Review Or Die

Op-Ed: How I’d set up the Disney comics line

There are still no American Disney comics being published. This bothers me because I got in to Disney comics during the beginning of BOOM!’s run, and I never got the chance to see what are known by Disney fans as the best series of comics during their original published run. I’ve been excited to read new material, but since BOOM! went… boom, I’ve had the opportunity to look at old Gladstone and Gemstone reprints. I’ve read old reprints of great Disney artists past in compilations, and to seriously examine why I like the Disney comics I do… and why I don’t like the comics I don’t.

Since I have no expertise, no financial or creative stake in it, I feel completely comfortable armchair quarterbacking what the new publisher (whomever they may be) should do as though I were some sort of authority. So, in this hypothetical world where I have the opportunity to outline the creative direction of Disney comics, here’s how I’d run the joint, both in terms of new stuff and in comparison to the days of old.

The Titles

Darkwing Duck

This is a property so good that I can’t believe it was untapped as long as it was. Darkwing Duck is, and I mean this, one of the best modern comics I’ve had the pleasure of reading. One of the most creatively interesting things about Darkwing Duck is that it has the ability to switch between dramatic and funny at the drop of a hat, all without breaking tone. With lush, gorgeous art from James Silvani and some excellent comedy, the cartoon king of cool deserves a place as the comic king of cool.

Now, the original BOOM! Darkwing Duck series had more than its fair share of gaping, monumental problems, but they occurred later in the run when executive meddling had taken its course. In the hands of James Silvani (the best Disney artist working today) and Aaron Sparrow, the original creator of the comic, we could have more stories like The Duck Knight Returns, which they had the most direct influence on… and not so much like its final arc.

What I’d change: The original trades were done in 4-issue story arcs that were meant to be read as trade paperbacks. I like reading longer stories, but the four-issue lock lacks narrative flexibility and can ruin the pacing. Give them the freedom to write a story as long or short as it needs to be. And for God’s sake, give James Silvani credit as a co-writer.

DuckTales

When Marvel realized that comics continuity was too difficult for a new reader to penetrate, they created the Ultimate Universe, which served as a fusion of old, new, movies, and What If?s, all wrapped in the veneer of a modern day setting. That’s ostensibly what the BOOM! DuckTales was supposed to be.

It really, really wasn’t.

That legendary disaster aside, it’s not actually such a bad idea, especially when combined with the Darkwing Duck universe and its crossover potential.

What I’d change: You don’t need to make it a straight adaptation of the cartoon. If you wanted to, you could bring in Brigitta MacBridge, use Barks/Rosa’s backstory for Goldie, include some hints of Paperinik, but keep Fenton, Launchpad, Webby, and the TV version of most events if you wanted to. The big selling point of this comic is an opportunity to give creative people an opportunity to play with Scrooge McDuck and change things beyond the status quo without affecting the core Disney titles. It doesn’t need to be a continuity-heavy work, but that flexibility of changing elements of the status quo can allow more storytelling possibilities.

Beyond that, I’d strongly suggest bringing Donald back in to the fold. If you want a good example as to how the character dynamics could work with such a huge cast, take a look at The Arcadian Urn. But under no circumstances are the writers of Rightful Owners or Dangerous Currency allowed anywhere near this reboot, which will start at Issue #1.

Fillmore!

This is going to sound strange and obscure, but hear me out. Fillmore was a 26 episode series that ran on Disney, which was basically a 70s style buddy-cop show set in middle school. The cops were safety patrollers, counterfeiters were making phony baseball cards, and the ‘mayor’ was the Principal. It was an excellent series with clean animation, interesting characters, and great mysteries. Contingent on creator Scott M. Gimple’s involvement, I’d ask him to revive it as a comic book in a heartbeat. It has no continuity that you’d need to know in order to start the series again, and if you never knew it was a TV show you could pick it up without a problem.

I’ll be talking about Fillmore in a future review in detail, but I think that it could be perfect for comics, allowing for a greater flexibility in cast, recurring villains, ongoing plots, and bigger visuals.

What I’d change: I’d probably ask him to be a little more generous with the screen time of Fillmore’s partner, Ingrid Third, but beyond I honestly believe that the series’ formula was honed to perfection. What Gimple wants as a writer to improve that, I’d gladly give him.

Gargoyles

For those of you who are just Duck-and-Mice fans, Gargoyles was a Disney Afternoon show that ran for three seasons, though only two count for our purposes. Created by Greg Weisman, the show boasted the most impressive continuity in a cartoon of its time, and a desire to tell serious stories to kids in a way they could appreciate.

Personally, I have some issues with the show, but it’s mostly because I think Weisman is a better comic writer than TV writer due to the way he handles ensemble casts. But my opinion doesn’t matter. What does matter, however, is the enormous number of fans who DO still exist. Greg Weisman’s show has created one of the most enduring fandoms, and makes Firefly fans devotion almost look small in comparison. Which is why when he had the opportunity to continue his show as a comic under Slave Labor Graphics, it was a nerddom’s dream come true.

