Thursday, April 22, 2010

It was Twenty Years Ago Today…

…No, Sergeant Pepper didn’t teach the band to play.

Well, perhaps he did in 1947… But, in 1990, give or take a week or so, it was the beginning of a completely new era for those veterans of Dell and Gold Key Comics like myself – not to mention the young whippersnappers reared on the Gladstone Comics of the 1980s – it was the beginning of Disney Comics! And, since back then “New Comics Day” was on a THURSDAY, we might as well declare today the 20th anniversary of the event.
Admit it, my legions of TIAH Blog readers, aren’t you all feeling old right now!

After the unexpected success of the Disney comic books published by Gladstone (Series One – Series Two was another story entirely), the Walt Disney Company moved to bring its licensed comic book business in house, and do it themselves.

This resulted in a SINGLE DAY unlike any other that the readers and fans of Disney comic books had ever seen.

EIGHT NEW TITLES simultaneously released with more new (or at least new-to-the-United-States) material than had ever been seen in a single day!

…And, an equally unheard of diversity of content!

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES # 1 Featuring “The Money Pit”, a new story by Don Rosa. William Van Horn would go on to do what is often considered his best work for this title.

UNCLE SCROOGE # 243 Continuing the numbering of Dell/GoldKey/Whitman and Gladstone issues with “Pie in the Sky”, a new story by William Van Horn.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 548 (Ditto on the numbering) with previously unseen tales of Donald Duck, Br’er Rabbit, Li’l Bad Wolf, and Grandma Duck.

Oddly, this would be the first issue of the title (which had run for just shy of 50 years at the time) to not include Mickey Mouse! Mickey would get his revenge twenty years later, however, when WDC&S # 703-705 (and counting) would feature ONLY Mickey and, in a back-of-the-book-filler role, his perennial foe Peg Leg/Black/Big Bad Pete!


GOOFY ADVENTURES # 1 ran stories of The Goof in various historical and media inspired roles, and would even revive Super Goof!

ROGER RABBIT # 1 would continue the hysterics-inclined hare’s tales from the hit movie. The first story would take place in the “real world”, with the backup (often the better of the two) occurring in Toontown.
 
The hugely successful Disney television properties were also represented by

DUCKTALES # 1 beginning the unwieldy and uneven seven-part serial “Scrooge’s Quest”. My nomination for the worst ending of a story in Disney comic book history! As I said back then in an unpublished Letter-of-Comment: "This was not Scrooge and Glomgold we were watching, but an inappropriately bad imitation of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck – doing their Duck Season /Wabbit Season Routine!” Read it for yourself, TIAH Blog-legionnaires, and see what I mean.

CHIP ‘N’ DALE RESCUE RANGERS # 1 offered part one of the television origin story “To the Rescue”.

And, best for last…MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES # 1. This was my absolute favorite of the new titles. Michael T. Gilbert and Stephen De Stefano gave us as close an approximation to the Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse as we’d ever seen in original American comic books. Why, even the titular villain, “The Phantom Gondolier”, looks somewhat like a character that could have been designed by Gottfredson!

After Gilbert, Lee Nordling would write the BEST Phantom Blot story of the modern age… and Marv Wolfman would step in and make up for the abomination of his “Scrooge’s Quest” in the DUCKTALES title and give us some great thrills with Mickey and Company – reviving Emil Eagle, now playing a lead villain role in “Disney’s Ultraheroes”!


After this initial outburst, the Disney Comics titles would be released Two-Per-Week, each Thursday.

All would be right with the world for the next 18 months but, then the cutbacks would come leaving us dissatisfied with much of what remained. MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES would be a victim of these cuts, and it would be a long time before we’d see really great new Mickey stories again.

But, somehow we survived… and moved into the eras of Gladstone Series Two, Gemstone, and now Boom Kids!
And even Mickey is flying higher than ever in a new thriller “Mickey Mouse and the World To Come” (beginning in the aforementioned WDC&S # 703) by the great new talent Andrea “Casty” Castellan – my candidate to someday be the “Next Floyd Gottfredson”!
Twenty Years… and what a ride it’s been!

10 comments:

Jeff Overturf said...

I remember glomming onto every Glastone book that came out, happy that Disney Comics were being represented on the shelves of my comc shop.

I steered away from all the Disney TV comics though...Ducktales and the like were womething I steered away from on TV as well...an abomination to the characters represented IMHO.

Joe Torcivia said...

Jeff:

Gladstone, particularly in their first incarnation, was (and will always be) a quantum leap – and a NEEDED ONE – in the evolution of the Disney comic book.

One need only consider the Whitman comics of the ‘80s, in both content and distribution methodology, to understand why. New (or New-to-the-USA) stories, the discovery of the Next Generation of Duck-Masters in Don Rosa, John Lustig, William Van Horn and Geoffrey Blum, creator credits, letter columns. Gladstone finally brought the Disney comic into the latter half of the 20th Century!

DuckTales is not Carl Barks (Not very much measures up to Barks!) but it was great for what it was – and, along with Mighty Mouse the New Adventures and (of course) The Simpsons, led to the great cartoon renaissance of the ‘90s!

To best put DT in perspective, just as with the Gladstone comics, simply compare it with the decade of animated product that came before. Chances are you’ll view it differently.

Thanks for reading,

Joe.

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

As one who did the "1990 anniversary thang" myself ten years ago in PASSIONS, thanks for picking up the nostalgia-fueled torch!

Most of the students in my 100- and 200-level classes were not yet BORN when these comics began to appear. Now THAT makes me feel old.

