Thursday, December 20, 2018

DuckTales # 5

Christmas 2018
Kid’s Stuff – Saturday Morning Cartoon Edition
DuckTales # 5

Tales of daring do never felt quite so ducky

"Scrooge’s Quest, Chapter 5: Down, but not out, in Duckburg”
Script - Marv Wolfman
Pencils - Cosme Quartieri and Anibal Uzal
Inks - Ruben Torriero, Carlos Valenti, and Robert Bat
Lettering - Bill Spicer
Coloring - Pat Keane
Editor - Bob Foster
August 1989

By 1987, I was well into my second year of college. I didn’t have time for TV. I had time for textbooks, textbooks, and more textbooks. And when I wasn’t studying, I was working near full time. I say “near” because my employer realized if I worked 40 hours I got benefits, but if I worked 39.5 hours, I was still part time.

Meh, I was young and needed the money. Being still in college and sponging a bit off my parents for things like medical insurance meant I didn’t really think I needed full-time benefits if it meant I might feel tied down to my employer. I was working retail to pay car and gas bills and I didn’t want to get hooked into a career path in a grocery store. The work was hard, the hours were long, and being in the Meat Department meant I was constantly cold and covered in either cleaning bleach or blood. Or both.

DuckTales is another cheat I’m adding to this list since it also did not air on Saturday morning television. Disney had invested heavily in the property, banking on making it into syndication. They hired the Japanese animation company Tokyo Movie Sinsha and commissioned them to make 65 episodes. Sixty-Five was considered the “Magic number” required for a show to have a weekday syndication rotation of 13 weeks before repeating itself.

The show became an immense success for Disney, lasting several more “seasons,” although these were rarely more than Disney adding in a week or two’s worth of episodes to the already large library of shows. By my count, the show topped out at an even 100 episodes released over four seasons plus one theatrical release.

Because it was so popular, Disney invested in the same formula with its next few animated shows. DuckTales paved the way for quality animated shows like Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, and Tailspin.

But it wasn’t just the quality of the animation that created the cartoon and subsequent series their followings. It was in large part the storytelling used that, while all ages appropriate, was also quite sophisticated. DuckTales told good stories and tended to not underestimate the intelligence of its target market.

Much of that storytelling quality has to do with the tales being inspired by the man who created the concepts of Scrooge, the Beagle Boys, Gyro Gearloose, Flintheart Glomgold, Magica De Spell, and the concept of the Junior Woodchucks. And all of those flowed from the pen of the most famous scribe in the Disney comic book creation canon, Carl Barks.

Banks worked creating Disney comics from the late 1940’s through the early 1960’s, and his decade plus of story inventory was a gold mine Disney plundered to create its show. He worked primarily for Western Publishing after quitting the animation department in 1942. His prior experience in animation and producing stories for Donald Duck guided Barks in developing an entire town for Donald and his nephews to inhabit in his comic book stories. Originally doing 10 pagers, Banks soon surrounded Donald Duck with a huge cast of characters created specifically for the comics and transformed the rudimentary single issue stories into sweeping adventure narratives that would string on from book to book.

It’s from these tales that Disney mined the gold they needed to power DuckTales and there are many examples of episodes that owe their inspiration and plot to Banks’ keen eye for storytelling.

I finally would discover DuckTales in late 2005 after the birth of my son and the series subsequent release on DVD. Fatherhood has many hidden benefits. One of them is getting a chance to experience the thrill of sharing a series like DuckTales, that most of my younger online friends had lauded as awesome and lots of fun, for the first time with my young son. I get the great vibe the series sets up as well as its terrific cast of characters and impressive animation.

Disney themselves were even so taken with the show that in 2015 it was announced that they would be revamping the property for a new 2017 release. Many were concerned when the original voice cast were not invited back, but David Tennant (Doctor Who fame) was hired to voice Uncle Scrooge. That can’t be all bad. As before, I haven’t taken the time to check any of these out.

Now that we’ve traveled the Ouroboros around from Banks creating the Uncle Scrooge comic adventures to Disney rebranding and animating it into DuckTales, we end up back where we started: a comic book about Uncle Scrooge, his nephews, and Webby that’s a full-length, multi-part epic that follows their misadventures trying to defeat bad guys and save Scrooge’s fortune.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is. Nicely, Disney was good enough to hire an old pro to write the thing. DC New Teen Titan’s scribe and Crisis on Infinite Earther Marv Wolfman (also known for many, many Marvel books as well) had the helm of the series for the first seven part adventure called “Scrooge’s Quest” and it’s a humdinger. We are arriving and the end of the second act, which all I will tell you here because it’s best if we segue right into the book at this point…

We fly in with our favorite adventuring ducks after they’ve rescued Uncle Scrooge from being stranded on a tropical island. Seems Magica De Spell has stolen Scrooge’s lucky first dime and all manner of bad things have befallen him lately. But that doesn’t mean his trip didn’t net a profit, as we found he’s gotten a nice takeaway present from that island retreat.

