Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Return to Duckburg Place"

Hi, welcome back! Normal service resumes...now! Yeah, yeah, promises, promises. Still, this blog was getting awfully lonely, and it was high time for a little discussion of a teenage Don Rosa's unofficial Disney-comics debut, so here we are (it should be noted that there's a credited co-writer for this—anyone know who Ray Foushee is?). For a long time, this story was kind of legendary; there were a few pages online, but the whole thing—which has only ever been reprinted in some high-end Scandinavian collection or other—was tantalizingly out of reach. I first read it when a heroic poster name of Sigvald on the now-defunct Disney Comics Forum (Cacou? Olivier? Give us an update here!) just casually was all, oh, yeah, I have scans of that, and started emailing them to everyone. I put it up on mediafire, and the rest is history. Really boring history.

So what's the deal with this story? Well, it is what it is, and what it is is a little joint by a couple of smart-ass kids with senses of humor typical of smart-ass kids. Certainly not as clever as it thinks it is, but by and large charmingly juvenile, and interesting inasmuch as, satire or not, it's easy to see Rosa's love of Carl Barks and even the odd preview of what his work would later become. And the art isn't actually that bad; sure, it's a bit crude, but it more than does the job, and it becomes apparent that Rosa's facility with drawing ducks didn't just come out of nowhere with "Son of the Sun."  Plus, you get to see Rosa drawings of characters that he would never draw again. So let's look in, shall we?

(Why are some of these images so dark? I have no idea. The source images look normal. I had difficulty editing these, for some reason.)

So, yes: the genre of humor known as “seemingly wholesome kids' characters smoking pot” (“what if instead of Harry Potter, it was Harry Pothead?!?): hilarious to teenagers everywhere; for others of us...well, our mileage may vary. Still, that little speech in the bottom left makes it obvious that Rosa knows his Barks. They're really missing the boat here, though: no, they didn't get much material reward out of it, but all this globetrotting would easily make them the Most Interesting Kids on Campus. You can't put a price on that kind of social capital.

Okay, in order:

Goofy: “Poor old retard”...yeah, ouch. Did I say “charmingly juvenile?” Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean we can't cross over into “cringe-inducingly juvenile” from time to time.

Daisy: I feel like we have here a precursor to Daisy as she was portrayed in the alternate universe in “The Duck Who Never Was.”

Grandma: Okay, to me, this is macabre enough to be funny. Provides the most disturbing possible answer to that old question “what's the difference in the duck universe between anthropomorphic and non-anthroporphic animals?” Also, who's that in the background? Why, it's Shamrock Bones! A pretty obscure reference, even more so for a story that was published in 1970.

Now we get to the other interesting thing in the story, which is the relationship between Donald and Scrooge. Interesting because, yeah, if you want, you can extrapolate this from Barks' stories. But here's the thing: it's actually a hell of a lot easier to extrapolate it from Rosa's “canonical” stories. Satire it may be, but it also points pretty clearly to Rosa's actual perspective on the relationship between the two characters, somewhat less so with Donald (who's typically portrayed more as dumb/hapless than anything else), but definitely with Scrooge, who—I know I've belabored this point plenty in the past—is all-too-often a gigantic flaming asshole in Rosa's work.

You can also see here the kind of background details that he loved to put in his stories so.

ARGH WHY IS IT SO DARK?!? Looking up explosives in the JW Guidebook? Funny. This kind of generalized college revolutionary stuff definitely places the story, culturally ('course, naming the story in honor of Peyton Place doesn't hurt either).

I dunno; I just wanted to show this seminal picture of Gladstone's self-annihilation. Haven't we all wanted to see something like this at one point or another?

Okay, this one just cracks me up by virtue of being such a dopey pun. Rosa may not care much about the non-duck characters, but this story shows that he was perfectly aware of them. Can't say that rhyme scans very well, though.

Yup. I guess it's a kind of obvious joke, but still, Rosa drawing a Warner Brothers character: not something you see every day. Or any day other than this, really.

Here, Donald learns a valuable lesson: it's not about the money. Can't you see? It was never about the money! It's all about the mindless violence!

Seriously, I somehow find this conclusion highly satisfying. There are definitely times at the end of Rosa stories where I've kinda felt that Scrooge had something like this coming. And now, we get to enjoy it for real! Well, for some definition of “real.”

