*The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck — Recommended

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.

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck cover
The Life and Times
of Scrooge McDuck
Buy this book

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artist’s commentary on each installment, where Rosa lists the sources (previous comic stories, mostly, but also historical reference and old movies) for the facts he uses as well as the contradictions he ignores or finesses.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.

13 Responses to “*The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck — Recommended”

  1. Reeve Says:

    Welcome to the world of Duck comics! Don Rosa is easily the best Duck writer/artist outside of Barks himself; my personal favorite of his stories is “Guardians of the Lost Library”, in which Scrooge and the boys hunt down the Library of Alexandria.

    The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion is a great read as well, especially for the stories set in the Klondike, and of course, the original Barks stories (available in various collections) can’t be recommended enough.

  2. Mark S. Says:

    This, and the companion book, are about all the duck comics I own. Great stuff…

  3. El Santo Says:

    I have this, the companion book, and the one that reprints the Carl Barks stories that a bunch of DuckTales stories were based on. I love the notes in between the chapters, too; it’s interesting to learn that archaeologists were inspired to get in the field because of the Scrooge McDuck stories.

    And really, Johanna … is a McDuck winning the Eisner any weirder than, say, a story about some guy in tights and superpowers winning the award? ;)

  4. Jeff Says:

    Temporarily Out of Stock at Amazon.com :( 1 copy available for $22.95, but after that one is gone, it’ll set you back $78.00. *sigh*

  5. Bill D. Says:

    This is my favorite comics story ever, and easily one of the best-written (and arguably the most thoroughly researched) pieces of “literary” biography ever.

  6. Johanna Says:

    I have the Companion on the reading shelf–I didn’t want to overdo all at once. Glad to hear I should look forward to it.

    It wasn’t the duck winning the Eisner I was wondering about, but that it was a corporate character. How do you get “safer” than Disney? And yet this was some surprising and unexpected work.

    Sorry about it not being easily available. Gemstone says they have some for $25.

  7. Suzene Says:

    Half.com has a few too. It has one fewer now.

  8. jdh417 Says:

    THIS was the first Disney duck adventure you’ve ever read?

    You’re spoiled now, ruined.

    No, there’s plenty of Barks and other Rosa stories. I’m not sure what’s available, but look for some big volume you can curl up with at night. That’s the best way to read them.

  9. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Feb. 20, 2009: The merit of drawing ham well Says:

    […] [Review] The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Link: Johanna Draper Carlson […]

  10. Charles RB Says:

    The interesting thing for me is that Rosa’s doing a tale based on huge amounts of continuity and a fanboy urge to fit it all together, the thing usually decried in comics because it leads to dull and unpenetrable stories… and yet it all works brilliant! That’s impressive. (See also Marvels)

  11. Daniel M. Says:

    I recently read this myself, and in the companion, he said most of this stuff was created for the foreign market. The places Disney doesn’t give a shit about as long as people buy their crap. He could do anything as long as it didn’t contain sex or murder.

    I loved his art and the colors are some of the best I have ever seen, so soft and dazzling. And while this was quite good, the companion is even better because its just straight adventure tales set in his youth. My favorite is the one where he meets Theordore Roosevelt again in Panama during the construction of the canal. The scene where his sisters flirt with a cowboy to get his keys is an absolute hoot!

  12. Adam Arnold Says:

    Gemstone’s two “Walt Disney Treasures” books that are out now are worth picking up if you want some rarely seen material and solid stories from across the decades. The books are called:

    Walt Disney Treasures – Uncle Scrooge: A Little Something Special

    Walt Disney Treasures – Disney Comics: 75 Years of Innovation

  13. January 2011 Previews: Indie Month, DC and IDW Recommendations, and Snark » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (Boom! Studios) […]




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