Saturday, June 18, 2011

Secrets of Marco Topo: Where’s Donald?

This week brought us MICKEY MOUSE # 309, featuring “The Treasure of Marco Topo Part One” with just about everyone in it but Donald Duck and his nephews.

So, where’s Donald?

Is he off scouring the Andes for Square Eggs?

 Competing with Gladstone Gander for the too-fickle-for-my-tastes Daisy?

Might he be suffering various and sundry indignities while sounding the gong to herald “The Mickey Mouse Club” – while “The Leader of the Club That’s Made for You and Me” is off adventuring in Venice with everybody else?

Or, did he just go off to WHEREVER HE WAS for the first 17 pages of DONALD DUCK # 367? 

Only Romano Scarpa knows for sure, and he ain’t tellin’… so that left it up to David, Christopher Meyer, and me to figure it out.

And, figure it out we did.

Turns out, according to the printed version, he was polishing pennies for Uncle Scrooge – who, rather unfairly even for him, was off to Venice with the gang!

BUT… was that always the case? Not exactly!

Here’s an excerpt from my original draft:

Mickey (plane): Too bad Donald and the boys couldn’t have come along!

Scrooge: A Tae-Kwon-Duk tournament, I hear! ***

Add a Box: “*** See Donald Duck and Friends # 360!”

Brigitta: Your nephew? Seriously? No way!

Add a Box: “And there’s “no way” you’ll want to miss the character packed (though Donald-less) conclusion to our story… coming up in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories # 720! …Be there, just to keep an eye on Pete, won’t you!”

Yes, readers… I actually attempted to reference my own scripted “Titan of Tae-Kwon-Duk”, as seen in DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS #360.

Donald was tripping-up “The Bellicose Blutosaki” with a melted candy bar – AT THE SAME TIME the rest were flying off to Venice.

I kinda liked that, in the same way DC Comics might have noted Superman’s absence from a JLA adventure by pointing to a recent (or otherwise concurrent) story as the cause.

Titan of Tae-Kwon-Duk” was certainly in readers’ recent memory so, what the heck… I threw it out there!

However, cooler and wiser heads prevailed, and Don was relegated to penny-polishing… and the nephews were probably off “Woodchucking”, or something.

From this perspective, I have to agree. “The Treasure of Marco Topo” will read better as a stand-alone adventure without the unnecessary continuity attempt.

But, thanks to Pete and Ryan’s curiosity as to Donald’s whereabouts, you’ve just been given another peek into our creative process!

Now that you “know so much”, be back for Part Two NEXT WEEK in WDC&S # 720.

PS: How about David’s superb nod to the lettering of the title in Carl Barks’ “The Treasure of Marco Polo” – for the title of “The Treasure of Marco Topo”!

He’s the best, bar none!


King of [Silent] Cartoons said...

Joe, thanks for the thanks—but you can't call me the best letterer. Just perhaps the most anal-retentive. (-:

My own favorite is actually anonymous (thus far): the hand who was lettering both Gottfredson and Taliaferro in 1940. He/she is followed closely in my roster by Barks, Todd Klein, and Jon Babcock.
John Clark, Paul Murry, and Teresa Davidson have also done some great Disney lettering. (Rome Simeon, rumored to be Lancelot Link's 18th century Venetian ancestor, is good too, but not a favorite.)

Outside of Disney, Tom McKimson's lettering on Looney Tunes stories is absolutely superb from 1944-1946. After that it becomes a little more average.

Joe Torcivia said...

David/Ramapith/King (whatever you are today):

Not necessarily LETTTERING, but that you are “The Best” IN GENERAL!

No one consistently goes the extra mile for these comics as you do – and being clever and innovative as you go! The “Marco Topo” title is just one example of soooo many little things that readers may not notice, or take for granted, because you’re always there for us.

Let me add the great John Costanza, Ben Oda, and Tom Orzechowski to that list of letterers. …And let’s not forget Gare Barks – who DID letter 1966’s “Treasure of Marco POLO”. Why is she never credited in all those many, many later Carl Barks reprints?!

(Imagine the little Gold Key / Western Publishing “The End” logo placed at the end of my comments!)


Ryan Wynns said...


I don't think it was only because you were dialoguing the story as you read that you didn't know where it was going -- I think it was in part because of the nature of the story! Scarpa seems to have just gone with whatever he threw at the wall and stuck. (I mean, what's the deal with the lawyer's office being in a haunted house at the beginning? Why are Scrooge and Brigitta present? And, whatever their ulterior motives might be, why would Mickey and Pete be so quick to accept working together?) Having read the issue twice, I'm still a little iffy on where it's going!

Upon my second reading, I had your description of the way you and David worked in mind, and caught myself thinking, "Hey, yeah, I can kind of see that Joe didn't know anything about the rest of the story yet at this point!" And, don't take that wrong way ... it works with the "randomness" story! Unfortunately, scanning it again, I can't isolate as many examples of when that thought had struck me as I'd like...but there is the way the "ornament" Mickey's ancestor was rewarded with was basically named with a description of what was seen on of it in the accompanying panel! Hitchock would be proud -- he'd say, "It's the MacGuffin! It doesn't matter, and the reader won't care!"