And because he is Greg Weisman, demigod of stories cut short, it was cancelled because Disney raised the licensing costs.

This is a comic than can give serious critical acclaim to the Disney lineup, and brings in a pre-built audience with a love for comics. The Gargoyles license belongs to Disney, but the story belongs to Weisman. And while the story’s not exactly my cup of tea, it’s a story that he should be telling, and can do for years to come. He might be working on Young Justice right now, but… well, let’s be honest, no matter what you think of the show, it’s Greg Weisman working on TV: It’s gonna get cancelled.

What I’d change: Nothing, as far as I can tell. The comic was incredibly successful, critically acclaimed, and suffered no editorial nonsense. What is there to change? But if he can get a co-writer so he can release more issues a month, including his numerous spinoff plans, I’d be happy with that.

Mickey Mouse

Mickey, Mickey, Mickey. Buddy, you put out some truly terrible comics.

When I read an issue of Mickey Mouse from Gemstone, I’m absolutely baffled. Who writes these bland stories, lacking characterization or thrilling action? Why is there no tension, or an intellectually engaging mystery? Where’s the sense of danger? Why is the art so workmanlike, without creativity in the visuals or action? Why is Mickey’s face pale? Why is he ever wearing anything but his classic red shorts outfit? It’s partly it’s because Egmont is responsible for these stories, but partly because… well, these guys are no Floyd Gottfredson, a true master of the character and craft. These are people who are writing and drawing new Mickey stories because there must be new Mickey stories, and little is done to be innovative. It makes collecting his comics very much a waste for me.

But there should still be a Mickey Mouse comic.

What I’d change: Don’t mistake me, Mickey Mouse is one of the greatest comic characters of all time. And it’s almost entirely due to Floyd Gottfredson’s hand, because I have never read a Mickey Mouse comic that stands up to even a lesser Gottfredson tale.

But I still think you can do a great Mickey Mouse comic today. It just needs to be treated like any other artistic project, allowing the team to push themselves to mastering the comic book format for an American audience. First and foremost that means a dedicated writer/artist team working on it who can stay on the title for a long time to come. On top of that, it needs to be removed the Gottfredson/past comic book continuity to give the writers a fresh slate, and an opportunity to place it in the DW/DT universe.

And there is absolutely no reason why you couldn’t include Donald and Goofy as supporting characters if you wanted to. This is especially true considering DuckTales, which didn’t use Donald as more than a series of small guest appearances, and the slippery nature of comic book time. The dynamic of the ‘big three’ of Disney is an opportunity that’s better explored in the Kingdom Hearts game than Disney comics, and that’s just not right to me.

One big area of change, and perhaps a key to the comic’s success, is Mickey’s character. He needs to be written not just as an everyman, but a character with qualities and emotions all his own. This makes him not just funnier and a more dynamic, less reactionary character, it makes him relatable. Right now, no kid wants to play as Mickey Mouse, because there’s nothing to imitate. It is absolutely my opinion that it’s not just because the stories are boring, but because his character is written like a newspaper strip character, and that just doesn’t work when you bring it to the comics. Barks didn’t imitate Taliaferro.

In terms of tone, you need the kind of dashing, swashbuckling action that made Gottfredson’s work so powerful. A smart hero who can outthink his enemies more than outfight them, but can still mix it up, is a hero that kids can really get engaged in. Written with just enough of an ‘edge’ (meaning that Mickey could punch people and leave a bruise, have firearms get involved, or even consider the possibility of a villain dying) you could have a children’s comic that made people see Mickey for what he was intended to be all along: Doug Fairbanks.

Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck

Originally I was writing the Uncle Scrooge entry and wondered if there should be a separate Donald Duck comic. But quite frankly: No, there shouldn’t be, and there shouldn’t be an Uncle Scrooge comic either.

What I’d change: The reason I wouldn’t separate these two characters is because they’re intrinsically linked. You can have separate stories starring these characters, but by segregating them you’re often forced to publish substandard work to fill out the page count rather than emphasizing the best of the best. Typically that’s taken the form of the tame Egmont Duck stories and the outright insane Italian stuff, and you’re left with an uninteresting tiresome comic.

That may make my desire to publish it at 64 pages sound insane, but hear me out. It’s a matter of what the expanded page count will allow them to publish. They can reprint the longer Barks, Rosa and European reprints (yes, there are some truly great European Disney comics), but more important still is allowing brand new Duck stories made for the comic, without imposing a particular length. This also gives them an opportunity to introduce stories starring characters who don’t get the chance for the spotlight, including Gyro, the nephews, Beagle Boys, or Magica.

Each issue should include one headlining adventure story, two backup 10-15 pagers (be it the traditional gag stories or a short adventure, such as “The Island at the Edge of Time”), and at least one of the 1-4 page gag story.

