Saturday, June 5, 2021

R.I.P. Pat McGreal

It's always sad to prepare a "R.I.P." post, as every one of them I create is in tribute to someone who "made my life a little better, or nicer", by either their presence or their accomplishments.  

But, it's all the more so when it's a member of the small creative community that I've been privileged to be a part of - the Disney comic book creative community.  

Pat McGreal passed away May 31, 2021. 

I never met, and know little or nothing about, Pat McGreal, but I DO know that he was too young to be the subject of a post like this!  

With his spouse Carol, Pat McGreal wrote some of the best contemporary Disney comic book stories, which have appeared in comics published by Gemstone and IDW.  

Among my personal favorites were the "Shambor" series of Mickey Mouse tales, and "Ten Little Millionaires", an outer-space version of  "Ten Little Indians" - with ROBBERIES taking the place of murders, of course!   The latter is reviewed in my Blog post on the issue!

In that post, I discuss a few "McGreal-isms" that have worked their way into Disney comic book dialogue - my favorite of which is Gyro Gearloose's exclamation "Great Tesla's Coil!" 


So much so that I integrated it into my own dialoguing work, because it's too perfect not to!  

From Luciano Bottaro's masterpiece "Uncle Scrooge's Money Rocket", as it appeared in Fantagraphics DISNEY MASTERS Volume 2 (2018). 

So, thank you, Pat McGreal, for your place in The Great Continuum of Disney Comics Creators, and for so many inspired and enjoyable moments on the printed page! 

10 comments:

T. said...

Very unfortunate news indeed, and a huge loss.

When I browsed the list of Pat's stories on I.N.D.U.C.K.S. after that sad announcement, I realized that he was the author or co-author of many comics I thoroughly enjoyed when I read them in the Polish "Kaczor Donald" ("Donald Duck") weekly back in the 1990s. That was the time of my childhood and my formative "Disney years", so those stories are very strongly etched in my memory. They were a source of many pleasant and cheerful moments.

As for Pat's contributions to the world of Disney - wow, there are certainly many of them! Not only the great sagas such as Shambor, the Mythos Island or the Millennium Orb (which I was fortunate to read at the very end of 1999), but also the characters and ideas like the Imp from the Eleventh Dimension or Scrooge's harbor warehouse with artifacts and treasures - not to mention great Disney parodies of various shows, movies and games. In my opinion, that's definitely enough material to warrant a Disney Masters album (or several of them) in the future, especially given that a large part of the McGreals' work has not seen the print in the States.

No wonder that Pat and Carol were the only creative team to write not one, but two comics from a special series commemorating the 100th anniversary of Carl Barks's birth: "Die-Hard Fans" with April, May and June and "Little Helper Lost" with Gyro's Little Helper. Sadly, I see that the latter has not been published in the US yet: a shame, as it's a great, almost dialogue-less story with beautiful art by Marco Rota.

I liked his Beagle Boys stories illustrated by Maria Nunez, which gave the Beagles some time in the spotlight as main characters rather than foil to Scrooge, Donald & other ducks. On a personal note, I fondly remember "Football Fever", one of the few comics in which Donald visits my home country, Poland (it was written on the occasion of soccer Euro Championships in 2012 we hosted together with Ukraine).

Thank you so much, Pat, and RIP. My condolences to Carol and the rest of his family and friends.

Joe Torcivia said...

Wonderful tribute, T.!

All the more so because Pat was a part of your formative years! I appreciated him and Carol as great writers (and eventual colleagues), but the soft spot I have for all the creators of the later Dell and first decade of Gold Key Comics stems from my own “formative years”, and that runs very deep – so I can really understand what Pat McGreal meant to you, well beyond just being a “great writer”!

Oh, no! I forgot the “Imp from the Eleventh Dimension” was one of Pat’s and Carol’s! That is another HUGE favorite of mine. So, thanks for reminding me!

And I really wish we could see "Little Helper Lost"… but we have NO “regular” line of Disney comics in the USA anymore. There’s always DISNEY MASTERS, but they don’t seem to focus on “pure writers”, instead favoring artists or writer/artists. Maybe in the eventual Marco Rota Disney Masters (that you KNOW is going to come someday), along with “The Money Ocean” and “Night of the Saracens” (two classics that deserve the “Masters” treatment), we can squeeze-in "Little Helper Lost"! …I don’t carry a lot of weight over there, but I’ll push to whatever extent I can.

