Monday, December 2, 2013

Dan Does Disney (Comics) Part Two!



Dan Cunningham continues to impress (nay, AMAZE), with his magnificent research work on the early days of Disney Comics (the 1990-in-house variety). 

This is amazingly detailed research, folks!  He touches upon things even I forgot, and I lived every day of it – sometimes well in the thick of it, as some of you who know me are aware!   


Be sure to catch up on Part One HERE.

Now, revisit with Dan an almost mythical time when Disney could do no (…okay “little” wrong) with such comic book gems a MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES, GOOFY ADVENTURES, and ROGER RABBIT – HERE! 


Relive the euphoria of that “Special Day in April, 1990”, when the Disney comic book landscape changed seismically – and that, alas, would lead to many more changes (and publishers) to come! 


 


I hope Dan doesn’t stretch this series out for TOO long… Because I will happily link to every installment, but may run out of superlatives to use along the way! 

16 comments:

Chris Barat said...

Joe,

It appears that Len Wein's jokes in interviews about getting doors and doorknobs in the new Disney Comics offices were NOT exaggerations! More's the pity!

Chris

Joe Torcivia said...

“More’s the pity” about the whole thing, Chris! It has continued to ripple through everything that has followed, ever since!

Personally, I can’t wait to see the detail Dan chooses to go into, once he turns his awe-inspiring attentions toward “The Disney Implosion”! (Oops! There’s a nickel I owe Dana Gabbard!)

scarecrow33 said...

I would love to get some perspective on "The Disney Implosion"! It still rankles with me, a once-faithful subscriber. Why start something if you have no intention of finishing, or at least of wrapping things up neatly? I found it absolutely inexcusable...especially cancelling Mickey Mouse! Hello? Disney cancelling its flagship character, its merchandising icon? And that ridiculous notice that from now on Disney was going to focus on its two main groups of buyers..."collectors and kids." Hello? Who did they think was buying their comics? 84 year old grandmas? Texas ranchers? CEOs of large corporations? If they weren't ALREADY focusing on "collectors and kids" who were they focusing on? Didn't they "get" the reasons for Gladstone's success? And how could sales of all of their wonderful comics be so dismal that it warranted abrupt cancellation? It's like TV shows that aren't given a chance to "find their audience." Once people know something is good, they'll keep coming back for more--doesn't anyone at Disney get that?

You can see that, even though it's been years, I'm still reeling from that blow. That "collectors and kids" line really bugged me--and still does! Come on, ONLY the Duck titles were sellers? And why would "collectors and kids" settle for ducks and more ducks, and no Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Roger Rabbit, and the rest?

However, my personal slights aside, Dan has done a first-rate, A-number one job of explaining the "behind-the-scenes" action at the formation of the (however ill-fated) Disney Comics line. Can't wait for more!

Joe Torcivia said...

Scarecrow:

Not so surprisingly, your thoughts precisely echo my own, concerning the “Disney Implosion” – not to mention the aftereffects it has had on the line of comics and each licensed publisher that followed.

Imagine if Gladstone Series I were allowed to continue unimpeded from its eighties origins! I believe it would have crossed the line into the 21st Century. Maybe even expanding into other former Dell and Gold Key properties along the way. Even if there were no expansion, I think it would have played out along the lines of Gemstone, with John Clark and David Gerstein eventually calling the shots – and delivering high quality material on a regular and timely basis. Who could really ask for more.

I’m confident Dan will do an excellent job in covering this sad, game-changing episode in Disney comic book history. And, I can’t wait to see it, myself!

Dan said...

Aw, Joe:

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for another post promoting my own post! I'm too flattered by the shower of superlatives—all I can possibly do is endeavor to keep the upcoming chapters equally consistent.

I'm already in the process of gathering info for the next installment, which I think will show up sometime in January: "The Disney Explosion" naturally followed later by "The Disney Implosion" (that's ten cents on this page alone, Dana!)

As to the upcoming installments: you said you "can't wait to see it," I can't wait to see how they come out, either!

