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The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck – The Rosa Exception

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, by Don Rosa, is one of the most intensively continuity-laden comic book series ever, and yet it is an excellent and engaging comic book series for both fans of Uncle Scrooge and just fans of comic books, period.

Cover_scrooge_mcduck.jpg

The concept behind the series is that Rosa decided to give a “definitive” back story for Scrooge McDuck, based almost entirely upon little factoids that Carl Barks mentioned during his classic Uncle Scrooge tales. So, for instance, if Barks mentioned that Scrooge did ____ in 189_, then Rosa would work that into Scrooge’s back story, making sure to address every single mention that Barks peppered into his comics (with a few exceptions that Rosa addressed where Barks seems to have made mistakes with his own timeline, mostly from early Scrooge appearances where Barks certainly did not put much thought into the character’s background, never fathoming how popular this character, introduced just as a novelty Christmas character, would become).

Such slavish devotion to continuity would make Geoff Johns blush. In fact, Rosa is unique in the sense that his devotion is to a single creator. I cannot think of a single other comic book creator SO devoted to the prior works of another creator the way that Rosa devoted this storyline to the work of Barks.

And yet, the story not only works, it works splendidly, without a hint of outside writing. You would specifically have to know (or be told) that Rosa was writing this comic with Barks’ stories in mind to even tell, because that’s how fluid and logical Rosa makes the story flow.

Meanwhile, Rosa’s story is not just logical, but it is engaging, with such ripe characterizations explored by Rosa’s pen, making the characters (most of whom just get quick appearances) really leap from the page. And the adventures are not just entertaining, but Rosa manages to also make the stories based in historical fact, which makes them even more interesting!

This series won the Eisner Award for Best Continuing Storyline, and that is an honor this story well deserved. It just an excellent, excellent series and the trade only costs $17.

31 Comments

While I love this TPB and the Barks “Duck” comics I’ve discovered as a result, I’m not really sure that Rosa’s work is entirely free of outside writing. There are quite a few things that are introduced as though they are going somewhere, but then vanish without trace. Mostly, this happens when a character takes center stage for a few panels and says something like, “I should definitely make the acquaintance of Mr. McDuck,” and then never appears anywhere in the book again.

Of course, all these threads Rosa drops DID go somewhere (usually somewhere wonderful) — just in the Barks stories and not in this book. By and large, I find this is noticeable but not detrimental, but it can get kind of confusing if you’re not aware of the Barks stories.

Despite that, this TPB (along with Usagi Yojimbo) is standing proof that continuity does not make bad comics. Bad continuity makes bad comics. Good continuity draws you in, despite knowing nothing, and leaves you wanting to catch up on what you’ve missed.

Interesting point, Edward. Perhaps I just know the material so well that it didn’t jump out at me!

Thanks for pointing it out!

Man, what is this? Like, ducks? Birds? In a comic book? And they like, talk and that? That is soooooo childish

I’ve had it with these bloody kids concepts invading our precious comics literature. This should be the place where we are free to explore a strange new and wonderful symbiosis between the mediums of art and literature

What do we get instead though? This stuff. This… Saturday morning cartoon fare that is dragging us down and anchoring us from realising our true potential!

Try harder, Brian, that’s all I’m asking. Look harder around you, find us something worthy to gush on. Something that doesn’t just pander to your nerdy nostalgic childhood, something that you can appreciate the multi-layered depths of mature discourse that uplifts us as human beings. Like, “Blankets” by Thompson, or even better! “Acme Novelty Library” by Chris Ware! Stuff so depressing, it makes you cry out at the sheer waste…!

By the way: don’t forget “Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion” coming out soon where we get pre-chapters, the post-chapters and the in-between chapters! My God… I think there might even be stories in it I’ve never laid eyes on yet… Oh my stars and garters!

Acme Novelty Library is an amazing comic book.

The Carl Barks and Don Rosa stuff is very good Stony. There’s a level of craftmanship there that’s far better than what you’ll see in a lot of other books.

He’s being sarcastic, Anon.

Stony is the biggest fan of the Ducks that I know.

He even tried to go to work without pants one day.

