Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"The Starstruck Duck"

Surely the most important thing to come out of Boom's recent Don Rosa paperback is the first US printing of "The Starstruck Duck," which is effectively the last Rosa story to be so. Okay, not technically, if you want to get obsessive about it: there's "Gyro's Beagle Trap," a one-page promotional thing for some German magazine you've never heard of that doesn't really make sense unless you're familiar with said magazine's logo; there's the "unofficial speedskating story," which has never been published ANYWHERE official and so really shouldn't count; there's the exclusive final page of "The Quest for Kalevala" that didn't appear in the US printing; and, if you want to really get into the thick of it, the un-serialized versions of the handful of stories that have only appeared in the US as serials have a few panels that we haven't seen. And there's various non-story art that we haven't gotten, either. Phew. But I think few would argue that "The Starstruck Duck"--a full ten-page story, albeit one that exists only in sketch form--was the most significant lack, and now that's been remedied. I know that Don isn't really happy with Boom reprinting his work like this, but I hope he will forgive me for having bought the book anyway. My completist tendencies left me with no choice, and as a result, I got to read a really neat little story that I would otherwise have missed out on. Yes, being sketches, the art is minimalistic; nobody looking at it without any context would have any clue that it was Rosa. But I found that it was very easy to imagine the finished story. It definitely has that Rosa feel. This was a small but acute thrill to me.
These sketches were done in 1989. The book tells us that the story was meant as "a tie-in with the 1989 opening of Florida's Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (today Disney's Hollywood Studios)." If this sounds like the sort of commercial project that Rosa probably wouldn't be too keen on, well...



...I get the distinct impression that HDL's hyper-enthusiastic attitude here represents more than a little sarcasm on Rosa's part. I could be wrong, but really, now, does that level of salesmanship sound sincere to you?



The basic idea is that in this world Mickey is a big star, whereas, apparently, Donald's just some guy. Naturally, Donald wreaks some havoc trying to meet his idol. This seems quite in-character.



This is the part I don't get, even a little. As you may know, Donald co-stars in "Clock Cleaners." So…what? Memory problems have never been part of his character, and given his ego, it's impossible to imagine that he wouldn't play this connection up for all it's worth (besides which, when Mickey does appear at the end, he doesn't seem to recognize Donald either). Or does this story take place in some fanciful alternate-history world in which Donald wasn't in "Clock Cleaners?" If I had to guess, I'd say that's it; that this is meant to emphasize the fact that, here, the two characters exist on completely different levels. But that seems like an overly complicated, unnecessarily confusing way to make the point. Whatever Rosa was going for here, I'm afraid it kinda gets lost.



This is pretty funny, although it requires us to imagine a really strange world in which Disney and Warner-Brothers characters co-exist. The world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, perhaps?



O how meta. No doubt in the finished version, we'd've seen a version of Rosa himself at one of the drawing boards.



See, this is the sort of thing that would've been really funny in the finished story. Actually, it's kind of funny anyway, but mainly because you're imagining how it would look with real Rosa art. Good stuff.



This happens in the cartoon also, albeit to Goofy. I have had issues with some of the cartoon violence that Rosa inflicts on Donald, which can seem cruel and borderline sadistic, but I think the level in this story is quite appropriate, given Donald's behavior (which is also appropriate). Very well-balanced.



So Donald meets but does not recognize his hero. Whether or not "everybody knows Mickey is a tall, good-looking guy is meant to be a light jab by Rosa at the character, I don't know. But regardless, the whole thing resolves itself into an enjoyable, funny story. Lotta finality going around lately: first Boom comes screeching to a halt, and then we see the last Rosa story that we're likely to see…well, as always, I will do my best to remain blindly, idiotically optimistic about the future. It's really the only way to go through life, both as a Disney fan and in the world in general.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo:

Yep! That’s the reason *I* bought this book! Worth it, too!

This is clearly what DC Comics would have called an “Elseworlds” story. Mickey’s a star – and so are Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer (Imagine getting away with THAT gag under Disney’s ever-watchful eye!) and Donald is not – and , as you say, never was in “Clock Cleaners”. As such, it’s amazingly clever – and a wonderful example of Rosa “playing with the formula”.

I don’t think Rosa would have pictured HIMSELF at the drawing boards – but I believe we might have seen CARL BARKS’ younger self there!

Joe.

June 23, 2011 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...

Geo,

There does appear to be a slight difference between what happens to Donald here and what happened to Goofy. Goofy was INSIDE the bell when it was struck and THEN was struck silly by one of the moving figures. Here, the guy moving the bell appears to simply bump into Donald accidentally. I wish that Rosa could have figured out a way to get Donald physically INSIDE the bell before it was struck.

Like you, I didn't have a particular issue with Donald's getting abused here. He brought a lot of it on himself, after all.

Chris

June 23, 2011 at 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Richie said...