Scarecrow:

Thanks for your comments here and over at my blog! Sadly, the loss of the "Mickey Mouse" title bled over to Gladstone Series II. Mickey stories were most consistently found in the restoration of "Mickey & Donald" from Series I (but re-titled "Donald & Mickey," while resuming the prior numbering system.) In the final year of Gladstone II, the title was changed to "Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse" and numbering was reset back to #1 (I was waiting for ANOTHER re-vamp of "Donald Mouse & Mickey Duck" before it was all over)

I'd postulate that it was due to low sales/preorders during the Disney Comics era. Curious that Gladstone didn't attempt to restore "Mickey Mouse" with a chronological reprint of available or acceptable Gottfredson strips, as they did with Taliaferro's strips in the standard "Donald Duck" title during that time. Perhaps the notion was that serials wouldn't run smoothly across multiple issues, but there *are* ways to break them up logically.

Heck, even Don Rosa broke his own timeline rules and took a gentle dig at the lack of a U.S. Mickey Mouse title in "Guardians of the Lost Library"!

— Dan

Joe Torcivia said...

Dan:

You keep writin’ ‘em… and I’ll keep… um, keep… er, superlativ-in’ em! …Deal?

I think what bothered me most about the whole affair was the loss – and continued, ongoing lack of – a MICKEY MOUSE title.

Bad enough Disney Comics “cut off its mouse to spite its face” but, when Gladstone returned with Series II, it inexplicably CONTINUED that practice – throwing us the (bare) bone of MICKEY AND DONALD / DONALD AND MICKEY. Even THAT would have been marginally acceptable… IF it had featured what I regard as the “traditional” comics Mickey Mouse. The one with the “Gottfredson / Murry / Scarpa / Ferioli through-line”, with decades of comics history behind him.

But, for reasons I’ve yet to understand, the title chose to feature Disney-Studio-produced things like “Mickey and the Sleuth”, and Goofy History tales the type of which formerly appeared in Disney’s GOOFY ADVENTURES title.

Now, these weren’t bad in and of themselves – and could be rather enjoyable, at times. But, when they appeared in GOOFY ADVENTURES, there was also a monthly MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES title to satisfy our collective desire for the “traditional” comics Mouse. Without that, these simply did not satisfy. And we wouldn’t get “Our Mickey” back in a regular book of his own until Gemstone!

Yes, there was always that “back-corner” of WDC&S where Mickey hung-out (to dry?), but that never seemed enough, with no alternative to supplement it.

And, to shift gears slightly, a DONALD DUCK title that was primarily packed with Taliaferro strip reprints, balanced by a Barks ten-page reprint that I already owned (perhaps in multiples, even back then) was just as unsatisfying as Gladstone II’s treatment of Mickey.

Dan said...

Joe:

Oh, yes: the Gladstone II "Donald Duck" reprints of Al Taliaferro's strips were probably mined from what remained of their abandoned project collecting the King Features DD strips "Donald Duck Day by Day." DD #281 featured what would have been the cover artwork by Daan Jippes for that collection. A shame: that book would have been a welcome addition to the shelf (still would!)

The thing that always threw me with Mickey material at that time was that Gladstone had the license/permission to use the King Features strip material, yet never went beyond early Gottfredson serials, no representation of the 1950s-1960s material. Nor later strips by Daan Jippes, and Roman Arambula/Floyd Norman. I'm guessing those wouldn't have been considered undesirable, but perhaps the gathering and restoration would have been a cost?

Before the Boom Studios Walt Disney comics went kaput, they were scheduled to publish Gottfredons's "Mickey Mouse in The Rhyming Man" as a graphic novel, which is another serial Gladstone never quite got to.

Still, the Gladstone II "DD and MM" title was my first exposure to C├ęsar Ferioli, who impressed me as a worthy successor to Floyd Gottfredson. He and Andrea "Casty" Castellan have done an impressive job keeping that spirit of adventure going... now if we could only read those stories again in the U.S.!

- Dan

Joe Torcivia said...

