Saturday, November 28, 2015

On Sale November 25, 2015: UNCLE SCROOGE # 8 from IDW.

Let no evil sorceress with assorted boxed horrors stand between you and a copy UNCLE SCROOGE # 8 (Legacy Numbering # 412) from IDW!

In it, you’ll find a true modern classic titled “The Peril of Pandora’s Box”, from the Dutch DONALD DUCK # 33 (2003) and “New to the USA”, written by Arno Buitink, penciled by one of the (pardon the expression) “Dutch Masters” Bas Heymans – with translation and American English dialogue by Thad Komorowski. 

I regard this as Thad's best effort to date! In addition to his usual fine scripting work, he appears to recognize the story as the modern classic” it aspires to be (as opposed to more of a throwaway) and maintains a perfect balance in knowing “when to joke” and when to play it straight.  

For instance, nice punning with "It's all geek to me!" 

But, keeping it straight for this sequence.

And, this dramatic interior splash!     

Magica uses the remaining evil left in the box to bedevil Scrooge, Donald, and the Boys, who just happen to be in Greece on business, allowing her to make off with Scrooge’s Number One Dime. 

Given a superior original plot, nicely suited artwork, and Thad’s standout dialogue, this story comes across as almost a “Lost Sixties Era Carl Barks story” – and I mean that in the most POSITIVE way!  

It’s right out of the era that produced Barks’ Magica tale “Rug Riders in the Sky”, back in Gold Key’s UNCLE SCROOGE # 50 (1964), yet simultaneously modern!  That's quite a balancing act! 

But, before becoming too lost in Barks nostalgia, let’s not forget how well Thad can carry off a gag – and often of a nature beyond what Barks would have done. 

Such as this snappy throwaway bit, when Donald and a nephew approach Magica in disguise to recover the “dime-in-a-box”…

…And this wonderful reference to the Bugs Bunny cartoon “What’s Opera Doc” (1957)! 

No more spoilers, but “The Peril of Pandora’s Box” is a must read for anyone with “sixties sensibilities” as well as modern ones!  

With his work here and LAST ISSUE, Thad has demonstrated a great affinity for the character of Magica De Spell, and I’d like to see more of his work with Barks’ Slinky Sorceress going forward!    

The goodies in this issue just keep on coming, starting with a one-page Beagle Boys gag, with a nice kicker ending.  Up to now, I haven’t liked the one-page throwaway gags that appeared in previous issues of UNCLE SCROOGE, but this one works quite well!  Even if the Beagle below looks like he’s wearing GLASSES, rather than his traditional Black Mask. 

Was he inspired by Rockerduck’s “mummy disguise” from last issue?  

Speaking of “Lost Sixties Era Carl Barks” (and "Dutch Masters" for that matter), the issue continues with a Gyro Gearloose gem, “The Doorman Doormat”, that the credits inform us was written by “Daan Jippes with Carl Barks” (!) and drawn by Jippes. 

I don’t know the story of how this came to be, and to what extent Barks was involved (perhaps David can enlighten us, as no mention is made of this in the issue's Crosstalk column), but it sure has that good ol' FEEL of a Barks Gyro four-pager.  

And, as Barks proved time and again (and I maintain), four pages just seems to be the “correct” length for a Gyro Gearloose story.  Yes, there are some exceptions like “Monsterville”, but four pages is the optimum. 

That sixties ambiance in our lead feature is perpetuated by this story having been drawn in Dann Jippes’ modern style – which would seem to be a “ratcheted-up sixties Barks by way of Daniel Branca” type of art.  I love that style!  

Oh, and why is Dann Jippes' name on the cover and Carl Barks' is not?  Wouldn't Barks be a bigger draw than everyone else whose name is on the cover?  Especially Barks that we HAVEN'T SEEN BEFORE? Is there some licensing reason for this?  I wonder... 

The issue is rounded-out by “The Dashingest Dudebro”, written by Evert Geradts, penciled by yet another one of the “Dutch Masters” Mau Heymans (as opposed to Bas Heymans), inked by Peter Colle’  – with translation and American English dialogue by our own Fan Favorite Jonathan Gray! 

More than a mere backup, this 14-page tale of a nonsensical war between two nonsensical countries – divided, united, then divided and united again, with Scrooge’s diamond mines caught betwixt and between is good enough to be ANOTHER LEAD STORY in itself!    

As you would expect, Jonathan fills this one with his trademark snappy dialogue…

…And equally trademark inspired nonsense! 

