Saturday, January 30, 2016

"Tycoonraker! or From Zantaf with Lumps"

LUCIANO BOTTARO. What more needs to be said? He's been published in the US! Finally! I feel very strongly that this is a momentous occasion, and there should be some sort of parade or something. And yet, it just happened, and no one's shouting from the rooftops. Why is this?!? Tell me!!! Well, I hope we see a LOT more of him in the months and years to come, is all I will say. It makes me sad to contemplate that a lot of his prime material is too obviously weird to be likely to see a US appearance, but that doesn't mean there isn't still plenty out there that oughta.

There were four really pivotal vintage Italian Disney artists: Romano Scarpa, Giovan Battista Carpi, Bottaro, and Pier Lorenzo De Vita (Marco Rota got going a little later). The Four Horsemen, as absolutely nobody up to now has ever called them (in this analogy, Guido Martina is Hell, who followed with them. So who's Carlo Chendi? I dunno--Nicolae Carpathia, maybe? I'm afraid this paragraph is getting a little flaky). Astute readers will note that out of these four, De Vita is now the only one to never have appeared in a US comic book. No reason I should've been, but I was sort of surprised when I first realized that. Never? Surely at least once or twice, just incidentally--no, NEVER. Part of the reason for this is probably that the best-regarded De Vita-drawn stories tend to be weird historical and/or literary pastiches of the sort that flat-out don't get published in the States (though the same could be said of Bottaro). Still, even though he's obviously the least of the four, I still hope he'll come 'round to visit one of these days. I've written about his stories here, here, here, and here. An' whaddaya know, I even made English versions of two of those suckers. Good times.

But this entry is not about De Vita! It's about Bottaro, and how awesome he is, and how badly I want to see IDW publish more of his stuff! Out of the four, Scarpa gets the most attention because he was (well, could be, let's say) a great writer, and Carpi certainly had his moments, but there's little doubt in my mind that Bottaro was the most skilled artist among them, and this story provides ample evidence of this.  Note that his characters rarely if ever go off-model the way those others' tend to.

I hadn't read the original, but I HAVE read Bottaro's sequel, "The Return of Dr. Zantaf," which, title notwithstanding, is actually a time travel story that features very little actual Zantaf. Still, I hope to see it over here sooner rather than later! It would be a good opportunity to introduce Pirate Captain Scrooge, which is one of Bottaro's favorite things to draw.

(I suppose I can't complain too much about that title, which is certainly more memorable than the original Mission: Zantaf, and ties into the whole spy business.)

It starts off in its meandering way, as his stories tend to. Nothing could peg this as European more obviously than the fact that Donald is watching soccer. This is one instance where you could legitimately square the circle, though: they really do call it "football" everywhere but the US (students would sometimes correct themselves when talking to me, having learned that we say "soccer" and thinking I wouldn't know what they meant by "football"), so go ahead and just call it that here and the reader can decide which kind of football we're talking about.

So here's this! If yer a USAian, you might remember the MIA from this story. You might well suspect that that bit of continuity is just a matter of localization, but no, in this case, I think it's a real thing. Inducks does, too. You will also note that, in spite of the fact that Carlo Chendi worked on both of them, they're very different kinds of stories. "Moldfinger" (as we call it) is very dense with plot, whereas this one is much more loosey-goosey (also, Bottaro's art here is much better than Carpi's there). But they're both fun! And that's what counts!

Dig the fish there. Those are extremely Bottaro; no one else was able to do anything like them. He didn't just do Disney comics, you know; he worked on a wide variety of stuff, including his own original characters--which might explain why stuff like this, to me, always looks kind of un-Disney-like in a way I can't quite pinpoint. But in spite or because of that, I still like it awfully well.

It turns out Zantaf is using this Manchurian-Candidate-esque conditioning to get money. Why not?