The Muppet Show

I confess, I haven’t read the Muppet comics. My knowledge of the Muppets is very, very limited. But Roger Landridge’s work on the BOOM! series has been acclaimed, he’s been wanting to do it for a long time, and if it means a talented man making great comics I’ll be happy. I don’t want Muppet comics, I want Roger Landridge’s Muppet comics.

What I’d change: Don’t cancel the title after ten issues because of the line folding.

Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories

Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories should be the great bastion of creativity and experimentation. An anthology comic starring whatever Disney comic characters the writers want to use, the content can and should be made of  various stories of different lengths starring different characters, with no central title to it at all. But I think releasing it as a 32 page comic is a mistake: It should be 64.

What I’d change: WDC&S tends to be the backup book, and I don’t think it needs to be. The reason I want a 64 page WDC&S isn’t because I want that many more short gag pieces, but because it gives them freedom to be more experimental in their content. If they want to do a continuing 10-page feature on the misadventures of Goofy, by all means, do exactly that. If they want to simply publish a 22 page story as a ‘pilot’ for a new series, or just as a one-off that’s too short for a graphic novel? Do that too, because there will be room! This should be a place where comics can be a grand experiment, not just a matter of churning out reprints month after month. If someone doesn’t like an individual story, they’ll have that much more to choose from. The reader will get more from it, and so will your artists.

 

So what else would I do?

Every comic would have a letters page, to be handled by the writer, editor and artist depending on who is best equipped to respond to a particular letter. There is to be no snark at a reader’s comments: The Gladstone letter pages were wonderful and should be used as a template for how a creative team should respond to fans: Thoughtfully, respectfully, and great fun to read even twenty years later. While the letters page tended to be populated by adults in the older Gladstone/Gemstone titles, I found the Gemstone responses (at least in the Mickey comics) to be rude, and that’s not going to fly when you’re dealing with small children.

All crossover stories would be published under one title. By that, I mean if Darkwing Duck and DuckTales cross over for a story arc, their story will only be told in either the Darkwing Duck or DuckTales comic. If that means twice-monthly issues for the duration of a crossover, that’s just the way it goes. I despise having to open different longboxes to switch between JLA and JSA for each issue. There is absolutely no need to confuse and frustrate a reader the way DC and Marvel tend to.

Story arcs. While they’re not necessary, they are a great tool of modern comics and if/when used, should be handled with care. Locking a reader out of buying a comic because you’re meant to read from issue one like a graphic novel isn’t acceptable. An issue that’s part of a story arc must have a short recap in the form of a caption so that a first time reader can jump in, and hopefully refresh the memory of people who, well, haven’t read the comic in a month or so.

Reprints that are too long for a single issue, generally expected to be Italian comics under the WDC&S and Uncle Scrooge/Donald Duck title should be split across two issues rather than consume the entirety of the page space of the backup features.

I encourage writers to develop one-shots so they learn how to effectively manage their storytelling, and not just decompress it because you can.

Each title will be given an annual with a larger page count, to be marked as simply as (Title) #13 rather than as (Title) Annual #1. It’s easier for collectors, and doesn’t force the writers and artists to abandon what they’re doing in the main title to concentrate on something completely different. If they want to do a one-shot, an anthology collection, a continuation of the story, that’s fine, but it’s a change of pace that should be fun for the readers and creative team.

Colorists work under the supervision of the original artist. I firmly believe that their job isn’t to decide what the coloration is meant to be, but to bring to life and enhance the line-artist’s work. And I say this because if the original run of Barks comics had one flaw, it’s the abysmal coloring. It was partly due to the 4-Color press technology of the time, which I can understand. But mostly it had to do with incompetent colorists who, because of the way the studio was set up, didn’t work with the artists and completely ignored coloring directives… and all the while they did it badly. That’s just not okay.

You’re insane. You’re changing everything. What is WRONG with you?

This is absolutely drastic change from traditional Disney comics. It isn’t what any fan remembers reading as a kid.

Nor should it be.

A comic series that tugs at your childhood is a wonderful thing, and so is sharing that childhood love with others. While reprints of classic Disney comics should be a part of the line, and reprint compilations are absolutely wonderful (I gave my nephew a copy of Fantagraphics’ “Only a Poor Old Man” this Christmas), the comics deserve more than nostalgia. Carl Barks, Floyd Gottfredson, and Don Rosa aren’t artistically or culturally relevant because of the format they used, they’re relevant because they told great stories that happened to be in a certain format.

There was no Gottfredson before Gottfredson, Barks before Barks, or Rosa before Rosa. And even Rosa, whose admiration for past comics is well known, wasn’t Carl Barks after Carl Barks! He couldn’t be. It’s not a matter of a lesser talent at all, it’s a matter of him being a different artist, not a slavish imitator. By playing to his own strengths and telling the kinds of stories he wanted to tell, he created some of the most interesting work Disney has ever put out there.

