Friday, January 29, 2010

A Boom! from the... Future?

Several days ago, Chuck Munson posted his reaction to a DISNEY INSIDER E-mail newsletter trumpeting the "new and arguably improved" WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES. I've now had a chance to digest the thing myself. I suspect that I'm a bit more receptive than many to Boom!'s dramatic departure from the traditional format of Disney comics. My own entry into Disney comics collecting, after all, was rather atypical, and I never saw any conflict between enjoying Carl Barks' stories and championing DuckTales' interpretation of Barks' world. The need for "contemporary relevance" stressed by Boom! CEO and founder Ross Richie certainly isn't new; we heard this same sort of thing from the creators behind the animated Mickey Mouse Works and, later, House of Mouse. However, such "updatings" are not an automatic panacea; they can be done well, or they can be done poorly. Mouse Works and (especially) House of Mouse had a near-perfect "ear" for this delicate blending of classic and contemporary material. Boom!'s track record to date is much more uneven. As surprisingly enjoyable as Ultraheroes has been, I still think that it was a big mistake to plunge directly into battle, as it were, without a lot more back story on how all of these heroes and villains came to exist in the first place. In a strange way, Boom!'s handling of COMICS AND STORIES reminds me of Walt Disney's decision to make Fantasia; that movie failed upon first release, at least in part, because Disney had made such a giant leap in terms of what people expected from an animated film that too many potential viewers were simply baffled by it all. Some of Ultraheroes' more serious aspects, such as the love-hate relationship between The Duck Avenger and Super Daisy, have been robbed of a good deal of their punch due to this lack of context. Wizards of Mickey and Double Duck make more narrative sense to me; the former has basically transferred everyone into the "magical milieu" and left it at that, while "Double Duck" Donald is still easily recognizable as Donald (the writers have even paid Don a compliment by making him more competent than one might expect!). As noted in painful detail here, UNCLE $CROOGE has been the most disappointing Boom! title, by far, and for reasons that have little to do with how "cool" kids think Disney characters playing superhero might be.

In one area, at least, Boom! has already had cause to rethink a "contemporary update" of a classic character. DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS #350, released this week -- and which I'll be reviewing later this weekend -- sports a new version of the Double Duck logo:

Someone, somewhere, must have finally resisted Donald's "piece." Since Don hasn't actually used a gun yet in the story, perhaps the original logo was meant to be "symbolic" of Don's new spy role, as opposed to a depiction of his actual operating equipment. This "new look" may also be suggestive, rather than illustrative -- though Double Duck deserves at least one sultry "hustle" with Kay K before he's through...

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