I just bought this over the weekend, and haven’t had time to read it yet. Having grown up with Ducktales, which was essentially watered-down Barks and Rosa, I can’t resist a good duck story. Of course, I also get weird looks from people by insisting that Mikcey Mouse is an adventurer rather than a humor character. Looking forward to seeing Scrooge earnt he Number One Dime, meet Goldie, first clash with Flintheart, encounter the Rockerducks, and so forth.

It’s amazing how flexible Barks made Scrooge’s character and stories, and how well the Keno Don Rosa stuff I’ve read here and there maintains and increases that flexibility. I’d say it even beats such notably fluid concepts as Eisner’s Spirit and Gerber’s Man-Thing in that you can do a surplus of different story styles and keep Scrooge consistent in personality and retain his role as protagonist. Eisner and Gerber at times had to make their “stars” into the backdrop for someone else’s story.

I also nabbed the 1st volume of the Max Alan Collins Dick Tracy, despite owning a book that reprints one of the stories in it. But man, Dick Tracy by Collins is second only to pre-Moon-era Gould. The strip doesn’t seem to have recovered from Collins’ departure — I like Dick Locher’s art quite a lot, but the man can’t write a Tracy story to save his life. Of course, that’s probably not his fault so much as it’s the reuslt of the endless abuses heaped upon the newspaper comics format. But Collins was lucky enoygh to write Tracy back when the strips were still printed large enough to allow striking layouts and designs to come through, not to mention enabling a decent story pace.

Considering that I basically learned reading from the Duck stories (in ’76) I never warmed to Rosa’s approach. Haven’t read L&T so far, but all of the shorter stories of his I read struck me as irritatingly obsessed with continuity *for it’s own sake*, which kinda reminded me of late Simpsons episodes. The artwork may be heavily detailed, but I found it to be rather stiff and unexciting.

But then again, I’m one of those people who think that Disney comics peaked with the stuff produced by Romano Scarpa in Italy in the late 50’s/early 60’s – probably the only creator post-Gottfredson who could write exciting Mickey Mouse stories.

I woulda got away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddlin’ security guards…

I just bought this over the weekend, and haven’t had time to read it yet. Having grown up with Ducktales, which was essentially watered-down Barks and Rosa, I can’t resist a good duck story.

So have you checked out the Gemstone collections ‘Carl Barks Greatest Duck Tales’, where they reprint the classic Barks stories which were turned into Duck Tales episodes, with notes on what was changed and what was kept?
Top stuff that.

Despite that, this TPB (along with Usagi Yojimbo) is standing proof that continuity does not make bad comics. Bad continuity makes bad comics.

In the words of my man, Obelix, “Zygakly!”
I couldn’t agree with you more.
When you have poor writing, and continuity is used as a crutch to attempt to cover up the failings of the writer, it’s awful.
When, on the other hand, you have a great storyteller who’s using continuity as a solid framework to build a story on… well, that’s another thing again.

This is some great comic book storytelling right here.

I’m glad to hear that they are going to TPB the In-between-quels to this wonderful series. I think when Rosa shines is doing the sequels to the Barks stories and manages to tie two or three of them together and create a glorious adventure.

I almost stopped buying comics in the 90’s because of what I call the “Jugs & Demons” days. I was tired of all the angst, but it was the Rosa stories that made me laugh out loud. “The Son of the Sun” was what got me hooked back onto the ducks & kept me in comics for at least 10 years.

I’ve seen those “Ducktales” volumes, Pol, but haven’t had the ready cash. I was able to buy the Rosa and Collins volumes because my LCS had a nice sale on non-Big Two TPBs.

I really need to move right over to “buying trades.” Saves money over the floppies. That said, Gemsonte’s prestige-format Scrooge comics aren’t a bad deal either.

Does anyone know what the plans are for reprinting the Rosa ducks stuff he has done since they stopped publishing in the U.S. a few years back?

Actually Gemstone during the last few years has been reprinting the Don Rosa duck stories that only appeared in Europe during the period when there were no Disney comics being printed in the U.S.

So you might want to check out recent back issues of Gemstone’s Uncle Scrooge prestige title.

Thank you, Mark. I will do that.

on 26 Jul 2006 at 11:59 am 1.Edward Liu said …
>>>>While I love this TPB and the Barks “Duck” comics I’ve discovered as a result, I’m not really sure that Rosa’s work is entirely free of outside writing.

