- Posted by Johanna on February 19, 2009 at 8:17 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Don Rosa
- PUBLISHER: Gemstone Publishing; $16.99 US
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is an astounding adventure comic by Don Rosa. Originally published in Uncle Scrooge #285-296, the 12-part series tells how the title character acquired the fortune that made him the World’s Richest Duck. It also won the 1995 Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story, a pretty impressive feat when you realize we’re talking about a world-ranging story starring a Disney duck.
You’ll soon forget that, though. Although Uncle Scrooge works as a simple miser character — there are few more honest presentations of joy in comics than the glee with which Scrooge dives into and swims through the huge mound of coins in his money bin — you’ll never look at him the same way again after reading how he started as a poor shoeshine boy in Glasgow, heir to a penniless clan of noble heritage. The saga began as a fanboy project, trying to work every reference made to Scrooge’s history by Carl Barks in his classic stories into a comprehensive whole.
Rosa’s art is amazing, full of detailed backgrounds and astonishingly expressive characters (especially when you think of how few features he has to work with, given that they’re ducks). He does a wonderful job with action, comedy, and all kinds of emotion. The story’s a smooth read with an easy flow, but re-reads are rewarded by noticing even more of the background jokes and supporting details. The thick white paper carries the vibrant colors (by Susan Daigle-Leach) beautifully, providing even more excitement to settings that include spooky castles, Mississippi riverboats, Wild West cattle drives, the Alaskan gold rush, South Africa, Australia, and so much more.
Who would have guessed that Scrooge had been a cowboy? Or a prospector? Not me. This is the first duck comic I’ve read, and it’s a great one. Even if you don’t know anything about the character, you’ll enjoy this. In fact, you may like it more, not knowing how he’s bound to end up before his first historical appearance, which is a little sad. (Scrooge was originally introduced in a Christmas story in which Donald Duck and his nephews bring joy to the lonely miser.)
The collection contains, in addition to the stories, artist’s commentary on each installment, where Rosa lists the sources (previous comic stories, mostly, but also historical reference and old movies) for the facts he uses as well as the contradictions he ignores or finesses. He also discusses editorial changes, if they apply, and different takes on the European and American versions, as well as pointing out “hidden Mickeys” he draws in. There’s even a duck family tree, which meant I finally understood where the Junior Woodchuck nephews came from!
Overall, the book is a gripping adventure story with a clear moral: the more you work for what you have, the more you appreciate it. Rosa has posted a lot of background material on his website, and here’s an online history of Duckburg. There’s also an interesting discussion on how the book works for old and new fans at Comic Book Resources.
Update: (4/12/10) Since the time I first wrote this, this title, along with a lot of other Disney comics, has moved from Gemstone to Boom! Studios. They have re-released this story as two hardcovers, Volume 1 and Volume 2.