Yay! Tallgrass is, of course, a Barks character, but who is "Gotrocks?" It is, of course, this guy:

...or, alternatively, this guy:

But either way, it's a reference to a non-Barks Western story! How often do you see those suckers? Never, is my rough estimate.

So what about the Maharajah of Howduyustan? Or what about the ultra-popular Indian Joe? "Who?" you ask. Jeez--THIS guy, of course:

Sometimes I get the impression that you're not paying attention.

(Okay okay, I'm not that dumb; I can guess well enough why those two wouldn't have been candidates for inclusion here. No need to tell me!)

YES! More BOTTARO POWER! I really just wanted to highlight this image, and how cool it is.

Reading "Return of Zantaf" was not enough to give me a clear impression of the guy's character (seriously, guys, I went back and checked--in a sixty-two-page story, he appears in all of four panels*), but now that I've read his debut, I have to say--as insane supervillains go, he's pretty darned adorable. Look at him there--at the simple, childlike joy he's taking in his love of snakes! Just lovely!

*I imagine some editor going "Bottaro!  The kids are going CRAZY for this Zantaf guy!  Give us more!"  But B felt the character was played out, so he grudgingly gave them the least Zantaf-y Zantaf story he could come up with.
(I do think most of the appeal here comes from Bottaro's art, and suspect that in just about anyone else's art he would come across as a lot more generically villainous.)

Sure, the "compulsory snake adoption" policy seems a bit undesirable at first glance, but let's think about this: a big snake fan like Zantaf is obviously gonna want these snakes to have healthy, happy lives. And what's the best way to achieve that? By putting them in happy, healthy households, of course. And how best to do THAT? By eliminating economic insecurity, natch. So expect Zantaf to institute a robust social safety net, and also to put in place the strongest possible measures to combat climate change--he's a scientist, not some willfully know-nothing politician! And he knows that it's gonna affect snakes too. What I'm trying to say is, Zantaf for President! I'd vote for him before any members of the current Republican freakshow, that's for sure. Granted, that's not really saying much; I'd also vote for Cruella de Vil over any of them--but I'd vote for Zantaf with enthusiasm.

Also, he has sweet little chicken-bot things ("Electro-Men"). This guy is unbelievable!

This entry may turn into nothing but pro-Zantaf propaganda, but if so, so be it! He's a pretty darned chill villain. He's not gonna "liquidate" you. Tossing you behind bars is quite enough!

He's not even gonna get mad if you try to escape! He is nothing but amused to catch this electronic bowtie. Really, if you're going to be imprisoned be a deranged megalomaniac, you gotta go with the Zantster!

I mean sure, if you try to escape he's gonna wipe your memory, but can you really blame him? What else is he going to do, just keep letting you interfere with his world-dominating schemes? The US title may spoof a James Bond movie (or two), but any Bond villain would have killed you dead by now.

He likes...snakes. See? Reptiles are his true inner passion! This villain stuff is just a distraction.

Notice that he's not even angry at first--just upset that some jerk's destroyed his formula. As why wouldn't he be? YOU would be, I'll tell you that much!

Sure, he finally turns to violence, but, you must admit, only after a lot of pushing, and really, can you blame him?  Dude just won't stop messing with his schemes.

(I've been so consumed with Zantaf apologia during this entry that I haven't said much if anything about Donald, but he comports himself pretty well too--a bit bumbling but more or less competent in what he's doing. All joking about Zantaf secretly being the good guy aside, it's still a good match between the two of them).

"Is a Laocoön like an antique raccoon?" Sure, probably, why not? I do like the joke, though it'd work a bit better if "coon" and "coön" actually rhymed.

Anyway, back to talking about how great Zantaf is: LOOK HOW GREAT HE IS, even when hypnotized! He likes butterflies! Yay! I just hope this hasn't negatively impacted his love of snakes.

So the question is, is the word supposed to be antidisestablishmentarianism? 'Cause if it is, then even if he couldn't exactly pronounce it correctly, you'd think he'd know what it was to the extent that he could look it up when he got back home. But then we see him trying out unrelated words. So I don't know.

