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A Month of Writing Stars – Don Rosa

Every day this month I’m going to feature a current comic book writing “star,” someone who I think is a very good writer.

I’m mostly going to try to keep from the biggest names as much as possible, because, really, do I need to talk more about the awesomeness of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis?

Here is the archive of previously featured writers.

Today we look at a great writer who is also quite an artist!

Enjoy!

Like Raina Telgemeier, I featured Don Rosa in the Month of Art Stars (here is his entry), but as talented as an artist as Rosa is (and he is really an excellent artist), I find his writing to be more of a draw for me in his work than his artwork.

When I think about Rosa’s comic book work, the word that often comes to my mind is “balance,” in that Rosa seems to have achieved near-perfect balance with his work – he balances writing historical fiction with writing adventure fiction, never letting either one of them overpower the other – he balances writing kid-friendly comics with writing truly all-ages comics, never letting either one overpower the other – and in perhaps his most impressive piece of balance, he manages to balance a meticulous sense of continuity along with a significant sense of fun in his work.

Nowhere is this more evident than in his classic collection, the Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the project, it is a collection of 12 issues of Uncle Scrooge by Rosa where he meticulously details the, well, life and times of Scrooge McDuck, but going by the history that Scrooge’s creator, the legendary Carl Barks, laid out for Scrooge in his many years writing Scrooge in the comics.

So what Rosa did here was to take all of the casual remarks made by Barks over the years and turn all of them into a cohesive narrative. Such an endeavor sounds foolishly attentive to continuity, no? However, Rosa never lets the story feel like anything but an engaging adventure story.

Along the way, Rosa makes sure to get in what is a passion of his – historical fiction within the framework of the Uncle Scrooge adventure. Rosa’s sense of history is excellent, and the way he works actual history into his stories is inspired.

If it was just this comic alone, I would consider having Rosa on this list, but he has also produced a great deal of entertaining Uncle Scrooge comic books over the years besides that classic storyline.

He has become the definitive heir to Carl Barks’ throne as “The Duck Man.”

I only wish I had a short story to give you a demonstration of his skills…

16 Comments

Brian, your spellchecker swapped “thrown” for “throne”…

Anyway…

It’s writers like Don Rosa and Carl Barks that made Uncle Scrooge by far and away the most engaging of ALL the Disney character comics… Sure, the character himself has oodles of potential, but it takes a good writer to reveal that potential and do something with it… Thank you for reminding me to pick that book up.

I got to meet Don Rosa last year at DragonCon. In addition to being a great writer and artist, he’s a sweet and entertaining fellow. I definitely applaud this selection.

Love Rosa. I highly recommend people check out the two-fers that Gemstone has been putting out lately. They reprint a Barks story and the Rosa “sequel” in the same issue.

I love Don Rosa. Not only telling engaging stories but his pacing and rythmn don’t meander from the overall plot. Like Moore (I know it’s an odd comparison but hear me out) the details he puts in his stories, drawing items in the background, etc, gives the readers multiple readings. Believe me, I can pull out a Rosa comic and re-read the stories and still find something new.

Excellent choice, Bee-Cee.

I also got to meet Don Rosa last fall at our local con, and I’ll second John’s appraisal.

It was the first time my wife had gone to a convention with me, and being fans of the Disney ducks, we decided to get a Don Rosa print as a souvenir (you know, if addition to all the comics I was buying for myself :)).

He was gracious and goofy in a fun way, and helped make the con all the more memorable for both of us.

Don Rosa’s one of those people where I buy EVERYthing they do because it never disappoints. I just wish thew duck comics were as revered here as overeas because the guy should be treating like unto a Duck G-d. His eyesight has been failing pretty badly lately which is very unfortunate. He doesn’t imitate Carl Barks but he shows him and his stories tremendous respect. Yay Don!

Are these collected anywhere?
I’d love to pick them up, I was big into these characters when I was wee.

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck as well as the companion TPB are both available, Dunc. Well worth checking out!

Hey Teebore, I got one of those prints too! I got the one with Donald surrounded by thousands of comics.

Along with Barks, Rosa is the creator who got me into comics.

Here is how nice a guy Rosa is: A few years ago, he was at Heroes Con. My friend Doug, a far bigger Rosa fan than I, could not make it. Rosa IMMEDIATELY agreed to let me call Doug up so he could talk with him for a few minutes. I got Doug a “Son of the Sun” print, which is still hanging on his wall.

In some ways, I feel that Rosa is a stonger overall creator than Barks. His art is more detailed, and his stories are more intricate, with a heavier empahsis on plot and emotional complexity. In addition, he draws even more heavily from real-world history, and makes that an integral part of the story.

His weakness, I feel, is that he’s sometimes hamstrung by comparisons to Barks, or at least by the pressure of staying true to “his” universe. By that, I mean that the vast majority of his stories have been sequels/hommages to Barks’ work, and I think he’s not giving himself enough credit for his own considerable abilitiy to invent new ideas and characters.

I’ve read he’s retiring due to vision problems, which is a great loss to comics. He’s much better-known in Europe than the, but I think he’s sold himself short in terms of realizing just how many fans he has over here, and how many people truly love his work. A great creator, and a fine human being all around.

Cool, I’ll add them to the wishlist.

Agree that Rosa should be better known here in the US. But sales on the Gemstone issues are always under 5000 copies each month. That’s so disappointing. There are usually 3-6 stories in each issue, often 1 or 2 of them being by Rosa or Barks. 60-61 pages of story in each $7.99 issue is about the same as 22 pages for $2.99, but apparently people just look at the high price and walk away. Gemstone tries regular sized comics for $2.99, but had to stop doing them as not being cost efficient.

Being one of those silly europeans, seeing Don Rosa as a ‘smaller name’ is just bizarre.

I mean, my mom doesn’t know who Warren Ellis is.

Viking Bastard, I agree. I went to a convention here in Norway to listen to a Rosa-panel a few years back, and there was a fairly long line at his signing table. He was easily the biggest star they had that year, and later in the day I heard another American (I don’t know who) ask someone he was talking to “Who is that Don Rosa-guy?”. It’s really unfortunate, as he deserves much more acclaim than he is getting.

I don’t know that he was ever a “superstar” here in America, even in the 80’s when you could get Disney comics for 95 cents at the newstand or grocery store spinner rack. People just don’t dig the Ducks over here.

Aqualad, my wife and I got the print with Donald’s headshot in the center, superimposed with smaller headshots showing off his various moods.

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