Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ultraheroes: Attack of the Hilariously Stupid Footnotes

Well, as you probably know by now, it looks very much as though Boom has lost its license for classic Disney titles--either that, or it's canceling them for some other reason. The evidence: their list of July comics includes the Disney Afternoon lines but not the classics, you can no longer purchase classic subscriptions from their website, and nobody from Boom is willing to comment on the situation in any way. I could believe that those first two were just misunderstandings, but the third one is really damning--Boom flacks had previously never been shy about defending their work on the Disney Comics Forum, so their silence here speaks volumes.

Obviously, this is heartbreaking, given that they were just getting into the swing of things. Given the modern history of Disney licensing, I guess I always thought in the back of my mind that Boom would have an expiration date, but I sure didn't think it would come so soon. Goddammit, I at least wanted them to get through the backlog of unpublished-in-the-US Van Horn stories. I don't know any details at this point, of course, so I'm not necessarily saying that they should take the blame for it, but I will say this: their refusal to clarify the situation really fucking pisses me off. This, Boom people, is bullshit. The utter lack of respect for your long-suffering readers is palapable. I assume that this radio silence is the work of executive types; it would almost certainly be wrong to blame the editorial staff, who are probably just as upset as I am about this turn of events--but someone is being a real heel here.

So let's take this opportunity to ridicule the horribly misbegotten "superhero" title that the company thought--insanely--would be a good initial way to draw in readers.

With this series, Boom's editors clearly took the position that these books were intended for children who were totally unfamiliar with Disney comics, and to that end, they included...footnotes. And, okay, a few of them are fair enough--a brief note that Eega Beeva is from the future, fine--although even this is wildly inconsistent; is any kid who doesn't know Eega Beeva gonna know Emil Eagle? Or the Phantom Blot, for that matter? And yet, those guys go entirely unremarked.

But a lot of them are just insultingly stupid, as in:

Thanks, Super Aaron--nobody would have guessed that Super Daisy was Daisy's super identity! God knows WHAT they would've thought if you hadn't swooped in with the save! Incidentally, note that Donald's superhero alter-ego and hers start falling for each other without knowing who they are in their everyday lives. And note that Daisy's alter-ego is Super Daisy. "Gee, I wonder why Clark Kent and Super Clark Kent have never been photographed together?"

He may SAY that he gets his powers from peanuts. He may be SHOWN eating a peanut. But we wouldn't quite be able to say for sure what was going on here if good ol' Goober Aaron hadn't clarified.

Either Chris has a really, really low opinion of his readers' ability to recognize irony, or he just HATES the Phantom Blot SO FUCKING MUCH that he feels the need to spell this out so no one--NO ONE, YOU HEAR?--misses it.

Gee, Aaron, thanks for that--are you from Paris, mister?

HEY! Where's the footnote for "insouciant?!?" Dammit, Carl, stop respecting your readers' intelligence! It's not the Disney Comics Way!

You know, when I was small, reading my dad's old comics, I didn't need heavy-handed editorial guidance--I figured shit out as I read. It wasn't that complicated! I don't remember specifically the first story I read with Gladstone, but I'm pretty sure that I understood that he had special luck pretty much as soon as I saw him displaying special luck. But kids these days...well, they ain't that bright. Or so Boom figured.

This one's just brilliant. Please note that a google search for "The Confederation of Outside-da-Law" will turn up nothing (well, except this blog post now). That's because it refers to an obscure Brazilian story from the seventies that, outside of Brazil, has only ever been published in France and Italy. This is the first time that that English title has ever been used by anyone. The footnote's entirely useless in directing readers to the story if they were of a mind to read it. So why include it at all? I can only assume it's part of a desperate attempt to convince readers that this "Ultraheroes" business isn't just a painfully gimmicky flash-in-the-pan thing, but that it's a long-established franchise with a rich and varied back-story. Mission...not accomplished, guys.

All of this is indicative, I think, of the fact that Ultraheroes--and the US release thereof in particular--is just a horrifically misbegotten train wreck. The story itself is deeply uninteresting, and the editorial assumptions and decisions behind its US appearance paint a clear picture of a group of people who haven't got the remotest clue what they're doing or who they're trying to reach. Its "companion" release, Wizards of Mickey, actually isn't too bad--it's certainly gimmicky in its own right, and it's not exactly a masterpiece of plotting, but it's generally readable and entertaining for what it is. Whereas Ultraheroes is just a dismal slog from beginning to end.