I’m not saying that we should ignore the works of the past, nor that we should entirely stop reprints of these great works. But to only print and reprint comics in that format, and to value a comic because it is the best of a particular format rather than wanting a good comic in its own right simply because that’s the way it’s always been done? That’s just plain foolish. I believe that the best creators can use what’s been done before them not just as a tool for their own stories, but to improve on what has been. They can bring new, exciting ways of telling stories that feel true to those characters. There is no need to force someone to work under an artificial format that’s been in place for seventy-odd years just because that’s the way it’s always been.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

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15 thoughts on “Op-Ed: How I’d set up the Disney comics line

  1. As long as we’re fantasizing here… I agree that 64-page comics would provide more flexibility, both for reprints and for new stuff. I felt that the Gemstone squarebound comics (Uncle Scrooge, WDCS) provided much more value-per-dollar than their traditional-length comics, and more pages would be better yet. I would still want the book to be full-sized, not pocketbook-sized, for the art’s sake.

    Of the titles you propose, I only really care about Donald/Scrooge, WDCS, and the Muppets. I could conceivably care about DuckTales, if there were more stories like The Arcadian Urn (the only DuckTales comic I have kept)–especially in regard to that story’s treatment of Webby.

    I’d be fine with a single Donald/Scrooge title, a general Duckburg comic. There are several dozen stories not yet published in English that I’d love to see in it: a bunch of Rotas, several Korhonens, three Gersteins, two Janet Gilberts and one Michael Gilbert, two by Gail Renard & Unn Printz-Pahlson, maybe ten Vicars (some overlap there), a select group of stories by Italians whose names begin with “C” (Carpi, Cimino, Chendi, Cavazzano)…. On the female characters front: I’d like the Duckburg comic to publish the best existing stories featuring female leads (the Halas & Angus/Branca “Bananas” and the Garner/Vicar “On the Run,” for an adventurous Grandma Duck; some good stories starring Magica such as the ones in the Magica Big Black Book), and I’d also like to see a couple new strong, likeable female characters developed. Matilda could have her own adventures, post-L&T 11 and pre-Letter from Home, if another writer wanted to stay within Rosa’s timeline. There could be flashback stories of young Donald and Della in Hortense & Quackmore’s house (an alternative to the European Donny Duckling stories, which assume Donald was brought up by Grandma Duck and Della was not his sister but his cousin!). And there could be one or two entirely new characters.

    WDCS at 64 pages could do all sorts of interesting stuff. Since Disney itself is running this, there would be no nonsense about not being able to use feature-film characters…so there could be Madam Mim stories. She may have begun as a “villain,” but in some stories she becomes a completely sympathetic character, who unlike Magica can achieve very satisfying happy endings (e.g. in Anne-Marie Dester’s Madam Mim Moves or in Sarah Kinney’s Flavor of the Month).

    I would want there to be a Christmas Parade and a Halloween Scream every year, which could include stories featuring characters from Duckburg, Mouseton or other worlds.

    I agree that someone should sponsor any Muppet stories Roger Langridge chooses to create. (And any Muppet covers David Petersen chooses to draw!) Some of the Muppet folktale/literature parodies were also terrific, though: Muppet King Arthur is very funny, and Muppet Sherlock Holmes is excellent. More like those would be welcome, too.

  2. The whole point of this particular lineup is to create a more modern style comic lineup, from people who love and understand Disney but are willing to experiment in to newer forms of storytelling. Part of that means, as fictitious editor-in-chief, also pushing for a better use of the female cast members in NEW stories, in addition to the reprints you’re talking about.

    At the risk of talking far out of my depth, that doesn’t necessarily mean equal roles for women just because they’re there, but it does mean trying to actively change what’s been done before. It leads to more interesting characters, and the chance to write great stories based around these characters. I love your ideas for the Ducks, and I think they could actually be taken further in the lineup to great effect.

    A big part of me is inclined to say that the new Mickey Mouse series would need to include Minnie in a role similar to her better Gottfredson exploits: a partner who can give as good as she gets and can see things from a different point of view. Back-and-forth between romantic leads is always a plus.

    Darkwing Duck also has the advantage of Gosalyn, who when written correctly like the pilot for Darkwing Duck, is a fantastic character. Written badly… well, she turns in to Jade from Jackie Chan Adventures. But that push is also, partly, why I wanted more of Ingrid Third in the Fillmore comic.

    I wonder what could be done to make the Daisy Duck Diaries a concept worth continuing? Hmmm. I might have ideas on that.

    On the note of Ducktales, I love The Arcadian Urn, I really do. It is a perfect DuckTales story in my eyes, and it’s what I’d ask writers to look to when designing their work. It is the first time I saw Webby as an interesting character, and the Launchpad/Donald dynamic was wonderful. I never would have thought to have the two interact that way.