Dan:

Would that we COULD read Ferioli and Casty stories again! And, I must insist, with good dialogue by David Gerstein or Jonathan Gray. And Noel Van Horn’s Mickey was a delight as well.

I would have preferred the Taliaferro strips as a book of their own. The DONALD DUCK title should not be dominated by gag strips, though they certainly can be a component part.

I don’t think we EVER got anything resembling a comprehensive look at the later Walsh / Gottfredson MM stories. Certain tales, like “The World of Tomorrow” and “The ‘Lectro Box”, have been in circulation since the Dell Days – and, after a while, only Gemstone really started to dust some more of them off. As you note with “The Rhyming Man and the Atombrella” (not-published) and “The Pirate Ghost Ship”, Boom also started down that path, once David became involved, but that period didn’t last long enough, alas.

That’s something I’m REALLY looking forward to as part of the Fantagraphics hardcover line.

scarecrow33 said...

The Gladstone II era was one of the few times that the DD comic strip got much emphasis in the comic books. Lately, I've developed a special appreciation for the comic strip versions of favorite characters, so the Gladstone II Donalds are valuable in that respect. (Gladstone I had already devoted the better part of one issue to comic strip reprints of a sequence involving Cousin Gus.)

In a way, it's unfortunate that Taliafero's work is so often overshadowed by the work of Barks. As one of the letter columns in the DD title of the Gladstone II era pointed out, it is not really fair to compare the two artists, as they were working in different media. The demands of a comic book story can be quite different from those of a daily and/or Sunday gag strip. Both were geniuses in their own right. (I don't know if Taliafero both wrote and drew, but whoever the writer/artist combo was for the DD strip had a remarkable eye for detail and visual humor.) I, too, would be all for an all-Taliafero reprint book.

Much as I am enjoying the Fantagraphics reprints of the Barks stories, there are so far few if any "surprises" that have not been readily available in other formats for years. The DD comic strips, on the other hand, seem to be getting increasingly rare.

Joe Torcivia said...

Alas, Scarecrow, Disney comics of ANY stripe (save those expertly packaged by Fantagraphics) are increasingly rare these last two and a half years!

I didn’t mean to give the impression that I didn’t care for the Taliaferro Donald Duck strips. Quite the contrary, actually. But, *my* view of what the DONALD DUCK comic book title ought to be is not one that is dominated by those strips.

Also, at the time that Gladstone II was featuring them so prominently, I was still missing the superb work that William Van Horn had been doing for Disney’s DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES title – and knew that Van Horn was producing new material for Egmont. I wanted that far more than I wanted the Taliaferro strips. Eventually, we did get most of what Van Horn produced for Egmont, so it all worked out.

It’s a funny thing about Taliaferro, whose strips (to the best of my knowledge) were largely written by Bob Karp… Imagine if the DONALD DUCK strip wasn’t a gag-a-day affair, but was ALSO produced as an adventure continuity like Gottfredson’s MICKEY MOUSE – or in the vein of Federico Pedrocchi’s “Donald Duck and the Secret of Mars” or “Donald Duck Special Correspondent”!

I feel that, if the DONALD DUCK strip offered “more meat” like this, it would be held in equal stature with the MICKEY strip. …And, just imagine if a Disney animation story man by the name of Carl Barks would have written it! Lots of Disney comic (strip AND book) history would have been changed, I guarantee!

ramapith said...

DAN: As far as I understand it (Gladstone people, catch me if I'm wrong), there was no MICKEY MOUSE in Gladstone II for two reasons.
First—Bruce Hamilton would not cover the costs of remounting any further Gottfredson stories to comic book format.
Second—Gladstone I's MICKEY AND DONALD had sold poorly, leading to the belief that non-Gottfredson Mickey material wasn't capable of carrying a title.
So... a catch-22: the company was unable to use anything "new" by the only Mouse artist who was perceived as sellable, so a MICKEY MOUSE title didn't seem to make sense.

