“DuckTales” (2017): 50 Things I learned about Scrooge McDuck… by reading the original comics of Carl Barks & Don Rosa

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  • the file names of all images in this post include the issue number or the name of the story they’re from.

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50_Scrooge McDuck first appeared in the Donald Duck comic “Christmas on Bear Mountain” (1947):

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  • Scrooge was an old miser modelled after Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”…
  • So it’s fitting that his first story is set on Christmas.
  • Scrooge invites his nephew Donald  and his great-nephews Huey, Lewey and Louie to his mansion on Bear Mountain…
  • …but, as a secret test, dresses up as a bear to find out if Donald (and the kids) are brave and have strength of character.

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49_In 1947, Donald looks a lot more duck-like, and Duckburg looks VERY Californian:

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  • Why does Donald live in a house where he can barely reach his own door knob?
  • All duck characters are modelled after North American pekin ducks, but over the years, their necks get drawn shorter.

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48_Scrooge LOVES the $-sign:

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  • I particular like the money-green, $-covered undershirt he wears unter his frock…
  • …and the money-green, $-covered curtains in his office.
  • His frock is red, blue, green, sometimes black: It varies from comic to comic.
  • Apparently, it’s always the same piece of clothing, bought in 1902:

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47_Scrooge’s first money bin was in the countryside:

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  • Scrooge thought that no one would look inside, anyways: It’s near a farm, so people would think it was a corn silo.
  • Many early stories focus on Scrooge’s attempts to hide his wealth from the world…
  • …or find a safe place to stash away his “three cubic acres of money”.
  • In the story below, “Island in the Sky”, Scrogge wants to hide all his money on an asteroid:

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46_Most of Scrooge’s coins are silver, not gold:

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  • As a European reader, it’s weird to see all the Dollar Signs:
  • In Italian or Scandinavian “Onkel Dagobert” comics, the logo on his money bin says “DD” [for “Dagobert Duck”], and the gold coins are in a fictional (or outdated) currency called “Taler”: If they even have a sign on it, it’s usually a “T”.
  • [Every time Scrooge mentions his businesses, he talks about railroads. But what is a “fish house”, in 1950s Duckburg?]

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45_A later money bin was housed in an office building on a regular street:

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  • The Beagle Boys bought the empty lot next to the bin and drilled a hole to syphon out the coins.
  • Yet another later design shows a money bin up on a hill. When the Beagle Boys try to drill through the bottom, Donald floods the bin the wash them out…
  • …but then, sudden cold weather freezes up the water-and-coins-mix – and the money bin combusts.
  • For other Barks-designed money bins over the years, see the second picture below, by Don Rosa, after Carl Barks.

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44_Carl Barks LOVES silhouettes

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  • The visual storytelling is often straightforward, the panel layouts are simple…
  • …but there are some beautiful effects with black outlines. Particularly in the story below, set on an island near Hawaii:
  • “The Menehune Mystery”, 1953

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43_Donald often ponders his masculinity: Is he brave?

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  • The classic animated cartoons often show Donald as short-tempered and silly…
  • …and European comics depict him as lazy, incompetent or neglectful of his nephews…
  • So it’s fun to see a Donald Duck who’s at least competent enough to identify deerskin, or know what a curator is:

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42_”Christmas on Bear Mountain” suggests that Scrooge doesn’t respect Donald because Donald lacks bravery:

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  • In episode 2 of the current “DuckTales” cartoon (2017), Webby says that Donald Duck is “one of the most daring adventurers of all time”.
  • And even in the earliest Barks comics, we are supposed to be on Donald’s side.

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41_Scrooge just wants to be “rich and lonely”:

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  • Initially, the public doesn’t know about Scrooge’s wealth and he’s not recognized on the street.
  • Once people find out and ask him for favors, he’s annoyed.
  • But even though fame is not important to him, he wants to be the richest person/duck in the world.

