Thursday, August 14, 2008

Comic Book Letter of Comment: Donald Duck by Carl Barks “Lost in the Andes”.

I can’t institute a Blog without discussing comic books, and I might as well begin with one of the very best…

An almost lost part of the comic book reading experience is the Letters Page! There, readers would offer their impressions of a particular comic book, make suggestions to the editors, and generally communicate with the editor and publisher in the only way then known to mankind. Such a missive sent to a comic book or other periodical is known as a Letter of Comment.

Over the years, I’ve amassed 337 published Letters of Comment (…and I know some folks who have more!), in the comic books of various publishers. My long-running joke is for me to, one day, have more letters printed than MLB pitcher Roger Clemens has wins. Suddenly, with Clemens seemingly halted at 354, this goal is possibly within reach… provided comic book letter columns don’t disappear completely.

Today, the precious few comic books that still run Letters Pages allow readers to send their comments via e-mail. Below is such an “e-LOC” sent to Gemstone Publications’ DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS # 325 in 2005, concerning their reprinting of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck epic: “Lost in the Andes”.

A basic familiarity with the tale of the lost, square-obsessed land of "Plain Awful" is assumed for the readers of this blog entry. My apologies to those who lack that familiarity. Please seek the story out. It's one of the all-time classics of comicdom, and well worth your time!

Here's a look at the original issue's cover. Then, on to the LOC...

“It is morning of a day destined to live long in history!” – Opening Caption of Carl Barks’ 1949 masterpiece “Lost in the Andes”, reprinted in DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS # 325. Unca Carl couldn’t possibly have known how right he was when he began to compose what has become one of the greatest comic book works of all time!

The famous “Square Egg Story” is probably (…or certainly SHOULD BE) a part of every well-rounded fan, comic book devotee, or historian’s “Top Ten List”. Thankfully, I wasn’t around to experience its original printing in DELL FOUR COLOR # 223, but it did first fall into my eager little hands in the form of Gold Key’s aptly titled BEST OF DONALD DUCK # 1 from 1965.

Have comedy and adventure ever been so expertly combined in the comic book medium, as in this tale? I think not! Almost every page is a “chapter” unto itself, constructed to end on a gag, significant revelation, or other noteworthy beat. The art remains among both Barks’ best and the best to appear in a Disney comic period.

Indeed, it is quite the tribute to Carl Barks’ storytelling abilities that it wasn’t until this, my “thirty-something-th” reading of the story, that I realized the following: The Professor from Birmingham was lucky to escape Plain Awful when he did… because the COMPASS, that revered museum artifact that he left for the grateful “square pants-ed populace”, was just as ROUND as the Nephews’ accursed gum bubbles! Oh well, maybe the Plain-Awfultonians amended their constitution after the Prof’s departure in 1868!

Lastly, mucho kudos to Gemstone for devoting all 32 pages of the issue to this classic among classics! It’s just another thing that sets you apart from the rest.

Joe Torcivia


Chris Barat said...

Joe: In light of Roger Clemens' presumed indiscretions, perhaps you ought to compare your LOC count to Brett Favre's consecutive game starting streak! (He is a honorary New Yorker now, after all!)

Congratulations on the new blog!


Drleevezan said...

About the "round compass" thing: in the story, it was actually spherical things that were outlawed, but round was used as shorthand by Barks. In Rosa's sequel, it was changed to include all round things because Rosa wanted to have Scrooge's number one dime touch off the conflict of the story.

Joe Torcivia said...

So, because the compass was “round and flat”, it was okay in a way HD&L’s bubble-gum bubbles were not?

…And, by Rosa's time, the “Plain Awful Constitution” was amended to add “round and flat” to the “No-No-List”?

…Why not?