"Mickey Mouse Runs His Own Newspaper"
(This being part seven of a nine-part series covering the stories in Volume Three of Fantagraphics' Floyd Gottfredson Library.)
Oh man, people! You know, Mickey as written by Gottfredson did a lot of crazy shit, from meeting a scientist living on an island in the sky to exploring a lost world of dinosaurs to befriending a man from the future who subsists on kumquats to serving as advisor to a kingdom of genies--but from a contemporary perspective, none of his stories were quite as fanciful and out-there as this one, in which, get this, a newspaper has integrity and actually cares about the truth and is able to genuinely make a difference, without stooping to tiresome both-sides-do-it he-said-she-saidism. What a fanciful idea!
Of course, I shouldn't romanticize the past too much--after all, the whole point of the story is that most newspapers aren't willing to speak truth to power, a judgment confirmed by various Upton Sinclair novels I have read.
At any rate, this is an exciting story because it has a real David-and-Goliath feel to it. You'll note that I used the old title for this post. I did this for a reason, and it's not JUST because "Mickey Mouse Runs His Own Newspaper" sounds really funny, whereas "Editor-in-Grief" is just a meaningless pun. The former title really does suggest a little kid getting involved with "adult" issues, and there is indeed a substantial element of that to the story. Just look at that front page: sure, it's full of typos and upside-down photographs and things! But look! We did it! Our own newspaper! Would it REALLY be this, uh, dubiously literate? Maybe not, but presenting it as such really conveys the feel of the thing. There's great attention to detail, and the typos really look like real, legitimate typos.
Hey look! It's Donald Duck! Is this his first appearance in a Gottfredson strip? Nope--the Sunday "Vanishing Coats" sequence (or the Sunday comic just before that, if you wanna get technical) beats it out. But this is his daily debut! You can see here some of his character traits in utero--greed in the first line, arrogance in the second, and bad-tempered-ness elsewhere in the story. Still, it doesn't feel like Gottfredson really has a very clear idea what he wants to do with the character. This is something that might have been resolved in time, had he not stopped using the character when he became a breakout star in his own right.
Note that Pete (uh, spoiler?) and his gang really overreach in this story--there's no indication that Mickey was interested in this gang stuff before these guys started roughing up his guys and trying to make him pay protection money. If only they'd left him alone, everything could've just kept on keepin' on. Then again, maybe if they had let the War Drum get away with it, other papers would've started getting fresh. Tough situation.
Boy, they sure brushed up on their writing skills fast enough, I'll tell you that!
Oh, Dippy--you really ARE an idiot, aren't you? Note that "b'gosh" seems to have been an early Dippy/Goofy catchphrase that fell by the wayside.
I must say, I really like ol' McSnoop. I feel as though he could've easily become a recurring character. Imagine the clashes he could have with O'Hara's police department, once it was established, trying to get the inside scoop on crimes, and Mickey's divided loyalties and efforts to mediate between them.
Pfft. No-bid contracts? Who cares about THAT? Sure, a few kooks might be upset, but not enough to shake up any balances of power or cost anyone any elections or anything. No use getting too deep in the weeds here about politics, but it's both inspiring and kind of heartbreaking to see the idea, presented here, that this shit could actually MATTER.
Also, I want to note that O'Rourke here has perhaps the most overdone accent in Disney comics. Also, that, given the history of anti-Irish racism, depicting him as an ape may not have been the all-time greatest idea. Not that I'm suggesting prejudice on Gottfredson's part, but he was clearly working from a general cultural consciousness of this sort of thing.
And…I must say, the climax of the story is ever-so-slightly tarnished by the fact that the "we used the alternate printing press!" thing had already been used in the story. Sure, foreshadowing, but you gotta put a new twist on it. Otherwise, it feels a little lazy.
And here's your Mistake, Mickey: you really, really don't want to get so cuddly with the political establishment; even if none of these guys are in any way corrupt, which seems questionable, you're just compromising your impartiality in covering their political activities, especially when you allow yourself to be flattered by their compliments like this. Look how tongue-tied you are! Probably just as well that you're leaving the business, under the circumstances.
Still a great story, an' now we have the all-time classic "Race for Riches" to look forward to.
Labels: Floyd Gottfredson