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40_Donald can’t publicly shame Scrooge for being stingy:

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  • Aggressive “go away!” signs and traps have surrounded the hillside of his money bin since the earliest drawings.
  • I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s cutthroat capitalism, and a conversation in the “Atlas Shrugged” movie:
    Paul Larkin: They say you’re intractable, you’re ruthless, your only goal is to make money.
    Henry Rearden: My only goal is to make money.
    Larkin: Yes, but you shouldn’t say it.

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39_Donald clearly knows that Scrooge leads an unhappy, neurotic life:

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  • I love how snarky Donald acts here: He sees the irony.
  • Many Barks comics show how Scrooge suffers, worries and gets paranoid because of his wealth. He seems sad or neurotic most of the time.

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38_When it comes to happiness, Donald seems wiser than his uncle:

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  • Some of these conversations run suprisingly deep!
  • Scrooge often seems uncultured, narrow-minded, and maybe traumatized from his childhood in Scotland:

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37_There’s also THIS iconic, character-defining quote about Scrooge’s past:

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  • “[I made my money] by being tougher than the toughies, and smarter than the smarties! And I made it square!”
  • The DuckTales 2013 remastered video game has a special “tougher than the toughies” mode / difficulty level. Video here: Link.
  • Scrooge also gives his “tougher than the toughies” speech in the first episode of “DuckTales” (2017) – but his housekeeper is not even listening. In the episode, he seems full of himself and out of touch with the present.

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36_When Scrooge dives into his coins, he often uses the same catch-phrases and mantras:

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  • “I like to dive around in my money like a porpoise! And burrow through it like a gopher! And toss it up and let it hit me on the head!”
  • He fills bath tubs with coins, too.
  • [His rival Flintheart Glomgold does the same.]

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35_Other characters hurt if they dive into coins:

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  • “Why didn’t you get hurt?” – “Well, I’ll admit – it’s a trick!”
  • No further details on the mechanics of this “trick”, though.

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34_From the beginning, there are more than 30 different Beagle Boys.

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  • So it has to be an organized gang – not just some group of siblings or close relatives.

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33: This scene was a huge inspiration for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” / “Indiana Jones”

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  • The Beagle Boys try to steal a Native American statue – but once they lift it, a boulder is let loose as a death trap.
  • After Barks inspired “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Raiders” inspired the archeological mysteries of “DuckTales”.
  • I think that’s why the logos for DuckTales and Indiana Jones are so similar.
  • (Red, orange, yellow was a trend for logos in the 1980s.)

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32_Some panels favor naturalism and details:

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  • In the above story, Scrooge hid all his money in a lake, but the Beagle Boys bought the land below and used termites to burst the dam.
  • Below, Scrooge uses an x-ray-machine to look through walls in his family’s castle in Scotland.
  • Barks liked aviation, deep-sea-exploration and gadgets, and I like how matter-of-factly all characters use newish technology like slide machines.

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31_Barks doesn’t get too cartoon-y very often:

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  • This is one of the most childish moments I found.
  • Later on, this Beagle Boy is carried along on a piece of string, like a balloon, so that he wouldn’t float away.
  • Below is a rather inspired moment: Donald spent days nailed inside a box. When he comes out, even his speech balloon is box-shaped:

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30_Another (rather rare!) moment of surrealism and physical comedy:

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  • I loved the scene below: Most comics would just show a 2D-tunnel snaking through the page. But Barks took the time to depict a spiral and convey some sense of perspective and depth.
  • Generally, the Beagle Boys do a lot of digging and mining. It gets boring quickly.

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29_Wet feathers DO that?

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  • This is the only time I saw a wet duck character looking poofy.
  • Overall, characters looked recognizable and on-model nearly all the time – there wasn’t much early installment weirdness (Link).
  • I liked that Scrooge seems to know which nephew is wich: He sometimes called them by names, individually.
  • (personally, I needed the 2017 reboot to properly tell them apart.)
  • Disney archivist Dave Smith: Huey is in red because red is the brightest “hue.” Dewey wears blue, the color of “dew,” a.k.a. water. That “leaves” Louie, the nephew wearing leaf green.

