My Love Affair With Scrooge McDuck (And The Carl Barks Library Vol. 12)
I love Scrooge McDuck. When I was a kid DuckTales was essential Disney Afternoon viewing for me every day when I came home from school. It was that Indiana Jones type of pulpy exotic adventure that I loved, lush locations and d-d-danger (right behind you) all in the name of accumulating more riches. It wasn’t until I was much older that I found out Scrooge was originated in comics going way back to the 1950’s by Carl Barks. After grabbing a smattering of the old issues here and there to test the waters I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So I decided to do the only right thing left for me to do an order the first volume of the Carl Barks Library.
Fantagraphics has taken the task of republishing all of Bark’s material from 1942-1966, covering his start with Donald Duck and Huey, Dewey and Louie and following his creation of Uncle Scrooge and his own stories. Strangely they’ve chosen to print them out of order. The stories are collected in chronological order so for example everything from 1948-1949 is in one volume (which is labeled Vol. 7) yet it actually was the first released by Fantagraphics. Subsequent entries that take place earlier have been released with the proper volume number, but afterward. Strange stuff, but it’s hard to complain when something is packaged with such obvious love and care.
At the moment, only one volume of all of Uncle Scrooge’s solo stories has been released. Titled “Only a Poor Old Man” it’s volume 12 of the library and covers the years 1952-1954. It’s a solid hardback collection and the first thing you see as soon as you open the book is solid green pages (no doubt indicating money) which is a great touch. There is roughly 200 pages of comics and another 40 pages of supplemental material like covers, essays and biographical information on Barks. The comics range from 20-30 page actual stories to 1 page quick gags. The real selling point here is that they went back and re-colored the comics the way they looked back when they were released. The result is a very soft color palette which is much easier on the eyes. Not to mention pages that had been pulled in previous reprintings due to racial sensitivity have been reinstated and presented uncensored.
The stories themselves are great and rarely come off feeling dated. Barks does a masterful job writing yarns that are equally enjoyable to children as well as adults without ever talking down to one of the groups. Before picking this up I would have guessed that the stories I’d adore most would be the lengthier adventures but it’s the one page few panel gags that really made an impression on me. Crafting a joke within 6 or 7 panels that can make a jaded 30 year old chuckle is an impressive feat.
The globetrotting aspect of the longer stories cannot be understated. Throughout the span of these included in this volume Scrooge and the gang end up in Alaska, Hawaii, Atlantis and the Himalayas. George Lucas wrote the intro for this collection and it’s no surprise that the next one to be released is being promoted as including the story that inspired the opening scene for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Don’t believe me? Take a look. It’s these types of stories which are far more interesting to me than the ones based around Beagle Boys trying to rob Scrooge’s fortune.
I was surprised that in all these stories Scrooge was accompanied by Donald Duck as well as Huey, Dewey and Louie. In DuckTales this was true but Donald only was around for a very few amount of episodes. Their comic counterpart’s wardrobes are all slightly tweaked. Donald and the kids are all wearing black versions of their signature outfits but their hats remain the same. Scrooge has 3 or so different outfits he appears in but none resemble his famous blue and red getup from the cartoon. Having the show in your life before you read these comics helps to enhance your enjoyment, because in your head you already know how Scrooge McDuck sounds. It’s hard to deny that there couldn’t be a more perfect voice.
Uncle Scrooge was always appealing to me as a kid, but I find him much more interesting now. It’s amazing how much Barks portrays him as money grubbing bastard, but in fairness we do often see him “do the right thing” for his family. He would walk to the ends of the Earth facing any form of mortal danger to acquire more wealth, despite having his own building already to house just his riches. There’s an ongoing joke running throughout this volume that every time Scrooge enlists the boys for help that he will pay them 30 cents an hour wage that he rarely follows through with. He is shrewd and unwilling to spend any money frivolously or even really enjoy the material things it can bring him. Yet, his physical wealth is the only thing that brings him joy and comfort.
Bark’s artwork is perfect for the medium. It still looks so crisp and fresh you’d never guess it was from 60 years ago. The range of emotions he can put on these ducks faces is staggering. I really couldn’t recommend this collection more to anyone who is fan of these characters, a fan of DuckTales or just looking to learn a little more about them or their creator. With such attractive packaging too it’s impossible to pass up.
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