Anonymous Ryan Wynns said...

"Well, as you probably know by now, it looks very much as though Boom has lost its license for classic Disney titles[...]"

I DIDN'T already know...I hope it isn't so. And if it is...then it's a grim day.

April 19, 2011 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

There's a forum thread on the topic here.

April 19, 2011 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Kneon Transitt said...

Unsurprise. It was too little, too late.

I actually enjoyed 'Wizards of Mickey', despite some really mechanical dialog early on. If only Gemstone would've run that series in Mickey Mouse Adventures...

April 19, 2011 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, "Wizards" was all right. I can't say that I deeply regret the fact that we'll almost certainly never see any of the many, many sequels in English, but I wouldn't mind it, either--especially the later installments, which bring in characters like Gyro, Ludwig, and Brigitta.

April 19, 2011 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


I actually thought that that "Outside da Law" story did not exist and that the reference was a parody of hyper-continuity in superhero comics. What a strange combination -- to refer to a title that literally had never appeared in English before and, at the same time, to helpfully inform us that Daisy's superhero persona was... Super Daisy.

I agree with you on ULTRAHEROES; it became pretty unreadable pretty quickly. No attempt made to properly introduce any of the new characters or personae; it's as if the title were being created in a vacuum. WIZARDS was definitely better as a parody of contemporary pop-culture favorites (HARRY POTTER et al.), while DOUBLE DUCK was somewhat better.

I'm hoping that all of this biz about cancellations at Boom! (or kaboom! -- soon to be renamed kaBust!?) is overreaction, but I fear that it isn't. We shall see.


April 19, 2011 at 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Wynns said...

GeoX, thanks for the link! I figured I'd find something there, but was forcing myself to not pursue it any further until I got home, so that I wouldn't be spending too much time online at work. But, when I checked back here "just for a second", I caved -- couldn't help it -- and followed the link.

Like Chris said, we'll just have to wait this out until there's some official word...


April 19, 2011 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Kneon Transitt said...

"Kaboom, bitches."


April 19, 2011 at 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Wynns said...

Now that I've processed the "news"/rumors, its time for a more-on-topic post...

Before Darkwing and Casty showed up -- and long before the glorious recent issues of the "classic" titles -- the first several months of Duck and Mouse comics' BOOM! era was a veritable Dark Age. These characters have a rich 70-year international comics history. "Traditional" Duck and Mouse comics aren't an archaic, outdated, antiquated, quaint thing. To say that Barks, Gottfredson, etc. fully-developed the characters and their respective "universes", establishing the framework that scores and scores of writers and artists around the world have worked within, creating thousands and thousands of stories over the course of several decades...is a vast understatement.

In retrospect, what BOOM! initally tried to do with DD, MM, and WDC&S is understandable. Let's face it: these titles haven't been hot sellers in the U.S. in a long, long time. So, they came up with a new marketing/branding strategy, and gave it a shot.

But, month after month, if you entered any comics store, Donald and Mickey weren't represented on the new-issues racks. There were NO new Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comics, in spite of what the weekly shipping schedules said. There WERE gaudy comics bearing these characters' names, that featured their LIKENESSES: Donald's in a one-note "secret agent" parody, Mickey's in a one-note "sword and sorcery", and a bunch of characters from Duck and Mouse comics in superhero costumes...and that was IT...EVERY MONTH. If this was Mickey and Donald as "actors" (as I believe Walt once said...), they were restricted to one role; I repeat, Donald was a secret agent, and Mickey was a wizard-in-training, EVERY FREAKING MONTH. It was like there'd never been any Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comics, ever, and the only precedents to go by were the animated shorts and all of the character merchandise that's been cranked out over the past 80 years. Or, it was like if DC came under entirely new management, and they thought it'd be a great idea to forget about every Batman comic ever, and devote the Bat titles to Bruce Wayne playing the Ricky Ricardo role in an ongoing I Love Lucy parody.

That said...having been sitting on them for a while, I finally read BOOM!'s complete Ultraheroes. They were fun. But in a very fickle way. The exaggerated dynamics of the art was cheap eye candy. And they were a lot easier to stomach when some time had passed since the series had ceased its perpetuation, and the offense of their existence had come to seem more benign.


