IDW Publishing’s Disney comics in the US has been great for fans. It means that not only will our favorite characters’ stories continue but that we’ll periodically be treated to new, high-quality prints of English-language stories previously published overseas in other languages. Disney comics have enjoyed a much more robust life in Europe over the past few decades so, unless we gather scans from online friends or cozy up with eBay and a translation guide, we welcome IDW’s trade releases.
Here are three Mickey-centric Disney trades to share with you this week.
The first, Donald & Mickey: The Magic Kingdom Collection, offers assorted stories inspired by Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom . It includes not only a few from the US but, oddly enough, a pair of Danish stories and one from Italy.
The second, titled Mickey’s Craziest Adventures, is from the French team Lewis Trondheim and Nicolas Keramidas, offering a truly weird and wacky interpretation of our favorite mouse.
Finally there is the slightly misnamed Mickey Mouse: Shadow of the Colossus, only because “Colossus” is not the only long-form story in the book. This offers a broader international gathering of stories from even more countries than Collection, putting varied Mickey styles back-to-back.
Remember The Magic…?
Trade: Donald & Mickey: The Magic Kingdom Collection
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release: January 17, 2017
When most Disney comics fans see a title based on one of the parks, they uncontrollably cringe.
They fear the worst has happened: Either some poor sap or, worse, a seasoned veteran has been asked to help promote the park, a ride or an attraction through a completely contrived story that panders to some marketing executive’s expectations.
Lucky for us, however, this book is a pleasant mix, offering some truly enjoyable stories and only a small bit of contrived schlock.
There are seven encapsulated stories each featuring some mix of Disney’s fab five along with a few international fan favorites.
Interestingly, the stories are not presented in any noticeable order but they did do a nice job of not over repeating specific villains. This also pulls stories from the Danish publication Anders And & Co. and the Italian mag Topolino.
The title is a little odd since, in at least a couple instances, neither Donald nor Mickey are in the main story being told.
The first story, “Fantastic River Race,” (1957, Uncle Scrooge Goes to Disneyland #1) features a story by ye ol’ Duck man himself, Carl Barks, offering a jolly jaunt down the river with a trip down memory lane. Here Scrooge McDuck recounts an adventure aboard the Dilly Dollar, the paddleboat (a.k.a. a “stern-wheeler”) supposedly floating through Disneyland.
A young Scrooge, along with Gyro’s grandfather, Ratchet Gearloose, meet the mustachioed Beagle Boys who want to claim a shipment of gold as their own. The story is filled with the usual Barksian hijinks including clever situationally appropriate distractions – sticky molasses in the paddles and sulfur steam – culminating in Scrooge’s unlikely yet profitable success. It’s the classic Barks as we’ve come to know and love in modern ink.
The next story, however, “Donald and Mickey in Frontierland,” (1971, Walt Disney Comics Digest #32) smacks a bit harsher, with Mickey and Donald rushing to get to Grizzly Hall in Frontierland for a County Bear jamboree. The styles between the stories are also a bit of a clash going from such an ionic look to the more modern Mickey-in-a-bow-tie.
Mickey and Donald are swept into an adventure – mostly as observers – to gather three lazy bears and bring them back to the theater so the show can go on as scheduled. Luckily, this is only an eight-pager, so the hoke is short lived. I consider this pallet cleanser to the rest of the book, offering something very young readers will likely enjoy. It is talking bears. You can easily gloss over this section and pretend it never existed.
The third story, “Red Rogue’s Treasure,” (1992, Anders And & Co. #9) puts us back into the past with Scrooge once again recounting an adventure inspired by something in the park rather than based on it. Here we get a bit of Magica de Spell, the feisty witch nemesis who often relies on foof bombs (as in bombs that go “foof”) and magical transformations to try and thieve Scrooge’s lucky dime. It’s silly, a little fun an included monkeys throwing coconuts.
In “Goofy in Fantasyland,” (1955, Donald Duck in Disneyland #1), we get just that: Goofy with Pluto and Daisy Duck trouncing all over the park. And, like most Disney amusement park rides, something goes amiss to help make the ride a bit more enjoyable. The art here has a much looser style that we’re used to seeing with Disney, with wavy panel boxes and uneven line weights. It does get a bit meta when even the characters in the story cannot tell when characters are actively part of the story or part of the story’s set. But, it makes up for its flaws by mashing characters into each other – the dwarves, Queen of Hearts, Jiminy Cricket, Mister Toad, Peter Pan and the Wicked Witch – in such a weird way that it completely embraces its own obviousness.
“Plunkett’s Emporium” (1992, Anders And & Co. #21) gets back to that more classic, lush look of the older comics. We once again see Scrooge reminiscing, this time along Main Street in Disneyland. Here we get to see another classic matchup between Scrooge and Glomgold, this time when they are younger and working side-by-side in Plunkett’s. The McGuffin here is the first one to find cinnamon will become the sole proprietor of the emporium. And, of course, Scrooge finds a way to win for losing.