    I’m guessing at this point you can tell I’m a pretty lousy ‘classic’ Disney comics fan, and am much more a Gottfredson/Barks/Rosa/Sparrow guy than anything. I’ve enjoyed the Gladstone/Gemstone comics I’ve read to a degree (except Mickey Mouse, which has produced some really bad comics to the point where I don’t even want reprints), but… I have certainly always though that Rosa’s efforts to do something new and different were what made him an interesting artist. I would want more of that idea, though not necessarily execution, all around.

    I love your comments, and I hope to see a lineup that meets your satisfaction!

  3. Have you read the Casty stories that Boom published? Not so much the latter two, which in my opinion are really too short to ever establish themselves, but “The World to Come” and “Quandomai Island” are fucking awesome. If we can’t agree on that, there’s probably not much we can agree on in this regard :p There are also some quite good Italian Mickey stories out there by Scarpa and others. I can understand not liking Egmont stuff (I’ll allow that it’s a bit hit-or-miss, but I still enjoy a lot of it), but there’s a lot of good Italian stuff that could be brought over but hasn’t been.

    Obviously, I have my own biases here; I’m much more interested in reading European, and especially Italian, material that’s never seen US release than I am in new, original material. I understand the desire to be forward-thinking, but I have to admit, as far as my own tastes go, I get sort of a sinking feeling imagining the “classic” books reconfigured this way.

    And this, re Mickey Mouse:

    On top of that, it needs to be removed the Gottfredson/past comic book continuity to give the writers a fresh slate, and an opportunity to place it in the DW/DT universe.

    makes me want to scream uncontrollably. Dude. I understand that you, and a lot of other people, are big DT/DW fans. Hell, I’m even a moderate fan. But I’m first and foremost a fan of the Disney comics tradition, and I don’t understand why a pair of animated television shows that ran a total of five years twenty-some years ago should be considered “the future” to the extent that classic titles have to be rebuilt around them. I’m not gonna lie: I would really, really hate that.

    Er…not to end on an overly sour note, I do like the idea of introducing some European concepts into Ducktales. But I would, wouldn’t I? I would also love for DT comics to feature Fenton more prominently, as Fenton is awesome.

    • Thanks for responding Geo, I kinda figured I’d get this response so I’m certainly not taking it badly. I’m sorry in advance for the length, it pretty well and truly ballooned. I just want to clarify my position, cause I understand your objections, and this is ENTIRELY my opinion as to what I want to see, not what I believe has to happen for Disney to be successful. This whole article could have been written better, and probably been a few articles instead of one.

      To discuss the point of changing the format: I get the distaste. I honestly do. I stopped reading DC because of the New 52 changing so much, so my hypocrisy here is enormous. But what my thinking is on it is that… well, the tradition is, to me, not what’s interesting. There are comics made IN that tradition that I happen to love, but the tradition itself doesn’t matter to me. The characters do. The way stories are told? Not important… but WDC&S and the Duck comic is designed for that specific format.

      I want to see great comics. If that can be done within the tradition of what we’ve seen, I am all the happier for it. But I want to give people the opportunity to try something different, because with the stuff I have seen, it hasn’t been stuff that I feel is gonna stand the test of time compared to their predecessors. It’s serviceable, and that might be fine for some. But if I had the choice, that just would not be okay with me. If it means recruiting people out of Egmont who are right for the job to make new comics without the Egmont restrictions, believe me, I’m over the moon because it means better comics. If that means reprinting the greats, I’m happy with that too. I’m not thinking that Americans automatically are the ones who will do the best work.

      I just think Disney needs to produce better comics, and the only way I know how to do that is to find talent, and give them the freedom to create.

      I’ve never read BOOM’s Mickey Mouse, so I absolutely cannot comment on those specific stories! I am claiming absolute ignorance on this. But… for me, I got a big lot of about 40-odd Mickey comics from Gemstone during the lousier part of BOOM’s run, and they were… something. If Italians are publishing great Mickey stories, I’d be happy to read them. But I haven’t read a great Mickey story yet outside of Gottfredson, and the stuff that’s been touted in the Gemstone tomes as classics tend to be just… average comics. I remember one comic I really enjoyed: A comic where Mickey got amnesia and became a parody of his canasta-playing self. I thought that was great stuff.

      What I believe tended to happen with these stories is that Gottfredson style plotting and characterization would be applied, which worked beautifully for a condensed format, but was often flat when read in comic book format because the room to breathe meant you tended to notice it more. I never felt like I was in-tune with a character, just following a series of events. Damningly, they weren’t particularly funny.

      But frankly, all I really want is to see the Runaway Brain version of Mickey. So far? I haven’t.

      Referring to the DT/DW/MM crossover thing: I want to be clear that I’m actually not a DuckTales fan. Not even a little bit. You actually like the show a lot more than I do, because while I enjoyed it as a kid… watching it as an adult I think the show has atrociously slow pacing in scenes and plotting, that it lacks the character dynamics that I find critical to the good Duck stories or, for that matter, stories.