April 20, 2011 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Gemstone's books didn't sell badly; nothing like as well as the best-selling superhero titles, of course, but still pretty okay. If Boom's "classic" titles didn't do quite as well as hoped (not sure about this), it's probably because, as you note, they sort of dulled the momentum with, well, things like Ultraheroes.

Let us note, however, that it wasn't JUST a matter of them publishing "genre" material. Remember their two Uncle Scrooge serials, "The Hunt for Old Number One" and "Around the World in Eighty Bucks?" "Classic" characters, sure, but the stories were just terrible, which makes me think there was something fundamentally wrong with Boom's thinking even beyond the compulsion to, I guess, try to appeal to non-Disney-fans.

April 20, 2011 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger kjohnson1585 said...

It's disappointing to see this comic being a slog to read, because the art style looks dynamic enough to be at least visually appealing. But alas, it's one to avoid.

April 20, 2011 at 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Wynns said...

Kevin: The art WAS dynamic. Because of my principled resistance to the whole conceit behind Ultraheroes, admitting that the drawing was often quite good entailed overcoming some cognitive dissonance on my part. The splash panel on page 2 of BOOM!'s Hero Squad #7 depicting the Ultraheroes and the Sinister Seven opposing the Ultramachine-possessed giant-sized Eega Beeva is surely one to be featured in artist Stefano Turconi's portfolio. The exageration of anatomy and the starkly, boldly accentuated perspective line make for a very striking image. Ditto for the splash on page 4 -- love the crazed looked on Eega's face, the tenseness in his leaning-sideways pose, and the way that Turconi plays up/exaggerates that Eega's clenched fists, raised in front of himself, are closer to the foreground. Also, on page 6, there's a cool "shot" that's angled up at the monstrous Eeega, pulled in so close that he's only partly in-frame.

And, this brings me to some points that I regretted having overlooked in my last comment (above): in reflecting on how depressing it was that for several months, the only Duck and Mouse comics in the U.S. were these "genre" offerings, I'm in no way finding fault with the stories' Italian creators.

Stay with me: above, I wrote, "Barks, Gottfredson, etc. fully developed the characters and their respective "universes", establishing the framework that scores and scores of writers and artists around the world have worked within, creating thousands and thousands of stories, over the course of several decades." And, describing the era of the "genre" titles, I wrote, "It was like there'd never been any Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comics, ever, and the only precedents to go by were the animated shorts and all of the character merchandise that's been cranked out over the past 80 years."

Well, I should amend that last statement: that's how the stories were appropriated in the U.S. In their original context, these stories actually DID belong to the traditional Duck-Mouse comics continuum. I mean, Eega Beeva, the Phantom Blot, et al have prominent roles! But, in Italy, where Disney comics prosper, these stories were a drop in the bucket. They weren't the only offerings, as there was plenty of room for variety, and these were a fun way of mixing things up.

Case in point: just consulted Inducks, and discovered that the first installments of both Ultraheroes and Wizards of Mickey appeared in the very same issue of Topolino. What else was in that issue? Not one, but TWO "traditional" Uncle Scrooge stories...and they weren't skimpy: one was 24 pages, the other, 26. Inducks also lists a 32-page Mickey Mouse story, noting that it's part of a "subseries" -- just as is done for the respective UH and WoM entries. This Mickey-oriented "subseries" is denoted as "Italian time travel stories". So, presumably, another "specialty"/"genre" continuity in a similar vein as to UH and WoM...but still, Mickey and Goofy having time travel adventures doesn't seem too "out of bounds" to me, so this may qualify as a "traditional" story...

My point is...as a reader of American Disney comics, the way that UH and WoM were presented to me was depressing. But, if I were in the shoes of an Italian Disney comics reader, I don't think these serials' continued run in Topolino would've been that big of a deal to me. I don't think I would've cared for the "Donald Duckling" gags, but with the two Uncle Scrooge stories, a six-page HD&L story, and -- as there's a good chance it'd suit my tastes -- the Mickey time travel story, I'd have found plenty to my liking. I'd be able to enjoy the superhero and sword-and-sorcery stories for what they were...since they weren't, you know, taking over the whole comic.