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28_Few women, few different body shapes:

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  • Most crowd scenes by Barks show men. Women are only seen if the gag or scene would not work with male characters: If they are mothers, dancers etc.
  • Italian and Scandinavian Duck comics often use crass and comical body shapes, so when I saw the two mannequins in the background, I thought:
  • Most of the Disney comics I read had TONS of these funny-looking carricature people in them.
  • The manniquins prove that Barks saw the visual appeal. I don’t know why he didn’t use them more often.
  • Is the anti-capitalist guy below modelled after some real-life person?
  • And: How awesome is that random background detail?

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27_I only found one Barks story that MIGHT pass the Bechdel test:

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  • Two female characters? With names? Who talk to each other? About something other than a man? [Bechdel Test, Link]
  • I want more Magica DeSpell, I haven’t seen Daisy Duck or Grandma Duck in a Barks story yet, and I personally like Brigitta McBridge.
  • Barks tells boy stories, and there is never much room for women – usually, they’re a distraction.

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26_I love Goldie’s scrawny look:

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  • Goldie had a dance hall during the Yukon gold rush. She still lives in Alaska, with her pet bear.
  • She has a makeover for Scrooge and CAN look more regal…
  • But it’s fun to see that time has not been kind to either Scrooge or her: Scrooge stories are often about regrets and mortality.

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25_Italian sorceress Magica DeSpell is a master of disguises…

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  • Magica is based on Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren. I was surprised that she’s very, very poor and unkempt, and I think there might be some racist stereotypes against Italians in play.
  • I love how snarky and self-aware everyone acts in the below scene:

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24_Many iconic elements were created by Barks, right away:

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  • Magica is capable, dangerous, ambitious and snarky, and I enjoyed seeing her wreaking havoc.
  • Apparently, her pet raven Poe is her bewitched brother – but I have not seen that relationship explored in detail before.
  • Below: the first appearence of Magica’s cabin near Mt. Vesuvius, drawn by Barks… and a recreation by Don Rosa, 40 years later.
  • “Ogres for Rent” is inspiring and funny.Barks is original. Don Rosa is, too often, just pedanitc.

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23_Barks is HORRIBLE at depicting cultures:

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  • Here’s a kind, obese and dim-witted Hawaiian guy… surrounded by invisible, fairy-like beings that helped the Ducks during an Hawaiian adventure.
  • These characters are based on actual myth – they’re called Menehune (Link).
  • Barks gets a LOT of credit for incorporating myths and legends into his storytelling. But I’m appaled by the shallowness, the stereotypes and the one-dimensional roles that these ethnic and “savage” characters often play.
  • Below: The city of Atlantis, and Bark’s AWESOME idea that Atlanteans milk whales…
  • Also: an Atlantean teacher/academic. The cap and the glasses are just lazy storytelling, and the character design bores/annoys me.

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22_Often, all members of a minority look identical:

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  • True: Huey, Dewey and Loie look identical, too. But it’s strangely… sad to see all these tribes and cultures when, most of the time, you can’t see ANY diversity in age, any women etc.
  • Barks often just draws the same character model, without additional details, again and again. They literally all look the same.

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21_DuckTales (1987) used quite a lot of his design ideas:

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  • The aliens in the 1950s comic book look lazy. The 1980s alien doesn’t look original – but still much better.
  • Often, Bark seems to have good ideas for characters – and just lacks the motivation to play with them, diversify etc.

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20_Armadillo-like stone people who cause earthquakes?

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  • Some wear bow-ties. Some wear ties. All seem to be male. But at least there are both children and different colors.
  • And (I never saw this episode!) they made it into the 1987 cartoon intact. Cute!