SCARECROW: "And that ridiculous notice that from now on Disney was going to focus on its two main groups of buyers... 'collectors and kids.' Hello? Who did they think was buying their comics?"
Educated guess—teen superhero fans? Everything about the early marketing, as well as Marv Wolfman's treatment of Mickey ("Mouseton's protector"), suggested as much. I'm not saying this was either a good thing or a bad thing, by the way.

JOE: "For reasons I’ve yet to understand, [DONALD AND MICKEY] chose to feature Disney-Studio-produced things like “Mickey and the Sleuth”, and Goofy History tales..."
Bruce Hamilton was given 250+ pages of this material for free by a Disney staffer. Bruce demanded that it all be used up before any new Mouse content was ordered at cost.

Joe Torcivia said...

David:

I’m certain you are correct on everything. On this topic, if there is a more unimpeachable source on the planet, I’ve yet to meet him or her.

All indications are that Bruce Hamilton, perhaps still stinging from the unwarranted loss of his first license, decided to do things “on the cheap” the second time around. Things like those embarrassingly dreadful “paper cover comics” speak volumes in support of this.

For all the uncountable things we have to thank Bruce Hamilton for (and I’m sure there were many more BEHIND the scenes than there were in the books themselves), one thing I will never forgive him for is converting UNCLE SCROOGE to the “paper cover” format DURING the run of “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”!

To THIS DAY, with all of the many and varied formats Don Rosa’s epic has appeared – with, doubtless, yet another one to come from Fantagraphics -- “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” has yet to appear (…and may very likely NEVER appear) in the “traditional comic book format” that I love so much, in the United States!

Those final chapters will forever look cheap and inferior -- and it didn't have to be. Couldn't an exception have been made until the completion of this once in a lifetime story-event?!

Trades and square-bounds are nice, and hardcovers are prestigious, but it is the traditional comic book format, of sturdier cover stock and 32 interior pages, that that captured most, if not all, of us – and THAT was the one format above all that I wanted to see this very special story play out in. Especially for its FIRST (…and what SHOULD have been its most memorable) US publication.

And, even if Mickey was to be relegated to WDC&S and DONALD AND MICKEY, the latter could have brought us the traditional comic-book Mickey Mouse by a mix of Murry, Scarpa, and the Egmont creators, and that would have been good enough.

Oh, well… here I am complaining about a time when we “had no shoes”, when now we “have no feet”. Silly me.

Dana Gabbard said...

Thanks especially to Bob Foster Disney post Implosion ran some wonderful rarities and the disappointment is that Gladstone II that followed it fell so short of I. The overpriced "Big" comics approach Bruce eventually adopted and what in my view was creative stagnation of Don Rosa's work made me drop the Disney monthly comic book habit. Never picked it up during the Gemstone or Boom periods. I have the Barks Library and with the initial Fantagraphics Barks volumes I now have excellent versions of the few substandard stories in the AR collection. Eventually I'll pick up the rest of the Gottfredson volumes for which I give full credit to Groth, Gerstein and all the co-conspirators for finally giving the best Mickey comics ever the showcase they have long deserved. That is enough for me.

Joe Torcivia said...

Dana:

Bob certainly DID do a great job with what was left, and I was able to appreciate that despite my disappointment and resentment over losing new stories by William Van Horn, MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES and the rest.

I can’t recommend the Fantagraphics Mickey series enough – and I’m sure everyone here would agree with me. It’s a fan’s impossible dream come true.

Oh, (AHEM!) and there WERE a few noteworthy comics published during the latter part of Boom!’s run, that you might enjoy as well. (Continues to clear cyber-throat!) :-)

Ryan Wynns said...

Joe, Chris, David, Dana, et al,

I'm not sure what I can add to it, but I think that a :_( (tear drop emoticon) might say it all.

-- Ryan

Joe Torcivia said...

But, Ryan…

If you’re “crying” now, what will you do when Dan details the horrors of “The Disney Implosion”? © 1991 by Dana Gabbard. All Rights Reserved. I owe you a nickel, Dana!

Say, how long until that phrase falls into the Public Domain, anyway! I’m getting rather tired of writing all those five-cent checks!