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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #477

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COMIC LEGEND: Don Rosa would hide mocking portrayals of Mickey Mouse in his comics.

STATUS: True

Following in the footsteps of last week’s story about Jim Balent hiding cats on every cover of his Catwoman run and the previous week’s story of Todd McFarlane hiding spiders on his Amazing Spider-Man covers, I thought that it would be interesting to look at another recurring hidden gag, only this time we’ll look at one that the people publishing the comics were not always a fan of!

Don Rosa is the legendary writer and artist who wrote many classic Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics, including the award-winning Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

scroog

Rosa was never a fan of Mickey Mouse, noting:

As for me ever doing a Mickey Mouse story, there’s no chance of that. There’s no reason for me to do. I am totally apathetic toward the character as being simpy a cute configuration of lines. There’s no personality. Sure, in the hands of another Barks, Mickey would become a WONDERFUL character. Look at what he did with Donald… all he got from Disney was a slapstick hothead who threw walnuts at Chip n’ Dale. What Dell/Barks did with the character is a micracle. I’ll be glad to do a Mickey Mouse story after someone else writes and draws classic Mickey comics for 25 years and gets me interested in those cute ink lines.

So Rosa began sneaking Mickey Mouse cameos into his comics, but the cameos were decidedly unkind to the mouse.

To wit, in this story where young Scrooge fights off claim jumpers on his claim…

mickey1a

check out who is one of the knocked out claim jumpers…

mickey1

Occasionally, Rosa’s American editors would edit his comics to try to edit out the shots at Mickey.

For instance, check out Mickey being squashed on the foot of the elephant on the left…

mickey2

in the American version, the foot is darkened so that you can barely see that Mickey is on the foot…

mickey2a

In this story, Mickey is injured in destruction of a museum…

mickey3a

mickey3b

In the American version, the establishing shot of Mickey is edited out so that the shot of him injured isn’t clearly Mickey…

mickey3

Over the years, Rosa’s “Hidden Mickeys” have come to be less harsh and more just amusing little easter eggs, like a cactus shaped like Mickey, stuff like that. Like here, with a few planets in alignment to look like Mickey…

mickey4

Here’s a great list of more Hidden Mickeys.

Thanks to the Don Rosa wiki for the information!

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47 Comments

I wasn’t aware “was Giant Size Xmen meant to keep running?” was even a legend, as it’s quite clear on the last page the answer is Yes. But of course that was forty years ago, and not everyone was around for it.
I do question that Wein’s schedule had anything to do with cancelling the GS book. All the GS books died around the same time–1975–so I’ve always assumed Marvel saw it as a failed experiment (I don’t remember if they gave a definite reason at the time).

I knew Don Rosa was lukewarm/apathetic in relation to Mickey, but I didn’t know of those “easter eggs”.

This might be worth a Legend, but it’s my understanding that the Giant-Size comics were an attempt to deal with necessary price increases without raising prices across the board. The ’69 and ’71 price hikes had devastated sales. Of course, DC actually went to the Giant Size format in ’75 with the Family titles.

And Xavier looks seriously creepy in those panels where is using his mind powers in the Madrox story.

“Seriously creepy” is right, Rene. He’s one panel away from turning completely into Egghead, Hank Pym’s nemesis.

That is definitely a Burne Hogarth inspired elephant in the Scrooge panel.

What the hell is happening to Xavier in those panels? It looks like his head is expanding as he uses his powers!

Creepy’s not the word I’d use.

‘Utterly hilarious’ would be it.

Jamie Madrox is Batman?

Wow, Rosa really downplays (or is just unaware of ) Floyd Gottfredson’s work on Mickey.

@renenarciso
He looks like Vincent Price as Egghead as Professor X…

@Brian
Man, Marvel and those ’70s quarterlies. They just CRANKED them out, but almost always tied them to continuity — AVENGERS, DEFENDERS, MAN-THING… Seems like X-MEN was one of the only ones that departed from that formula, since GS2 was reprints. So, weird that Wein would have thought of that avenue as a respite.

I believe that Roy Thomas had a column in issue 1 or 2 of The Invaders explaining that the story in the first two issues of that title had to be reworked slightly to fit two issues of a regular sized comic rather than one issue of the GIant Size format, as The Invaders was originally conceived as a giant size series, also. Marvel discontinued the Giant Size line about the time they resurrected the annual format, if I’m not mistaken.