“Outside writing”? As in an editor telling me what to do or not to do? No, everything in that series (and in all my stories) is purely my own work. Sometimes my editor will tell me to lengthen or shorten a sequence, but that’s all. If you mean “outside writing” in the sense that I am controlled by what Barks did 50 years ago, yes, you’re 100% correct!

>>>There are quite a few things that are introduced as though they are going somewhere, but then vanish without trace.

??? Like what? (I suspect you refer to references to Barks stories or characters that I expect Barks experts to understand without me completing the reference. Remember, I work directly for the European market where virtually everyone, including the man-in-the-street, are totally familiar with Barks’ stories. There is NOTHING in America as universally popular with EVERY living soul as Barks’ Ducks are in Europe. Nothing.)

Don,
If that is really you :) Are there any plans to collect & release all of the more recent Duck stuff you have done over the last few years? I’ve started reading your stories with my 7 year old and would love to have it them in a collected book, or books.
Thanks.

>>>If that is really you?

Well, I guess so… but you’ll hafta tell me how I could prove it.
Why am I here? I have an autoGoogle set up to search the internet for mentions of “don rosa”. Naturally, since 99.999% of such references are posted by Europeans, I can’t read many of them, but this one I could. So…

>>>>Are there any plans to collect & release all of the more recent Duck stuff you have done over the last few years?

You might know (?) that Gemstone will release the Life & Times of $crooge COMPANION next month, and I expect they’ll do as great a job on that as on the first volume. But… I would expect you might ask about a collection of all my stuff starting from the beginning circa 1987. But you’re asking about only the “more recent” stories? You didn’t buy them when Gemstone printed them in the last year or two? Well, then, even if they start a “DON ROSA LIBRARY”, it would take them some time to get around to reprinting the stuff they just printed in the past 12-18 months. And they don’t even have plans to do *that* as far as I know.

The Companion sounds like an absolutely delightful idea.

I wouldn’t be surprised if another Eisner nomination happened as a result of the release of the Companion.

Don,

>>>>And they don’t even have plans to do *that* as far as I know.

Well, darn it. All I have of your work is the stuff that Gladstone put out (the 4 Life & Times… books and the 4 Uncle Scrooge Adventures books), plus a few of the newer Gemstone books. I was hoping there were plans to start reprinting all of your work, putting them together in nice collections, similar to what Gladstone did (or in any collected format for that matter). I do plan on picking up the Life & Times Companion.

Just wanted to let you know that my son absolutely loves your “The Magnificent Seven Caballeros” story (and I’m quite fond of it too). He’s been cracking up over it. He was excited when I told him I was talking, on the computer, to the man that wrote & drew the story.

If I could bother to ask you to just say, “Hi Zack” back on this thread, he would think it’s the coolest thing.

Thanks again and take care.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if another Eisner nomination happened as a result of the release of the Companion.”

But… sounds like you think there was an Eisner nomination for the first volume last year. No, ’twas not. And I was frankly astounded that Gemstone got NO recognition for that splendid job… or for such a tremendously popular book. For example, it was Bud Plant’s best-selling comic-story collection for 2005, including new material, not just reprints, outselling any of the “graphic novels” or comics albums or whatever which did get nominations. Go figger.
And if the collected original 12 stories got no nomination, then the subsequent, less focused stories certainly won’t.
Notice also that my pal Todd Klein, who again (naturally) won for lettering, his award listed all the comics and books he worked on last year… EXCEPT my Duck stories, which he does voluntarilly as a Duckfan. And in previous years they used to list my Duck stories under his work. Again, go figger.

“Just wanted to let you know that my son absolutely loves your “The Magnificent Seven (Minus Four)Caballeros” story (and I’m quite fond of it too).”

Thanks. But sorry it was broken up & stretched over 3 monthly editions! My stories are intended to only be stretched over 2 weeks in the weekly Euro editions, or collected into a single part story that they have alternate art to accomodate.

“He was excited when I told him I was talking, on the computer, to the man that wrote & drew the story. If I could bother to ask you to just say, “Hi Zack” back on this thread, he would think it’s the coolest thing.”

