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Review: Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: “The Son of the Sun”

Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: “The Son of the Sun”
By Don Rosa
Fantagraphics; $29.99

Everyone knows who the very best Duck artist was when it comes to Disney comics. That is, unquestionably, Carl Barks, whose decades-long career of telling Donald Duck stories included the creation of Uncle Scrooge, the locale of Duckburg, and many of the most memorable villains and citizens to populate it and Donald and Scrooge’s globe-trotting, treasure-seeking adventures.

But who is the second best Duck artist? That question might be a bit trickier, and take a few more moments of thought, but I for one feel pretty safe assigning the title to Don Rosa. And, for evidence, I can now point to publisher Fantagraphics’ new complement to their Carl Barks Library publishing program, which has been presenting Barks’ Duck comics in Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge volumes for several years.

Fanta is now producing The Don Rosa Library as well, the first volume of which is Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Son of the Sun.

This package varies from the Barks library books in several ways. First, they are bigger; the Barks books are about 10.25-by-7.5 inches, while the first Rosa book is about 11-by-8.75 inches. Second, they’re not divided by character but feature Rosa’s Donald and Scrooge comics together (whether or not both Ducks appear in each story or if they are solo stories). And finally, and notably, unlike Barks, Rosa is still around, and so rather than comics scholars providing story notes, Rosa himself writes the preface and copious notes on the stories, part of over 30 pages or so of supplementary material to the comics themselves.

Authorship is always an interesting thing to consider when it comes to Disney products. For years and years, everything Disney-related bore only one signature, that of Walt Disney, although many other artists produced the work (which is why Carl Barks was first known as “The Good Duck Artist” for the visibly superior work he was producing on Disney Duck comics, since fans couldn’t just check the credits box or look for signatures back in the day).

Rosa, interestingly, didn’t just produce Don Rosa’s Disney’s comics, but, for his very first story, the one produced in the late 1980s that gives this collection its title, he meticulously set out to create Don Rosa’s Carl Barks’ Disney comics.

As Rosa reveals, it was really only Barks’ version of the Duck stories he was interested in making, and when he was given the opportunity to draw one for himself, the un-trained amateur artist (who had only drawn the ducks for fanzines previously) set about compiling a gigantic and complicated file of Barks’ characters in various poses, so he would have poses and expressions to swipe for every conceivable occasion for his own comic.

It might be hard to imagine the amount of dedication (or is that obsession?) and hard work that went into producing a 25-page story in this manner, but it’s hard to argue with the results. The storyline and characterizations were inspired by Barks, and Barks’ creations Scrooge and perennial rival for the title of World’s Richest Duck Flintheart Glomgold were the stars, but Rosa even succeeded in telling a Barks-like Duck adventure that looked and moved the way it might have looked had Barks himself drawn it, albeit it somewhat rougher in linework.

In his reminiscences, Rosa says the story is hard for him to look at, but an artist will always see his own work with a different eye than a reader would—it looks great, and the new volumes of the Rosa library should prove perfect companion volumes for those in the Barks library, particularly for readers who find their appetites for these types of duck tales whetted by the Barks books.

Another key difference between the Rosa and Barks collections?

While Rosa purposely sets all of his stories in the 1950s, during a Barks-ian time which allows for the life story of Scrooge McDuck to remain unchanged by any kind of sliding timeline of the sort that is always necessitating DC and Marvel heroes to have their origins tweaked here and there, he was nevertheless producing the comics in the present, allowing him to make jokes specifically for modern readers, without altering the milieu in any way. (There’s a pretty great one about what a sure thing a comic book publishing business is, for example.)

I suppose some may find it somehow objectionable to spend so much of one’s creative energy not only on other people’s (or here, a corporation’s) characters and to devote so much energy to working in the specific style of another artist, but this is obviously exactly what Rosa himself wanted to do at the time and, quite notably, it seems to have worked quite well for him, as Rosa has improved in leaps and bounds as a storyteller and and artist over the years that followed “Son of the Sun.”

What matters most, to us readers at least, isn’t how an artist learns to draw well, or how an artist learns to tell good stories or produce great comics, it’s just that they do produce great comics. And Rosa’s Duck comics? They’re great ones. Probably the second greatest body of Duck comics produced so far.

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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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