Barks is brought back in “Mastering the Matterhorn” (1959, Disneyland: Four Color) which does not even make mention of the park. Instead, it sets the story on the Matterhorn itself with Donald and his nephews at odds with the Beagle Boys after discovering diamonds buried beneath the snow at the peak. It’s a method that, used twice prior, seems to work rather nicely. It keeps the focus on characters interacting rather than visiting the park.
“Incredible Disneyland Adventure” (1985, Topolino #1552) looks a bit more sketchy and stretchy than we’re used to and takes a humorously meta approach to a Disney park story. Mickey Mouse is knocked out by a stranger on the train ride home. After he finally comes to, things are not quite right when his house is essentially empty and everyone is calling him Fred. This story includes classic baddie Pete, a (*gasp!*) talking Dopey, and even a few park castmembers. It soon becomes a Forest Gump meets The Brady Bunch gallop through the park, hitting all the highlights while acknowledging that the park characters are humans wearing costumes. It’s in interesting international perspective on our parks that is well worth reading.
Wanna Get Crazy? Let’s Get Crazy!
Trade: Mickey’s Craziest Adventures
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release: December 16, 2016
Here is a collection that any Disney comics fan should consider a must-read treat. I mean, forgotten comics that even the great Disney archivist, Dave Smith, doesn’t know about? C’est incroyable!
As explained in the book’s brief introduction, this is a collection of 44 single-page installments published between 1962 and 1969 in issues Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories: Mickey’s Quest.
Except, it’s not.
Yes, this is fake.
I mean, sure, these are real Disney comics, however, they were not previously published and are certainly not from the 1960s. These are instead modern interpretations of a ye old Disney comic book story.
All the so-called comic pages are printed in full color with quite a bit of what appears to be grit, stains and even a few (convenient) tears. It begins with Chapter 2 and it leaps over chapters, allowing the stories to progress rather quickly.
The art is quite inconsistent early on, often looking like they changed artists each week, but that does soon even out early in the book. Mickey is also a bit more malleable than we’re used to seeing – especially for older strips – and it sometimes feels like they forgot how to draw Donald. Several pages look a bit amateurish, also cutting a bit into the illusion.
The first common theme – which kicks in after about the third comic (Chapter 7) – is when Donald has a chance encounter with Gyro’s shrink ray. He’s soon joined by Mickey and, of course, a giant spider.
The next has Mickey and Donald chasing Beagle Boys in the jungle, where the art style gets a little more sketchy and, after a few pages, the puns get wackier. That somehow leads them to the desert to a secret science facility that then launches them deep within the earth.
Hey, it’s a comic book. It doesn’t need to make complete sense… right?
About half way through is where it becomes a little obvious that this isn’t quite the old comic it claims to be. For one, Velociraptors are a dinosaur that was made popular by the Jurassic Park movies, even though the name may be from the 1920s. They also briefly happen across some natives who look very dog-like (and not nearly as potentially offensive as in the original comics – see The Uncensored Mouse comics).
One nice touch is the rather thick German-ish accent presented in dialog for wacky scientist Dr. Einmug.
I’ve heard that Disney likes to stay away from such things, at least in the US, so our friends across the pond are welcome to be as verboten as they want.
The story gets really surreal at one point, with the Disney duo riding a giant magical mushroom machine that, when individual fungi are popped, send them flying in the opposite direction. This lands them in the final terrain they have left to visit, the frozen arctic. Until they get launched into space, that is. Oh, and then into the underwater city, Atlantis, where, oddly enough, they can breath just fine. Yet they needed helmets in space. Go figure.
The backgrounds in all these stories are simply gorgeous and really lend themselves to the illusion of older comics. It’s Mickey and Donald, however, that occasionally get in the way and break the illusion. They are simply too fluid and wobbly with expressions and treatments that are a little too modern. By placing these books in the ’60s they obviously tried giving themselves a bit more freedom.
The beauty of this book is that you can easily hand it to someone not in the know and they would fully believe they are reading lost comics. The staggered story telling is a pretty genius tactic, although skipping every other chapter so many times in a row would rings a bit wrong with any collector. I mean, who would let go of every other comic in a series?
Despite my nitpicking of some of the Mickey and Donald treatments, I love this book. The illusion is just believable enough and presented well enough so that even die-hard Disney fans will do a fair bit of second guessing. Sure, printed grit and stains have been done before (a few Fantagraphics books come to mind) but the sometimes subtle applications feel like they came from someone who really has comics with those stains on them (and I’d not at all be surprised to learn they had scanned books in their collection to get those effects).
I plan on gifting this book one to my mom. On April 1st, of course.
Release the Kraken, er, Collossus!