WHAT A NON-SURPRISE. Though it reeeally must be said that it's not at all clear what her actual purpose was in this mission. Sure, she just happens to show up at the crucial moment to distract Zantaf, but who could've known that would even be necessary? Other than that, she just wanders around and acts stoned. Her role in "Moldfinger" was similarly small, but rather more crucial.

Daisy's having fun...heck, even Zantaf is having fun! And a final YAAAAAAY!!! for that. I kinda wish Donald would buck the heck up, but other than that, this ending puts a big ol' smile on my face.

Truth: I think this is the best story that IDW has published to date. More Bottaro, please! A lot more, preferably.

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Anonymous Elaine said...

Fine art, indeed. I like Zantaf's house a lot, too.

My favorite Bottaro-drawn story is Chendi's "The Lake Mess Monster"--but we have already established that I am a sucker for Nessie stories!

Probably the most evil thing Zantaf has done so far is to scare the artistic locals off their island--even if they have made it as sculptors in Soho. I still hope they get to come home after the end of the story.

I assumed that Daisy with her put-on thick accent was pronouncing "Laocoön" to more or less rhyme with raccoon. She does mispronounce other landmarks, after all. I also think it's reasonable to think that it could have been anticipated that Donald might need someone to distract Zantaf if he got violent. What's not so clear to me is why Scrooge "couldn't let [Donald] know" that Daisy was on the job, leading to the Molly disguise.

Also, I want a Guided Umbrella Drone for Christmas.

January 30, 2016 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, you gotta figure she'd mispronounce it. But on the other hand, it IS spelled correctly, diacritical mark and everything, in her speech bubble, which certainly isn't true of the various Italian landmarks she mentions. So now I don't know WHAT to think.

January 31, 2016 at 1:11 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Daisy/Molly doesn't mispronounce the names in the original version, you know. She doesn't have any accent at all, in fact. But personally, while reading this story, I loved the running gag of her confusing various parts of the island with landmarks of Paris. Also, I had not read the "Moldfinger" story, which I think kind of spoiled the twist to you: I did not suspect it was Daisy for a minute the first time I read "Zantaf".

January 31, 2016 at 3:52 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Happily, while I had read Moldfinger, I had managed to forget it almost entirely, so I didn't suspect Molly was Daisy, either! It came as a nice surprise.

January 31, 2016 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Sidious said...

That use of the world "Tripledistelfink" in the last panel... could it be a cool shout out to Don Rosa's story "The Sign of the Triple Distelfink?" Seems most probable to me.

January 31, 2016 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Achille: the disguised Daisy may not speak with a Southern accent in the Italian original, but her name is still the Southern-sounding "Miss Molly" (yes, even in Italian!) and she's still dressed like a old-fashioned (American) Southerner—a deliberate tip of the hat to Little Richard's song hit "Good Golly, Miss Molly" (1957), where the name and expressions also have Southern origins.
So it felt 100% natural that an American version of the story should complete the image, with Daisy speaking in her idea of a thick Southern accent.

Landmarks of Paris? In the Italian original, Daisy "mistakes" the locations on Zantaf's island for landmarks of Rome—and so she also does in our IDW version. Did the French edition make them into Parisian landmarks?

I'll never forget reading a German version of my own "Ten-Penny Opera" in which some of the operas had become more "German-centric," with some great local German gags added where my English references wouldn't have been understood. Since my basic storyline was still there, the locally added twists were fascinating to me.

January 31, 2016 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Maybe that "Return of Zantaf" story was ment to be like the shark in Jaws or the monster in the "Cloverfield" movie?

You don't actually see him untill the very end, but the build up...

February 1, 2016 at 3:11 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

It's a good thought, but 'fraid not--he appears at the beginning to send Donald and Scrooge back through time, then again at the end to get apprehended (I missed one--he actually appears in FIVE panels), and that's that.