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19_Barks loves the Space Age:

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  • I like all these rocket designs, and I like the particularly retro design of the “outdated” spaceship that Scrooge bought second-hand.
  • There’s an effortless and very charming sense of wonder in these stories!
  • Below is a story that, matter-of-factly and without context, says that Duckburg had “advanced MUCH farther than other cities in the world” (maybe because of Gyro Gearloose?). I love the idea of a (retro-)futuristic Duckburg – but sadly, I  have not see this mentioned ever again.
  • In 2000, the “Superman” comic books had a storyline where villain Brainiac unleashed a “Y2K virus” to Metropolis – the city was turned into a literal “city of tomorrow”, with flying cars and futuristic buildings. It lasted a while, but sadly, story- or design-wise, nothing too exciting came out of it.

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18_Hewey, Duwey and Luie are earnest… but lack personality:

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  • Nothing sets them apart, and they’re not all that interesting together: I like that they’re not as bratty and mean-spirited towards Donald as they are in the European books, and they’re not as docile and wide-eyed as they’re in “DuckTales” (1987). But I didn’t love them, and I don’t think Barks loves them, either.
  • Below is ONE nice and charming touch: To speak with more authority, one of the siblings climbs on top of the others.

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17_The Junior Woodchucks are all-mighty:

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  • Barks created the scouting organization and their all-knowing book. Sometimes, the book is used for trivia or exposition… but in one adventure set in Greece, the siblings suddenly (and with no in-story explanation) become INSANELY pedantic.
  • Below, they use an axe to transform an iceberg into a viking longship.
  • And look at these Junior Woodchuck Homing ROCKETS. What could go wrong?

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16_Super-Hero comics had a silly “Silver Age”. Barks is a child of that era, too:

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  • Above, tiny Native-American-like aliens are climbing a rope from their barren home asteroid to a nearby planet that’s full of fruit.
  • Below, the nephews instantly learn their language… by consulting their Junior Woodchuck book.
  • Plus: “They kneel like the American Savages kneeled to Columbus”. Sigh. #colonialism
  • Here’s more about the silliness of “Silver Age”-superhero stories: Link

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15_Flintheart Glomgold is an inefficiant foil to Scrooge:

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  • They are too similar, and the pedantic and vulgar way they measure their figurative dicks gets tired fast.
  • Flintheart lives in South Africa and has a money bin that sports the Pound sign instead of the dollar sign.
  • Because of the tensions over Apartheid in the late 1980s, “DuckTales” (1987) made Flintheart a Scot.
  • Below, in “Christmas on Bear Mountain”, Scrooge looks like Flintheart himself.
  • In the new “DuckTales” reboot (2017), Flintheart looks plumper and much more distinct.

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14_How fictional is the Duck universe?

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  • The above panel brings tons of problems:
  • It’s Flintheart’s second appearance, and for some reason (old age?), Scrooge had forgotten about him and needs a long time to recognize his biggst rival. In another story, Donald is asked by Scrooge to collect a debt at a specific address, and he needs to walk down the front lawn and ring before he understands that it’s his own address. For comedic reasons, both Scrooge and Donald have some tedious and out-of-character “Too dumb to live” and “Idiot Ball” moments.
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  • A bigger problem, above and below: There are real-world locales in the Duck universe. There are entire fictional nations. And there are shallow parodies, like the “Vampire State Bulding” or “Gemstonia”.
  • Often, Barks shows us the worst of both worlds: One-dimensional invented cultures (that could be much deeper with some additional effort)… and real-world spaces that feel shoddily researched.
  • [Later on, Italian Disney artists often told GREAT time-travel stories where Mickey Mouse travelled through European/Italian history.]

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13_Are ethnic strangers caricatures?

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  • I HATE that all the characters above come from the same comic, drawn by Barks, and live in the same region: There’s a rather naturalistic Tibetan or Nepalese academic… and there are yellow Himalaya duck-people who, to me, look super-offensive.
  • For the “DuckTales” (1987) episode based on this story, “Trala-La”, the characters were re-designed (Link).
  • Below: a sheik with a typical dog nose and stereotypical clothes… and, in the same comic, savage bush men.

