Sunday, April 15, 2018

"A Mysterious Melody; or, How Mickey Met Minnie"

This one's long overdue, innit? This is the second in the Disney by Glenat series, where the French publisher got non-Disney artists and had them go nuts with the characters and the form, to absolutely enthralling effect (actually, I believe the first and second in the series were released on the same day; whatever). I absolutely fucking LOVE the ground-breaking innovation on display here, and the stories are none too shabby neither. Leastways, not the first two. We've looked at Mickey's Craziest Adventures, so now it's time for A Mysterious Melody. This is by Cosey, a prolific Swiss cartoonist who generally does much more serious work. According to that link, he had applied to work for Disney in 1978. It's interesting to imagine how his work there would have been. Presumably, we would've had to rein in his impulses to conform with the general house style (which he certainly doesn't here), but what would that have looked like? Would he have broken new ground? An intriguing counterfactual.

Anyway. There's a lot to say about this, starting (and, more than likely, continuing) with HOLY GOD IS IT EVER BEAUTIFUL. My GOODNESS. The style that Cosey brings to the project is just ever so warm and wonderful, evocative of early Gottfredson and vintage Disney cartoons in the best possible way, while also bringing his own sensibilities into the mix. Just great, truly.

Why "Rover?" Because that's what he's referred to as in this cartoon. As a sidenote, I really truly love how incredibly dopey these old MM cartoons are, but I absolutely understand why people who only know the respective characters from the cartoons would mostly prefer Warner Bros. Anyway.

Our hero is a screenwriter here, a role he plays well. Why 1927, before the character officially debuted? Well, because it's before he met Minnie, OBVIOUSLY. This whole thing is pitched very, very old-school, which I like a lot.

Ha! You may remember how excited Mickey was about cheese in "Death Valley" (though of course, in that story he also wished he had beer, so I dunno). I think it's funny. It's not really something you think much about, but the characters are so utterly dissociated from their animal roots that when they display traits that are supposed to be related to those roots, it's disorienting. But in a fun way!

This whole business about narratives strikes me as interesting and suggestive in a way I don't quite grasp. Obviously, Disney comics narratives are far from Shakespearean (or at least, far from Shakespearean tragedy--and to the extent that you can make a case for them, it would have to be more about Donald than Mickey, and in any case this is a rabbit hole I'm not going down at this time), but it seems like the story's kind of wondering what the limits are of this kind of thing. Mickey's confusion about what to do in this situation seems to reflect this.

I'm putting this here mainly because it's just so durned pretty, but you may also note another characteristic thing here: the inclusion of anthropomorphic and semi-anthropomorphic animals that don't follow the normal Disney-comic conventions that have come to predominate. Of course, these are all the heck over the place in old MM cartoons, as well as early Gottfredson strips.

Question that I truly cannot answer: was calling him Goofy instead of Dippy a conscious decision, or just something that happened by default, either on the part of the original or the localization? Seems like "Dippy" would be only natural, given the vintage the story is aiming at. Then again, it might also be seen as a bit confusing: we see why "Rover" changes his name, but to just give Goofy a different name that would be confusing to many people, with no punchline or anything? Maybe a bit doubtful. I can understand that. Still. Woulda been cool.

The way Minnie remains cloaked in shadow like this is very well-done. Or so I think. It is true: she doesn't feature as much as you might think she would in a story called "How Mickey Met Minnie," and this may be a disappointment to some. But the way she sort of floats around half in Mickey's consciousness really works.

Can't avoid noting our favorite duck's cameo. It kinda makes sense that we'd see him in this context, since at first he really was nothing more than a mass of enraged neuroses.

Not that I mind, but it IS notable that all these albums are Mickey-centric. Okay okay, "Mickey's Craziest Adventures" is more or less a co-starring situation, but it's still called what it's called. Let's have some Donald ones too, eh? The more the merrier.

Time out for dancing vegetation.

It's just! So! Pretty! There's also something contemplative about this story, as Mickey meanders about, which resontates very strongly with me.

Note that even though--spoilers!--the story Mickey writes isn't ultimately a tragedy, we get this concession that Shakespeare "had somethin.'" Even if it's not necessarily the somethin' you want in your Disney stories.

The way the tune filters through the story...great stuff. GREAT. STUFF.

So artful, the way it switches from the "real" world to the story world. La!

I could bask in this all day, and I JUST MIGHT. And yet...

OH MY GOD GET IT AWAY FROM ME HELP. Okay, granted, including Oswald here is highly appropriate under the circumstances, but he's still kind of terrifying-looking with his dead black eyes. Perhaps the one artistic thing here that fails to fill me with glee.

Oh boy, some Cold Equations stuff. Fun? Maybe. It must be noted, though, that that story can very easily be read as nothing more than an opportunity to get the audience to cheer for a dumb gurl getting killed. Which is kind of relevant for what's coming up...