And, for another bit of “inspired nonsense”, check out this unexpected "cab-driver gag". 

It’s a sort of companion piece to this gag! 

And, the face of this wagon-pulling ostrich looks more like DONALD than does Donald himself! 

No spoilers, but Scrooge prevails after a great up-and-down, back-and-forth ride!  ...As do we readers, upon completing this magnificent issue!  

If there is ANY negative to be found in this superior example of an issue of UNCLE SCROOGE, it would be the issue’s ALTERNATE COVER. 

First, the gag was better done by Carl Barks in 1954 – though the “Beagle Boy Puppet” is sort of inspired as a variation on the "Carl Barks-like" image of the pirate head. 

But look at all that EMPTY SPACE all around the primary image – especially at the bottom, which is nothing but open and uninteresting sand! 

As a writer, I’m not usually one to criticize art, unless it’s horrifically bad as in Kay Wright’s (All together now…)Bird-Bothered Hero”, but this is just BAD composition. 

The only thing I can recall worse in a similar regard is this cover!  I've heard of "Big Sky Country", but this is rediculous! 

But, inferior alternate cover compositions aside, I feel this may be one of IDW’s best single issues of its entire Disney comic book run!  

Indeed, November 2015 may be the very best single month for IDW’s Disney line – with certainly two of their best issues of all, UNCLE SCROOGE # 8 and MICKEY MOUSE # 6

And, add to those, an excellent issue of DONALD DUCK.

I haven’t read WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 725 YET (It’s next up!), but I cannot imagine any issue with as unlikely a combination of creators as Al Taliaferro, Harvey Eisenberg, and Jonathan Gray could possibly be less than sublime!  

They're all written about here, folks!  Click to enlarge!  

This would also be the first time in which “The Original Core Creative Four” of IDW’s Disney line, David Gerstein, Jonathan Gray, Thad Komorowski, and yours truly have ever EACH had a “Lead Story” in the same month’s issues!  How ‘bout that!  

So, don’t just run out and get UNCLE SCROOGE # 8, but get the ENTIRE IDW Disney Comics line for November 2015!  It’ll be like celebrating Thanksgiving every day!  

Just remember, I do not speak for IDW, or anyone in its employ.  I speak strictly for myself as both a long-time fan and as a dialogue creator – and those opinions are strictly my own.

Then, let’s all meet back here for Comments, Turkey, Stuffing, and Cranberry -- out of Pandora's clutches, of course!   

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

Happy Thanksgiving 2015! 

From what can only be the Bob Clampett or early Tex Avery version of Bugs Bunny (back when he could also LOSE, rather than always win), and TIAH Blog, Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! 

This cover is from Dell Comics’ LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES # 26 (Cover Date: December, 1943). Sure wish we coulda seen the cartoon that might have been made of this!  Bugs and a crafty turkey continually turning the (dinner) tables upon one another for Thanksgiving dinner! 

Note producer Leon Schlesinger’s name at the lower right of the comic book cover. 

G-g-gosh, Leon sure d-d-drew that cover w-w-w-well!  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

On Sale July 22, 2015: Walt Disney's Comics and Stories # 721 from IDW.

Because our great friend and colleague (and artist of this great cover) Jonathan Gray demanded it, under threat of having Mickey continue to use this horrible catchphrase... 

...We retroactively review WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES # 721, the first issue to be published by IDW.  On a personal note, I was particularly overjoyed at the release of this issue because, when Boom! Studios released WDC&S # 720 in 2011, I honestly felt this would be the last of the Core Four Disney comic book titles to be seen in the USA.

Then, IDW happened, and the rest continues to be history – of the best possible kind!  

Speaking of "history", numbered at 724 as of this writing, WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES would seem to be the "highest-numbered" currently-published comic magazine in existence.  David Gerstein makes this observation in his Crosstalk column.  Would you expect anything less of him?

WDC&;S # 724
Click to Enlarge

The series breaks out of its four-year hibernation in a big way with “The Search for the Zodiac Stone”, originally from the Italian publication TOPOLINO # 1780 (1990), by writer Bruno Sarda, artist Massimo DeVita – and, most special of all, Translation and Dialogue by Jonathan Gray!   I say “most special of all” with the utmost sincerity, as I would care to see no one but Jonathan write the American English language version of this sprawling epic. 