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12_Dog-like humanoids… meet naturalistic humans:

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  • NOTHING about the camel-riding guy above speaks “Duck comic” to me.
  • It’s grating to see that over-simple character design often makes characters seem simpler/stupider than they are: Imagine the scene below, but with more human-like and serious-looking characters. It would be MUCH more dramatic, and less comedic.

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11_Scrooge is well-travelled, and sometimes, Barks shows his research.

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  • Is that actual Bengali in these speech bubbles?
  • And why is Scooge making that snarky joke “I learned it when I sold road maps to Marco Polo? In a different story above, he says – much more enthusiastically: “It’s ancient Cathay. I learned it when I was a yak buyer in Tibet.”
  • I still love Scrooge’s curiosity, and his enthusiasm to understand different cultures (to make deals with them and exploit them – but still.)
  • Below: the most naturalistic (and bustiest) woman I saw in a Duck comic by Barks… and some Thai dancers whose design I like… but who look too identical to me: Make these extras individuals!

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10_Barks understood Globalization:

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  • In 1957’s “The City of Golden Roofs”, both Scrooge and Donald become salesmen and try to make big money. They are both assigned Indochina, the   only untapped market, and when Scrooge tries to sell a giant oven, it starts out like the old “selling fridges to an eskimo” joke.
  • Surprisingly, Scrooge doesn’t succeed – while Donald is WILDLY successful… because enough people globally love tapes with contemporary bongo/calypso music.

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09_Some Scrooge schemes are inspired. Some are just childish:

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  • Above: Scrooge changes all his money to bills and cans them – like spinach. For the canning process, he uses robots so that no employees steel from him. Wonderful, silly, inventive idea.
  • Below: The money bin’s burglarly system backfires when Scrooge activates the cannon. The cannon fires… through several buildings… and the cannon ball bounces back when it “hits a stack of mattresses in a rubber mattress factory”. Sorry: No. Just no. (I like the art, though!)

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08_Was Barks pro-capitalism? It’s hard to tell:

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  • I LOVE that a corporation like Disney tells all these stories about the dangers, problems and paradoxes of wealth, capitalism, exploitation.
  • It seems to be a running gag that whenever Scrooge offers a job to Donald or the nephews, he offers them 30 cents per hour. (Sometimes per day.)

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07_Longer Barks stories often feel like “The Simpsons”:

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  • About 50 “big” stories by Barks run between 20 and 30 pages. They never get boring, because all too often, they start with a premise, take a weird turn in the middle and end in a completely different locale and with different problems: They very much feel like a later-season-episode of “The Simpson”, where the weirdness that starts out the episode has little connection to the weirdness that later propels the plot.
  • This often feels humdrum or careless – but it’s also exciting, suprising, remarkably entertaining: Why are the Ducks camouflaged as fish? Really: You never saw that coming 5 pages earlier, and it won’t matter 5 pages later. But it’s fun while it lasts!

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06_If you understand colonialism, MANY Barks stories will make you angry:

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  • “Africa is nobody’s friend?” Really?
  • In the story below, Scrooge gifts his giant oven/stove to a king and his palace. The oven melts the gold plating of the palace roof, so Scrooge steals the liquid gold and runs away. I love the drawing of the impressive elephants – but I hate how the story ends with celebrating Scrooge’s success: He robbed these people, and we’re supposed to like him for it.

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05_I thought that I read Carl Barks in 1990. I did not:

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  • Above: Carl Barks’ “Lost in the Andes!”, 1949. Below: Don Rosa’s sequel “Return to Plain Awful”, 1989.
  • The sequel was serialized in Germany’s Micky Maus [“Zurück ins Land der viereckigen Eier”, 1990].
  • So from age 7 to age 34, I thought that I knew Barks and his flaws and quirks…
  • …when really, they were Don Rosa’s flaws and quirks: pedantic storytelling, thick inking, reference-heavy jokes for fans.
  • When I finally read the original “Lost in the Andes” today, I did not love it. But I see how it is a great story for 1949, on a literary and on an artistic level. “Return to Plain Awful” isn’t that much of an achievement for comics of 1989, though. Sorry: I loved discovering and reading Barks. I’m much less lenient with Rosa’s stories, published in the 80s and 90s: In many ways, they look MORE dated and stiffer than Barks’ originals.