April 21, 2011 at 3:56 AM  
Anonymous Ryan Wynns said...

GeoX: "The Hunt for Old Number One" and "Around the World in 80 Bucks" certainly got a lot of flak...but I actually didn't think they were that bad. Don't get me wrong...I didn't think they were that great, either. They were just very, very AVERAGE. Or, to use a word with more negative connotations, mediocre. (It's likely that the reason I wasn't less favorable toward them was that I was just happy to see SOMETHING that resembled "traditional" Duck adventures at that point...) So, really, in the end, bottom line, we're on the same page: don't know why they couldn't have used better Scrooge stories in their place, as there's an endless amount to choose from!


(Re: my comment preceding this one...had no idea I'd written that much 'til seeing what it looked like posted. It's late and I'm over-tired...hope it's coherent!)

April 21, 2011 at 3:58 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Ryan Wynns said:

"The Hunt for Old Number One" and "Around the World in 80 Bucks" certainly got a lot of flak...but I actually didn't think they were that bad. Don't get me wrong...I didn't think they were that great, either. They were just very, very AVERAGE. Or, to use a word with more negative connotations, mediocre.”

What they really needed – ESPECIALY in "The Hunt for Old Number One" – was good dialogue, by persons who know well the characters and their conventions! Not to mention someone who knew that Magica employed “Foof Bombs”! This wasn‘t the case at the early and critical “start-up” phase. And the UNCLE SCROOGE title initially suffered for this IMHO.

Happily, they did rectify this later on… Just a bit too late, alas! And we did get – and are still getting – some good issues for it!

To ULTRAHEROES: Again, dialogue goes a long way! Back then, I said this could either be done “straight as Batman”, or as “loony as Freakazoid!” I would have opted for the latter – and I think it would have been a better read!

I also think a primary reason ULTRAHEROES draws ire from fans (whether or not they realize it) is because the Once-In-A-Lifetime-Experience that was to be WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 700 was, unfortunately, hijacked by the unfamiliar concept of ULTRAHEROES!

If it had simply debuted in its own title, I believe there would be far less animosity toward it.

April 21, 2011 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

Eh, I liked the first few chapters of Ultraheroes. The art style was loose and fresh, and I liked the novelty of seeing the Disney characters in a superhero setting. It wasn't interesting enough for me to keep buying the Ultraheroes title, but it wasn't a total travesty.

I agree that the footnotes were supposed to be a parody of the continuity-heavy footnote-happy Marvel comics of the 1980s.

April 21, 2011 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Man, I can't agree that those Scrooge stories rose to the level of "average." Certainly, as with Ultraheroes, a better translation would have been a huge help (though the TPB version of "Number One" at least gives the foof bombs their proper name), but there's only so much that anyone can do with such fundamentally flawed stories.

But as for Ultraheroes, I absolutely agree that it would be a lot less problematic if it had been released as its own thing, rather than usurping the role of "classic" stories. And boy oh boy do I ever WISH that there were an American culture that, like Italy's, could support the release of hundreds of pages of Disney comics a month. In fact, I'm almost grateful that we got a chance to see some of the material that seems bizarre to us but is run-of-the-mill to the Italians. But if it has to be a choice between the "classics" and the new-fangled stuff...well, there's no question where I'm gonna fall.

Good comments, everyone.

April 21, 2011 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 22, 2011 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

When you say: “Certainly, as with Ultraheroes, a better translation would have been a huge help…”, you’ve identified the exact problem with those earlier issues!

I have never “translated” a story in my life. I have, however, scripted or dialogued a fair number of them since late 2006.

To “translate” would mean that I took what was written in another language and replicated that in American English.

I take what is presented to me from a foreign source and craft what I’d like to believe would be the definitive Americanized version of that story, in terms of dialogue, characterization, and humor. Indeed, even today, the credit remains as “translation”, and – certainly in the work of David Gerstein (The best since Geoffrey Blum!), Jonathan Gray, and myself – it is far more than that!

PS: My removed post (above) said the same thing -- but was reworked for better phrasing.

April 22, 2011 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, I knew that--I just grabbed onto the wrong word there. It happens!

April 22, 2011 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...