I suspect your offspring is “easily amused” if a hello from me would impress him, but anything for a Duckfan!
HIYA, ZACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But… sounds like you think there was an Eisner nomination for the first volume last year. No, ’twas not. And I was frankly astounded that Gemstone got NO recognition for that splendid job… or for such a tremendously popular book. For example, it was Bud Plant’s best-selling comic-story collection for 2005, including new material, not just reprints, outselling any of the “graphic novels” or comics albums or whatever which did get nominations. Go figger.
And if the collected original 12 stories got no nomination, then the subsequent, less focused stories certainly won’t

I figured they overlooked the first trade collection because of the Eisner they gave for the series as Best Continuing Series. Of the storylines that won Eisners for Best Serialized Story, only two also won for Best Graphic Novel – Reprint (and one of them was the Bone Vol. 1 TPB, which collected the ENTIRE Bone run, including the Eisner-winning storyline)

Now a graphic novel with such a cool and unique idea as to collect all the tie-in stories to Life and Times? I think that should have a good shot at an Eisner nomination!

“I figured they overlooked the first trade collection because of the Eisner they gave for the series as Best Continuing Series.”

Aha. That sounds logical. Well, maybe so! Potentially good figgering.
By the way, I think I finally grasp the idea of the “outside writing” referred to above — that being how my entire “Life of $crooge” series is controlled, not by an editor, but by Barks’ work of over half-a-century ago, my sole purpose being to bring all those various factoids into a single narrative. Okay. Sometimes I’m a bit thick!

Don,

Thanks much for the quick “Hiya” to my son. He was quite excited when I showed it to him.

Now get these guys to start collecting all your work into some trades, darn it. $6.95 for each Rosa story is gonna kill me. :)

By the way, I think I finally grasp the idea of the “outside writing” referred to above — that being how my entire “Life of $crooge” series is controlled, not by an editor, but by Barks’ work of over half-a-century ago, my sole purpose being to bring all those various factoids into a single narrative. Okay. Sometimes I’m a bit thick!

Exactly. And what struck me as particularly good about the story was the way that I did not think that a reader who didn’t already KNOW that was your purpose would be able to tell from the story, which I think is impressive.

Ed differed slightly, in that he felt that there were some examples where the story was openly winking at the reader about the Barks references. He didn’t seem to think it was a big deal, but he thought it was noticeable, where I did not.

>>>>>Ed differed slightly, in that he felt that there were some examples where the story was (noticeably) openly winking at the reader about the Barks references.

Oh, sure, I was winking so hard, so often, my eyebulb got outta joint. But it hopefully wasn’t too noticeable. After all, if the reader was not familiar with the Barks originals, how could he spot the winking? I was winking only at the Barks fans. But I originally thought that ONLY Barks fans would read the series — I was stunned when, in America, it turned out that most readers were not Barks/Duck fans at all, and were only reading it due to the many kindly reviews being received. I would have *never* thought that anyone but a Barks fan/scholar would like the thing!

I am so excited about the Companion coming out!! I already have the main episodes (the french edition of La jeunesse de Picsou that came out in 1998)…
They are really good stories, and I enjoy how Don Rosa made it all tie in together chronologically :D

Don Rosa is my favorite Disney Comics artist that is still alive. I think it’s cool that he can do sequels to those Carl Barks stories and write The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is my favorite storyline ever. I have every chapter of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck series in both TPB’s. I also have both of The Carl Barks Greatest Duck Tales Stories. I like all kinds of Disney Comics but the best ones are definitely from The Carl Barks and Don Rosa Universe.
Scrooge McDuck is my favorite Disney Character and I think it’s cool that he has his own life story. I have been collecting Disney Comicsf since 1987(Except for the time period when they stopped making them). In fact the show Duck Tales is what got me interested in collecting the Disney Comics.

Ahh,I remember this!
I read it some years ago,as a kid,and I really,really loved the story. You know,even as a child I have been a hard guy to please. Too critical and finding flaws in everything. Yet,the concept and art and…just /everything/ about Rosa´s work had me “captured” as soon as I started reading this book.
No,really,a few days ago I came across this on the Internet and remembered just how much I had loved it before and it just feels nostalgic to go get my precious comic,sit down and re-read all of Scrooge´s amazing adventures!
I adore how dedicated Rosa was to Carl Barks´ work and how well he used the bits of information the latter gave to make this amazing story.
I´ll never grow tired of reading it.
Don Rosa is truly a legend!

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