February 1, 2016 at 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Deb said...

The Electro-Men have such a cool design...they needed to have a bigger part in the story! Why design such cool henchmen and not give them more to do?

February 1, 2016 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"Landmarks of Paris? In the Italian original, Daisy "mistakes" the locations on Zantaf's island for landmarks of Rome—and so she also does in our IDW version. Did the French edition make them into Parisian landmarks?"

—> Yes, they did ! Among other things, she mistakes Zantaf's building for the Sacré-Cœur. I guess that they though "Italians are using Italian landmarks, so we French would better use French landmark to give the same effect". Those same translators, if put in charge of the american translation, would probably have replaced the Italian landmarks with American ones (for instance, Zantaf's building could be the Lincoln Memorial, or the giant totems be the Statue of the Liberty).

February 1, 2016 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, I think Deb raises the most important point here: WHY SO LITTLE ELECTRO-MEN?!?

February 1, 2016 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...


Aw, they weren’t “SO LITTLE”! They seemed bigger than Donald! …Heh!

Great job on recognizing Gotrocks in that “Pantheon of Secondary Tycoons” I laid out for Zantaf to possibly raid. Gotrocks also appeared in HUEY, DEWEY, AND LOUIE JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS # 6 (July, 1970), rivaling Scrooge in the Strobl-drawn “The Balloonists”– but as a DOGFACE!

That’s right! Strobl drew Gotrocks THREE TIMES (1965, 1967, and 1970) as three different characters. I like that original “Lionel Barrymore / Simon Bar Sinister version” best. Can’t you just hear that voice oozing out of him?

And it is strictly because Gotrocks appeared THREE TIMES, and Longhorn Tallgrass appeared TWICE (at least in Barks) that they were ranked 4 and 5 respectively! …Life’s arbitrary, that way!

Obviously, I could not consider “Indian Joe”, and the Maharajah of Howduyustan was made broke by competing with Scrooge, so he doesn’t make the cut!

February 1, 2016 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Ack! I totally missed the dogface Gotrocks. I'll have to check that out.

I was going to object that the Maharajah appears in several further stories, but upon further investigation, I realize it's just dudes that look like him but have different names (though in fairness, it should also be noted that Tallgrass isn't actually identified by name in "The Twenty-Four Carat Moon"). Nonetheless, I kind of like to imagine that in spite of this, they're still the same character, just 'cause I feel bad for him at the end of "Spendthrifts." 'Cause I'm a big ol' softie! And that is all!

February 1, 2016 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger Jim Mc said...

"Hugbees". that a Freakazoid! shout out, or is "Hugbees" a reference that goes back further?

February 2, 2016 at 4:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what I see it, the Maharajah of Howduyustan appears in only one Barks story, but he also appears in later stories by other authors and doesn't seem to be broken anymore. I guess his statues were dismantled after his contest with Srooge and he gained (some of) his money back. Which makes sense, because the Maharajah built three Cornelius Coot statues, and each one of them was built near to a statue built by Scrooge, and yet when we see a statue built by Scrooge in modern stories we never see another statue near it.

Besides that, I wonder if there were the other billionaires mentioned in the original text other than Rockerduck, or (more likely) if there was no mention of any billionaire at all.

February 2, 2016 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"And it is strictly because Gotrocks appeared THREE TIMES, and Longhorn Tallgrass appeared TWICE (at least in Barks) that they were ranked 4 and 5 respectively! …Life’s arbitrary, that way!" Tall grass indeed appeared in more story after Barks; I remember notably a story about rugby (or was it american football… ?) where Scrooge and Glomgold compete to sign a contract with him.

Why couldn't Indian Joe be used ? Is that because he also ends up broke ? I haven't read the story in some time, but I don't remember that.

The maharadjah indeed appeared as other maharadjahs later in other stories… and INDUCKS lists them as the same; heck, it also lists the maharadjah in "24 Carats Moon" as him !

