Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: WALT DISNEY TREASURY: DONALD DUCK VOLUME 2 by Don Rosa (June 2011, Boom! Studios)

This package of fun -- if repeated abuse of Donald's corpus, soul, and everything in between represents your idea of "fun," that is -- reprints Rosa's DONALD DUCK stories from 1990 to 1995, starting with "The Money Pit," which holds a fair bit of cachet as (1) the only Rosa story that Disney Comics published during the pre-"Implosion" period and (2) the story in which Rosa casts a few thinly-veiled shots at the pretensions of comic-book collectors. Rosa's soapbox bit seems more convincing now that we're on the post-"burst" side of the "collectors' comics will put my kids through school... or not" bubble.

After barely surviving the collapse of the "coin mine" that he's greedily dug inside Scrooge's fortune, Donald then must face the fallout from the disastrous consequences of his efforts as "The Master Landscapist," Rosa's stab at doing a Carl Barks "mastery" story. Subsequently, Don gets to plunge from the heavens in "The Duck Who Fell to Earth", brave a harrowing turn as a would-be window washer in "Incident at McDuck Tower", and compete against Gladstone for Olympic glory -- with disastrous results -- in the special tale "From Duckburg to Lillehammer." Reading these stories in sequence, it certainly seems as though Rosa had it in for poor Donald on some level. Perhaps he was working out his frustrations regarding Disney's art-return policy?

Donald does get two chances to shine here. In "Super Snooper Strikes Again," Donald's second opportunity to chug the magic isotope and become a superhero turns out as well as you might expect, but the Nephews evince a newfound respect for their uncle's frequently doomed efforts to do the right thing. We get a much stiffer slug of the same sentiment in "The Duck Who Never Was," Rosa's contribution to Donald's 60th birthday celebration, in which Donald gets the "George Bailey" treatment and "magicks" his way (or hallucinates his way, thanks to a blow on the head; it's not entirely clear what the truth really is) to a dreadful, Don-deprived Duckburg. There is a distinct streak of nastiness in this story, with Rosa apparently attempting to do the worst he possibly can (in Duck fans' eyes, anyway) to the beloved Duck characters. Which is the worst -- a clueless hayseed Gyro, a trashbin-dwelling Scrooge, a tarted-up romance-novelist Daisy, or *ugh!* a trio of obese, belching Nephews who make the Quack Pack Nephews look like positively admirable fellows? Should I really have to choose? The nightmarish Duckburg seen here makes a far more vivid impression than did even Potterville in It's a Wonderful Life, since we had all of the flashback material available there to ground us in the reality of Bedford Falls. In "Never Was," by contrast, the attack is on all of our fond memories of what the Duck characters really are like, and the contrast is therefore all the more horrifying.

The comics material ends on a high note with "The Lost Charts of Columbus," Rosa's excellent sequel to Barks' "The Golden Helmet." I reviewed this story upon its 2008 reprinting in Gemstone's THE BARKS AND ROSA COLLECTION VOLUME 3; you can read those thoughts here. Stubborn cuss that I am, I also regard "On Stolen Time" as a sequel of sorts, in this case to the DuckTales episode "Time Teasers." Don, if you're reading this, you can enlighten me, but the time-stopping watch in your story is an exact match of the device in the TV episode.

Production-wise, this book maintains the high standards of Volume 1 and makes a few improvements besides. "The Money Pit" is colored much more appropriately than it was by Disney Comics -- no more Ducks with blue eyeballs! The binding could be better, but that's only a relatively minor quibble. The major question before the house is, are we ever going to see a Volume 3?

11 comments:

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris writes: "Don, if you're reading this, you can enlighten me, but the time-stopping watch in your story is an exact match of the device in the TV episode."

While you’re at it, don’t forget to ask Irwin Allen about Mr. Pem’s Pocket Watch! (link below)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0742248/

Comicbookrehab said...

I didn't like 'Lost Charts of Columbus' much. I thought it marked the start of a phase where Don's research took over the pacing. Plus, I don't like the villains - the characters are from 'The Golden Helmut', a story that had a cynical, downbeat undertow that carried over into the second half of this new story. How Donald and the boys got out of this one seems more because they're the heroes than anything else.

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

I thought of that, of course, but I wanted to give Keno D. a reference he could definitely (albeit unwillingly) relate to!

