Friday, February 22, 2013

W(h)ither Then Shall We Go?

Blogger "Review or Die" recently laid out his vision of what a putative "Disney comics line of the future" should look like.  He argues his points well and seems to respect the Disney comics tradition while acknowledging that new paths would have to be taken in order to give such a line a fighting chance to succeed.  Here are my (brief) takes on his plans.  Read them, read R.O.D., and let me know what you think.

(1) DARKWING DUCK -- Yes, just with an absolute minimum of editorial interference.

(2)  DUCKTALES -- Yes, but not unless EVERY effort is made to do the job right.  I'd even be willing to give Warren Spector a chance to redeem himself for "Rightful Owners" -- he certainly possesses the required enthusiasm -- provided that he worked with an accomplished editor who fully understood the TV series.  If Warren isn't interested, then perhaps someone like Jonathan Gray could be called upon to serve as the title's regular writer, seeing as how Gray's scripting job for "The Arcadian Urn" (UNCLE $CROOGE #399) has received such high praise.  Anyone who writes for DT, however, should be required to pass the equivalent of a Wonderlic test to prove that they are thoroughly familiar with the series and what makes it different from the UNCLE $CROOGE title.

(3)  KIM POSSIBLE, replacing FILLMORE -- I do have a suggestion re: Fillmore (and others) which I'll mention below.  But of the contemporary (by which I mean, post-2000) Disney productions, none deserves a comic-book title more than KP.  The show has a legitimate following, a strong female lead, good supporting players, and obvious potential for long story arcs.  A KIM POSSIBLE title done right could be for this line what DARKWING was (at least for a while) for Boom! -- an instigator of some badly-needed buzz.

(4)  UNCLE $CROOGE AND DONALD DUCK -- This is a very intelligent way of avoiding the eternal dilemma of what stories "belong" in $CROOGE and what stories "belong" in DONALD.  It would definitely have to be a 64-page book, however.

(5)  DISNEY KIDZ -- Yes, that spelling is intentional.  Here is where we can play to the 2013 version of the "Peanut Gallery" (can we really say that there is one?) and feature a rotating cast of child stars based on DTVA's numerous kid-centric offerings of the past decade-plus: FILLMORE, PHINEAS AND FERB, PEPPER ANN, TEAMO SUPREMO, etc.  Heck, I'll even accept comic-book adventures for Hannah Montana and other live-action Disney Channel faves, provided that we can get someone like Stefan Petrucha to write them.  He's got Disney comics "street cred" from his work for Egmont and has also written "comics-like" material for NANCY DREW.

(6)  THE DISNEY AFTERNOON -- Another rotating title, more like the Disney-Marvel title of the same name, only executed with, well, competence.  Various shows from the "Golden Age" of 1987-92 -- and even a little bit beyond those boundaries -- could be featured here.

(7) WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES -- I wish that R.O.D. were a bit less vague about what he would like to go into this title.  Even an "Anything Goes" approach needs a few ground rules.  Classic supporting players from the "Golden" and "Silver" Ages of WDC&S, such as SCAMP and LI'L BAD WOLF, would of course need to be included, but stories featuring Disney movie characters would also be welcome.  These could be tied in with recent cinematic releases.  If the new line could score the rights to the Pixar characters, so much the better.

(8)  MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES -- Here's my biggest beef with R.O.D.: the MICKEY material in the Gemstone books was, without question, some of the very best post-Gottfredson Mouse work that we've seen.  What, Mickey's adventures in Shambor weren't good enough for you?  Or some of Noel Van Horn's more off-the-wall offerings?  Amp up the danger quotient if you like, but by all means, keep the artistic polish and the general attitude.  Mix in (judiciously) some more material from Casty and look to the early issues of Disney Comics' MMA for more inspiration.  If the "new" MMA can simply match the best of Gemstone's MICKEY stuff, then I'll be more than satisfied.  That's not nostalgia, that's just the facts, Mouse.

(9)  THE MUPPETS -- I'll take your word re: the high quality of Langridge's work for Boom!.  Only one title, please, so as not to wear the man out.

9 comments:

reviewordie said...

Hi there! I hope you don't mind my popping in. I was pleasantly surprised to read your post (particularly about my respecting the Disney comics of days past, that has NOT been a comment I have been paid because of my post), and I enjoyed your thoughts. I just wanted to mention a few things to help clarify some of my more poorly articulated points.

First off, to any and all prospective readers of my article of Muppet comics: I was absolutely in the wrong for, even by omission, disregarding the works of other Muppets creators such as Jesse Snider and Amy Mebberson. I spoke entirely by way of word of mouth, and should not be taken in any way as an authority. I feel absolutely awful! I spoke without knowing the facts, and regret it one hundred percent. Mea culpa.