Chris

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

Ten years didn’t faze me so much… but TWENTY? YEOW!

We used to send LETTERS through the mail to each other about this stuff. Now, we both have Blogs!

Indeed, not a single important aspect of my life has been unchanged (most of it has been RADICALLY changed – several times over) since that day… except that I’m still reading those darned comics.

Joe.

GeoX said...

Man, I am SO with you on the ending to "Scrooge's Quest." I actually just read the whole serial for the first time about a month ago, and good GOD. Not that the REST of it was transcendently brilliant or anything, but I cringe just THINKING about the conclusion. I feel like it's just DEEPLY disrespectful to force such storied characters to plumb such depths of idiocy.

Joe Torcivia said...

GeoX:

Good to see you here. I’ve enjoyed your comments on Chris Barat’s Blog, and look forward to more of same in this forum.

Don’t know if you were reading during the actual run of Disney Comics but, if you were, you might recall my very high success rate in getting letters-of-comment published in their titles. My reaction to DuckTales # 7, the final chapter of “Scrooge’s Quest”, was one they chose not to publish, as I fittingly tore into the abomination that took us seven months to reach.

I remember opening with: “Who were those strangers posing as Scrooge and Glomgold?”, and going on from there to draw the “Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck” analogy, as well as other points that, unfortunately, needed to be made.

Glomgold ends the story BROKE? And is HAPPY about it? Down to his last can of beans? You can’t end a story like that for characters in whom readers have decades invested. I’ve added a few “flip and irreverent” things to the duck scripts I’ve done, but NEVER something like THIS! I want my readers to laugh, not recoil in horror.

I can only figure that, inside the can of beans there lived a GENIE who, grateful to be free of the odor of baked-beans, restored Glomgold’s fortune to “second-richest status” just in time for his next appearance.

I was particularly disappointed in Marv Wolfman, a writer for whom I have great respect. Consider his other accomplishments: The New Teen Titans comic of the ‘80s. Great runs on Superman (first in Action Comics and later in Adventures of Superman) in the ‘80s and on Batman in the ‘90s.

It was he who created the hugely successful “LexCorp” identity for Lex Luthor, lifting from the ranks of ordinary mad-scientists.

And he wrote the most influential comic book story of the Post-Silver Age: “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. No one could argue the considerable talents of Marv Wolfman.

Alas, if only he’d given the same respect to the creations of Carl Barks that he’d given to those of Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, Bob Kane, and Bill Finger. Thankfully, he redeemed himself in the pages of Mickey Mouse Adventures.

But, all I can say about the ending of “Scrooge’s Quest” is that it must be one heck of a stinker to still elicit such a reaction after 20 years!

Here’s to the Disney comic book. Long may it continue to entertain and amuse us!

Joe.

GeoX said...

Thanks! I'll try to comment when it seems relevant.

I've never read anything else by Wolfman (and frankly, I'm still only half-convinced that an actual person is actually named "Marv Wolfman"), but yeah, I dunno, I'm baffled. The nature of the story seems to put the introduction to the Gemstone collected edition--where he avers a deep love and respect for Barks--somewhat in doubt. Okay okay, I guess I shouldn't impugn his motives--and I did like the part where Scrooge is hallucinating stuff from classic Barks stories--but MAN.

I wasn't reading comics at the time when this stuff first came out; this was between the time when I first discovered Disney comics from the old collection my dad had in the attic and the time I rediscovered them, just a few years ago, and quickly became a zealot. I certainly enjoyed reading your letters in the Gemstone books, however.

Joe Torcivia said...

GeoX:

Thanks for the kind words about my letters. It was a tremendous amount of fun writing them… and seeing them in print. And, it helped lead to my doing some scripting.

Since my last comment to this thread, I discovered YOUR OWN BLOG – and I recommend that all Duck Fans go there to find many items of interest!

http://duckcomicsrevue.blogspot.com/

Yes, there is an actual person named “Marv Wolfman”. I’ve had the honest pleasure of meeting him.

And, if you concede his existence, but doubt the authenticity of his name, you can find said name in his many comic-book letters of comment in Silver Age DC comics – and, according to the address, he lived not far from me, in New York.

I really would recommend reading some of his work, just to get a taste for the talent that went into it. If uninitiated, I wouldn’t start with “Crisis on Infinite Earths” (You need a background in DC Comics to fully appreciate that!) but maybe his runs on ACTION COMICS, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, and especially THE NEW TEEN TITANS, all of the 1980s. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, you’ll see how good he really is.

Yes, the Barks references were great, and maybe my favorite part of the story. Still doesn’t make up for the ending, though!

Joe.

Ryan Wynns said...

Joe,

Fantastic post! I remember that first month - those first eight issues - very, very well. I was eight years old and in second grade! I've never gotten over those eighteen months ("The Gold Odyssey", the Rescue Rangers and Tale Spin comics, the Blot and Emil Eagle arcs in Mickey Mouse Adventures, which were a blueprint for a Mickey animated TV series, as far as I was concerned), but even more so, what could've been had the whole line not been cancelled.

This is a strange thing to just drop like this, but it's kind of prompted by the subject I'm commenting on, and I shouldn't keep hush-hush about it forever: last year, I wrote a script (that probably needs some cleaning up at this point) for a 40-page Mickey comic in which I both strived to be Gottfredsonian, but also very specifically paid tribute to Disney Comics' Mickey Mouse Adventures, but I've been nervous about telling anyone about it. (Until now - I'm trying to be brave!)

Erik said...

Tomb of Dracula, New Teen Titans, Crisis on Infinite Earths- Wolfman's written some great comics. Scrooge's Quest, not so much.