While on hiatus, I have guests doing a few posts for me. Enjoy, and see you when I get back! ~CAN
Executive mandate from the Disney corporate offices came down that a comic book work would be made detailing Scrooge McDuck’s life and backstory. The editors at Egmont (the company who licensed the Disney comics) quickly volunteered Rosa for the job, knowing his love for the character would serve their needs well. And Rosa did what is perhaps the most obsessive, crazy, fanboyish thing I had ever seen.
He read every Barks comic and took notes on every mention Scrooge made of his past, whether it was a plot point in the story or an idle mention. He ignored one or two small contradictions, then compiled each mention in to a timeline by year. He broke that timeline down in to 12 separate chapters and crafted a narrative around it, with the final chapter of the series occurring immediately after Scrooge’s first appearance in the comics. The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck was serialized from 1992 to 1994 and showed Scrooge involved in numerous historical events and tangling with historical characters in the process, with amazing attention to detail.
There are sad moments, as with any such biography. Scrooge’s wide-eyed idealism is slowly kicked out of him by those who would cheat to get ahead, making his childhood oath to be “tougher than the toughies, sharper than the sharpies, and I’ll make it square” seem more heartbreaking, as he loses sight of things he didn’t feel he needed to say: Love, kindness, and appreciation of the beauty around him fade from view, all while sticking true to his promise.
I assure you it ends on a happy note. The Duck comics of Barks and Rosa may have their sad moments but they are not inherently depressing stories. It’s a gift, I think, to lead your reader through these emotional beats for the final triumph and have them smile gratefully at the end.
I love the comics for that reason. I smile when I read them. They are simple compared to Alan Moore’s “Watchmen,” sure, but that does not mean they have any less merit as art. There is a purity in these comics which brings you back to younger days, when the world was bright and ripe for the taking and the person you sat next to might well be your new best friend. These stories aren’t meant for you to reflect on the dark impulses of man, or the cruelty of fate. In every story I read between the two, I take from it the implicit belief that joy is everywhere, and happiness should your goal in life… it might be the pleasure of hard work, the love of your family, or a page from Donald’s book: An ice cream soda.
I strongly recommend to anyone who likes comics that they read some Barks or Rosa stories, keeping in mind that 1947 and beyond is the preferred time for Barks. Only a Poor Old Man, Back to the Klondike, The Golden Helmet, and Micro-Ducks from Outer Space are some of my favorites from Barks.
Non-fans may find more pleasure in the Rosa stories, which are more contemporary in their story structure. I started off with Rosa and went backwards in to Barks once I had a ‘feel’ for the character, for what it’s worth. I strongly recommend you check out The Son of the Sun, The Universal Solvent, Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies, or The Three Caballeros Ride Again.
Keep it on the down low, but this site hosts the majority of the Barks comics, and every story Rosa ever drew. http://disneycomics.free.fr/index_barks_date.php, http://disneycomics.free.fr/index_rosa_date.php
Finally I want to present to you the final piece of work Barks ever did related to the Ducks, an excerpt from a letter he wrote to a fan in 1999. I’ve written at some length about the Ducks, though it is only a cursory glance. Yet when I look at this poem written by a man who lived and breathed the Ducks ’til the very end with conventions, drawings, autographs, paintings and the incredible breadth of work, I realize I am little better than a child compared to the simple mastery of language he commands.
Ode to the Disney Ducks (1999)
They ride tall ships to the far away,
and see the long ago.
They walk where fabled people trod,
and Yetis trod the snow.
They meet the folks who live on stars,
and find them much like us,
With food and love and happiness
the things they most discuss.
The world is full of clans and cults
abuzz as angry bees,
And Junior Woodchucks snapping jeers
at Littlest Chickadees.
The ducks show us that part of life
is to forgive a slight.
That black eyes given in revenge
keep hatred burning bright.
So when our walks in sun or shade
pass graveyards filled by wars,
It’s nice to stop and read of ducks
whose battles leave no scars.
To read of ducks who parody
our vain attempts at glory,
They don’t exist, but somehow leave
us glad we bought their story.
The DeRider is a 20-something Minnesota-based comics fan currently studying television production and writing. You can find his awesome Review or Die blog here: http://reviewordie.wordpress.com