      But I am a HUGE Darkwing Duck comic fan: Emphasis on the comic, with the show being pretty hit or miss for me. I think it’s the best thing BOOM published during its time with the Disney lineup, and it is in many ways one of the better comics of any type that I’ve read.

      For me, adding a DuckTales comic allows for crossovers without messing up the classic Disney stuff. That’s all there is to it.

      And since I haven’t had any experience with a great, or… even really good, if I’m being honest, non-Gottfredson Mickey story? I see no reason not to ask the writers to set the revamped Mickey Mouse in the same universe as DW/DT, entirely so the characters can interact if need be.

      I get if you think I’m a heretic for this. I’ve never been a popular guy, and my opinions aren’t in step with pretty much anybody. But I want people to grow up with the same excitement they did reading Barks for the first time. I just don’t think that what’s been done will allow that to happen.

      • BURN THE HERETIC!

        …no, I’m just glad that there are thoughtful people thinking about these things and taking them seriously. But you should totally check out those Casty stories. I think you may be amazed. Also, possibly, some Scarpa stuff–if you can rustle up a copy of Gemstone’s MM Adventures 11, you can read “The Delta Dimension,” which is Scarpa’s follow-up to Gottfredson’s “Sky Island.” It has some kind of slow parts, but to me, that’s just mimicking the feel of a Gottfredson serial, and when you get to the meat of the story, I think it’s pretty damned exciting and funny.

  4. …I would add, though, that I’d be more okay with your suggestions IF we could, in addition what you want, have European-style duck and mouse digests for printing long-form Euro stories. I will humbly volunteer to edit them :p

  5. Actually, that was the whole plan for the Uncle Scrooge/Donald comic. To have a full-sized comic for longer comics to be printed in, albeit in parts. I’m still stuck on great Mouse comics though. If I can track down those BOOM issues I will.

    God, I am so sorry about that length, I feel bad.

    • You should realize that I’m the LAST person you should be apologizing to for maundering on self-indulgently :p I enjoy reading your thoughts.

      • I just wish I was a more concise writer or, for that matter, a clearer writer. That’s part of what this blog is for, to practice just that.

        I’m curious to see what you think on the central point that Disney comics aren’t specifically striving for greatness though.

  6. Elaine on said:

    Re: The Arcadian Urn–Did you see David Gerstein’s explanation on DCF (in response to my question) of where Webby’s Chickadee Field Guide came from?

    David Gerstein:

    Jonathan Gray and I translated this story from Dutch; in the Dutch version, at least, Webby’s book was simply a basic guide to ancient Greece. Nothing about the Chickadees (or, for that matter, Woodchucks) was mentioned.
    Jon felt the book’s rather intricate knowledge seemed inappropriate for a basic guide, so he decided to make Webby a Chickadee and the book her manual—good idea.

    We translated from Dutch, by the way, because Egmont couldn’t locate Halas’ original British English version to send us. So we still don’t know what the very first version of the story called the guide. /end quotation/

    So now I know that it’s Jonathan Gray I have to thank for Webby’s Field Guide…though the story itself does allow her to save the day more than once, so Paul Halas does get credit for a strong Webby. (I realize that the Chickadees could not have an equivalent to the JW Guidebook in Rosa’s Duckburg, where my loyalty normally lies, but DuckTales is in my mind a parallel universe, and I’m happy if they have one there.)

    And speaking of David Gerstein…. I agree with you that the editors should seek out and encourage more stories with credible, likeable female characters. Gerstein is himself a feminist, and he did what he could on this front when he was working for Egmont. A bit of an uphill battle–he said that he had to struggle at times just to get females included in the crowd scenes! And he also told me that he spoke up for Madam Mim’s character. Some European writers were treating her as a somewhat pathetic character, a lonely old woman. DG insisted on her having strong self-confidence and self-esteem. To quote David again: She’s the Magnificent, Marvelous, Mad Madam Mim, dammit!

  7. I did see that comment, it was a genius bit of translation and I’m very glad to know it. I’m right there with you on DuckTales as a parallel universe too.

    I always feel incredibly awkward talking about feminism, like I need to put a disclaimer up that says my opinions should be taken with a few bags of salt because I don’t know what I’m talking about. But it’s absolutely baffling how marginalized female characters are in these comics, when it should be a matter of writers wanting to write good, nuanced characters no matter who they are. I had NO idea that the problems were this deep-rooted and gender-oriented rather than a strange kind of purposeful/ignorance. Yikes!

  8. I think the marginalization of females in the Disney comics is mostly just a consequence of the fact that the Duckburg and Mouseton universes were created in the 40′s-50′s-early 60′s, when females were marginalized almost everywhere in popular culture. But because that’s the pattern that was set up, I think it takes active editorial leadership to overcome that heritage.

