Friday, July 20, 2012

I'm not sure if I actually need to tell this to anyone who reads this blog...

...but if you haven't, you really ought to check out our friend Joe Torcivia's lavish overview of the history of Dell's successor, Gold Key.  Great stuff.

As I noted in comments over there, what I find most striking is the idea that Disney comics started to suffer during the late sixties and seventies because Disney was poaching talent for their Studio Program, which produced stories for overseas publication (the best known being the Hubbard/Kinney Fethry stories and those forty-four page "Goofy as historical figure" things).  The whole thing just seems like such a clusterfuck: it's not just a matter of "why the HELL wouldn't it occur to anybody that it would be good for the US market to make arrangements to also release the high-quality stuff here?; it's more a matter of "how the hell was that not the default impulse?"  I guess the answer is just that Gold Key knew they could pay less to worse artists in exchange for shittier work--but that is just such an unbelievably stupid, shortsighted, toxic, self-destructive attitude that I kinda want to refuse to believe it.

But enough negativity from me.  Gold Key certainly released some good stuff (and by no means just Disney material, either), and even when they didn't it's interesting history.  So, again: check it out.


Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, Geo!

We’ll never truly know what the dynamic was between Disney and Western at the time this occurred. I’m only going by what one artist SPECIFICALLY told me back in the ‘80s – and that which others similarly intimated. Pretty much everyone’s dead by now, and that closes that discussion for good.

As I said in my own comments, Disney was doing THEN what it would always do. Is Disney’s luring creators away from its licensee (Western Publishing) REALLY that much different than what it did to Gladstone Series I in 1990?

Western seemed to be very cautious and deferential in dealing with studio licensors. Consider that they “gave” Space Mouse to Walter Lantz – and elected not to sue Irwin Allen over the similarities of the LOST IN SPACE television show and the SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON comic book, as they published Allen’s other TV series in comic book form.

They may have simply “looked away” as Disney raided their talent pool – which was, in reality, Hollywood Theatrical Animation’s talent pool – so as to not antagonize one of their largest (if not, in fact, their largest) licensor.

Perhaps Disney wanted to own and administer all aspects of the Studio Program work, with no involvement from Western. Why could they not have been the “Egmont of the Sixties”, and put that stuff out everyplace? Probably some “money-thing”! Doesn’t make sense to me, but everything I have is from long ago correspondence, conversations, and more than a bit of supposition.


July 20, 2012 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...


As thanks for the great plug, I’m going to give you an exclusive that is not found as part of my Gold Key History Blog post.

The very last “bulk release" of Whitman comics in 1984 offers a glimpse of what the future might have brought had they continued…

HUEY, DEWEY AND LOUIE JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS # 81 was comprised of the very same Studio Program stories discussed here. Three of them, in fact.

S78105: Titled “Lost Horse Canyon”.

S80078: Titled “Stolen Birthday”

S80015: Titled “Junior Woodchuck Manual Test”.

The first two were drawn by “The Jaime Diaz Studio”, with which Disney was working extensively with by that time. But, the third was a rare look at ‘80s Tony Strobl!

And, in the last two issues of WDC&S (# 509 and 510), instead of the usual reprinted Barks Donald Duck leads, we got… Disney Studio… and EGMONT?!

S82090: Titled “Big Prize for Donald”. More ‘80s Strobl! 11 pages. With HD&L, Daisy, Gladstone… and FETHRY in his first Gold Key / Whitman appearance since 1966!

…And even more remarkably…

D4598: Titled: “The Talking Dog” – an Egmont story by Daniel Branca! The first one EVER to appear in the USA!

In 1984, stuff like this was pretty exciting, vs. the usual Whitman fare!

But, that is where it ENDED!

Sure would have been interesting to see where this would have led! …Wouldn’t have sacrificed Gladstone Series I for it, though!


July 20, 2012 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I knew about "The Talking Dog," and wondered intensely about it--what the HELL made them decide, at the very end, "okay--time to do what we should've done years ago!" I thought it might have been something about their licensing agreement, but now it looks like it may have just been sheer laziness/complacency. Blah.

I did NOT, however, know about the Junior Woodchucks issue, or WDC509--I'll have to check them out. Thanks!

July 20, 2012 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Can’t honestly say the Diaz stuff in HD&L JW # 81 was much more impressive over what Whitman was already doing, but the Strobl stories – particularly the one in WCD&S # 509 – are worth seeing for the nostalgic novelty of it.

The lettering was the same that Whitman was using for its new stories, meaning it may have been DIALOGUED (or at least certainly lettered) in-house. Did anyone actually make an effort to dialogue, as we do today? Or did they just letter the Disney-supplied version, I wonder?

The few Studio stories I’ve seen in “raw-form” were VERY generic, pretty much making the point of what needs to be said in basic, unembellished English – and nothing more, so I wonder…

July 21, 2012 at 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I have HDL JW 81, and I really like the first two stories, esp. "A Stolen Birthday." It's my favorite HDL birthday story (though I also like "Birthday Bugaboo"). I like the whole idea of stealing someone else's birthday (the BBs are out to take over HDL's birthday party and claim it for themselves). And I find believable (and attractive) the idea that the Duck family would throw a surprise birthday party for HDL at the JW building.

But be warned, GeoX, it's an issue that's hard to find, and usually quite expensive when you do find it.

July 21, 2012 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...

If Western really was trying to see whether the Disney Studios and Egmont stories could be successful in the US, then they picked the worst possible time at which to do it. I'd have to agree with Geo that this smacks strongly of "what the hell".


July 21, 2012 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

To Elaine: I should clarify that it was the ART in the Jaime Diaz JW stories that I found to be not unlike what Whitman was already doing. The “Stolen Birthday” story WAS nice… especially for its time.

To Chris: I have an easier time understanding Western utilizing Disney Studio material then Egmont’s! Though “out-of-house”, it still came from a domestic source, and one they might already have contacts with -- as opposed to a foreign one like Egmont / Gutenberghus. How in the world did that even come about? …And why at the VERY END, and not sooner? There’s just SOOO much we’ll never know.

July 22, 2012 at 12:52 AM  
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