Of course, you knew that! In leaving such a comment, my larger point was this:

Maybe… I don’t know, I wasn’t there… but maybe ULTRAHEROES reads as it does – both good and bad, and with characters and concepts lacking their “proper” introduction – because it was “translated” (perhaps literally, or something close to literally), and not “scripted” for the American audience. (Footnotes and the like, notwithstanding!) I’d be willing to say the same for “The Search for Old Number One”.

Compare them with UNCLE SCROOGE # 400, or the upcoming “Pirate Gold” sequel, to see what I mean. …Make sense? I think the comments have been great, too!

April 22, 2011 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, I think that's a reasonable supposition. Was this the first time that Boom ever actually had to deal with foreign-language material? If so, you can see how they might have been a bit clueless about the right way to go about it. But to their credit, they did figure it out eventually, even if it seems like it may well have been too late.

April 22, 2011 at 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Wynns said...

GeoX: In part, by "average", I meant "standard trappings for a Scrooge story" ... i.e., treasure hunts, Magic trying to acquire the dime, the Scrooge-Rockerduck rivalry, Scrooge's stinginess driving the plot in "Eighty Bucks", etc. On a criticism-based scale ... they're certainly no "Golden Helmet" or "Tralla La", but...well, I may have to rearead them again, but they didn't strike me as the most atrocious stories ever, either. They were watered-down, run-of-the-mill Scrooge adventures. That might in truth add up to "bad", but I didn't find anything WRONG with them so much as I find that they were kind of just THERE. That "haunted house" installment that kicked off "Hunt for Old Number One" was as benign as an episode of the original Scooby-Doo, paling in comparison to, say, "The Old Castle's Secret"! "Benign" underscores how I see the whole "Hunt for" arc: not particularly bad, just a very straight, dry, simple Duck adventure. "80 Bucks" had a premise that was more clever and more inspired, but...well, honestly, it was pretty forgettable, so I vaguely remember that I found something distasteful about it, but I cann't rememeber exactly what that was. Guess a re-reading is in order.

Joe: It seems to me that at least a certain degree of silly humor was inherent in Ultraheroes. But, you're right: the dialogue could have been far, far, FAR wittier! And, of course, you and David would have been just the men for the job! ;) You using Freakazoid! as a reference point was eye-opening ... gave me an inkling of the intelligent absurdism that the series COULD have been!


April 22, 2011 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


The problem I had with the first couple of Boom! $CROOGE stories was that -- with the other titles having been given over to genre fare -- this was literally the ONLY thing remotely close to a "classic" Disney comic released by Boom! in the early stages. That made the failings of "80 Bucks" and "Hunt for Old #1" (and failings there were) all the more noticeable in comparison. Plus, don't forget the aggravation caused by knowing that these stories were not going to END for x number of months.

Joe's right about the difference between "translation" and "dialoguing." What I did in "The Great Paint Robbery" was pretty close to a straight translation of the German. I did finagle in a couple of places where the German was hard to puzzle out or I could think of a simple replacement for some dialogue I didn't care for. With "The Winter of Their Dissed Kismet" and the other stories I did for Gemstone, by contrast, I took the English dialogue and pumped it up... though I freely admit that I wasn't nearly as good as it as Joe, David, and many others are.


April 22, 2011 at 9:27 PM  
Anonymous David K. said...

Haha! I was reading around on your site and found this. Quote of your "Close Ups-blog": "Now, Boom!: more, please. Let's make a deal: you give me more Van Horn (some Rota would be nice too, but I realize that that would be pushing my luck); I don't say anything about your Disney superheroes. Deal? Great. Glad we could work something out."

April 23, 2011 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Duck Comics Revue, a blog that receives no taxpayer funding, rarely writes about Ultraheroes.

April 23, 2011 at 6:30 PM  
Anonymous David K. said...

Huh? I thought it was just what it is! As in: you didn't like Ultraheroes but you wouldn't insult it if Boom! gave you more Van Horn (and Rota). But just a bit kidding. And now you did insult them, because you could. Anyway, I thought it was funny. Cheers!

April 26, 2011 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Looks like SOMEBODY is not aware of all internet traditions. :p

April 26, 2011 at 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha! Oh I'm not from America and didn't know this, but that's awesome! Well, I'm not going to mention the Latin term praeteritio, if you're familiar with that, which, I think is a bit similar to that.

April 26, 2011 at 2:23 PM  

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