I doubt this particular comic is meant to fit within Rosa's established canon, but as a standalone, it truly shines. I agree with Joe's point of view; much of the story's humor comes from knowing it differs from OUR established world; as such, Rosa's Donald never even saw "Clock Cleaners", whereas our universe's animated Donald got to co-star in said short.

Very clever way to reference the film's existence, since I really can't think of the Classic Disney Shorts having the same Donald from the comics...

...Then there's the issue of the Three Caballeros! Which, when you think about it, would have to be Retconned to fit on the more down-to-earth aura of the comics. Rosa referenced the original movie, but José popped up from a book and had to blow on his finger to reach Donald's height, and Panchito entered Don's life via a piñata that imploded after releasing too much mexican music. That...ain't quite believable on Don Rosa's serious universe, much less after "The Life and Times!" ;P

June 23, 2011 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Joe--yeah, it most likely would've been Barks, now that you mention it, although Rosa's stuck himself in his own work from time to time.

Chris--When I first read the story, it somehow didn't register with me that he was outside the bell. I mean, yeah, I saw that he wasn't in it in the one panel, but I somehow assumed that was just "this is just sketches" shorthand. But no, he's clearly not. Seems like it woulda been easy enough to have him get whomped from inside and have him stagger out and fall down the stairs.

Richie--Rosa's Three Caballeros stories aren't among my all-time favorites, but what I admire about them is the way they show a willingness on Rosa's part to work outside his usual self-imposed Barks fundamentalism (not that I don't also enjoy said fundamentalism). Imagine what signs and wonders we might've seen from him if he'd kept on going...

June 24, 2011 at 12:07 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

MY PREVIOUS POST REMOVED DUE TO A SPELLING ERROR!

If there is one regret I have over the great career of Don Rosa, it is that he essentially worked in comics as long as Barks (about a quarter century) – but various external factors that did not exist in Barks’ day (…or did not exist to the SAME DEGREE in Barks’ day), such as Disney politics, publisher politics, etc., resulted in his producing an overall smaller body of work!

June 24, 2011 at 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Gregory said...

Hey, I meant to ask. You mention in MM vs Katt Nipp that the Boom version of the story is bowdlerized; I noticed the Don Rosa book while browsing around Amazon, and was wondering if it is also censored?

June 24, 2011 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Joe--It's certainly the case that Rosa got a raw deal from publishers, who treated him in a way that was not only inequitable, but incredibly idiotic, if the goal was, you know, to have him *keep writing stories.* Perhaps to make the point, he could've done a sequel to "Isle of Golden Geese" in which Scrooge comes into possession of a goose that lays golden eggs and has to, ahem, decide how to treat it. Hmph! That said, that's not the ONLY factor that resulted in a less prolific output: if you talk to him, he'll tell you quite frankly that he is NOT a natural artist, and that producing comic art is an incredibly tedious, time-consuming process for him (and when you consider the level of detail in his art…well, you can just imagine what it must take). Even under the best of circumstances, it's hard to imagine him doing a ten-pager every month plus an adventure-length story and a Gyro short every other month for ten-plus years!

Gregory--hey, good to see you 'round these parts. No, there's no censorship here. Rosa was working many years after Barks and Gottfredson, so his work was unlikely to fall afoul of censors in the same way as theirs. There is one exception: his story "War of the Wendigo" (a sequel to Barks' "Land of the Pygmy Indians," if you remember that one--it was in pa's collection back in the day) was first published in 1991, but it didn't appear in the US until 1999 because Disney did not approve of the depiction of the Indians. But then Gladstone was going out of business, so they printed it in their last issue of WDC&S as a sort of screw-you to the company. Rosa's actually done a few other stories in which I would call the depiction of natives rather more problematic than it is in that one, but I don't think there have been any other such publication difficulties.

June 24, 2011 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

I've noticed one piece of censorship in the Rosa Treasury: on page twelve of "Return to Plain Awful," a reference to the square chickens as "cubic cocks" has become "cubic chicks."

June 30, 2011 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Wow--that's hilarious. I guess it's true that censors have dirtier minds than the people they're trying to "protect."

June 30, 2011 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

...also, though I haven't read it yet, according to Chris's review, in Boom's version of "A Whale of a Good Deed," Muddy Dick becomes Muddy Mick. I sense that somebody at the company has a certain fixation.

June 30, 2011 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

Based on Donald's facial expression and the nephew emphasizing that "The Clock Cleaners" was a Mickey Mouse film, I'd say that Donald is being sarcastic. He never saw the Mickey Mouse "The Clock Cleaners," because his familiarity was with the film HE, not just Mickey was in.

But that's only based on the one panel (I have yet to succumb to the collection) rather than a knowledge of the entire story.

July 8, 2011 at 6:10 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

It's a shame Rosa never made this story. I've seen Mickey drawn by him couple times but never a Goofy

November 25, 2012 at 8:15 PM  

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