    I don’t think you need to feel self-conscious in talking about feminism and gender issues in comics. You want female characters to be treated with equal respect, to be given agency and to have things presented sometimes from their POV: you’re a feminist. You then get to talk about whether a story is fair to its female characters or not. Simple as that.

    I certainly wouldn’t argue that female characters should get equal time in Disney comics. I can’t imagine how that could come about. And I’m happy to get equal time for female heroes from other comics/books/movies, where the female characters are more central. But I agree with Kurt Appel on DCF that one of the things Disney comics need to do to move into the future is to do better by its female characters, and to create a few new, strong female characters.

  9. Dutch Duckfan Down Under on said:

    Ooh, another discussion where I play Disney comics god/editor! I shall comment lengthily and self-indulgently, as usual.

    First of all, I’m glad to see someone who wants to break away from the old format. I feel that nearly everything that can be done with it, *has* been done.

    Now, I don’t know Darkwing Duck and DuckTales well enough to say what should be done with it. I do know that there’s a sizable fanbase of the Disney Afternoon on the internet. So I propose a single 64-page Disney Afternoon title, that includes both series and all the other DA series. Gargoyles, Quack Pack, Gummi Bears, all under one roof. With DuckTales and Darkwing Duck getting the most attention.
    (Oh, and now you’ve given me an idea: a cross-over between Darkwing and Paperinik.)
    Of course, I wouldn’t buy it. But lots of others will.

    Giving Fillmore its own comic is a good idea, but here’s something better: another collective title with all the good non-DA TV series. But none of that few-page gag fluff. No, I want a 28-page ‘episode’ in each comic. One month it’d be Fillmore, then Kim Possible, then The Replacements.
    N.B: Animated series, obviously. No Wizards of Waverly Place, no Sonny with a Chance, no Suite Life, no Hannah Montana. And note how I said *good* series, so please – no Fish Hooks.

    For Gargoyles, see the Disney Afternoon series.

    Mickey Mouse: here comes the problem child. He’s adorable, but you can’t do anything with him. Luckily, the comics have more room to try something than the cartoons. Which is good, because it was exactly the cartoons that have pressed the image of ‘bland Mickey’.
    In new comics, Mickey should be able to actually *do* shit. This character does not work in today’s Mouseton, we have a duck for domestic comics. I suppose you could change Mouseton back to the wretched hive it was in the early 30s, but that brings other problems.
    Mickey should get out more, adventuring. Spirou-like comics. *With* Minnie, I might add. Please ditch Mortie and Ferdie with their mom, leave the Goof at home and go out and be awesome.
    And just for once – no reprints.

    So, what would Goofy be doing then? Why, he gets his own title, and his own style of comics. Where I compared Mickey to Spirou, Goofy would be the Gaston Lagaffe. Bringing back the spirit of the cartoons, with a bit more screwball. Maybe even get him a job, and a cameo here and there in Mickey comics.
    Review or Die, do you know the Goofy Adventures series that Disney published in the early 90s? I’d like to see more of that.
    And as a back-up story: Indiana Goof, because he’s a great character.

    Please, please, *please* don’t ever think again of combining the Scrooge and Duck titles. It may be just me, but I feel that you can’t simply consciously stop two titles that have been running for over 60 years, with combined over 750 issues. So don’t.
    No, I think that these series were good, except for the mounds of Egmont material. I know that you can’t endlessly reprint Barks, Rosa and Van Horn, but there are plenty of other artists that deserve a spot in the limelight. There are countless unpublished Jippes, Rota, Milton, Midthun (you should get to know *him*), Verhagen, and other artists.
    The series may be similar, but they’re also the majority of Disney comics. They deserve two titles.

    Muppet comics: I dunno. Meh.

    Finally, I had just about the same idea for Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. This should be the flagship title, running since 1940. Look at the title: no limits! It screams diversity! Take the late Gladstone II albums as an example. They reprinted rare material, and did so beautifully (but expensively, paperback please!). Old Sundays and dailies, landmark and historical comics, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!
    I wouldn’t mind bringing back the prose stories either. As long as they’re good, and not written towards six-year-olds, like Western used to. You can actually do that, there’s some great children’s literature around to prove it.
    Please show the innovation and creativity that is Disney is known for.

    And then! I would add a pocket book series with Italian and Danish comics. I know some of you guys can’t warm up to this, but honestly this has to be done. Scarpa! Carpi! Cavazzano! Paperinik! DoubleDuck! Paperinik New Adventures! (Okay, maybe that last one is taking it too far, but it fits in the spirit.) Americans, you really need this. Believe me.

    Finally, marketing. My pet peeve. Disney, the great multinational, does not know how to market its comics. Maybe it doesn’t care. But think of the potential! Millions upon millions of reader who have never heard of Disney comics! Strike up a deal with Wal-Mart or something. Make TV ads. For Peg-Leg Pete’s sake, create awareness! Then let the old Disney formula (“quality brings in money”) work.