Again, thank you for such a wonderful tribute!

Elaine said...

Thanks for posting this tribute, Joe. Such sad news.

I am pleased to know that Pat was the source of Gyro's best exclamation--that's definitely become a permanent part of Gyro's speech in my mind, too.

Yes, yes, I very much hope that "Little Helper Lost" will appear in a Disney Masters Rota album! It's a favorite of mine, great (mostly wordless) storytelling and terrific art. And if they need shorter filler in a DM Rota volume...there are also several ten-pagers which Pat & Carol wrote and Rota drew which I love: The Good Old Days (with Goldie!), Three Minus Two Is One (one of the two best stories I've read about intra-triplet relations), and Missing the Mistletoe (my favorite Daisy&Donald Christmas story).

As for stories with other artists: of stories by the McGreals published in the USA, my favorites are Mismatched Mentors and A Gal for Gladstone, two excellent Magica stories. And my two favorite McGreal stories not published here and not drawn by Rota are The Secret of Goblin Valley (an end-of-summer-vacation story of an alien encounter) and The Tomb Raiders, a story which features the Beagle Boys without Ducks, like those T. mentions, though this one was drawn by Andrea Ferraris.

If it were up to me I would definitely like to see Disney Masters volumes built around writers as well as artists. But while art certainly matters a lot to me, I care more about the writing overall. My personal list of hundreds of favorite Disney comics stories is organized almost entirely by writer. But I do hold out hope that some of my very favorite McGreal stories might make it into a Rota volume...or perhaps I should say optimistically, into one of the two or more Rota volumes that will come down the pike!

scarecrow33 said...

I could not possibly follow that excellent comment from T or your response. What I can add is that just this week I received my copy of the "Money Rocket" book and so the reference to Tesla's coils in the above article was very timely for me. I was not familiar before with the name of Pat McGreal, but now I have an appreciation for his contributions. I always enjoy "behind the scenes" revelations such as your inspiration for that particular line.

You are doing a great service by bringing awareness of some of these largely "unsung" heroes to the attention of us fellow comics readers. For that, I thank you. It enriches the reading experience, similar to the way knowing and recognizing individual styles of various Disney animators enhances the experience of viewing the classic cartoons.

Joe Torcivia said...

Elaine:

The ONLY “bright spot” in all of this sadness (…as if there really COULD be any) is that there ARE many more McGreal stories for us to see.

But, with the last standard format comics publisher fumbling so badly after three or four years of well-received product (and furthering the unfair notion that “Disney comics don’t sell!”), I cannot imagine where those opportunities will come from… unless we try to squeeze some of them into Disney Masters.

There are certain things that were not originated by Carl Barks that still became enduring standards in the Disney Duck Universe – and I’d like to think of “Great Tesla’s Coil!” as one of them.

As I look over the list of favorite McGreal stories listed in this post and comments so far, one thing really strikes me… Pat and Carol McGreal somehow always managed to put a “new spin” on the familiar situations – and never made them or the characters look “old-fashioned” or (at the other, more modern extreme) “unorganizable”!

We sure needed more like that!

Joe Torcivia said...

Scarecrow:

Thank you for the kind words. Like many of the modern Disney creators, Pat McGreal never really achieved the notoriety both he and Carol TRULY deserved for their great body of work!

But, then again, it’s only in the last decade or three that even the “Old Masters” have finally gotten some due after so many years of anonymity! So, I guess the old phrase “You’ll never get rich, you… Um, whatever!” also applies to devoting your creative life to Disney comics.

But that also means that you most often get creators who LOVE Disney comics, and do their very best to go above and beyond to make them the best that they can be! And, with a very few recent exceptions (no names, please) that is true of just about everyone who’s worked with these comics since the beginning of Gladstone Series I.

And, any opportunity I have to "sing the unsung", count on me to do it!

Enjoy "Money Rocket"! It’s one of my most favorites! But do enjoy some Pat and Carol McGreal stories as well! …You’ve probably read many of them over Gemstone and IDW, without even realizing it!

Sérgio Gonçalves said...