As to how this relates to the troop coming to a one room paper clip factory Scrooge owns that is literally in the middle of nowhere, that will become apparent in a bit. First off, we have to talk about pacing. This book doesn’t rush anything. It allows ample time for world-building, character development, and dialogue. It is a pretty amazing thing. In most kid’s comics, there is a tendency to rush to stick the landing, but it is almost like DuckTales knows that it is all in the execution of the full routine that will win it the gold. Perhaps it is Wolfman distilling as much of the essence out of those Banks tales as possible that gives the book this unhurried feel. I’ll let the next two pages play out here to show you what I mean.

First off, Scrooge and the kids discuss his missing lucky dime while their Uncle unlocks the door to the factory. It opens to an empty room that is nothing more than a staircase leading down.

The kids and Scrooge continue down a second even longer stairwell. One of them remarks about how he wrote a paper on his Uncle and this place was never brought up. Note we are at a full page of walking now.

And then finally the bottom of our two pages connect to give us a nice looking splash page graphic. Note that this has NOTHING to do with plot of this book. None of this buildup and artifice. Scrooge’s factory could have been behind that first door (and the secret it hides, too) but THIS is more satisfying. Seeing the kids struggle down steps, learning that one of them wrote a paper for school on his Uncle (which clearly would have been his choice of most interesting topic), and the final reveal are all building mood, characters, and setting. Have to commend both Wolfman and artists Quartieri/Uzal/Torriero/Valenti/bat for this. The book sets the tone in the same way the series does. 

All of these panels serve to show that Scrooge’s fortune is tied up in mystery upon mystery, like a series of doors that each uncovers something unknown. 

Here we find one of Scrooge’s hidden vaults minded by Gabby McDrake, Scrooge’s former guide on treasure hunts. Gabby’s a bit of an anachronism. 

As the boys and Webby follow Scrooge through the facility, they find a fully funded research laboratory, a room full of Scrooge’s treasure hunting memorabilia, and…

…Scrooge’s new gem vault. A vault which, because we are in the Disney universe, is so full of gems that you can’t rightly open it more than a crack or else they will all tumble out. No, I’m not explaining that one to a physicist, either.

After tossing the new gem in and resetting the number showing how many are in there (somewhere shy of 760 billion gems), the group learns some shocking news from Gabby that has them rushing back to Duckburg.

Leaving Webby and Mrs. Beakley behind, the all male troop take off for Duckburg and the despair that this journey will certainly bring.

Sure enough, they find a dark cloud had descended over Duckburg as soon as they land. A dark and rainy cloud, at that. 

And along with Scrooge’s worsening cold, the troop find that Flintheart Glomgold has forced everyone in town to turn their backs on Scrooge, both figuratively and literally.

Glomgold himself makes an appearance next, and we can see that he is far from the benevolent town patriarch that Scrooge has been. Glomgold is downright Machiavellian, believing ordinary people are so far below him that he actually steps on them to get what he wants. (nice touch, guys)

And he’s been using his money to amass power enough to bend the townsfolk to his evil will, under threat of losing all they have. Scrooge’s health worsens as he finds out the depths of Glomgold’s meddling.

But even Scrooge’s failing health isn’t going to stop him from confronting his evil nemesis. That’s always one of the hallmarks of the Uncle Scrooge tales: even though he is a slave to his greedy vice, there is a core of decency in him that values people just as much. I’ve always found it odd that a character named after the lead in A Christmas Carol (and yes, I got the reference even when I was just a kid) was the exact opposite in story terms when it comes to his personal relationships. It’s like Uncle Scrooge was always post-Christmas Carol or maybe I just missed the memo on that’s who he was supposed to be modeled after.

And he’s also courageous, something I would ascribe to his Dickensian template. Uncle Scrooge never backs down from a fight. And clearly that’s what’s about to go on here.

But when Scrooge’s illness takes a turn for the worst, Gyro and the boys spirit him out of there and back to the plane.

..but Glomgold is crafty enough to get a bead on where they are headed. 

So, while Scrooge’s brain fever takes a trip down memory lane…

…a trip that has him reliving times long gone…

…and the very recent past…

…Glomgold’s net tightens to the point that he finds Scrooge’s hidden vault of gems.

And it appears that Uncle Scrooge has shaken off the fever without a moment to waste, as Glomgold arrives with those dastardly Beagle Boys. 

Hijinks ensue…

…and the trio are caught…

…multiple times it would appear…

…or maybe I just undersold how many Beagle Boys there are (I thought there were only three).

Regardless, there’s a bit of neat action as we head toward our wrap-up, which you know is going to involve Glomgold cornering out heroes…

…and that vault door…

…which literally buries the competition. And after which, Scrooge decides to take off after his lucky first dime which is being held by the powerful witch Magica De Spell.

Got to say I loved this. Felt true to the cartoon and possibly even further back. I’ll have to see if the Crapbox holds anymore of them. As for you? These have been traded in two volumes. The first is all seven issues of Scrooge’s Quest, so you can have the story complete for a song. The second is a bit of a mystery to me as it wasn’t Wolfman, so might not be the same quality. However, I’m sure that you’ll find a need to dig out those old DVDs or VHS tapes after reading a few pages.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.