maandag 1 december 2014

Awesome comic scenes: Scrooge McDuck

Disney and comics. Americans might not have thought the two had much to do with each other, at least not until Disney bought Marvel a couple of years back. Sure, they still produce a few kids comics, but they haven't been a big comic publisher since the 50's, right? Well, that might be true for America, but across the pond...

Over in Europe, Disney comics are still going strong. They are the biggest comic publisher in Italy, and the weekly Donald Duck magazine is a well-known institution in the Netherlands. I'm not sure why, but Disney comics just seem to click more with Europeans. Keno Don Rosa, the man we'll be talking about today, might be an American, but his comics sell best in Scandinavia. And he's a bonafide celebrity in Finland. Meanwhile back in America, according to the man himself, his own neighbours don't even know what he does for a living.

Though surely they'll figure it out if they ever visit his house...

Well, that is to bad for those neighbours, since they're really missing out! Rosa's expressive style is often compared to Robert Crumb, but in the myriad details, the kinetic energy of action scenes and the panel-to-panel flow I see much more of André Franquin.

Rosa's greatest work is The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. (I don't need to explain what it's about, do I?) It's a great mixture of adventure and humor, but sometimes it veers of into emotional or bad ass scenes you don't usually associate with Duck comics. Let's see an example. Scrooge is a miner during the gold rush in this issue, and has just been captured by one Soapy Slick, who wants to control Scrooge's valuable mine. (As always, click to embiggen.)


So. Were you expecting to see that in a Disney comic?

Part of why this scene works so well is the emotional whiplash. It starts as a pretty standard scene with a gloating villain. But then suddenly, bang, dead mom. And then suddenly an asswhooping of epic proportions. And the pages immediately before this feature Scrooge humorously dodging people trying to get their hands on his gold, so it really is a triple whiplash.

The other part of what makes the scene great is Rosa's art. His funny animal people are amazingly expressive. Have you ever seen more righteous rage than in the "Crreeeaak" panel? Or better surprise and terror than in the panel before that? When the destruction starts the facial expressions of the crowd are less detailed, but that is made up for by lots of other little background events. See the guy running into a beam in the panel of the collapsing smokestacks? Or the guy getting whacked by a door in the second to last panel? Life and Times is chock full of little details like that.

Now, the scene isn't perfect. I like the slow build towards the destruction, but it could've been drawn out just a teensy bit longer. Now all Slick's thugs already look terrified when Scrooge raised his head. That could've used just one more story beat:

Panel 1: Slick is gloating, his thugs are laughing, Scrooge raised his head.
Panel 2: Scrooge turns his head to the thugs, their faces fall. Slick doesn't notice.
Panel 3: Slick asks his thugs why they've fallen silent. One of them points.
Panel 4: "CRREEEAAK"
Panel 5: "Oops"

Another thing that's a bit odd, which shows that this is still written with kids firmly in mind, is that the rest of the story has no follow up on the news about Scrooge's mother. After the rampage it cuts back to him working in the mine. Only a few pages into the next story do we get a scene of Scrooge reacting to his mother's death.

 ...and that's all we get. Probably a lot deeper and more emotional than you would expect from a Scrooge McDuck comic, but still a bit oddly paced. But hey, we don't want to depress the little kids too much, do we?

In the end the bulk of Life and Times is about fun and adventure, occasionally dipping its toe flipper into more emotional stuff. Even with minor niggles I could raise Life and Times is a masterpiece, and certainly deserves its Eisner Award. Luckily the Americans running that prize do know who Rosa is!

1 opmerking:

  1. Love, love, love the Life and Times series. Got all the originals back home, even some Donald Duck Extra's (where they were published originally). Masterful storytelling, with a brilliant Indiana Jones vibe through every story. And those details, man...

    The comics are supposedly worth quite a few euro's nowadays, but you'll have to pry them from my cold, dead hands :-)