    There is so much entertainment to be made! So much money to be made! Why is there no higher-up caring? Why is this not a thing?!

    (Finally, as a last note, I say that whoever gets to be publisher should hire all of us, based on our knowledge, understanding and love of Disney comics. We may not have studied Donaldism at school, but we know more than enough about it to be great editors. Fans have often proven to be great showrunners.
    And yeah, it’s also sort of my dream job.)

  10. Nice to hear your words! Your knowledge of European comics outweighs mine and it brings an interesting perspective. I don’t think the old format is without merit, but I think many artists aren’t trying to push themselves within that format, and it becomes stagnant as a result. It’s why I wanted to leave the WDC&S and Duckburg comics bigger, to accommodate that very format along with new types of stories.

    I considered the old Disney Afternoon TV series comic anthology, and I honestly realized I couldn’t come up with a good story for many of them for this post. That said, even if I could, I also know that it seems unfair to give them what amounts to a one-shot every year. So I picked the ones I thought had unexplored potential: but if someone had ideas as to what to do to keep more ongoing titles, I’d be happy.

    For me it’s a matter of wanting more comics, not less (and in that vein if I can be convinced that 64 page Scrooge and Donalds can be put out monthly and put out not just decent, but GREAT comics, I’d consider it). I’ve seen Weisman’s work on Gargoyles and I’d actually rather see bi-weekly comics from him because he has so much to say. And for me, bringing back Darkwing Duck as a monthly title is critical because it is the best Disney title I’ve had the chance to read. DuckTales is more of a necessity in order to allow the much vaunted ‘universe’ to grow.

    There’s a pitch for Mickey sitting on my harddrive, and it does involve making Mouseton Mos Eisley again. Just sayin’.

    I love the idea of translating the bigger stories, but pocketbooks just won’t do it for me. Trade paperbacks or nothing! Archie Digests just make me cringe.

    I know I’m certainly not equipped for Disney editorial, I’d piss off everybody the way Disney did when they handled their own US comics in the 90s, but I like the spirit of getting fans involved. For me personally, I’d actually rather see fans create their own new stories! But if I was going to hire an editor-if-chief… I’d want David Gerstein and Aaron Sparrow working on the lines together.

  11. JDHJANUS (Josh) on said:

    Wow! So I’m a bit behind, but I’m glad to have read your post! I love your ideas! I miss collecting Disney comics, and I’ve truly enjoyed it throughout my life, and would LOVE for my kids to have current Disney comics to read as they grow up, since comics were such a huge part of growing up for me.

    I like your ideas, overall. I really like the ideas of eventually collecting the stories in graphic novels. Until Fantagraphics and Boom recently, the lack of Disney graphic novels always disappointed me, as I feel that there are so many awesome Disney stories that would make great graphic novels. I enjoy collecting comics, but there’s something somewhat satisfying about having a presentable collection that you can display on your bookshelf that is more difficult to do in a long comic box.

    I don’t have any qualms with any of your ideas for the series. I think they’re all well thought out (as usual) and have a lot of great potential for growth.

    Since Disney now owns Marvel, I would not be surprised to see any future Disney comics to be published under Marvel’s publishing house. I’m also curious to see if Disney will pull the Star Wars comics from Dark Horse and begin publishing them under Marvel as well, now that Disney owns LucasFilm. It would certainly be interesting!

    Despite the foolishness of the series, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Disney did a “Disney Channel” comic book series. Whether or not you like it, the Disney channel shows have a pretty popular backing, and a very *few* shows (like Phineas and Ferb) are actually worth watching. Nevertheless, Disney is going to ultimately be looking at what gets them money, so I would expect at least a Disney channel comic series, which might blossom into various series of their own if a story were popular enough.

    As far as Mickey Mouse, he is definitely has become in many ways a somewhat boring character, but Disney is trying to re-introduce his more mischievous aspects with games like the Epic Mickey series, which gives room for more people to relate to his character (still not as much as Donald Duck, who is in my opinion one of the most in-depth and realistic characters out of the main Disney characters). On that, I think it would be fun to have an Epic Mickey story, either as a story-arc in the Mickey Mouse comic, or its own series, which would open up characters from Wasteland like Oswald and Hortensia, etc. Warren Spector has written for comics before (including the Epic Mickey e-comics), so I see no reason why he couldn’t do it again.

    And although there would be significant legal issues in coordinating with Square-Enix, I would LOVE to see a Kingdom Hearts story (heck, even if they finished translating the manga!) The Kingdom Hearts story is genius, and opens up so much for exploring the various worlds within the Disney full-length movies.

    There is an official Disney comics app for iPhones, iPads, etc. that features a lot of European stories that you can download for free. You have to pay for the individual stories, and they’re all e-comics, but right now it’s the best thing that we have.

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