Sunday, January 2, 2011

Carl Barks Comics Collection Coming: Collected Classic Comics a Collosal Concept

Here's some good news for comics fans here in 2011.

Fall 2011, Fantagraphics will be printing a really nice, hardbound edition of classic Uncle Scrooge comics  by Carl Barks in a prestige format for around $25.  There's a terrific interview at Robot 6 today discussing plans.

One of the odd things that's hard to sell to non-comic readers and comic-readers alike is that Uncle Scrooge comics are a whole lot of fun.  And this is also semi-true of a lot of most Disney comics.  I, myself, looked cock-eyed at people who would talk about Uncle Scrooge comics until I was about 30.  I watched a few episodes of Duck Tales in high school, but wasn't ever all that enamored (I did, however, love Tail Spin and was quite irritated when it was canceled).  I knew about the money bin, Gyro Gearloose, domestic duck squabbles with Donald, globe-trotting adventure...  but what I didn't get was how that worked in comics that I heard adults talking about.

While Mickey is certainly the foremost Disney character in terms of recognizability, for decades Uncle Scrooge, who is a sort of periphery Disney property, has reined supreme in comics around the globe.  The rise to prominence came under the pen of Carl Barks, a legend to many in comics along the lines of Jack Kirby, who brought straight up all-ages adventure to Uncle Scrooge comics.  That didn't mean they weren't funny or rely on specifics of character that you'd see in all the classic Disney characters (except, oddly, for the nephews, that Disney seemed to think worked better as interchangeable, and I kind of refuse to disagree). It was mostly a quality of storytelling and art that set Barks apart as an auteur of the medium.

We keep our change in a big coffee cup
I guess it was when I found out the guy who owns Diamond, the monopoly that runs comic distribution in the US, had started Gemstone Comics to get the Disney license and do reprints from older and overseas-produced Disney comics, I decided to try out some Uncle Scrooge.

I've become a fan, but I don't pretend I'm one of the folks who was reading Uncle Scrooge as a kid, or who has a closet full of Disney comics that I can quote chapter and verse.  Respect.

When Gemstone lost the Disney reprint license to Boom! a couple years ago, I wasn't all that shattered as Boom!, (a) was going to be aggressive in their offerings, and (b) they dropped the prices to the point of easy affordability.  Gemstone had been charging upward of $8 for a single issue of Uncle Scrooge (in all fairness, it was 2 or 3 comics worth of materials) and I'd quit buying.

Anyhow, summer 2010 Fantagraphics announced it would be publishing a classic run of Mickey Mouse comics by Gottfredson, and I've been waiting to see that collection listed in Previews (honestly, I may have missed it, but I hope not).  And now Fantagraphics plans to do the same with the Uncle Scrooge work of Carl Barks (aka: The Good Duck Artist).  Fantagraphics doesn't really do "half-measures", so I expect this will be a really nice book-shelf style hardback.

This is almost exactly my set up at Barton Springs each summer
In some ways, I don't understand the publishing model from Disney's perspective.  Disney has a license for its characters through Boom! and they've published largely recent, mostly European-produced stories.  But in recent months Boom! has made it clear they're going to be reprinting classic Disney comics in their mainline Disney books, and one assumes this includes Barks and Don Rosa (Rosa is Barks' amazingly talented successor).  Disney actually does own their own publishing arm, which could have done this.  Further, Disney owns Marvel Comics.  I don't know that its a good mixing of brands, and I have to assume there are good reasons for a lack of cooperation between Marvel and Disney Comics.

And then Fantagraphics, yet another publisher, gets the prestige format reprint license?  It would just be interesting to hear Disney flat-out explain their strategy.  My guess is that they just saw what Fantagraphics has done with Peanuts and they thought they were the right folks for this job.  I'd also hazard a guess that they see the monthly comics as "periodicals" and this project as "the book department", and so licenses are different.

Whatever the case, the book is happening.  And that's really good news!  

An additional note:  Its hard on the pocketbook, but across the industry, many publishers are getting very good at putting together prestige format collections of classic comics, both from standard comic book formats and from the comics page/ comic strips.  There have always been "best of" hardback collections, but now we're seeing complete runs of work like Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Bloom County.  Fantagraphics is working its way through Peanuts' multi-decade run.  And we can expect to see Walt Kelley's Pogo hit in March with its first volume.

Barks' work hasn't been collected in the US in any comprehensive manner, so I'm glad to see it happening.  Not a bad way to start a new year in comics news!

Again, its expensive if you decided you wanted to own all of these, but I think I'm glad to know that these archive edition books are making their way to press before the work is lost (because one day it will be), and that means its likely digitized and semi-preserved.  The price isn't that prohibitive if you can pass the books around, and I don't know if they'll try for an ebook or paperback edition, both of which would be cheaper, I'd guess.  The new edition also means that these books, whole runs of them, may find their ways into libraries, both public and private.


Simon MacDonald said...

This is absolutely terrific news. I am one of the people who grew up reading Uncle Scrooge comics. I learned so much about history, geography and other cultures by reading these books as a kid. Carl Barks was an absolute genius.

Don Rosa was a very good successor to Barks as well. As I look up to my bookshelf I can see my BOOM! Studio Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Volume 1 and the older Gemstone Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Volume 2. Anna likes this books too.

Additionally, you really should be reading Darkwing Duck from BOOM! I've got the first trade and it is just great. Both the art and story are perfect. It's one of the best super hero books on the stands today.

Finally a Pogo collection by Walt Kelly, I'm going to start saving my nickels.

The League said...

I will look and see if Austin Books got it in! I was trade waiting on it, but didn't realize it had come out. I confess I've already pre-ordered the Walt Kelly book.

Simon MacDonald said...

Yeah, Darkwing Duck Vol 1 is available now and Vol 2 which is called "Crisis on Infinite Darkwings" will be out in May. It looks to be hilarious.

Matt A. said...

Slightly related - I need to check out the Bloom County collection. Somewhere, I still have a newspaper cut-out of the only Bloom County comic that was never published - Berth's call out to musicians to write a song for Billy and the Boingers.

The League said...

One of these days I really hope to find a copy of the included floppy record "'Cause I'm a Boinger" and "U Stink, But I Love You".

Matt A. said...

I have no idea what happened to mine. Might be worth a dime or so now.

Simon MacDonald said...

I know exactly where my copy of that album is. Back in Nova Scotia in a room in our basement between the pages of the Bloom County collection it came from. Weighty Brass Rules!