It has been noted that cartoon characters often look disconcerting in front-views.'s that. One thing that this story doesn't really acknowledge is that poor Fifi is owned by this...not very nice person, alas.

It's gotta be! It's just gotta! Great work, ladies and gents.

What to do what to do?

I like the feminist twist (which we wouldn't likely have seen in an actual story of the time), and I like the way it manages to make things work: no one has to die, but it also avoids being patriarchal. Great balance.

Oh GOD this reveal is so gorgeous. OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS SAKES ALIVE.

Still...I do have to concede that this is a little...well, the only reason she's allegedly so heart-breakingly shy is so her elusiveness would make sense. It doesn't really have much if any justification in other stories. I can forgive this, and it probably isn't even really a sin, but I definitely find it hard not to notice.

Even if it had spent fifty years in a basement, the manuscript wouldn't--SHUT UP THIS IS NOT IN THE SPIRIT OF THE STORY. Fair enough. Fair. Enough.

WHOA THERE. That ain't canon! Are we meant to assume that they're in a perpetual engagement in every other story? Or is it more like the Clarabelle/Horace marriage that Gottfredson teased and then let go? Well, that's okay. It still makes an appropriate ending to the story.

So I'm a big fan of "Mickey's Craziest Adventures;" I love the high concept, and it too looks great. But I'm forced to concede that this is substantially more satisfying. It's really one of my favorite things ever. Glenat really hit a home run with this concept, and I hope they keep it up.



Blogger Achille Talon said...

We probably won't be getting any duck stories from that series, because the whole project is known as Mickey By Glénat, so y'know.

You can blame Walter Lantz for Oswald From Hell; spacesuit aside, he seems slavishly copied from one of the 1930's Lantz Oswald model sheets.

Note that all the dancing plants in Mickey's dreams are from the Silly Symphonies cartoons (Spring and Flowers and Trees, respectively, for the flowers and the lover trees). Another neat reference.

About the engagement: well, yeah, you're supposed to assume they're engaged in every other appearance. Possibly because French editors were iffy with the idea of perpetual boyfriend/girlfriend "romances" among adults that never ended in lawful marriage, both Donald and Daisy and Mickey and Minnie are referred to as each other's fiancé in the French translations where the originals just say "boyfriend" and "girlfriend". No doubt this is what Cosey remembered and wanted to explain.

Minnie being shy — umm… now that you mention it, it doesn't appear much in the comics, does it? But it certainly seems consistent with how she often acts in the old cartoons. I don't have any particular example in mind, I just remember a lot of blushing and mincing and flustering from her in the way she was animated.

April 16, 2018 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I didn't know it was "Mickey by Glenat," but in that case an obvious companion series suggests itself.

Interesting business about Minnie and Mickey being perpetually engaged in French. I had not picked up on that.

April 16, 2018 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 17, 2018 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

While I woudn't named "shy" as Minnie's key trades she is usualy play up as very tender, delicate and sensitive (and for lack of better term "girly") in more modern tv cartoons like "House of Mouse"/"Mickey Mouse works","The Three musketeers", "Minnie's Bowtique", "Mickey and the Roadster racers" or even to over-the-top efect in the cool "Mickey Mouse" shorts - usualy as contrast to Daisy's whos's often presented as big-ego, atentnion-seaking, self-absorbe and tad ditzy/zany annoying best friend... when she's not yelling at Donald of course ( cute Daisy/Minnie short btw)

So I guess it's fits. Haven't read this book yet btw but it look interesting. I did like "Café Zombo" by Regis Loisel which is made in simial vain and "Mickey Craziest Adventures" even if I'll admit I was hoping they will make much, much more with the concept...

April 17, 2018 at 6:54 AM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

I really liked the contemplative nature of this book. It gives it almost a literary feel to it that we seldom see in Disney comics. Mickey Mouse and most of his friends (except maybe Donald) seem less like cartoon archetypes and more like real people in this story. This book really should have gotten more attention than it did.

April 17, 2018 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Huwey said...

Mickey/Minnie and Donald/Daisy are engaged in Germany as well.
Funny sidenote: In this ( German-Swiss interview, he says, that the singing flowers were black in the original French version and were changed for the American book. This is interesting, since, at least I think so, there are a lot of black people in France as well. In Germany they stayed black as well.

April 22, 2018 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Huwey said...

We probably won't be getting any duck stories from that series, because the whole project is known as Mickey By Glénat, so y'know.
Actually, there is a comic book coming out entitled "Donalds Happiest Adventures".

April 27, 2018 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger F Willot said...

For your information, the series is titled "Disney by Glénat" (this is what "DBG" in the story-code means), not "Mickey by Glénat".

August 16, 2018 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

The story takes place in 1927, yet it references the planet Pluto, which was only discovered in 1930!

June 11, 2020 at 7:20 PM  

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