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04_Reading Rosa is fun AFTER reading Barks, though:

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  • Now that I have read that much Barks, I think I will read Don Rosa’s “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” (German: “Onkel Dagobert: Sein Leben, seine Milliarden”). I dislike both “Tintin” and “Asterix” – because I grew up with dads of my friends who said that THESE were the comics that could actually teach you about the world. I didn’t enjoy them as a kid, and I still can’t say if they were too didactic, or the wrong kind of didactic, or even not didactic enough. I just never wanted to learn through “Tintin” or “Asterix”.
  • Reading Don Rosa, I feel like it speaks to the same generation and the same attitude towards comics: They’re dense, stiff, overwrought, gray, trying too hard… and BOY, CAN YOU LEARN A LOT HERE.
  • I’m not sure if I want to. But I can see how this is the perfect gift to every Tintin- and Asterix-loving dad I know:

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03_Scrooge as Citizen Kane?

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  • For years, I thought that Scrooge predated “Citizen Kane” (and Ayn Rand’s hypercapitalist books).
  • Don Rosa used the similarities for the above hommage in his character-defining and award-winning 12-part story “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”. It’s fun – but I really wish that a Disney duck had inspired Orson Welles, not the other way around.

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02_Carl Barks retired from drawing Scrooge comics in 1967:

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  • …but he kept on painting his hero in the 70s and 80s.
  • Many of these paintings are used or re-staged in the 2017 “DuckTales” series. It’ll be interesting to see who painted them in-universe: Who’s the artist that Scrooge hired, and is he similar to Carl Barks?
  • Don Rosa decided/estimated that Scrooge was born in 1867 and died in 1967, aged 100. Rosa’s stories are set during this historical time-frame. He wrote an episode of “DuckTales” (1987), but did not enjoy that the show was set in the 80s: To him, Scrooge McDuck is dead.
  • The 2017 show makes use of Rosa’s “Family Tree” (based on Barks), and we might see some little-seen characters later in season 1.

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01_The new DuckTales is VERY good!

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  • I was nervous because Webby and the nephews seemed aggressive and too hipster-y (or “Gravity Falls”-like) in the trailers, but…
  • …wow: I love the soundtrack, I enjoy most of the animation, I LOVE the pace, and I think there’s a great balance between humor, adventure and character-driven moments.
  • I have a hard time understanding Donald. Launchpad seems one-dimensional. I don’t know why Scrooge lives in a mansion and not in his money bin.
  • But really: After seeing the first two episodes, I know that I want to watch the rest, and that I can recommend this to kids and grown-ups.
  • (I also like that Darkwing Duck will show up, and that “TaleSpin”‘s Cape Suzette and “Goof Troops” Spoonerville have been mentioned.)

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I did read Carl Barks’:

Christmas on Bear Mountain [1947], The Old Castle’s Secret [1948], Lost in the Andes! [1949], A Financial Fable [1951], Only a Poor Old Man [1952], The Golden Helmet [1952], The Gilded Man [1952], Back to the Klondike [1953], The Menehune Mystery [1953], The Secret of Atlantis [1954], Tralla La [1954], The Fabulous Philosopher’s Stone [1955], The Golden Fleecing [1955], Land Beneath the Ground! [1956], The Second-Richest Duck [1956], City of Golden Roofs [1957], The Golden River [1958], The Money Champ [1959], Island in the Sky [1960], North of the Yukon [1965], Horsing Around with History [1994].

