Monday, February 27, 2012

Signal Watch Reads - "Donald Duck - Lost in the Andes"

Wow.  You can tell a lot of love went into this book just by picking it up, looking at the binding, the reprint quality, the paper stock and the supplementary material.

I finally finished Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes from Fantagraphics Books over the weekend, and I am busting.  Not just about the actual comics, which were thoroughly enjoyable, but the whole package of the volume.

As I'm learning, you may be a fan of your favorite comic characters, but few American comics characters draw the kind of devotion that you see from Disney Duck fans, especially when it comes to the works of Carl Barks and Don Rosa.  And its not just been here in North America that you see that kind of enthusiasm.  The Ducks are a global phenomena, and I've come to really enjoy some of the work you see originating from Scandanavia as well.



The collection isn't a chronological reprinting of Carl Barks' work, but a sort of greatest hits package from the period with feature length stories such as "The Golden Christmas Tree" and a lot of shorts as well as one page gags, all circa 1948 or so.

The title "Lost in the Andes" comes from a featured longer-form tale of the same name, and one that you hear about pretty quickly if you're reading any Donald comics.  Its a wildly creative story, and it looks a lot like the adventures you'd see later in the pages of Uncle Scrooge.  This one introduces the Plainawfullians, and I just don't want to spill too much in case you get a chance to read the strip one day.  

Shorts include the famous "yacht lifting" comic, and I particularly enjoyed some of the one-pager gags such as the addition of a television to Donald's living room and how he solves the chaos the TV introduces into his home.

Barks' work is hilarious, cute, and tightly plotted, managing to retain a rock solid foundation of story while going off in all directions with the possibilities inherent from a goofy duck and his three energetic nephews.  

I'll leave commentary on the strips to the experts, which is what this book does so darn well.  In addition to the comics, the book features an excellent introduction by Donald Ault, which is must reading for anyone who mostly knows Barks by name but knows virtually nothing of his life.  The books also features an appendix of scholarly work done on the contents of comics, taking an academic approach to reading the strips and digging in from a critic's viewpoint rather than just a reviewer or enthusiastic fan.  

All in all, its a Grade-A package that would be a surprisingly good first Donald read were you to find the book at your local library.  The kids can enjoy the comics and adults might enjoy the stories as well as the supplementary material.  

No doubt Boom! did a phenomenal job of bringing the Ducks back to prominence on the comics rack, but I have to be impressed with how Fantagraphics has taken an extra step and turned this volume into a comics geek's dream.

I give this book a total of 11 Donalds out of 10 and I look forward to further offerings from the Disney/ Fantagraphics relationship.


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