I am primarily a reader of superhero comics and never, ever had a desire, even as a child, to read any comics involving Disney characters. In fact, I didn't like Disney in general, so my little insulated world of comics would certainly not be tainted with the adventures of talking animals. That all changed this week when I purchased the trade paperback THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE MCDUCK. Even now, I can't say exactly what made me pick up this book. Maybe it was the excellent cost per page ratio. Maybe it was the exceptional printing quality and color. I have a sneaking suspicion that the spirits of Walt Disney and Carl Barks were urging me to give this character a try. I am so glad I did.
The title of this collection says it all fairly well: the story is indeed the life and times of Donald Duck's miserly uncle. It's the way the story is constructed that makes it so engaging. Writer/artist Don Rosa painstakingly researched the original Uncle Scrooge stories by creator Carl Barks, pulling out references and little tidbits to construct a fascinating history in 12 chapters, beginning in 1867, when little Scroogie was a mere shoeshine boy in his native Scotland, to 1947, detailing Scrooge's reintroduction to his nephew Donald, as well as Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Furthermore, you get seamlessly interwoven backgrounds on many characters associated with or related to Scrooge.
Primarily, Don Rosa tells some funny and entertaining stories, but they can also be full of emotion, as when Scrooge and his sisters leave Scotland for America, or when we see Scrooge caring more for money than for his family. I tore through this book in two afternoons, not because it's a quick read (far from it), but because I had such a hard time tearing myself away! Scrooge's adventures are not unlike those of Forrest Gump or Harry Flashman, in that he has a habit of turning up in the right place at the right time and encountering all sorts of famous historical characters or events. At the end of each chapter, Rosa provides informative notes on which occurrences were taken from which of Barks' stories. What really got my attention, however, was the art. The best way I can explain it is, picture the standard Disney characters superimposed on the frantic, crowded artwork of MAD Magazine artist Will Elder. There are so many details and humorous background additions to the panels, to the point that I wonder how Rosa was able to stay focused. In fact, there are several instances where I am convinced he was paying direct tribute to MAD.
It is easy to see why this story earned Don Rosa a Will Eisner Award in 1995. Even though I was totally unaware of it at the time, I fully support it! So, Mr. Barks, thank you for your wonderful creation. And Mr. Rosa, thanks to you for opening a door that I had considered closed long ago. Each of you has a new fan.