Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck - Don Rossa

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is precisely the kind of comic book triumph everyone needs to own and read to forget about the state of everything else. It makes you remember what is good and wonderful in the medium. It reminds you of the amazing adventures characters are capable of having. It let’s you laugh and cry and ever so gently reminds you that America is capable of more than super-hero melodrama and violent crap to rock your comic book world. All the while appearing simply beautiful and utterly enjoyable to get lost in while looking at the pretty pictures in every single panel.

Yes it’s taken me a long time to get and read this book but it’s been on my priority list for a long time. My wife bought it for me this Christmas and I’ve been saving it until a time when I had enough time to read it in one sitting. When we booked tickets to Toronto via train I knew I should hold off until then. Boy am I glad. I was captivated from page one panel one.

I know the Disney Ducks mostly from growing up with Donald Duck cartoons then watching the Duck Tales cartoons – which I need to remember to pick up on DVD for some kids I know. I loved the adventures of Unca Scrooge and the three nephews because they filled my serial adventure appetite on a daily basis when I didn’t own any Indiana Jones on VHS. Heck they even had a Duck Tales Nintendo game that was probably the last time (before the first Spiderman movie) there was a truly great product tie-in. So I got to know Scrooge McDuck, not as the miserly caricature he was meant to be in passing, but as the wily, creative and brave upright character he is under the surface. When seen in passing glances he’s a very simple character but scratch the surface and spend time with him and you see a fascinating duck.

The comparisons to Charles Foster Cane are unavoidable, and Rossa actually starts the last tale in this book like Citizen Cane only we’re given a character that knows the meaning of his life and has actually earned each and every penny. We get to see the making of a character from humble and poor beginnings to seeking and losing multiple fortunes as well as meeting success with familial tragedy. We see the story of a life and how a life can be turned into the stuff of legend and stories. And under it all we’re given a sympathetic character that embodies the whole “lift yourself with your own bootstraps” mentality so his fall, however brief, from those ideals is more drastic and seemingly harsh to us as a reader.

What Rossa does is not just fill in blank space left by Carl Barks who never intended to fill in any details in the first place, but to simply add a layer to a great character by wedging those details into Barks’ own fabled run on the Duck comics. You know all this already since the book is well over a year old at this point. I knew this would be a tour de force of comic bookery but I was not ready to enjoy it as much as I did. This book has hit a note in me and reminds me of what the medium is capable of outside of big punch up cross-over events. This was a continuing story that is told in strong single issues that follow a pattern and are seeking an end. It tells many tales in telling one just how Scrooge’s character is simple yet full of individual tales that make him unbelievably complex – again reflected in his fortune as one object made of billions of memories.

In one sentence this comic can be summed up as every single type of adventure tale in one book.

It is quite simply some of the best comics you’ll ever read. Forget about the latest and greatest stuff that you want simply because it is new. Go for quality and pick this up. You will be overjoyed at having experienced this comic and saddened by the utter crap you’ve recently bought. I was, and I've got a limited pull list.

3 comments:

Fortress Keeper said...

It's on my list of books to purchase. I am finding that cutting back on monthlies is providing more opportunities to read books like American Born Chinese - another great example of how comics are more than Joe Quesada, Mark Millar and Brian Bendis.

Great post!

joncormier said...

I read this then I read the last trade for Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory. It was a heck of a trip!

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

You need to get the companion book as well. That is even more of a ride.