Chris

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris writes:
“I thought of that, of course, but I wanted to give Keno D. a reference he could definitely (albeit unwillingly) relate to!”

It is certainly well within the realm of possibility that, given its original popularity and long life in syndication, Don Rosa could have seen VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA – and the two “Mr. Pem” (and his time-manipulating pocket watch) episodes in particular.

Joe.

ramapith said...

How about this one?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl,_the_Gold_Watch_%26_Everything

I recall Don citing this to me as his inspiration as far back as when he was actually working on his story, or had just finished it (1990).
It's clearly the inspiration for the DuckTales episode too. Sorry to be a downer, but I just don't think as many people were inspired by DuckTales as DuckTales fans believe. (Feel free to hit me with a rotten piece of firefly fruit.)

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Yeah, I'd be more inclined to accept the notion that Rosa's story was influenced by the episode if the two had ANYTHING in common besides the none-too-breathtakingly-original idea of a time-stopping watch.

Debbie said...

As I recall, Don Rosa didn't like DuckTales, so I doubt he would have been inspired by "Time Teasers". He was more of a Carl Barks purist, despite having written some of the least "Barksian" stories ever, especially some of the stories contained in this volume. By 1990, Rosa may have found his voice as an author, but I liked his earlier work as collected in the first Donald Duck Treasury much more. To me, it captured the spirit and fun of the old Disney comics without the preaching and sentimentality of Don's later work.

Ryan Wynns said...

I'm both a huge Rosa fan and a huge DuckTales. And I'm totally with Chris in regretting that DT has never gotten its due. So I hate to take the "anti"-DuckTales stance here, but...

Twenty years ago, I read this story when Disney Comics printed it and just couldn't fathom that Rosa had created it without having seen "Time Teasers".

Now, though, I'm more attuned to things like story and construction and panel staging (for whatever my understanding of such things is worth). Having just the other day reread "On Stolen Time" in this new tome from Boom (I don't care if it's incorrect; I just can't do the all-caps and the exclamation point anymore, I just can't...), all of the high-strung visual gags and the various "wide shot" architectural panel compositions strike me as pure Rosa. As a few people have pointed out here, there's a good number of precedents in sci-fi/comics/etc. for a "time-stopping watch" or some such concept, so it now seems completely feasible and probable to me that Rosa had no knowledge of "Time Teasers".

Ryan

Ryan Wynns said...

Comicbookrehab: I've often cited "The Golden Helmet" as my favorite Barks story. "Lost Charts of Columbus", though, has a certain rigidity too it.

However, since then, Rosa has done several fantastic stories using the approach he's mastered: The ducks follow a trail of clues that of course at the climax of the story brings them to the setpiece built around their ultimate objective (you know, the MacGuffiny ancient treasure or artifcat). Rosa created said "trail of clues" out of his non-fictional historical research. And the connect-the-dots revelations that the ducks hit upon actually reflect the sewing together of the sprawling threads of history that Rosa performed to create this story. (How'd I do? Is tha an accurate breakdown?)

"Lost Charts" isn't my favorite story that Rosa built this way, but it has plenty of things about it to praise. But later, "Treasury of Croesus", "Crown of the Crusader King", and "A Letter from Home" were cases of Rosa in high flight.

Ryan

Comicbookrehab said...

I recall Don Rosa saying in the DCML that a watch that can stop time (and its effects) is an obvious idea, and he didn't draw from any influence in particular. I remember the 'Time Teasers' epsiode confused me when I saw it as a kid, because it showed that people in real time could see the watch's effects happening (watching the Beagles steal Scrooge's money), whereas the 'frozen' segments (like in the baseball field) implied that people could not. Let's not get into how breaking the watch could end up resulting in time travel over 200 years backward.

Comicbookrehab said...

Ryan,

Of the later stories Don worked on, I enjoyed "The Dutchman's Secret" "The Last Lord of El Dorado" and "The Quest For Kalevala" deserves applause. Of course, there are the stories that did not depend too much on research, like "Gyro's First Invention", "Trash or Treasure", "The Beagle Boys vs. The Money Bin" and more, all of which I liked very much.

I wish he had done that Ducktales spoof that he had mentioned once, where the show is an unauthorized series based on accounts of Scrooge's adventures and Launchpad is just a canine actor with a fake duckbill. :)