Tag Archives: Donald Duck

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: “Lost in the Andes”

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: “Lost in the Andes” by Carl Barks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantagraphics Books has obtained the rights to republish the body of work of Carl Barks, regarded as one of the greatest cartoonists in history. Barks worked in obscurity for most of his career because comic book policy throughout his tenure precluded creators from being acknowledged with bylines. Only after his retirement in 1966 did most fans realize the “good duck artist” was Carl Barks.

Although Barks didn’t create Donald Duck, it is his interpretation that probably resides in most people’s memories. Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories, where Barks’ duck stories were primarily told, was the top-selling comic book in its heyday. Donald in the animated shorts was a hot-headed buffoon. Barks’ Donald was an actor called upon to play whatever role Barks needed: from exasperated parent to worldly adventurer.

It was Barks’ duck comics that spurred my early interest in sequential storytelling, and probably my love of reading in general.

The first volume from Fantagraphics presents one of Barks’ favorite stories, “Lost in the Andes,” three other long stories from 1948-1949, “The Golden Christmas Tree,” “Race to the South Seas!,” and “Voodoo Hoodoo,” plus nine 10-pagers and assorted one-page gag strips. This is the beginning of Barks’ strongest storytelling period, just after he had created Scrooge McDuck and Gladstone Gander. Along with the stories, the book includes introductory text and detailed story notes that broaden the appreciation for Barks’s background and what he accomplished in each story.

Barks got his start as an artist and story man on dozens of Donald Duck cartoons. He and his animation partner Jack Hannah wrote and drew the 1942 story “Donald Duck finds Pirate Gold,” and soon Barks was writing and drawing the ducks on a monthly basis, having almost complete autonomy to produce what he wanted without interference from the comic book publisher or from Disney.

Fantagraphics has gone back to the clean original drawings and recolored them in a way that closely matches Barks’ original intents. “Race to the South Seas!” is seeing its first pristine reprint from recently re-discovered originals.

“Lost in the Andes” concerns Donald’s quest to find the source of rare square eggs. Donald and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie eventually find a hidden Peruvian culture that speaks English with a heavy Southern accent as a result of a previous visitor’s influence, one Professor Rhutt Betlah. Donald and the boys figure out in a few minutes what the natives haven’t in centuries, that the square eggs come from square chickens that look like rocks.

The other notable story is “Voodoo Hoodoo,” where an African witch doctor sends Bombie the Zombie to kill Scrooge. However, it took something like 70 years for the zombie to reach Duckburg, so it mistakes Donald for the young Scrooge it remembered, and hijinks ensue as Donald and the boys valiantly try to set things straight.

All of the other stories are well worth reading, although the very best duck stories are yet to come. I am eagerly awaiting future volumes in this series.

Disney’s Four Color Adventures Volume 1

Disney's Four-Color Adventures Volume 1Disney’s Four Color Adventures Volume 1 by Al Taliaferro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This volume reprints, in their entireties, issues #4 (1940) and #13 (1941) of the Four Color comic series published by Dell. Four Color issues were one-shots of a diverse variety of titles. These particular issues were the first two of the Four Color comics to contain Disney characters. In fact, Four Color #4 was the first all-color Disney comic book in English.

Four-Color #4 reprinted Donald Duck daily newspaper gag strips drawn by Al Taliaferro. Taliaferro began working at the Disney Studio in 1931 as an inker for Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse Sunday page. He started penciling and inking the Silly Symphonies Sunday strip in 1933. In 1936, he originated the first Donald Duck newspaper strip, which he drew until his death in 1969. Within that strip, he created many fan-favorite duck characters including Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. The strips were primarily written by Bob Karp, with an assist by future duck legend Carl Barks.

Taliaferro’s version of Donald formed the basis of his character as a quick-tempered, immature prankster. The four-panel strips relied heavily on sight gags, often going without word balloons. The addition of Donald’s nephews created more opportunities for laughs, as now Donald became the victim of his nephew’s shenanigans. Some of the jokes don’t hold up well after seventy-odd years, but a surprising number of the strips are funnier than ever. For that reason alone, this facsimile edition is well worth reading. And, as a historical record of the early days of Taliaferro’s craftsmanship, it is a treasure for Disney duck enthusiasts like me.

Four-Color #13 was a comic adaptation of The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and related stories from the movie of the same name, complete with photos of Robert Benchley’s in-movie tour of the Disney lot. It also included a text adaptation of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment from Fantasia. The art, largely copied from the movie’s animation cels, was by Irving Tripp and Jack Hannah. As a historical record of the first original Disney comic, this is interesting. However, the stories themselves don’t hold up well for modern readers. In addition, the layouts are stiff, with an odd combination of text narration and word balloons that does not flow well. Unless you are a Disney completist, I recommend skipping Four-Color #13.

BOOM! Studios has done a great job with their Disney reprints, with quality reproduction at an affordable price. Reportedly, they are discontinuing their reprint license with Disney, so there may not be any more volumes in this series. Perhaps Marvel, which is now owned by Disney, will take up where BOOM! leaves off. Taliaferro and other lesser known classic Disney artists deserve more recognition. In the meantime, Fantagraphics is continuing their wonderful hardcover collections of Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse dailies, and they are scheduled to soon begin publishing Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comics.

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