Books

Mickey Mouse and Uncle Scrooge: Disney Comics' Classics Resonate In Our Times

From a tough little rodent fighting bandits and corrupt politicians to the tale of a rich, greedy old duck, these classic comics characters ring true in these times.


Publisher: Fantagraphics
Contributors: Gary Groth (Editor), David Gerstein (Editor)
Price: $29.99
Writer: Floyd Gottfredson
Length: 280 pages
Graphic Novel: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 3: High Noon at Inferno Gulch
Publication date: 2012-07

Publisher: Fantagraphics
Contributors: Gary Groth (Editor), George Lucas (Introduction)
Price: $29.99
Writer: Carl Barks
Length: 240 pages
Graphic Novel: Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man
Publication date: 2012-07

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.

Each adventure is presented with a dash of social commentary on Depression-era influences and values (including briefly seen racial stereotypes). A special delight in the appendix is a surreal outer-space adventure starring Donald Duck from 1937 Italy. Prolific artist Federico Pedrocchi was killed in an air-raid, but Disney characters were outlawed by then. We'd love to see more foreign-licensed Disney adventures.

Uncle Scrooge's tales date from 1952 to 1954. The title story, which introduces the iconic scene of a joyous skinflint diving like a porpoise into his piles of coins, is a rumbunctious riches-to-rags tale that ends with a kick in the pants (if the ducks wore any pants) and a scene of divinely ambivalent philosophy over whether the zillionaire is "only a poor old man".

His answer to this question is childlike and mature, earthy and pragmatic, absurd and satirical. It has been selected as one of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die in the book of that name, though the most essential classic here is the story of the Himalayan village of Tralla La (nod to James Hilton's Lost Horizon), where Scrooge unwittingly upsets the tranquil social order.

In these brightly colored, briskly paced, and dazzlingly imagined mini-epics, Scrooge and his nephews (Donald and Huey, Dewey and Louie) also visit the Klondike, Hawaii, and Atlantis. This will provide the family with some affordable armchair travel this summer.

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