Once upon a time, there was a dream. That dream was of a comic website where a number of critics would be given the same book to write about.
That dream was Flashmob Fridays.
If I'm being honest, Flashmob Fridays was one of the more fun writing experiences that I've had. It was a short-lived site and I don't think we ever gained much traction. Getting critics to organize something like that was like herding cats but it was fun to be given an assignment, to have to write about it, and then to see what everyone else also wrote. The site was a spinoff of Trouble With Comics, itself a spinoff of Comic Book Galaxy (which sadly looks to have been wiped from the internet,) two sites that were also very important to me.
It gave me the opportunity to read and write about a few things that I had never experienced before. One of those things was Carl Barks. Sure, I knew about Barks but had never really read any of his seminal work before. And I had barely even read any Ducks comics before this.
Now, looking at the review, I think it speaks much more about me than it does about the stories in this great collection. This is one book that I may need to re-read sometime soon.
Let's see just how off-base I was on this one...
I think what I really miss is more of an appreciation for the Carl Barks art. He’s the most well-known classic Disney artist but when I look at the stories in Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes, I see more of a generic house Disney style than anything else. I can’t pick out my Carl Barkses from my Don Rosas. It’s all Donald Duck and his nephews looking like I remember them from Disney’s old Sunday night movies. Somehow, Barks’s work in this book registers to me as stories but not necessarily as comics.
What I enjoy about Barks (and his spiritual descendant Don Rosa) is that he doesn’t tell stories about cartoonish ducks but he tells them about characters who happen to be cartoonish ducks. The stories themselves, from the adventurous and titular “Lost in the Andes” to the screwballish “Plenty of Pets” and even to the one-page gag strips, are built around characters. Donald Duck is the loyal but easily flustered hero. He seems to be all about himself and how everything affects him but he’s always doing things for his nephews or his uncle out of a strong love that exists among these characters. Even as characters lose their tempers and get mad at each other, there’s never a sense of spite or selfishness around these characters. Donald Duck is like Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners. He’s quick to anger but there’s hardly a bigger heart around.