It was my intention to write a single article on Don Rosa’s Duck comics. I would talk about why his work is so popular and acclaimed, what failings I think he is prone to in his stories, the themes, what I thought of him compared to Carl Barks… after all, he is one of the most popular living cartoonists in the world. Over the course of twenty years he wrote some of the most enduring Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories since The Old Master himself, and is all but a rock star in Europe.
But then I actually sat down and read all of his stories straight through, and that plan went right out the window. It’s not really possible to explain exactly what he did without talking more in depth than is readable in a single essay.
So instead of the single article format, I will look at each of Rosa’s Duck stories, one by one, in a series called Don Rosa in Review. I will discuss the faults and strengths of the story, Rosa’s progression as an artist, give production history whenever it is available and of interest… and most importantly, I’m going to discuss the continuity in Rosa’s stories. Not just the continuity of Rosa’s connections to Barks, but of the continuity Rosa created within his own work, which is by far a more complex entity.
Each review will have a synopsis, a review which will be the bulk of the text, and a note regarding continuity to keep in mind for later stories.
[AR-104] – Mythological Menagerie (10 Pages, Gag)
The Story: In an effort to salvage his wounded pride, Donald attempts to ruin the endeavors of three small children by staging a sighting of an animal that isn’t real. But Rosa read up on his mythological animals and so did Huey Dewey and Louie, and Donald’s efforts end in failure.
The Review: Well look at that, we have a rare sighting of a Junior Woodchucks acronym!
I don’t know why these weren’t used more often in Rosa stories and couldn’t begin to speculate. I will say that this is a much stronger effort than “Nobody’s Business”, probably because Donald is usually at his funniest when he’s trying to ruin someone, and the schadenfreude you can get from that is comedy gold. Rosa capitalizes on schadenfreude a lot when writing Donald, and we’ll examine that as we go; but for, we have a simple, harmless story good for a few laughs.
Rosa makes a point of using real, historical facts and legend in many of his stories. That said, I’m not going to point out the historical events very often both because I am not a student of history and because it is not the point of this series. But I do find no small measure of amusement that even in his third story, the animals that Donald fabricates in “Mythological Menagerie” are all based on, well, mythological animals (a break in realism that I suspect Rosa allows because real world mythology in the Duck stories is an established Barksian trait, seen most recognizably in “Trail of the Unicorn”).
Continuity: Grandma Duck and Gus Goose make their first appearances here, serving as much-needed straightmen for Donald’s antics. I want to point out Donald’s membership in the Little Booneheads, a rough-and-tumble counterpart to the Junior Woodchucks that will be mentioned later.