Yes, the annuals started to appear again in 1976, I think.

You’re right, Wire–the battle against Brain Drain and his phony gods was supposed to have been GS Invaders 2.

GarBut most of the GSs used some reprint material, so it’s not surprising they’d consider All Reprint as a tactic.

Ted, DC started going big in 1973, with Detective, Batman and JLA going to 100 pages of mixed new and reprint material (other series did the format irregularly). Archie Goodwin said in detective that bigger, pricier books meant the retailer got a slightly larger cut, which would hopefully make them more attractive to stock back in the pre-comic store days.

Not that I’m a huge Mickey fan, but Rosa’s comments are a bit unfair, insofar as the early Mickey (b&w and early color) was a well-developed scamp. It was only in the 40s, as Donald shorts became more popular and as Disney started treating Mickey more as an icon than as a character, at he became boring. (A great recent example of the early Mickey is the Get A Horse short that aired theatrically with Frozen – a much more rambunctious, fun Mickey than we’ve seen in decades).

Darth -

I don’t know if the term “Golden Age of Comics” can be applied to Disney Comics, but that is a perception problem that pretty much affects all Golden Age Comics. Golden Age stories and characterizations are seen as “not counting”.

Why?

It’s strange to me when somebody says they want Batman and Superman to return to their “true” versions, meaning the way the characters were in the 1960s. And people will get very angry and serious about it. Isn’t the Superman of 1938 as much the “true” version? The same for Batman. Those Golden Age stories are seriously undervalued.

So it’s no surprise that the more sanitized Mickey is also considered the “real” one.

It’s because when people say ‘true version” they mean the version they read as a kid because nostalgia matters more than good storytelling to them.

@Michael P: It’s probably less that Rosa’s unfamiliar with Gottfredson’s work, but the DIFFERENCE in how Gottfredson worked with Mickey. Gottfredson’s work was newspaper strips–almost exclusively. And while his earliest work does feature a very roguish scamp of a Mickey, by the time his work started getting reprinted in comic book form, Gottfredson was forced to tame down Mickey in much the way Darth Weevil notes.

Rosa was born in 1951–right about the time that Barks was hitting his creative high points. But if you read the Mickey Mouse COMICS that were coming out at the time, Mickey was pretty bland. (Hell, consider the mid 1960s “Mickey Mouse, Super Secret Agent” stories. Storywise, they’re fantastic and while it takes a little getting used to the merging of Paul Murry’s Mickey and Goofy with Dan Spiegle’s everybody else, it’s really an impressive combination–not too unlike Disney’s live-action/animation films. But the stories were a FLOP with US readers at the time. Disney took a risk with Mickey’s “goody-goody image” and got burned.) Most of Mickey’s stories were pretty standard fluff pieces in the comic books.

But why single out Rosa for his opinion when many other artists and writers express their opinions about characters they find uninteresting or banal? Watch “Robot Chicken” or “Family Guy” and see how people mock Aquaman. Yet, when the New 52 started and Geoff Johns wrote Aquaman, people *suddenly* found he wasn’t as “sucky” as pop culture to that point would indicate (and, bear in mind, that some of the best looking Aquaman artwork came from the “Aquaman sucks” era–so did the pretty classic “Death of Aquababy” story, which despite its goofy-sounding description was a pretty intense storyline, especially for the same era that produced the “Super Friends” cartoon). Hell, Erik Larsen wrote and drew the character for several years, not too long after publicly mocking Aquaman as being someone who “just talked to fish” (as well as mocking the idea that a comic could be written for someone with more than a 2nd grade reading level).

Rene, I see a lot of fondness for the more roguish, less law-abiding Superman of the 1930s. And not that much of an urge to go back to 1960s Batman. Heck, other than the lack of the 1950s SF element, there’s not that much distinctive about the 1960s in hindsight so I’m not sure what you’d go back to.

‘My parents are deeaaaaaad!’ Slap!

‘My parents are deeaaaaaad!’ Slap!

Crap, I meant to make that same joke but I forgot! :)

Brian, you might have the facts slightly backwards on the second legend. You’re saying that Marvel changed the format of X-MEN because Wein quit. I believe it’s the other way around, Wein quit because they changed the format.

