Saturday, February 19, 2011

Comics Review: MICKEY MOUSE #305 (February 2010, Boom! Studios)

What's a natural follow-up to a Floyd Gottfredson MICKEY MOUSE adventure? In terms of comics cachet, it can only be a MICKEY serial from the glory days of WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES, produced by the estimable team of writer Carl Fallberg and artist Paul Murry. And we get an unexpectedly special one here: "The Lens Hunters" (WDC&S #158-#160, November 1953-January 1954) has NEVER before been reprinted in the U.S. Given that Fallberg-Murry reruns were a positive staple of Gold Key and Whitman WDC&S during the "decline phase" of the 1970s and 1980s, it's interesting to speculate as to why this African "sort-of-safari" adventure got the "one-and-done" treatment. There's nothing racially offensive hereabouts -- the handful of "natives of Bathrobi" that we see are the equivalents of white guys. Goofy's trait of attracting animals, both wild and tame, to his side (the better to help Mickey shoot great wildlife movies, the excellence of which has convinced movie mogul A.J. Sprocket to finance Mickey and Goofy's journey to Africa) doesn't clash with any other aspect of Goofy's character; if anything, it adds an extra dash of charm to the more naive portion of his personality. Whatever the reason for the oversight, I'm glad that the first reprint was presented to us on Boom!'s glossy paper. Murry's enthusiasm for his work was then at a high level, as evinced by the clever detail work seen in patterns of animal tracks and the like, and the high-quality presentation shows this early version of Murry's art to good advantage.

"The Lens Hunters" was one of the first Murry-Fallberg serials, and some rawness shows in the storytelling. Stubble-bearded guide Klutch is too obviously a villain from the start, and surely he needn't have waited "all these years" to go back in search of Goofy's diamond-finding Uncle Grubley just because he wanted a free trip? With all those diamonds at stake, I think I could scrounge up enough dough to work my way across on a coal boat, or something. Also, Mickey and Goofy never get to grapple with Klutch in the final chapter; instead, the bearded, slightly misanthropic old Grubley puts out Klutch's lights all by himself. Mickey and Goofy, the putative heroes, never even get to do anything particularly heroic, apart from escaping from a plateau on which Klutch has marooned them. Mickey fooling Grubley into thinking that the latter has lost his diamond-finding ability (so that Grubley will agree to star in a Sprocket spectacular about his life) doesn't quite count. Still, the juxtaposition of the "unusual attractive talent" gene in the two Goofs is quite clever, and the art is, as mentioned before, excellent. This was one of the stories that convinced Western Publishing to make the MICKEY serials a featured attraction in WDC&S, and it's easy to see why.

The cover is attributed to Murry, but what's its origin? Since the story was never reprinted in America, it can't be from a Gold Key or Whitman reprint. Did Murry, like Gottfredson, Carl Barks, Don Rosa et al., produce a series of drawings for fans illustrating panels from his stories? From what little I know of Murry, I find that somewhat hard to believe, but I could be wrong.

5 comments:

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

You wrote: “Given that Fallberg-Murry reruns were a positive staple of Gold Key and Whitman WDC&S during the "decline phase" of the 1970s and 1980s…”

I don’t think that’s true. Throughout most of that period, there were NEW 8-page Murry Mickeys. The serials were rarely reprinted for the same reason they were discontinued in the first place – the irregularity of the “Whitman Bag System”, which began, not so coincidently, at the same time the serials ended in 1973.

As for the cover, I can’t guess as to its origins – if it IS actually by Murry, and not by a skilled imitator like Daan Jippes. I don’t have the book yet, but perhaps it’s a “photoshop” of interior Murry art. The “Goofy surrounded by birds”, I recall, seems to be from a “chapter beginning”.

Murry was not one to embrace fans, and the only additional work outside of Western that I’m aware of was for the Disney Studio (“S-Codes”) Program.

Joe.

ramapith said...

This cover was constructed from enlarged (and at least partially reinked) Murry art for a 1980 Dutch reprint.

So the Murry credit is correct, though we're unsure today who designed this version of the art.

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

Of course, I remembered that there were new eight-pagers drawn by Murry in the later years... but didn't MICKEY MOUSE often reprint full-scale versions of the serials? Or perhaps I'm wrong. Seems like it.

I see a couple of scenes in the story that resemble the cover, but none quite matching it.

Chris

Joe Torcivia said...

According to my 1983 “Mickey Mouse Checklist”, which you’ll admit was the “Gold Standard, Jr. Woodchucks Guidebook Level Reference Work” for the MICKEY MOUSE title during the pre-Internet age, these were the serial reprints:

MM # 147 (2/74) “The Phantom Fires”

MM # 148 (4/74) “The Mystery of Lonely Valley”

MM # 159 (10/75) “The Sunken City” The infamous cover where our hero’s name is spelled “Micky”!!!

And, beyond the 1983 boundaries of the Checklist, were the final two Whitman issues, published in 1984:

MM # 217 (No actual date) “The Moon Blot Plot”

MM # 218 (No actual date) “The Great Giveaway Mystery”

That was ALL of ‘em! The rest were a small number of scattered new stories, and mostly reprints from earlier issues of MICKEY MOUSE. Others were reprinted by Gladstone, Gemstone, Boom!, etc. But those are all the Gold Key / Whitman reprints of MM serials.

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