Figured that "Topo" was a reference to Mickey's Italian name. Wasn't sure if "Marco" was a reference to you-know-who...but glad you've put both on-the-record!

Pete Fernbaugh called it -- with the "all-star" cast, and the somewhat silly nature of the adventure/mystery, I did get the feeling of those Gold Key Phantom Blot comics.

And speaking of whom...from his brief appearances, I got the impression that you are playing this Blot up as the maniacal, comical, verboise version of the acharacter, a la "All Ducks on Deck"...which really works for this story. Loved the reference to his death traps! (And speaking of references, loved the Super Goof one, too!)

A couple questions:

1. Do your remember if, in the straight translation, Pete had deliberately ran over the chest with the steamroller? In the art, it looked as though he was panicking, like he'd lost control of it.

2. If you recall, in the original, did Pete and Trudy make the same argument for their inclusion? (That is, "It's in the prophecy!") (I suspect that Mickey's rationale for granting their request was the same, though -- when he mulls it over, there is is a cunning expression on his face, after all!

Good call playing up Scrooge's financial interests in the whole affair at every chance possible!

Is Scarpa's story the most artful Disney comic ever, on par with "A Christmas for Shacktown" or "Tralla La"? Nope. Is it even Scarpa's best? Probably not. But is it a lot of fun, is the art an exquisite example of Scarpa's fine cartooning, and is it raucous last hurrah (hopefully just for now...oh, trying not to think about that...) (or, kudos again to Pete Fernbaugh, series finale)? You bet! Looking forward to the conclusion, in a few days!


Joe Torcivia said...

Ryan (to your comments):

I know we haven’t seen nearly as many of them as I’d like, but recall that Bill Walsh (in his collaborations with Gottfredson) would throw in lots of weird, “non-sequitur-ial” stuff… especially (it seemed to me) in order to "get an adventure going”, before settling into it. That’s what it looked as if Scarpa was doing with the lawyer sequence. And it was “my duty” to aid and abet him by punching it up all the more!

Yes, I’d have to agree that the ornament was this tale’s “MacGuffin”, though it’s a little more significant than the stolen money in “PSYCHO”. Obvious Spoiler: The ornament doesn’t end up wrapped in newspaper, and at the bottom of a swamp in a purposely sunken automobile. And before leaving the subject of Hitchcock, I’m certain you noticed that, despite being named after Boris Karloff and the EC Comics Crypt-Keeper, I had the lawyer greet Mickey and Goofy with “Good Eve-ven-ing!”

Looking over some recent stories, “maniacal, comical, and verbose” seems to be the prevailing way to characterize the Blot these days! But, go back to the original PHANTOM BLOT # 2 (1965) and you’ll see it there in spades! Chris Meyer, exercising his rightful “editorial prerogative”, did more of the Blot than I did. Perhaps my only two surviving words of his dialogue are “…horrific deathtrap”.

He did a fine job of characterizing that Blot in that particular mode. However, I *DO* hope the Blot’s self-description of his plan as “uncharacteristically passive” (in my original draft) makes the cut in Part Two! We’ll see in a few days!

Needless to say, the reference to Super Goof is all mine! It’s a way of slipping in a reference to a character I love – and my way of poking fun that the notion that the great detective Mickey Mouse has STILL not made the connection between Super Goof and his close pal Goofy.

Pete PUROPSELY flattened the chest. Just see him glance over at the steamroller at the bottom of Page 6! He (badly) FEIGNS surprise at being out of control… but the scoundrel did it deliberately.

Yes, Pete and Trudy are included in the adventure because “foes” were to be a factor in locating the treasure – and Mickey wanted to “keep his enemies close”.

As for “playing up Scrooge's financial interests”, it was the only way I could rationalize (even to MYSELF) his and Brigitta’s inclusion – especially with the EXCLUSION of Donald. Ultimately, it could just as easily have been Donald and Daisy over Scrooge and Brigitta – but, since we had Scrooge, I felt I’d better give him a few Scrooge-like angles. My favorite is “How did I ever miss THAT one?”, when he learns of the ornament. It also fits his expression (as drawn) perfectly.

Chris Meyer, to his great credit, gave Brigitta the line “…And I followed! That makes this a DATE, right?” better justifying HER presence. I originally said that Scrooge “brought her along as sort of a cheap date”. His revision solidifies the dynamic between Scrooge and Brigitta all the better.


Joe Torcivia said...

Oh, yes… on the topic of Pete feigning surprise at being out of control on the steamroller, I also meant to mention that his line about the bumper sticker “My Other Car is a Steamroller” was mine – and David later added the bit about Eli Squinch not paying to fix the brakes!

This was an unusual – and TRUE – collaboration overall, and was great fun to do!

ramapith said...

Er—"King of Silent Cartoons" is Tom Stathes, but I accidentally posted as him because he'd checked his Gmail while visiting me... and forgot to log out! Tsk, tsk.

Joe Torcivia said...

…Or, maybe it was *TOM* who did that great lettering job on “Treasure of Marco Topo”, and you were just glomming onto the credit? Huh? Maybe THAT’S your game, eh? :-)

…You people and your and your screen-pseudonyms!

“Names are overrated! Try numbers sometime!” – A Beagle Boy (unnamed, of course) from UNCLE SCROOGE # 403 “The Pelican Thief”!