Trade: Mickey Mouse: Shadow of the Colossus
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release: August 16, 2016
IDW has collected several stories here beyond the cover title culled from various eras and countries, darting from the 2000s to the ’50s and back, with myriad decades following. We get treated to stories translated from Italian, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Swedish, Polish and even a couple originally written in English. There’s not really a tying element between the books except, perhaps, that some do include some type of historical element.
The book’s namesake story, “Shadow of the Colossus,” (2005, Topolino #2593) begins the book, featuring Mickey, Goofy and their archeologist friend Eurasia Toft on the island of Rhodes. The art has a rather cel-shaded feel with solid lines, solid coloring, a complete lack of shadowing, very sparse use of fades and heavy crosshatching in only a couple places, giving the story a vibrant look, causing a lot of the action to jump off the panels.
The trio is chasing down the massive statue – i.e. the Rhodes Colossus – that once supposedly stood over the waterway entrance to Rhodes. After they get a button (of both meanings) from the statue, they meet up with a band of purple-clad minion types called the Horde of the Violet Hare who happen to specialize in acquiring ancient technologies. The violet bad guys have your standard evil equipment – super sub, machine guns, etc. – and report to Dr. Malvazar and his monkey sidekick. He’s also the one who discovered that the massive statue is actually an automaton that can be controlled thanks to those giant buttons.
Between the two Colossus books, there are two short story interludes including a Dutch one-page Horace Horsecollar story with Minnie and Clarabelle (“Statuesque Scholar,” 2005, Donald Duck #34) and a two-page story with Goofy and Ellsworth (1950, Mickey Mouse Sunday comic strip).
Following the Colossus story is “No Good Deed” (2008, Mickey Maus #16) featuring Peg Leg Pete, who I didn’t think ever got to headline a story. After robbing the Bank of Mouston and beating back Mickey, Pete gets help from an especially friendly kid. It turns out the little tyke is actually and alien who thinks he can reform Pete (you know, Disney’s oldest villain). It’s kinda cute but an unusually dark story for Disney, both visually and thematically.
After another Goofy & Ellsworth gag (“Cat Crusader”, 1951, Mickey Mouse Sunday comic strip), Goofy, Mickey and the truly weird Eega Beeva form the future star in “Second Childhood at Gneezle Gnob” (1981, Mickey #348).
For those of you not familiar with Eega, he’s a Silly Putty®-colored creature with a giant nose, wears a tiny black skirt and has what looks like mittens for hands and feet. He also speaks by adding the letter “P” before pretty pmuch peverything. (Pannoying, pain’t it?)
Led by Eeega’s pet, Pflip the Thuckle-Booh, they stumble upon Gneezels, tiny elf-like creatures who live in the forest and can over inhale to turn into wacky bouncing balls. After a bit of miscommunication, they decide that Mikey and Goofy were trying to hunt them down. Naturally, they escape and stumble upon the Fountain of Youth and its partner pool, the Fountain of Maturity. It’s a cute story that will appeal more you very young readers mostly because of the truly silly characters. I’m just glad they didn’t turn Gneezels into a real bouncy ball toy. *shudder*
In “Song of the Squinch” (2013, Kalle Anka & Co.), Mickey is called in by Clarabelle to help deal with a pair of swindlers who loaned her money for home repairs. Mr. Squinch comes to collect the money owed to him but decides to give Clarabelle an extra day, only so he and his partner can try to pilfer it to double their money. As part of his ruse, he flirts with Clarabelle which, if you’ve seen her in anything, seems to be her Kryptonite.
Following that is a much longer Ellsworth story, this time shared with Mickey, “The Bridge on the River Ai-Yai” (1976, Topolino). Ellsworth is a wisecracking and above average intelligence mynah bird who, for this story, has adopted a son, another mynah named Ellroy. He eventually bumps into an old friend, Flappity McFlop (love that name), who claims Ellsworth owes a fortune. It seems that Ellsworth used to help operate a swinging bridge and, due to a bit of an accident, a pair of ships were completely crushed.
This is a rather adventure-free story that falls a bit flat.
We get another one page gag strip after that, “Safety First” (1935, Mickey Mouse Annual #6) featuring Minnie, Clarabelle and a couple cute twins. It has that old, scratchy feel Disney fans appreciate from the truly old strips like this.
The final story in the book is “Foolproof” (2011, Kaczor Donald) which once again pits Pete against Mickey, who seems to work for the police whenever the need arises. In this one, Pete – who has remarkably devil-ish hair here – is out on parole. Mickey decides to follow him, expecting to catch the lifelong bad guy quickly returning to his naughty nature. Along the way Mikey is called out as a stalker, accused of sabotaging a custard factory (oh the horror!) and so on, causing him to instead start running from the law. But never fear, things usually turn out OK for Mickey, especially in these more modern stories.
Please Note: Books are provided from the publisher in digital format for review purposes. As such, physical attributes – including print ink quality, paper stock and the like – of the publications are not reviewed.