"Besides that, I wonder if there were the other billionaires mentioned in the original text other than Rockerduck, or (more likely) if there was no mention of any billionaire at all." Yes they were, and they were named after real-life billionaires, much like the Squandergilt that survives in the localization.

February 2, 2016 at 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes they were, and they were named after real-life billionaires": what are they called?

February 2, 2016 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Oh, and about the multiple Gotrocks: INDUCKS says that the bearded duck and the one with whiskers and a pointed beak are actually two different characters. And actually, they appeared together on the same illustration (, so there.

P.S.: That being said, for some reason, the same's artist "" also includes two Rockerducks in the same scene, one modeled after the Barks version, and one after the Italian redesign. So maybe he's not exactly the most trustworthy source about those things.

Your thoughts ?

February 10, 2016 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Post-P.S.: Still browsing the INDUCKS profiles, I find that the whiskered Gotrocks actually appeared in three Brazilian stories and a few more illustrations. Looks like Flintheart and Rockerduck weren't the only candidates for "Scrooge's business rival", and the fact that Rockerduck came out winner of the fight was mostly due to chance.

February 10, 2016 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Oh, and it has nothing to do with my first two comments, but why no quotation marks in your title this time ?

February 10, 2016 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

…? Any answer ?

February 10, 2016 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Those are extremely interesting pictures, is my main thought. And yet more evidence that Brazilian comics are a vast undiscovered country, to me. As for why no quotation marks, that would be due to some sort of random brain glitch on my part.

February 10, 2016 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

But they published a De Vita story (ir - better - they're publishing it): Search of Zodiac Stone.

February 16, 2016 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That's De Vita fils; I'm talking about De Vita père.

February 16, 2016 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

In his late years Bottaro's art became more and more weird. His tendency to put very geometric-cubical elements, that previously appeared only here and there in the backgrounds or in some details, became predominant and invaded the whole drawing. His late ducks (and Goofy, remember that he was specialized in those Goofy vs. Hazel stuff) were *already* squared from the first panels, even before entering into the usual Bottarian phantasmagoric weird lsd-like journeys. From this perspective, one can can think Bottaro as a poor Disney's employed Hugo Pratt.
They just published in France his last story, appeared posthumously only once in Italy:

Simple story with a very idiotic plot. But visually amazing, and with some touching moments here and there. The man new the end was near? In some panels his Scrooge is very melancholic.

March 13, 2016 at 4:11 AM  
Anonymous Huwey said...

We call i' "foo'ball" 'cause we're real bri'ish an' London Co'neys! Yeeh!
(Okay, I'm from germany, bu' I speak of'en Co'ney)
I'm very sad, tha' the s'ory never has been published in Germany. Tha's no' cool. (Yesss, I'll keep that Cockney thing ;))

March 30, 2016 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

And why the heck not?!? It's surprising to me that it's never appeared in Germany. Still, you speak English, so you should be able to get a copy in a more or less licit way, depending.

March 30, 2016 at 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Huwey said...

Of course, but I think it'll appear next time in german(Egmont Germany is a piec of s***, sorry). Still 2010 it's a repeatedly expressed wish by german Comicfans. I've thinked of it, but I'll first wait. The illegal way isn't my way, it's not cool, mate!

March 31, 2016 at 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Huwey said...

Update: Egmont is a piece of shit 'cause they've already published the most stories of Bottaro, even "Il ritorno del Dottore Zantaf". Isn't that stupid?

March 31, 2016 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Hey! Update on that bonkers Gotrocks thing.

There. Is. Another. One.

In "Ill met by Moonlight" ("Uncle Scrooge Adventures" #9), there is a mustachioed dognose Gotrocks with whom Scrooge has a friendly chat.

October 26, 2016 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...


In S 64123 (a Goofy story), there is yet another fat dognosed Gotrocks.

October 27, 2016 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Glad you're on the case!

October 27, 2016 at 11:50 AM  

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