Tag Archives: happy birthday

Mad about Donald Duck

One of the greatest cartoon characters from the Walt Disney oeuvre will celebrate its 80th birthday on June 9.

I’m talking, of course, of Donald Duck.

donald duck

I blame my parents for this. They were big Disney fans before I entered the picture. They were part of the massive band that performed during the opening ceremonies of Walt Disney World in Orlando in 1971.

Back in the early 1980s, either my parents or grandparents had bought a three-pack of Whitman Dynabrite Disney comic books — one featured Daisy Duck, another featured Uncle Scrooge, and the other featured Donald Duck. I don’t recall how it happened, but my brother got the Uncle Scrooge book, my sister got the Daisy book, and I got the Donald book.

The cover of the book, which had the title in big fun-looking letters, “Donald Duck: The Golden Helmet,” showed Donald hoisting a golden helmet and a map with his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie looking on.

The first story in the issue was “The Golden Helmet,” a 32-page adventure story where Donald and the nephews set sail to find the aforementioned helmet before Azure Blue (what a name for a villain!) could retrieve it and claim America as his own and make everyone his slaves. Up next was a shorter tale guest-starring Uncle Scrooge where they went looking for a gold mine. Then, the issue closed with a short tale of how Donald took a job as a dog catcher.

I read that comic endlessly. I even drew a crude rendition of Donald on the inside front cover. Like most things from my childhood, it was either packed away or thrown out. I moved on.

When the Disney Channel was in its infancy, we loved watching the classic Disney shorts, especially Donald’s misadventures. You can bet when my siblings and I came home from school that we didn’t miss another exciting episode of DuckTales (OK, so Donald only appeared a few times, but it was still good). When our family did go to Disney World, many of the souvenirs I picked up had a ducky flavor, including a hat in the shape of Donald’s head and a porcelain figure of Donald in a pirate outfit. When I went to Star Wars Celebration V, I picked up an action figure of Donald Duck as a Dark Trooper.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned the identity of the artist and writer of those comics: Carl Barks. Soon I became obsessed interested in learning about the history behind the Good Duck Artist. Sadly, finding reprints of his work was next to impossible, unless you lived in Europe.

A few years back, I went looking around on eBay for a copy of that Donald Duck comic, and as luck would have it, I found it. As a Father’s Day gift, I got me a near-mint copy of the comic. As soon as I opened to the first page, I was immediately taken back to my younger days. I found myself reading the story slowly, savoring each panel’s artwork and dialogue. Yes, these stories were still amazing.

In a strange twist of fate, I was helping my parents clean out boxes in my grandparents’ garage where some of my childhood stuff had been stored. I opened a few of the boxes with my name on them, and there it was.

The Golden Helmet comic. It was in one piece.

The original Donald Duck Dynabrite comic
The original Donald Duck Dynabrite comic

Imagine my delight when I learned Fantagraphics was going to publish Barks’ Donald Duck catalog in hardcover. I immediately thought, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.” So far, I’ve got three volumes — Lost in the AndesA Christmas for Shacktown, and The Old Castle’s Secret. Apart from a few questionable caricatures from the era, these stories still hold up. My goal is to get every single volume in the collection. I think I can do it. Might take a while, but it’s doable.

In A Christmas for Shacktown, you probably can’t guess which story appears. Yup. “The Golden Helmet.”

Comparison of the Dynabrite comic (complete with my crude Donald drawing) and the Fantagraphics book
Comparison of the Dynabrite comic (complete with my crude Donald drawing) and the Fantagraphics book

To make matters worse, er, better, Fantagraphics will be publishing all of the Duck stories created by Don Rosa. I pretty much missed all of these comic books when they were first released, so being able to get my mitts on these will be another dream come true. (My wallet is screaming at me now)

Happy birthday, Donald! Try not to lose your temper too much.

 

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Happy birthday, Batman!

Batman!
via DCComics.com

Seventy-five years ago, a man dressed as a bat appeared in Detective Comics #27. About thirty-four years ago, that same Dark Knight Detective stuck a Batarang into my brain and left it there to grow.

As an impressionable 4- to 6-year-old in those lazy, crazy, hazy days of the early 1980s, I stumbled upon reruns of the Batman ’66 TV show and was mesmerized by the BAM!s and POW!s and OOMPH!s. When the Super Powers cartoon/toy line was introduced in the mid-’80s, you can bet Batman (and his Batmobile!) had a spot in the home roster (I had the Flash and Green Lantern; my brother had Superman). I don’t remember reading much of the comics of the day, but that would soon change.

Cut to the summer of 1989, a red-letter year in the history of my life. That was the year Tim Burton’s Batman graced us with its presence on the big screen. In the weeks before the premiere, a local TV station played a teaser commercial at the exact same time every weekday. I ate every second. Batman! The Joker!

On the opening week, my grandfather took me to the mall movie theater in Jacksonville, and for the next two hours, I was transported to Gotham City and was flabbergasted at Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson’s performances. Heck, I bought my first Prince album because of Batman. Now that’s power. (Who’s gonna stop 200 balloons? Nobody!)

Now that DC Comics had my blood, they sent messages to my brain, “YOU MUST GO TO YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK STORE AND BUY FURTHER ADVENTURES OF BATMAN.” It was a command I couldn’t refuse.

So I picked up Batman and Detective Comics and devoured them. I came in the middle of Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson’s “Gothic” story in Legends of the Dark Knight, was so enthralled that I had to go back and get the first few issues. I scooped up The Greatest Batman (and Joker) Stories Ever Told. I read just about every Elseworlds story featuring Batman.

I learned about some epic graphic novel called The Dark Knight Returns, written and drawn by some guy called Frank Miller. Part of my young teenaged brain was scared to crack open this tome, but I dove in anyway. Wow. I even read Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke. That may have been a mistake to read at that time, but oh well.

I had the good fortune (or not, depending on your point of view) of jumping into the comic book universe when Bane entered the picture of the epic “Knightfall” storyline and took Bruce Wayne out of the picture.

Thanks to the geniuses of Paul Dini et. al., Batman: The Animated Series became my new favorite cartoon. I loved how they kept the darkness of the movies but drew things slightly cartoony.

When the idea of buying 20 Batbooks to follow the storyline grew tiresome, I stepped away from Batman’s world for a few years, dipping my toe into a few stories here and there (I returned for Final Crisis and the beginning of Batman Incorporated). I haven’t delved into the New 52 version of Bats, but I do like the idea of non-continuity digital comics (the aptly named Legends of the Dark Knight). And then, there was Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Batman movie trilogy.

I’m not sure what drew me to Batman. Was it the cool costume? Was it the tragic backstory? Was it the colorful rogue’s gallery? It was probably a mixture of all of that. As I grew older, I probably was drawn more to the stories themselves, written by such luminaries as Denny O’Neil, Marv Wolfman, Alan Grant, Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and others that escape me at the moment, and drawn by such greats as Norm Breyfogle, Jim Aparo, Marshall Rogers, Neal Adams, Kelley Jones, George Perez, and others that also escape me.

Sure, Superman could fly and bounce bullets off his chest, the Flash could run faster than light, and Green Lantern could make a giant green fist from his ring. Batman was just a rich dude who solved crimes with his mind and scared the crap out of villains. What more could you want?

Many happy returns of the day, Batman. I’m sure you’ll still be striking fear in the hearts of superstitious, cowardly criminals for another 75.