Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Comics Review: WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #718 (April 2011, kaboom!)

With ACTION COMICS about to hit issue #900 and WDC&S among the "classic" Disney titles supposedly "on the brink," anyone care to speculate on how high the WDC&S issue total will climb before "it's all over"? One is tempted to say that getting to #750 is not looking too good, but then, #700 looked fairly dubious until Boom! started publication. I'll keep my hopes up until more news about the future becomes available.

One thing that can definitely be said about the future is that the best work of "modern Duck master" William Van Horn will not be found there. "Just in Time," this ish's cover feature and lead story, is nowhere near as poor as #717's "Scrooge for a Day," but neither does it display a single particle of the weird whimsy that informed Bill's best work of the late 1980's to early 2000's. Indeed, research center janitor Donald's boredom-induced narcolepsy here may almost be considered a subconscious meta-comment on the placidity of much of Van Horn's later work. While seeking a secluded snooze-spot in what turns out to be an experimental time capsule, Don accidentally gets whisked into the age of dinosaurs, has a couple of close encounters with the requisite (and decidedly non-nervous) T-Rex and similar creatures, and then is just as quickly whisked back to the present. If you're expecting a comical denouement involving Donald losing his job or getting an even worse job, think again; Donald gets lectured by the angry scientists and nothing more. Weariness hangs over this story like a dense fog bank. Of course, the aging Barks laid some eggs late in his career, but at least they tended to be spectacularly bizarre ones (17-foot-tall Venusian teenagers come to mind). This story, by contrast, defines the normally amorphous concept known as "meh."

Jonathan Gray, providing the dialogue for the three-page Dutch GYRO GEARLOOSE story "The Inventor's Inventor," gets our blood flowing again by providing some witty lines as Gyro builds a "Megahelper" that does its job entirely too well. The way in which the "Megahelper" is disposed of is particularly clever. But this is just the warmup act for Joe Torcivia's splendid wordsmithing on "To the Moon By Noon," a 1963 Disney Studios program story drawn by Paul Murry. The teamup of Ludwig Von Drake and Mickey Mouse might not seem very promising, but Joe outdoes himself by making Ludwig, a character with a comics past that could charitably be described as uneven, sound exactly like a comic-book version of the Paul Frees-voiced TV know-it-all ought to sound. It was very easy to imagine this Ludwig, with his scatterbrained forgetfulness (he keeps "greeting" the ever-present Mickey over and over again) and constant parenthetical digressions (typically rendered in smaller typeface), being performed by Frees in animation. Mickey can't help but seem a little bland by contrast, but even that seems fitting, as the comics Mouse of the period in which this tale originated was generally presented as a rather sedate figure, even when he was having adventures. The story of a moon trip is obviously anachronistic, obliging kaboom! to note the fact in an introductory note, but the early 1960s were Von Drake's salad days, and it's entirely reasonable to feature him in a story centered around concerns (especially scientific ones) of the era. Great job by Joe, and a rare case where the traditional "Mouse-ender" of an issue of WDC&S should have been featured as the lead story.

1 comment:

Joe Torcivia said...


Thanks for the kind words on “To the Moon by Noon”.

As I may have said elsewhere (my Blog, private correspondence, etc.), I set out to take what was a typical early-to-mid-sixties Western/Disney style story (…and a pretty good one at that!) and write what I saw as the definitive comic book version of Ludwig Von Drake. I wanted to “hear” Paul Frees as I read the story. Early indications seem to indicate that I’ve succeeded. I’m all the more happy for this, because there were/are relatively few comics appearances for Von Drake – and, it would seem, fewer still to be seen in the USA.

You also make an observation that some might not notice, or have simply taken for granted.

That is that, while I set out to write the “Paul Frees version” of Ludwig, I also set out to write the “Paul Murry version” of Mickey. Basically, the straightforward calming, stabilizing influence, and resourceful “rock” of ‘50s – ‘70s American Disney comics.

This is neither the ‘30s Gottfredson Mickey, nor the later Egmont Mickey of the “Byron Erickson/David Gerstein Era”. This is the “Omigosh!” and “Ye Cats!” Mickey of Murry and Fallberg who finds a way to save the day – because that’s what he does! This is the perfect Mickey to ground or anchor Von Drake’s wilder antics. I could have given him more “funny lines”, but it wouldn’t have rung true to the great period of the Silver Age – during which I was a happy young reader.

Anyway, it meant a great deal to me to “collaborate” with Paul Murry – and on a story straight out of the period that made me a Disney comic book fan for life!