In the case of WDC&S, I would sincerely just like a place for writers and artists to play, without the typical title restrictions. If it's a good Disney story and doesn't belong anywhere else, it belongs in WDC&S.

Really, the only place beyond Mickey that I think we really disagree on is Kim Possible: Not that she doesn't deserve a comic (though I thought the finale did a strong job of wrapping up the arcs and stories for the characters), but that it should replace Fillmore. With the right creators in place, I'd be happy to look at them both! I just happen to think that Fillmore is likely better suited to comic book format, and the creator having a comics background is a big plus.

When it comes to Mickey... I still maintain my position on what's wrong with his comics line, and why a reprints line would be a bad move in a way it wouldn't be for the Ducks. "The best since..." is probably not a good way to view how comics should be published. But let me know some of your favorite, and I'll see if I can track them down. Maybe even review them sometime and have to eat my hat! Sound fair?

I look forward to hearing what your readers have to say, and thank you very much for your comments!

Dr. Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Let me say that, although I don't agree with all of Review or Die's suggestions, I will be willing to accept just about anything, as long as we can have a single digest, two-hundred-ish pages, devoted to long-form duck and mouse stories, emphasis on vintage Italian material, please. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if we could only have ONE Disney periodical, I'd want it to be that one.

As far as Gemstone's MM, I agree that it was better than ROD gives it credit for. I'm frankly not a big fan of the Shambor stories--too short to really live up to their potential, I feel--but the Van Horn fils and Ferioli stuff was frequently a lot of fun.

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

Not seeing eye-to-eye with “Review or Die” is not completely new to me, but I respect his efforts and his suggestions. Like all of us, he wants the best for any new Disney comics line. More of us should care to that extent.

I’ll defer to him when it comes to any titles that do not date back to the Dell, Gold Key, Gladstone I days. But I do not share his vision for what I’ve come to call the “Core Four” titles: WDC&S, UNCLE SCROOGE, DONALD DUCK, and MICKEY MOUSE.

“Review or Die” falls into the trap that many folks do when it comes to MICKEY MOUSE. That is stacking original product produced for comic magazines up against Floyd Gottfresdon’s mid-late 1930s newspaper strip output. Those were stories produced for a different market, in different times, and under different editorial constraints. We’re never going to get a Mickey story of the caliber of the “Foreign Legion” story produced for modern comic magazines. The sooner we (as a group) accept that we are speaking of “Apples and Oranges”, the sooner we can chart Mickey’s course more realistically.

My impression, and sorry if I’ve erred, is that “Review or Die” has not read the 1990-1991 issues of Disney’s MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES. There, certainly under Michael T. Gilbert and Lee Nordling, if not Marv Wolfman as well, a legitimate attempt was made to “Gottfredson-ize” the modern Mouse. In addition, the more recent Casty material (which he gives the impression he has not read) also fits the bill. You perfectly cite things like “Shambor” and the Noel Van Horn series, to boot. So, the template for what he’s asking is there, even if he may not be aware of it.

UNCLE SCROOGE and DONALD DUCK should be left alone. There’s nothing there to fix, as long as editorial is diligent in choosing suitably entertaining stories for the titles. Editorial should appreciate the difference between good writers and artists, and those less so. And every attempt should be made to have the stories READ WELL for the American audience, regardless of their country of origin. Entertaining and in-character dialogue can make or break a story. Look at much of Gladstone II, for examples of dialogue dishwater. Or, look at early Boom! Persons who can work this underrated aspect of storytelling to its full advantage, as David Gerstein, Jonathan Gray, and myself should be utilized whenever possible. End-horn-self-blowing-mode.

If WDC&S were a TRUE anthology, who would buy it on a regular basis? Certainly not me. I’d have no interest in the Little Mermaid, Phineas and Ferb, or Kim Possible issues. And, while I’d eat up a Super Goof issue, others would not. No, the reason WDC&S works is BECAUSE it leads off with Donald Duck and ends with Mickey Mouse – CONSISTENTLY! Whatever else falls in the middle is either a bonus or a barnacle – think Li’l Bad Wolf vs. The Wuzzles. Release occasional special one-shots for modern movie properties and neglected comic characters. We’re too “collector and/or issue number oriented” these days to bite on a true anthology.

Furthermore, why must these comics all be monthly? They never were during ages in which they sold far better than they do now. Bi-monthly (or dare I suggest quarterly) schedules, as Dell and Gold Key were wont to do, gave each issue a much longer exposure time – and a better chance at sell-through – than the modern standard of monthly publication. Publish UNCLE SCROOGE in even months and DONALD DUCK in odd ones, and keep ‘em standard size, just as Gold Key did. That way, we can have them both, AND they have a better chance at success. Make sense?

I give “Review or Die” huge props on his letter column suggestion. Especially the “no snark” aspect. That connection with readers was an important one that has too long been broken by all publishers.