Well, that's about that. It may not be great art, but as li'l oddities in the past of a guy who would continue on to much more substantial work go, it ain't too bad. Not too bad at all. It is some extremely weak tea that apparently Fantagraphics isn't going to include the whole thing in their reprint series. Seriously, people, you people are building this up to be way more than it is with this phobic resistance to ever letting it officially see the light of day. You need to be bigger, brighter, and bolder! Sorry, that was a reference to the lame business English stuff I've been teaching. What the heck is wrong with me?



Blogger Hex said...

According to Rosa's autobiography in the Scandinavian collection, Ray was a guy he met at St. Xavier High School in 1966. Also they happened to have been born at the same day at the same hospital too. And as Ray was a comic fan, they became good friends. Maybe more interesting is the story about another guy, Dick Reische, who had the originals for this story hidden away in 40 years. And Don Rosa's detective work to try to track him down. I don't have the Fantagraphics collection, but all this is probably written in the autobiography "The Life and Times of Don Rosa" printed in those books too.

September 16, 2015 at 1:31 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Interesting stuff! Thanks for the info.

September 16, 2015 at 2:07 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I found it ironic in the story that everything goes into such dark direction but Donalds attempts to murder Scrooge remain to be Looney Tunes slapsticky.

I also think the way Gladsone dies is precursor to concept of his luck working agianst him when the odds are on his side from "Oolated Luck" since the odds at Russian roulette are bigger to not get the bullet.

September 16, 2015 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

This "Oolated Luck" business is interesting, but I don't think Don Rosa thought this through when he created that panel. It's more like "Triple Distlefink": Gladstone becoming unlucky much to the reader's surprise.

Very good post anyway. Too bad about those dark pictures.

September 16, 2015 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

It's good to have you back Geo! This was a very interusting post but I was wondering ... When will we be able to hear your take on the new IDW stuff?

September 16, 2015 at 10:04 PM  
Blogger tymime said...

Can't help but notice Daffy is using Sylvester's catchphrase.

September 18, 2015 at 12:55 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Well, it is mostly knows as Sylvester's, but Daffy used it on occasions.

September 19, 2015 at 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

Great to have you back!

This storyline is as dark as those pictures.

September 20, 2015 at 2:54 AM  
Anonymous Baar Baar Jinx said...

If ever there was an example of "loving satire", it is this. That second panel of the first scan in this post shows a level of familiarity and admiration for Barks' work far beyond what the casual fan could ever muster. And Donald's hatred for Scrooge and his inner monologue railing against Scrooge's mistreatment of him could easily be transplanted into many a "canonical" Rosa story and not be rendering incongruous by "canonical" Donald's actual behavior in any way.

Now, what actually *is* going on with the Disney Comics Forum????

September 28, 2015 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Rfoushe said...

Ray Foushee here.

I just stumbled across this page, and just had to say:

Every observation you've made about our (mostly my) juvenile script is 100%, absolutely correct. I'm mortified every time I see those pages. And lest Don be unjustly tarred, yes, I even have to lay claim to that (shudder) "retard" line.

But I still wouldn't trade having worked with Don on this (or the many other stupid stories we did as high school collaborators) for anything. We had a ball.

But yes -- this was jen-yoo-wine adolescent hubris in its starkest form, and you can believe it's painful for me to look back at from the ripe old age of 64.

By the way -- I sometimes still accompany Don to one or two of his American convention appearances every year, so if you ever see me, introduce yourself and I'll apologize personally.

April 20, 2016 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Wow--how cool to see you pop up. No need for apologies; it's all good fun--though I certainly know from experience the mortification of looking at one's old writing! I'll be sure to say hi if I see you.

April 20, 2016 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

GeoX is right :) The only thing you deserve is a warm hand shake :)

In some way it's actually nice time capsule since this way done decades before stuff like "South Park" or "Family Guy" so it's interesting to see this type of comedy being already used around. Makes me wonder where you guys inspired by "Fritz the Cat"...

April 21, 2016 at 2:33 AM  
Blogger Specialist Spectrus said...

Just seen (on Inducks of all sites) that Ray Foushee died :-(

October 17, 2023 at 5:53 PM  

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