I can’t claim to be a connoisseur of Pat McGreal’s work, but judging from this post and from other articles about his passing circulating on the web, he was clearly a gifted comics writer.

You’ve got to love expressions like “Pickle me and call me dill!” (you can almost imagine someone saying that in real life) and, of course, “Great Tesla’s Coil!” What I particularly love about the latter is how naturally it suits Gyro Gearloose. You would expect Gyro, an inventor, to have something like Tesla’s coil in the back of his mind. “Great Tesla’s Coil!” is, in that respect, in the tradition of other colorful expressions of astonishment in comics, such as Marvel’s Colossus’s “Lenin’s ghost!” or Hergé’s Captain Haddock’s “Blistering barnacles!”

It’s always sad when someone we love and/or admire dies. But McGreal will live on in his prodigious body of work, which ranges from classic Disney characters to “The Simpsons” (who I guess are now Disney characters) to the graphic novel “Chiaroscuro: The Private Lives of Leonardo da Vinci.”

RIP to a great creator, and one with whose work I hope to become more familiar.

P.S.: Speaking of Gyro, you’ll be glad to know I recently read a hilarious Gyro Gearloose story by Carl Barks, in which Huey, Dewey, and Louie help Gyro invent a “think box,” which makes animals intelligent, sentient beings like humans. Donald is skeptical. I like how Barks treats the Disney ducks as human caricatures rather than anthropomorphic ducks. It not only resolves the issue of the ducks (and the dogs in their world) being more intelligent than other animals they encounter, but it accords with Chuck Jones’s brilliant observation that animal cartoon characters allow one to convey human emotions more effectively than human cartoon characters.

Joe Torcivia said...

Sergio:

Lots of people come and go, leaving their mark on the characters for a brief while, but, when you can give birth to a suitable and in-character expression for a character – and it sticks – you’ve really done something.

And one of the ways that “it sticks” is that others pick up on it, like it, and incorporate it into their own work on those same characters. And so it appears to be with “Great Tesla’s Coil!”

You’ll not go wrong “becoming more familiar” with the work of Pat and Carol McGreal.

I must admit, that “think box” story was as “out of the box” as was possible for both the time period and publisher. But, that’s just one more reason Carl Barks was the greatest at what he did! Glad you’re finally experiencing his work!

Abraham Lincoln said...

Sad to hear of his passing. Pat and Carol McGreal's stories filled a lot of the issues I grew up on. I particularly remember reading parts of the Mythos Island saga in a haphazardly incorrect order in whatever issues I was checking out from my library. The Formula 1 story that Gemstone serialized with his translation and English dialogue ultimately brought me to note down which issues contained the story and check the library shelves on repeated visits, trying to catch the issues in stock. Kudos for Gemstone and my library system for putting prestige format issues on shelves (along with the book format Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse Adventures, the former of which was my original hook into Disney comics), and kudos to Pat McGreal for his involvement in stories that captured my interest so much.

I'm on a Colorado trip to help my sister get settled with a new job right now, and finally going places again, something I didn't do much of last year for certain infectious reasons, so I think I'll be looking in some comic shops here for a few of his stories that caught my eye when glancing over his work again.

Joe Torcivia said...

Glad to see you back here, Abe!

Thank you for sharing your McGreal experiences. It still amazes me how “generational” these comics can be, and that Pat and Carol McGreal's stories can be for you, what Paul Murry, Tony Strobl, and Vic Lockman’s stories were for me. And, I actually knew one individual who read Disney comics BEFORE Uncle Scrooge made his debut – and STOPPED reading them until the 1980s, also BEFORE Uncle Scrooge came along!

Alas, he is no longer with us, as I would also suspect would apply to most (if not all) of the original readers of Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse newspaper strip continuities. In fact, I’d wager that most (again, if not all) of Carl Barks’ original readers are “age sixty-something” or above – including yours truly, though not that “above” part!

What all of this means is that Pat McGreal, like Floyd Gottfredson, Carl Barks, Paul Murry, Romano Scarpa, Luciano Bottaro (whose stuff you MUST read in the two Disney Masters volumes devoted to him), Don Rosa, William Van Horn, Casty and beyond are all part of “one great continuum”! And, while we all may “enter” that continuum at different points, we can all have the same great experiences!