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'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|
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.