And, NO line should ever consider a start-up without at least SOME editorial influence by David Gerstein. I think we can all agree that he has universally earned our trust in such endeavors.

Joe.

reviewordie said...

Geo,

That would definitely be an interesting book! I'm just curious: What would you think of more one-shots that had vintage Italian material, in a more traditional comic book format? 80-page giants tend to go for about 8 dollars these days when they're stapled.

Joe,

I know we don't always agree, but I definitely know you have a passion for Disney comics, and I respect it immensely. :)

My Mickey deficiencies are pretty well known by this point, too. I will maintain that, either through luck or taste, the Mickey comics I HAVE read have been pretty bland and terrible, attempting to imitate the conventions or trappings of Gottfredson without creating a good story in its own right.

Geo pointed out some stories I need to grab in my comments section, and I'll take a look at them as soon as I can. Chris has also pointed out some areas that I need to look at. If you have any suggestions, please, let me know and they'll go right on the list!

Regarding Scrooge and Donald: a big part of why I wanted to put the two together was because the format lacked some flexibility. Sticking with the old format, where should we put the Daisy Duck stories? Gyro? Junior Woodchucks? A Gladstone story? Grandma Duck? These are all characters who actually could carry backup features, but don't really get a chance to do so because of title restrictions.

Rather than have the same thing with each issue, I want to be surprised and, again, let the writers do whatever is necessary to create the very best story for whoever in the rich Duck lineup has a story to be told. More freedom, not less, is my ideal.

I think I wasn't as clear on WDC&S as I meant to be, because it's not a true anthology with each issue devoted to a particular subject. Each issue would be numbered and publish some 2-4 stories in each issue: Super Goof, Witch Hazel, Disney Literature Classics, Elseworlds, etc. Think less flavor-of-the-month, more "chocolate sampler." A little butter cream, nougat, caramel, and you might sometimes bite in to pistachio (blech!), but it's always high quality chocolate, and there's always something else to bite.

Dr. Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

What would you think of more one-shots that had vintage Italian material, in a more traditional comic book format?

Potentially not a bad idea either--I've been kinda fixated on digests because it seems like an easier way to get more stories printed at a lower price point (and also, no doubt, because I'm sorta kinda jealous of Yurpeans for whom these things are standard), but I can see how one-shots might work better in the US market, given that it's more in-line with what we're used to, comics-wise, and also because it would be perhaps easier to market such things as real, singular Events worthy of wide consideration. Gemstone's prestige format could work quite well here.

Then again, given the popularity of manga, a digest series that mimics its outward aesthetics might also be a success. I dunno--just thinking out loud here. Whatever proves to work best, I will be happy to support.

Chris Barat said...

R.O.D.,

I'm glad you appreciated my comments. Never having seen FILLMORE, I'll have to trust to your judgment that it would make a worthy basis for a comic-book title, provided that enough thought was given to bringing newcomers up to speed on the characters and themes. KIM POSSIBLE, though, wouldn't need nearly as much "startup time," as its fandom is very well established, and I think that that fact would be a point in its favor.

Chris

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

At this point, I'd be more than happy with a more leisurely release schedule for these comics, as long as (1) we are consistently getting several books each month (there's one good argument in favor of R.O.D.'s fairly lengthy list of suggested titles) and (2) the books are consistently "extra-length" in order to compensate for their lower frequency.

Chris

Chris Barat said...

R.O.D.,

"I think I wasn't as clear on WDC&S as I meant to be, because it's not a true anthology with each issue devoted to a particular subject. Each issue would be numbered and publish some 2-4 stories in each issue: Super Goof, Witch Hazel, Disney Literature Classics, Elseworlds, etc. Think less flavor-of-the-month, more "chocolate sampler.""

"Elseworlds" might be a good avenue by which to bring back some of the more successful "New Departure" material from the Boom! era. I'm thinking specifically of WIZARDS OF MICKEY and DOUBLE DUCK. WIZARDS is a particularly intriguing possibility, as all of the major Disney comics characters seem to show up there in one guise or another.

Chris

Comicbookrehab said...

WDC&S needs to retire. I'm being very uncompromisg, but if the new line is going to survive in this tough market the way it is - them's the breaks. "Disney Kidz" and "Disney Afternoon" - I'm sorry, but while those would be fun to see, but nope, nope, nope. No anthologies. Unless you want try manga-sized format.

"Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck" (?) - no, no, no, no, no. These guys are proven capable of carrying their own SEPARATE books.

Mickey Mouse - O.K. You have to. Even if the material is often a mixed bag. I like Casty's work a lot, so there's a chance.

The Muppets - O.K. I find Landridge's stories too dry, but it was working, so, o.k.

Kim Possible - interesting, but you've got to fight as hard as Aaron Sparrow did to get Darkwing Duck out there. Who knows?

Darkwing Duck, Ducktales, Talespin - this can only come after a few years of success, really.