I also read Don Rosa’s The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion [collection, 2006] and Return to Plain Awful [1989, I read this as a child in the German Micky Maus-Magazin, 1990]

I also enjoyed an Italian meta-story that I read in German as a child: Der Mann hinter den Ducks [1992] by Rudy Salvagnini & Giorgio Cavazzano [German version published in: Lustiges Taschenbuch 196]

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Stories by Carl Barks that were adapted into DuckTales [1987] episodes [found here]:

  • “Back to the Klondike” “Back to the Klondike”
  • “Land Beneath the Ground!” “Earthquack”
  • “Micro-Ducks from Outer Space” “Microducks from Outer Space”
  • “The Lemming with the Locket” “Scrooge’s Pet”
  • “The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan!” “The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan”
  • “Hound of the Whiskervilles” “The Curse of Castle McDuck”
  • “The Giant Robot Robbers” “Robot Robbers”
  • “The Golden Fleecing”
  • “The Horseradish Story” “Down and Out in Duckburg”
  • “The Status Seeker”
  • “The Unsafe Safe” “The Unbreakable Bin”
  • “Tralla La” “The Land of Trala-la”
  • also, “Terror of the Beagle Boys” inspired parts of “Super DuckTales”

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Bonus: Webby’s “Wall of Crazy” from the DuckTales (2017) pilot episode, shown on Reddit [Link to r/Ducktales]