Note this quote from Claremont courtesy of this blog — http://www.therealgentlemenofleisure.com/2011/02/x-amining-x-men-94.html (which has, steadily, been reviewing every X-book from the beginning…a great read):

Chris Claremont on being assigned X-Men
“Len decided he’d had enough of being Editor-in-Chief. He gave notice and part of his severance package was to write four books-Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor and Hulk. Len said he could write a book a week, but X-Men would have been too much. X-Men was originally supposed to be a quarterly, which he could have handled, but then they decided that Giant Size quarterlies were not profitable. They made X-Men a bi-monthly book and Len felt he just didn’t have the space in his schedule to do it. It was also a very low profile assignment since it was only a bi-monthly title. No one had any great expectations for the book, but the new X-Men were great characters. So, God smiled and Len tossed it into my lap. It was like a dream come true.”

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p61-62

Fraser -

Yes, I said the 1960s, but we could say the 1970s, the 1980s, whatever. I agree with Darrasco, that people latch to the characters as they were in the years they were getting into comics, or perhaps the version they like that is championed by some other influential fans that lived those years. And those become the “essence” of the characters, as far as they are concerned.

But you’d have to be 70 years old to have read that first Superman story when you were 6.

Well, I guess Rosa may not have liked he Gottfredson comics or realized that Disney wouldn’t let him go back to that characterization. However, even as a “lovable scamp”, there isn’t much there (I’ll also admit that no matter how many Barks comics I read, I still see Donald as mainly a comical hothead).

Personally, I think the most interesting version of Mickey starts with the short “Runaway Brain” and goes through the run of Mickey’s Mouseworks and House of Mouse cartoons. In those cartoons, Mickey’s characterized as a fallible everyman with a notable competitive streak, a knack for getting himself in over his head and a tendency for stretching the truth to get himself out of bad situations. Not quite the lovable scamp, but a recognizably flawed and likable character. It was a big change from ‘50s Mickey whose troubles were never his own doing.

Back in the ancient times of LJ, I totally had a user icon of that “My parents are…DEAD!” panel.

Brian, you might have the facts slightly backwards on the second legend. You’re saying that Marvel changed the format of X-MEN because Wein quit. I believe it’s the other way around, Wein quit because they changed the format.

Thanks, Cerebro, like I said in the piece, I really wasn’t sure WHY they dropped the Giant-Size format. But now I do! Thanks a lot!

Hey, is that a Kirby Cracle on the background of the rocket drawn by Rosa? THIS is an easter egg!

Anyone who was six years old when the first issue of Action Comics came out in 1938 would have to have been born in 1932 or even 1931 and would be around 82 now. And even someone who read Amazing Fantasy #15 when it was new on the stands and cost only a dime and two pennies would be about 58 now. Of course, anyone who bought either of those mags and kept them in excellent condition could retire with a substantial profit from those purchases, but then few if any six year olds kept their comics in anyting like pristine condition.

Thanks for another great installment!

PS: Xavier’s mind-probing head looks awesome.

sirwillingham

June 28, 2014 at 2:44 am

It seems the Danish translator might have shared Rosas sentiments towards MIckey, the American text beneath the exhibit in the museum example says “Ancient Icons” where the Danish translation says “Devil Dolls” – Or perhaps this text was edited along with Mickey for the American print?

Another thing about Rosa that I’ve noticed: I very much love his work. But in just about every interview I’ve read with him he comes off as a bit of a spaz.Very absolutist, but in a childlike way,and just a bit…off.

The first three issues of The Champions were also originally intended for the Giant-Size format.

Brian-

Thanks for featuring this! Though I’m still left with a question…

While it makes sense that Madrox wasn’t in GSXM because that story had actually been worked out before his first appearance in GSFF, I still think it’s a bit odd that there was a four year gap between his first appearance in GSFF and the first time Claremont featured him in X-Men. I mean, at the end of GSFF, he’s clearly shown going with Professor X, and Claremont helped write that story, so it’s not like he was unaware of it. Do we know of any reason that Madrox didn’t start showing up in X-Men? Did Claremont not like the character? It just seems odd that he would wait four years to reflect the ending of GSFF in the regular X-Men title.

Like at the end of Avengers Annual 10, when Carol Danvers is shown staying with the X-Men, it would have been odd had it taken four years for her to show up again.

And in the words of Inglourious Basterds: “Yeah, we got a word for that kind ‘a odd in English; It’s called ‘suspicious.’”

