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Review: Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: “Return To Plain Awful”

Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: “Return to Plain Awful”
By Don Rosa
Fantagraphics; $29.99

Fantagraphics certainly is doing their level best to keep us supplied with Disney Duck comics. Hot on the heels of the first volume of their new Don Rosa Library and kid-friendlier trade paperback repackaging of some Carl Barks classics comes the second volume in the Don Rosa Library.

This second volume includes 170 more pages of Rosa’s work with Uncle Scrooge and his nephews Donald Duck and Huey, Dewey and Louie, plus some 45-pages of behind-the-scenes material, including copious notes on the stories and plenty of covers, some for the comic book Walt Disney’s Comics In Color, each of which featured Donald, Scrooge and Mickey Mouse sharing space in an image, something one rarely if ever sees. (As Rosa explains in the notes on an unused story collected here, in his imagination, Mickey Mouse doesn’t event exist in the Ducks’ universe.)

In addition to the expected Carls Barks-inspired adventure stories and shorter gag strips, this volume contains several uniquely interesting entries.

The title story is Rosa’s first direct sequel to a Barks comic, 1949’s “Lost In The Andes” (collected in Fantagraphics’ Donald Duck: Lost In The Andes), as Donald and the boys return to hidden Andean land of Plain Awful, where everything is square, even the eggs laid by the chickens there. This time Scrooge tags along, in the hopes of striking a business deal with the Plain Awfultonians that will allow him to sell their square eggs—unlike egg-shaped eggs, square eggs can easily be stacked, never roll and are much harder to break, you see. Scrooge’s perennial rival Flintheart Glomgold, the world’s second richest duck, follows them, and they all discover what trouble their cultural influence can level on the peaceful, if square, lost civilization.

There’s an even straighter, more exciting adventure story in “The Crocodile Collector,” which sends Donald and the boys along the length of the Nile looking for a semi-mythic crocodile. Other stories find the Duck family mountain-climbing, Scrooge declaring himself king of his own tiny country, Donald nearly dying in a money cave-in at Scrooge’s money bin and, in perhaps the most remarkable and inventive story in the book, Magica De Spell trying to get her hands on Scrooge’s lucky dime via a magical, two-way portal she opens in an enchanted silver platter.

As for the more unique features, the collection includes a ten-page comic that only exists in rough, black-and-white form, as that’s as far as Rosa got with it before his publishers rejected the story. It’s of note not only because of the interesting look at Rosa’s process it offers—although it is great fun to see what his comics look like in a rough, first-draft version—but because it features Donald and his nephews visiting the then-new Disney-MGM Studios park, in which Donald attempts to get Mickey Mouse’s autograph (I mentioned Rosa’s insistence that Mickey and Donald don’t co-exist in the same comics universes earlier; Rosa explains here that the story is premised on the fact that in Donald’s universe, Mickey might be a big time movie star). Goofy also makes a brief cameo in the story.

There’s also  Rosa’s only collaboration with Barks, if you could call it that, in which he takes the photocopied rough pencils of the beginning of an abandoned Barks strip and finishes it, and there’s  a very rare instance of Rosa working outside the Barks/Ducks milieu in which he’s most comfortable—a short story for a DuckTales comic, starring the kinder, gentler version of Scrooge from the after school cartoon show.

Whether you’re a little kid reading the book for its humorous adventures or a grown-up comics enthusiast availing yourself of a great curated collection, you’ll find Plain Awful to be anything but.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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