Review: The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (1994-’96), by Don Rosa

10/10

It is really hard for me to be objective in any way about these comics. As a young boy I read and reread them to the point that they are burned into the brain. Every single panel is immediately familiar to me. This remains one of the comics I love the most and I consider them a genuine masterclass in comedic drawing. Also, you wouldn’t believe how much more popular these comics were here in Europe than in the United States. Keno Don Rosa and his predecessor Carl Barks are widely regarded as heroes in the comic scene in Europe and very well known. 

What Don Rosa basically did, was to take the Duck material created by famous Duck artist Carl Barks and build on it. In case you don’t know who Barks was, he was the artist who fully fleshed out the Donald Duck universe for the first time and his comics are highly regarded. Barks invented Scrooge McDuck, and many other recurring characters besides, like the Beagle Boys, Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose, The Junior Woodchucks, Magica De Spell… he basically created the Duck universe. 

Now, Keno Don Rosa, as Barks’s greatest fan, regarded the stories by Barks to be the only work that approached anything like “canon” for the adventures of Donald and Scrooge. And based on the material by Barks, on the stories and the background hints, Rosa set out a timeline for Scrooge McDuck’s life and started filling in the gaps – eventually creating an entire series of chapters that chronicled McDuck’s life, from his junior years up to the point where he gets reacquainted with Donald and all the others. And so for the first time creating something of a coherent universe and timeline.

Barks already made McDuck a complex character, but Rosa presents his whole life history here, including McDuck’s old clan, his moving from Scotland to America, his love affair, his adventures on the Mississippi and in the Klondike gold rush and much more, only to end with a homage to Welles’s Citizen Kane. But at that moment, Donald and his nephews show up to subvert that tragic Rosebud ending and bring new love and energy to McDuck’s life. And that is the start of Scrooge’s adventures with Donald and the rest as we can read in Barks’s work, so Rosa’s series works like a prequel and the events in Rosa’s series are looked back on with nostalgia by Scrooge.

In the original run of 12 chapters, young Scrooge travels all over the world, but most of the stories take place in either the States or in Scotland. He is present at historical events, like the Klondike gold rush where we hang out at Dawson and Whitehorse and we see the towns grow up, and at the Transvaal gold rush in South Africa. Scrooge runs into historical figures like Geronimo, Buffalo Bill and Theodore Roosevelt. In some later chapters in expanded collections, he is present at the digging of the Panama Canal and at the Krakatoa eruption. Rosa put in a lot of research to make his stories square up with the historical and geographical circumstances.

Every chapter holds a significant development for McDuck’s character. We see him formulating his goals, exploring his own destiny, finding out how far he is willing to go and what regrets he will carry with him. He might be the most developed anthropomorphic character ever created. And the comedy is just fantastic. The visual jokes and recurring gags are pure brilliance, and each story is dense with them. In short, these stories do everything right. The drawings, the comedy, the character development, the plotlines and references to history, the metatextual elements referring to Barks’s work, all of it is done right.

All Rosa’s stories are dedicated to Carl Barks. In every one of his stories, there is a hidden D.U.C.K. abbreviation in the opening panel somewhere, which stands for: Dedicated to Unca Carl from Keno.

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6 Responses to Review: The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (1994-’96), by Don Rosa

  1. Bookstooge says:

    I didn’t even realize there was “canon” for McDuck. I think my knowledge extends to what I watched on Ducktales back in the 90’s….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ola G says:

    Oh, I remember those! It was a big thing in Poland too, in the early ’90s! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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