Saturday, September 21, 2013

What? Not Impressed?

DC Comics is " the interesting times" lately - where can they not go wrong? Type "DC Comics controversy" on Google and see what you get.

It seems they got their Forever Evil event going, but with an old trick from the 1990s: the gimmick cover. What's being described as a "3D cover" is what I alwys identified as a "Wiggle card", but upon close inspection, is a combination of wiggle and 3D; the image does not wiggle, but it has the depth of field promised by 3D, and the image is clear and viewable without kitschy glasses.

The big controversy surrounding this event is that gimmick may have been added late in the game and there are more "standard" editions on stands then copies with the 3D covers. Retailers are hoping that people will buy the regular copies anyway to check out the stories because they're otherwise stuck with unsold comics that will eventually end up in the half-dollar box, particularly if it features a character that's unpopular.

Anyway...when I went to the comic shop, I only saw two comics with 3D covers available: The Riddler & The Creeper. The Riddler story was tied-in to a Batman arc that I haven't been following (I wait for the library to carry trades of a lot of the recent superhero storylines; I'm waiting for them to carry Before Watchmen as well, and Batman: Death of The Family - NOT "A Death In The Family", in case you were wondering). As for Creeper ... the cover looks fantastic, but the book is offering a new take on the character...a character who...well, most creators have had a hard time figuring out who or what The Creeper is; his appearance on Batman: The animated Series was a rare lucky break. The new take by Ann Nocenti & Chriss Cross (not Christopher "sailin'" Cross, in case you were wondering) seems inspired by legends/folklore from Japan about demons - Oni (not Oni the comics publisher, in case you were wondering). It's okay, but I wonder if the original Steve Ditko design has been given the boot, or if this was just some new mythology Nocenti was setting up. I did notice that the cover was a faint nod to the Creeper's first appearance in DC Showcase.

I flipped through the  standard issues offered...none of the stories really caught my attention, although the event is not finished yet - there's supposedly a revival of the Duela Dent "Joker's Daughter" character coming up (also by Ann Nocenti)..and I'm sure the 3D covers WILL turn up - marked-up, of course. It's really saying a lot that this event is the one bright spot in a rather schizzy summer for the company.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Apocryphal Scrooge McDuck

This is the first of several entries/essays about children's books featuring "The richest duck in the world"...with no Ducktales logo in sight...

"Scrooge and The Magic Fish" was part of a series of children's books featuring Disney characters called Disney's Fun To Read Library, published by Bantam in 1986. The author and illustrator were not credited, but the art style is not unlike how the characters appeared in the Disney comics of the 1960s and 70s. Published just one year before the premiere of Ducktales, it offers an image of Scrooge that's a bit more complex than he would ever appear in other children's books, aside from adaptations of Mickey's Christmas Carol.

The book adapts the fable of "The Fisherman & His Wife" with Scrooge cast in the role of the fisherman. In the fable, a fisherman catches a fish that will grant a wish for whatever the fisherman desires in exchange for sparing its life. The fisherman agrees, but his greedy wife pressures him into constantly going back and forth to make more demands for a greater prize, each trip trying the fish's patience until he decides the fisherman was better off in the state he was before their encounter - with nothing.

The adaptation changes things considerably by playing off Scrooge's manic, dark side within the context of a simple fable - and he does have a dark side : his vanity, his greed, his insecurity, his bipolar tendencies (content, self-possessed, confident, resourceful one moment...frantic, hapless, paranoid, cynical and fickle the next) - all in a convincing way, along with the change of atmosphere; things literally get darker - storm clouds form, Scrooge's undeserved sense of entitlement makes him oblivious to the dangerous weather, the fish's slow burn... it all works.

Donald Duck appears in the story - he does play the role that the wife played in the fable, but he steps out of character to play the voice of reason and show that even he can be wise. Sometimes. Instead, all the conflict is really supplied by Scrooge, who sees his fortune as "half-empty" and is desperately trying to seize/exploit an opportunity that was only meant as a show of grattitude by a magic creature.

The story ends with the status quo restored: Scrooge is still a tightwad, but he appreciates his hard-earned fortune better than he ever did, as this tale seems to argue.. I really wish I knew who wrote this. There's not a single false note to be found. It wasn't Carl Barks, was it? Could this be a lost tale by The Duck Man?

Here's a hint about the book I'll review next time: scratch and sniff.