we really shouldn't. This eerily familiar Disney, a Disney we'd never seen before, was arguably never more evident than with the famous Ducks, Darkwing's "Terror That Flaps in the Night" and DuckTales' Uncle Scrooge.

The Afternoon Revolution taught us that DuckTales was really about turning back the clock on the impoverishment of having a fortune but lacking a family. And in Warren Spector's capable hands, BOOM!'s DuckTales came to evolve a deeper layer of understanding. DuckTales, Spector demonstrated, is really about extending the wealth enjoyed by family to more than just family. Spector's DuckTales was about dismantling the hard edge between "adventurer" and "exotic". Similarly, Ian Brill's Darkwing was more about deliberating the role of the individual in society (something that draws on texts as far afield as Sophocles' Antigone), than it was about the simplistic crime-solving humor of the Afternoon Revolution.

The fact that Brill and Spector achieved these visions without disavowing the tone of the original cartoon TV shows is nothing short of astounding. We've seen Disney's Ducks move from strength to strength at BOOM!, but now what?

In many ways Disney's association with BOOM! mirrors exactly that very small playlist, or possibly even only that moment that segues from "Baby Blue" to "It's Alright". Disney's Ducks start off at BOOM! with their "superpowers" more or less intact. They are what they were on TV, but slowly over time the definition of what they are extends. Until we hit the secret betrayal of "It's Alright". It's not the case that breaking up is so hard to do, it's the case that the years with BOOM! now seem something of a misadventure. What will become of Darkwing and DuckTales now, after the novelty of BOOM! has been stripped away? And what will become of Kaboom?

In "Where I Came In", the introduction to his recent Bob Dylan By Greil Marcus, Marcus suggests that Dylan spent half his career trying to escape the mythology he drew around himself like a cloak in the early years. It was only in 1992 that Dylan was able to break free from the spell, Marcus goes on to suggest. And then, anything was possible, again.

The marriage of BOOM! and Disney felt like all the wonder and the poetry of Dylan in those early years. The split really feels like everything that shouldn't be, but secretly also is. It's a heist movie and the loot is only a Bob Dylan Moment, and the promise of more Moments to come. Charge them with Grand Theft Bob Dylan, Mr. Prosecutor.


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