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“DuckTales”: neue Episoden nach 30 Jahren.
Familie, Humor, Schatzsuche: Disney adaptiert die Comics von Carl Barks und Don Rosa neu fürs TV. Kindgerecht – oder für alte Fans?
Warum leben Tick, Trick und Track bei ihrem Onkel Donald? Warum ist Donalds eigene Bezugsperson in der Familie Duck sein Onkel Dagobert? Zum ersten Mal will Disney solche Fragen im großen Stil beantworten – in “DuckTales”, einer Neuauflage der Trickserie von 1987. Am 12. August zeigte der Disney-Sender XD Episode 1 und 2 im US-TV, ein Deutschlandstart ist für 2018 geplant. Bisher glückt der Neustart – auch in vielen radikaleren Ideen und Entscheidungen.
Seit 1938 zeichnete und schrieb Carl Barks für Disney; ab 1943 wurden seine Donald-Duck-Comics länger und komplexer: oft 30 Seiten voller Schatzsuchen und Abenteuer. 1947 erfand Barks den vereinsamten und menschenfeindlichen Milliardär Scrooge McDuck, für ein Weihnachtscomic mit Charles-Dickens- und Citizen-Kane-Motiven. Dagobert verkleidet sich heimlich, weil er Donald und den Neffen nur Geschenke überlassen will, falls sie Mut gegen Bären beweisen. Dann bricht ein echter Bär in die Villa ein, und erschreckt auch Dagobert im Bären-Kostüm. Für Carl Barks bleibt Donald Duck noch 20 Jahre lang meist die Hauptfigur. Doch Barks harscher, exzentrischer und oft tragisch geiziger Dagobert wird (besonders auch durch europäische Comics aus Italien und Skandinavien) weltbekannt.
“Jäger des verlorenen Schatzes”, Teil eins der “Indiana Jones”-Reihe, übernimmt 1981 eine Barks-Szene, in der die Panzerknacker eine indianische Statue auf einem Podest verschieben – und damit eine Steinkugel ins Rollen bringen, als Todesfalle für Grabräuber. Sechs Jahre später schaut der Disney-Konzern auf “Indiana Jones”, für seine bis dahin teuerste und langlebigste Trickserie: Bei “DuckTales” (1987) heuert Donald Duck bei der Marine an. Tick, Trick und Track leben in der Villa Onkel Dagoberts, zusammen mit Nicky, der Tochter der Haushälterin und Bruchpilot Quack. Viele Figuren, die Barks erfand, hatten damals große Rollen: Hexe Gundel Gaukeley, Erfinder Daniel Düsentrieb. Bis 1990 erzählten etwa 15 von 100 “DuckTales”-Folgen alte Barks-Comics neu.
1967 ging Carl Barks in den Ruhestand. Er starb erst 2000, mit 99 Jahren. Vor allem in den 70er Jahren zeichnete er große Dagobert-Ölgemälde, und seit den 80er Jahren versucht Zeichner und Barks-Fan Don Rosa, aus den Details, die Barks in Comics oft eher humorvoll hinwirft, eine große Lebensgeschichte von Dagobert Duck zu rekonstruieren: “Onkel Dagobert: Sein Leben, seine Milliarden”. Für Don Rosa wurde Duck 1867 in Schottland geboren und starb 1967 in Entenhausen. Historische Abenteuer, oft in einem sehr konkreten geschichtlichen Rahmen: der Goldrausch am Yukon River in Alaska, Cowboy-Abenteuer in Indonesien, doch wie bei Barks auch Reisen zu Fantasie-Zivilisationen wie dem Land der viereckigen Eier, versteckt in den Anden.
Die Comics von Barks sind schwungvoll, albern, oft kapitalismuskritisch und mitreißend. Don Rosa wirkt pedantischer, nervöser, überfachtet: Abenteuer- und Männercomics fast ohne interessante Frauen, teuer gesammelt oft von Männern jener Generation, die mir als Kind, 1990, auch “Asterix” und “Tim und Struppi” gaben und raunten “Lies! Da kannst du noch was lernen!”. Deutschlehrer-Comics, Bildungsbürger-Comics, Pedanten-Comics, in Deutschland atemlos erfolgreich älteren Herren, die “Duck” mit “u” aussprechen: Donaldisten.
“DuckTales” (1987) blieb eine Kinderserie: oft etwas schleppend erzählt, zu simple Lösungen, kaum Psychologie. Tick, Trick und Track bleiben schlimm gutmütig und passiv. Nicky ist so jung, rosa, naiv und unwichtig wie keine andere Disney-Serienfigur nach ihr. Als 2017 erste Trailer für den “DuckTales”-Neustart veröffentlicht wurden, waren Fans nervös: Nicky ist hier ein hyperkompetentes Nerd-Mädchen mit Geheimagenten-Tick. Sie bewegt sich durch Dagoberts Villa wie in “Mission: Impossible”. Tick, Trick und Track haben klare Persönlichkeiten, aber wirken übertrieben aggressiv: Tick (rot) trumpft durch Wissen auf, Trick (blau) ist nassforsch und liebt Abenteuer, und Track (grün) wird von Fans mit Slytherin-Figuren aus “Harry Potter” verglichen: ambitioniert, aber verschlagen.
Die große Angst der Fans: Klingt, witzelt, frotzelt und erzählt “DuckTales” 2017 wie jede andere US-Trickserie? Stülpt Disney das Strickmuster gesucht hipper Konzepte wie “Gravity Falls” über die Barks-Figuren? Nein. Die flächigen, an alte Comics erinnernden Hintergründe und Farben der neuen Serie sind schroffer als die warmen, liebevollen Details im Original. Die Neuauflage erzählt dreimal so schnell. Doch bisher auf höchstem Niveau: warmherzig, mitreißend, überraschend – eine Kinderserie fürs größte denkbare Publikum. Und überall in Dagoberts Villa hängen die alten Barks-Ölgemälde! Ein Problem bleibt nur Donald Duck. Toll, dass er dieses Mal selbst bei Dagobert einziehen darf. Schlimm aber, dass man seine typische Enten-Schnatterstimme kaum versteht. Donald liefert zwanzig handlungstragende Sätze oder Pointen pro Episode. Bei zwei Dritteln verstehe ich nur “Quack!” Sobald die Serie erzählen wird, wo Donalds Eltern sind oder warum die Neffen von Donalds Schwester in seiner Obhut aufwuchsen, wird das anstrengend und holprig.
“DuckTales” läuft erst ab 2018 in deutscher Synchronisation auf dem Bezahl-Sender Disney XD.
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