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A Duck and a Gentleman – Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #238

January 24, 2011


I never cared much for Mickey Mouse or many of the other Disney characters, though I did have a pair of pet flying squirrels for a few months as a kid that I christened Chip and Dale (a story for another time). I much preferred Bugs and Daffy and their Warner Bros. pals.

But I made an exception for Donald Duck.

There was something appealing about his temper, his spastic fits of anger, those big expressive Disney eyes, that bulbous butt, and even his hard to understand baby-talk voice. His hard edges were allayed somewhat by those soft white feathers of his and the rather adorable sailor’s garb he almost always wore. There was also a subliminal association between his diminutive size and the children (like me) who loved him so — kids could identify with his little guy/big world struggles, and could admire his pluck (does that count as a pun?) as he met life’s challenges. But even disregarding those things, you could tell that under all his bluster he was a pretty good guy. He must have been — Daisy saw something in him, and his proxy-parental relationship with Huey, Dewey and Louie somehow worked. He had (and has) his charm.

I had a nice relationship with the character when I was growing up. As a kid one of my treasured possessions was VHS tape of Donald Duck shorts called “An Officer and a Duck” which collected some wartime cartoons. I wore that thing out. I even had a real live “Unca Donald” myself for a while, but he died when I was very young, so young that as I sit here typing I can’t even remember what he looked like. I can remember calling him “Unca Donald” though, that’s for damn sure. And when my parents and I made the long drive down to Disney World when I was eight years old, I almost expired with joy when I saw the “real” Donald Duck walking around the park. I got his autograph, which sits proudly in a photo album somewhere in my parents’ house. I now realize that it’s actually the autograph of some minimum wage schlub who was sweating his balls off in that suit on a hot Orlando summer day, but still…

All that means I still have a lot of residual affection and loyalty when it comes to Mr. Duck, and I was eager to delve into this book when I picked it up. Even if he did once call Daffy the N-word in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? — go check that out if you get a second.

Apart from the cute cover, the comic falls short of the sputtering majesty that is the Duck. It suffers from a similar problem that I pointed out with a Porky Pig tale a while back. In Porky’s case, it was the stutter that was M.I.A., and its absence undermined the entire enterprise. In Donald’s, it’s the fact that there’s really no way to adequately capture (and if there is, it’d be a Herculean task) his voice in word balloons. And, sadly, his dialogue reads like the “Wrong Sounding Muppets” from Family Guy sound:

The setup for Donald’s tale comes as his nephews have to go to a club meeting, and Donald gets saddled with their sitting job:

This’ll go great, right?:

Just like Watergate, the coverup is worse than the crime:

Finally, after all the shenanigans, Huey, Dewey and Louie end up with tanned hides:

It’s still nice to let my eyes wash over the crisp, clean Carl Barks artwork. He did great work in capturing Donald’s visual appeal — I can’t deny that. And I understand that he developed his own little Duck universe (Duckiverse?) in comic books that split off from the Disney screen depictions, but it’s hard for me to disassociate Donald’s voice from what I’m reading and accept this more erudite fowl.

But there’s more!

We have a Mickey Mouse story inside that carries a residual tinge of earlier cartoon racism (another reason to loathe that ****ing rodent). Mickey’s fostering some youngster from Africa — here’s the visitor (named Thursday) trying to cook Pluto:

I swear, Mickey calls this spear-carrying dude an “uneducated savage” or some variation thereof about forty times in this story. All that’s lacking is a bone through the nose and some watermelon to complete the tableau.  I realize that today we here in America are not perfect as a society, but we have come a loooooooooong way.

There’s also a story with the long-forgotten Scamp and an odd pairing of Chip and Dale with Snow White’s Seven Dwarves. Strange — that’s all I can say about the feel of the latter “team-up.”

On the whole the material on hand is no better than the Looney Tunes books I looked at a while back, but the residual affection I have for Donald makes this an somewhat enjoyable read. I’d be remiss if I didn’t embed some favorite shorts of his to wrap things up — thanks to YouTube I managed to track down a couple that were in that old tape of mine. I haven’t seen them in years — decades, even — but I could still remember them clearly. They’re quite good, and might be worth a look.

Or maybe not. As Donald is wont to say, “Ahhhhhh phooey!”

One Comment leave one →
  1. fatima zahra permalink
    December 3, 2014 8:52 am

    hey would you like to give me the pdf to this story???

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