What a splash page! Were those characters crawling around the original Italian title, I wonder? 
And, “sprawling” an epic it is indeed, stretching over 12 parts and 12 issues, and (if Jonathan’s superb cover illustration is indicative) more characters than you can shake a stick at.  …Though why you’d want to shake a stick at The Phantom Blot, is beyond me. 

We open with Mickey and Goofy having just wrapped up some adventure “back in time”, in the service of Prof. Zachary Smith, er…  I mean Zachary Zapotec and “his friendly rival, Dr. Spike Marlin”.  

Nothing is made of the notion of Dr. Marlin being a RIVAL of Zapotec as of yet, but I hope it manifests itself later in the story, because it offers interesting possibilities. 

Now, we don’t exactly know WHY Mickey and Goofy are sent on these missions.  As observers?  To right some temporal wrongs?  But there have apparently been several such day 
(month, year, and century?) trips for our heroes.   

Indeed, Jonathan does something I find priceless, leaving me (as such a huge sixties Paul Murry fan) forever in his debt.  He references the stories in Gold Key’s MICKEY MOUSE # 116 and # 114, respectively, as also being part of this series of timestream travels.   

Now, we KNOW about that "Fantastic Time Machine"!
Just before returning to 1990 Italy (…or 2015 America?) our heroes encounter the mysterious Dr. Astronomo and his apparently mystical “Zodiac Stone”.  A talisman that he says can reveal "tomorrow's secrets". 

Say! Where's the EXCLAMATION POINT after that "FOOF" sound? 
He breaks the stone into the pieces of the individual zodiac signs and distributes them to each of his 12 followers.

Upon being discovered, Mickey and Goofy return to the present to learn that Goofy has inadvertently brought forward with him a parchment with the names of the 12 owners of the segments of the Zodiac Stone. 

The scientists decide to reassemble the stone by seeking out the descendants of the 12 followers of Dr. Astronomo… and we’re off on a 12 month ride that will also include the Duck family of characters, beginning in issue # 722.  

Pete also gets involved, for more fun! 

Speaking of fun, Jonathan characterizes a butler as a John Cleese-like character who demonstrates his “Fawlty-Python” origins by using the word “Twit” in the first six consecutive panels in which he appears! 

And still more fun with this clever reference to GOOF TROOP!  

As the tale unfolds, we visit locations as diverse as the Amazon, Scotland, and a circus (from WDC&S # 724). 

Though, we’re presently through Part Four, and there’s still no sign of The Phantom Blot! 

Honestly, I’ve been reluctant to review “The Search for the Zodiac Stone” up to now, precisely because of its formidable 12 part length.  But, what the heck… Let’s celebrate the fine work Jonathan Gray has done on this epic up to now, confident that he will deliver us to a dilly of an ending in June, 2016.  ...Pressure's on, Jon!  

The issue is rounded out by a Bucky Bug Silly Symphonies Sunday comic strip reprint from 1933…

…A fast-paced, action-packed 1982 Donald Duck ten-pager, by Daan Jippes and Freddy Milton, translated and dialogued by Thad Komorowski... which Thad references one of my most favorite POPEYE cartoons of all time (discussed in this post, where the video might no longer play).

Not to mention these SIMPSONS-like dangerous descriptions Thad uses to label these trucks!  Gotta love it!  

Finally, a “Gremlin Gus” short from WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 34 (1943), by comics legend Walt Kelly.   

Since this comic is four months old, I don't even have to tell you run out and buy it.  Just dive into your long-boxes and pull it out for some delightful re-reading!  

Alternate Cover for WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES # 721
Once “The Search for the Zodiac Stone” reaches its conclusion (sometime in June, 2016), I wonder if WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES will return to its traditional format of a Donald Duck lead, rotating guest features in the middle, and a Mickey Mouse serial (...of a more manageable THREE parts, rather than twelve) at its end.  

As much as I might enjoy this classic series in its present form, the traditional format is what WDC&S has always been about for me - no matter how "the look" may have evolved over the years. 

Just remember, I do not speak for IDW, or anyone in its employ.  I speak strictly for myself as both a long-time fan and as a dialogue creator – and those opinions are strictly my own. 

So, while we're waiting for The Phantom Blot to show up, Dr. Spike Marlin to show an evil side, for Dr. Marlin to be revealed as The Phantom Blot in disguise, or for even more sixties Gold Key classics to be delightfully ret-conned by Jonathan, let’s all meet back here for another lively go at our (now-four-months-retroactive) Comments Section!

Maybe even The Phantom Blot will turn up...