Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Disney Comics Invade Prime Time TV!

I wouldn’t have even brought this up, if not for the unusual coincidence of ideas, images, or key scenes from Disney Comics (fittingly one from Floyd Gottfredson and one from Carl Barks) turning up on two radically different prime time television series, no more than three days apart. One on Thursday, April 22 – the other on Sunday, April 25.

I’m certain many of you recall the Phantom Blot’s death trap for Mickey Mouse, where a gun is aimed directly at Mickey – controlled by strings and a mechanism that will fire the gun if Mick moves a muscle. This, of course, is from Floyd Gottfredson’s 1939 newspaper comic strip epic that was titled “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot” for its appearance in Dell comic books.

This past Thursday, on ABC’s FLASH FORWARD, FBI Agent Demitri Noh was in exactly the same fix as Mickey – staring at a complexly wired trigger mechanism set to kill Agent Noh, with the gun of Noh’s partner Agent Mark Benford! This masterpiece of the macabre was the demented product of the insane genius Dyson Frost, whose skills in the art of death-trapping clearly put the Blot’s to shame.

As great a character as Demitri is, he’s (pardon) “Noh” Mickey Mouse (Sorry!), and required the literally last minute heroics of Benford to survive the day on which the series’ “gimmick” (the titular “Flash Forwards”) indicated that Noh would be killed.

As has sometimes been the case with the Phantom Blot (and much more so with The Joker), Frost appears to have been killed for his transgressions – but I don’t believe that for a moment.

Oh, and I suppose there’s something fittingly cyclical about a Disney television series (billed each episode as “An ABC Studios Production”) showing some influence from an old Disney comic.

Sunday night on FOX, THE SIMPSONS commemorated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with an episode where Homer converts his home to wind power – in the expected way and with the expected results.

…And he leads the usual cast of Springfieldians in the effort to assist Lisa in helping an incapacitated, beached whale (magnificently rendered by the Simpsons artists and animators – and all the more so when seen in HD!) return to the sea.

Less well-known than the Phantom Blot story, but something of an “End-of-Silver-Age-Classic” in its own right, is the Carl Barks-written (but not drawn) Junior Woodchucks tale “Whale of an Adventure” from 1970’s HUEY, DEWEY AND LOUIE JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS # 7. Released in July, 1970.

In it, the ‘Chucks, Chickadees, and Duckburg’s faithful battle Scrooge McDuck (with visions of whale oil and other byproducts in his avaricious eyes) over the whale and the freedom most of the characters feel it deserves.

Oddly, this SIMPSONS episode goes against type, by NOT casting Mister Burns in the “Scrooge Role” – and by making Homer unusually well intentioned all around.

Nevertheless, especially on the heels of the Phantom Blot parallel, thoughts of the Junior Woodchucks tale were inevitable.

Though I presently watch more prime time network TV than I have in many years (see THIS POST), my viewing is still on the relatively meager side by the standards of the “Average American”– but I was presently surprised to see (whether intentional or not – presumably not) these Disney comic concepts and images reflected back at me in prime time High Definition!


joecab said...

Hey Joe, this new layout is MUCH more readable and even works out in my RSS feed, so thanks very much for making the change.

Also, to be honest, that realistically depicted whale was so good it took me completely out of the story because they've never had something break style like that. (Sure we had the SImpsons kids depicted realistically once but that was a quick gag.)

(And now I'm off to re-enjoy the vol. 2 hardcover of the Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck ...)

Joe Torcivia said...


As much as I’d like to take credit for making your experience a better one, I must confess that the only thing I did to this Blog was to begin moderating comments.

That became a necessity, as someone began posting comments that would link to a site featuring photos of scantily clad Asian women. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as a famous TV comedian used to say, but it’s just not what TIAH Blog is about.

When I noticed it happen for a second time, I turned on comment moderation. But that should have nothing to do with readability.

Is it the Blog in general that has visually improved, or just this post?

For this post, I bolded the entire text, and left it as the default white text on black background. No selected bolding or any bright colors. If this results in better readability for you – and anyone else who might wish to enter the discussion – please let me know, and I may end up posting all my entries like this.

As for the Simpsons’ whale, I really liked the job they did on it. Its relative realism (…and remember, it’s still “realism” relative to the Simpsons’ universe) made the outcome all the more effective. No spoilers, for those who didn’t see it. I hope I don’t have to wait too long to get this on Blu-ray.

Though, I DO understand how something like that might take you out of the story. Enjoy “Life and Times”… the greatest Duck epic of this age!


joecab said...

Maybe I'm just misremembering the Blogger page itself. But in my RSS reader (NetNewsWire for Mac), everything is on a white background but font colors are mostly preserved save for white, which of course switches to black. So anytime you used light colors in fonts (esp. yellow) I would have to highlight it all to be able to read it.

So yes this last post in particular came out black on white in my feed which was just fine with me.

Such a shame about Don Rosa's failing eyesight. What an incredible talent. I can't think of anyone else who I'd accept any embellishment on the Ducks' canon from.

Joe Torcivia said...

And, on my black background, yellow and other light colors look particularly attractive.

I never knew that I was making it difficult for some folks to read.

I’ll try to stay with this format, or maybe use some darker colors (though they might not read well against the black), in the future.

Did you have similar success with the Twilight Zone / Gunsmoke post of April 16? (Just two posts down.) It was posted much like this one. How about the quoted “blue passage” and the single red word and single yellow word in the post? This will help me in composing future posts.

I’m with you in wishing Don Rosa the best, regarding his eyesight. If only we’d gotten as large a body of work from him as we did from Carl Barks! How great would that be?!

Ryan Wynns said...


I'm a little late on this, but I wanted to mention that the "death traps" in the Saw movie series always made me think of Gottfredson's Blot. Especially in the original, where the villain orchestrating them was kept a mystery, hidden in the shadows, both to the law enforcement protagonists and the audience ... and at one point, even, an elusive figure wearing a cloak appeared.

I’m with you in wishing Don Rosa the best, regarding his eyesight. If only we’d gotten as large a body of work from him as we did from Carl Barks! How great would that be?!

From what I know, Barks and Rosa had very different circumstances, and worked in very difference ways. By virtue of his talent, Barks landed a regular job, and enjoyed it well enough. He was responsible for producing a certain number of pages featuring Disney characaters on a regular, recurring deadline, and he made it work for him. He had no idea of the legacy he was going to end up having.

Rosa, on the other hand ... his whole career was basically an elaborate homage to Barks. I can only imagine he felt pressures that Barks never did (though I'm sure Barks felt his own, those inherent in meeting his editors' and his own standards) - especially when doing sequels to Barks stories, the Life and Times series, etc. I'm sure he felt the need to get things just right, hence the slower production rate. I kind of feel that we were meant to get from Rosa exactly what we did. Barks wasn't beholden to prior Duck comic creators, or even the Donald animated shorts, and essentially just "did his own thing". (And the world is better for it!)