@Third Man: Perhaps there just simply wasn’t any room for Chris Claremont to work Madrox into any of his early storylines on X-Men. It was a 17 page bi-monthly comic book featuring a large team made up of mostly brand new characters who needed to be developed while still leaving plenty of room for fight scenes and bad guys. That was one of the reasons why a decade later when Classic X-Men was being published Claremont jumped at the chance to write new pages and back-up stories that delved deeper into the characters, because he’d really been pressed for space to try to do that the first time around.

mr chak and al

June 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I feel like writing an article defending Punisher and Captain America movies. The one before the X-Men, you know. Free of charge. I could write an article defending these movies for free. Pro publico bono.
You are free to contact me.
Sorry, but these legends provoked me to think about what I like in superheroes.

I will say that, as someone who stopped reading X-books in the late 1980s, I only ever knew Madrox as a Muir Island lab assistant who had a cool superpower but never did much. His development into a character that anyone could care about happened way later.

Rosa ought to read Mickey by Floyd Gottfredson.

Eh, Marvel has been introducing random mutant characters -both heroes and villains- in every series for decades and many times they never show up again anywhere else.

I remember a Fantastic Four issue from the 70s where they go visit a sick kid in a hospital, and it turns out he’s a mutant who creates monstrous versions of the FF with his mind while having a fever dream that they then have to defeat. At the end, Reed says something along the lines of “I’ll refer them to Prof X”. I’m sure that never happened.

I wonder if there’s any kind of list of all those random mutants.
Of course they all got conveniently retconned out of existence after M-Day…

@Iam Fear

Yeah, but in those cases, the stories weren’t written by the X writer in the first place. Claremont co-wrote Madrox’s first appearance, a scene is shown at the end of him going off with Professor X, Claremont soon after started writing the X-Men, and it took Claremont four years to have Madrox show up. That seems like something more than simply not following up a plot thread.

But Claremont didn’t co-write the issue, he only scripted the last few pages of the Giant-Size FF #4 because Wein fell behind on schedule. One thing Wein is sort of SLIGHTLY irked at is people thinking Claremont had something to do with the creation of Madrox when he didn’t.

Rosa ought to read Mickey by Floyd Gottfredson.

He very probably did — but in the wrong era.

In ‘Robin Hood Rides Again‘, the second, and last, of the color Sundays volumes in Fantagraphics’ ongoing reprint of Gottfredson’s work, series editor David Gerstein writes: ‘[Frank] Reilly was manager of Disney’s Comic Strip Department at the time. As such, in 1955, he had been ordered by King Features to transform Mickey Mouse from an adventure serial into a gag strip.’ The result was that Mickey was reduced, in Gottfredson’s own words, to “just another suburbanite family man”, not a patch on the adventurous Ducks.

Rosa, who was born in 1951, grew up loving Barks’s intricate plotting (and the tight continuity of Weisinger’s Superman) in the comic books but he wouldn’t have read the comic strip epics that Gottfredson created for Mickey Mouse in the golden years of the ’30s and the ’40s.

And even if it were by Claremont, introducing a zillion plot threads that he may or may not ever get around to picking up again was what his run of X-Men was all about.

What was Madrox’s next appearance anyway? I remember one of his duplicates being eaten by Proteas, but I am sure he had an appearance or two before that in Marvel Team-Up.

Ordinary Joe:

Madrox’s second appearance was X-Men #104, two years later, then several more appearances in X-Men.

The next time he was in a non X-title was a crowd scene in the original Contest of Champions, but he really stuck to mutant books all through the ’80s (showing up in Fallen Angels, New Mutants, etc.). But even those appearances were pretty rare.

It’s wasn’t until X-Factor made him a character of interest in the 1990s that he started showing up all over the place, in Hulk, Web of Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Alpha Flight, Excalibur, FF, Wonder Man, etc.

Note: So that’s actually a two-year gap before Madrox showed up in X-Men, not the four years that Third Man refers to several times above. But it’s true that he started to show up in X-Men more frequently a couple years after that.

I loved those quarterlies! But I understand how they failed. Before the direct market, a title that didn’t come out that often probably didn’t get stocked, so they didn’t make enough money. Marvel started mixing in reprint material to cut their cost, and the product lost value (at least in my eyes — the great part was having this double size story all under one cover) so they didn’t sell as well so they made even less money. Leading to cancellation.

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