Saturday, January 29, 2011

Comics Review: WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #715 (January 2011, Boom! Kids)

It's time to celebrate 70 years of Comics and (at least in the old days) Stories! To fete the moment -- which could also be considered a belated "official salute" to the old warhorse's passing the 700-issue mark -- three of the four stories inside this over-sized issue feature multiple-character "mash-ups" of the old-school variety. The gaudiest gumbo of all is the Dutch story "70th Heaven," drawn by Daan Jippes and Michel Nadorp and retooled by David Gerstein to obliterate its original status as (I believe) some sort of anniversary celebration of Dutch Disney comics. Actually, it's still fairly easy to tell that this tale was not originally intended for American consumption; the guest stars include all manner of Disney feature-film characters, most of which didn't get all that much four-color exposure in the U.S. back in the day. In order to involve all of these folks, the plot literally throws even the most elementary forms of logic to the winds, with the zephyr-blown handbills advertising Gladstone Gander's party for "luckniks" acquiring the apparent ability to traverse dimensions (Wonderland, Neverland, the world of Little Hiawatha's human Indian tribe) and travel through time (the 19th century rodent-London of The Great Mouse Detective, the Italy of Pinocchio). Turned away at the door, the visiting Disney-character mob repairs to a neighboring hall, where the Ducks are celebrating the anniversary of their beloved "community paper." (Does this mean that if I read old Gold Key issues of WDC&S, I'll find that the "Gold Key Comics Club" features have been magically replaced by yard-sale ads and slightly questionable personals?) Well, if I can accept the premise of Disney's House of Mouse, then accepting this should be a piece of cake -- and, indeed, the concoction slides down the old gullet quite easily. I can't think of two better, or more fitting, talents to pull this off than Gerstein and Jippes (who, like Tony Strobl, has the enviable ability to draw any Disney character well). Jippes, in particular, almost seems to be channeling early-50s Barks in some of his drawings of the Ducks -- entirely apropos, given that Barks' work was the featured item during those peak years of WDC&S' popularity.

"Villain in a Half-Shell" (WDC&S #115, April 1950), written and drawn by Gil Turner, continues the "Gang's All Here" theme by bringing Donald (not a particularly well-rendered Donald, but what the hey) into a "classic-era" LI'L BAD WOLF story setting. Irascible Don finds renting Practical Pig's home for a vacation to carry its own perverse share of "fringe benefits" in the form of the ravenous Zeke Wolf, who's quick to realize that roast duck tastes almost as good as roast pork. Turner certainly has a handle on Don's personality; the duck has his suspicions about the helpful Li'l Bad Wolf before finally agreeing to cooperate in Zeke-zapping, and, even more believably, goes well beyond what Li'l Bad had intended in terms of "teaching Pop a lesson" by gleefully exacting some painful revenge on Zeke. Western Publishing's track record with character crossovers was mixed; this is one of the more-carefully-thought-out ones.

The cover blurb suggests that stories "by" Don Rosa and Carl Barks are featured inside, but that's not strictly true; we get a story drawn by Rosa and scripted by Barks. Well, at least they're present (as is William Van Horn, who draws the cover parodying Hank Porter's famed cover for WDC&S #1). "Forget-Me-Not" (DONALD DUCK #278, March 1990) was one of Rosa's assignments for Holland's Oberon Publishing, and today it serves primarily as an illustration of just how Rosa's drawing style improved over the subsequent years. The DAISY'S DIARY (actually, it looks more like "Daisy's Steno Pad") entry finds scatterbrained Daisy having booked a lot of events on the same day. Isn't that just like a... well, to be fair, Rosa himself probably wouldn't have written Daisy to be as idiotic as she seems here. All the major Duck characters appear in the final panel, which is pretty much all that this three-page finger exercise has going for it. Barks' JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS story "Life Savers" (HD&L JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS #6, July 1970) was originally drawn by Strobl, but here we get the Jippes redraw from 2008. This unpretentious story predated Barks' long string of JW ecology stories, so it isn't forced to carry a heavy burden of uplift. It's OK despite a rather abrupt ending.

All in all, I was fairly pleased with this stroll down memory lane. There was enough new material to keep me intrigued and enough vintage stuff to satisfy those gnawing nostalgia cravings.

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