Stew’s Reviews: The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck
Welcome back, chums! So I thought I had a really good idea this week. One of the weirdest fads of the modern internet age is reaction videos. You watching someone else watch or play something (and depending on the video, you may or may not even get to watch what they are actually watching; sometimes, it’s JUST the people you get to see). I’m not bashing it—I watch some of these videos, too—it just got me thinking: Comic book reaction videos! You watch me read comics for the first time! But then I applied about twelve seconds of thought to the whole idea, and… no. No, that’s a terribly dry idea. But at first… man, I thought I was on to something. But it’d really just be a lot of page flipping, wouldn’t it? And staring down at the pages? Or not, I know people who can edit video; I can’t. I’ve become such a luddite in the last two decades. Stay tuned on this matter, I might try to figure this out yet. Just…a ten minute video if my reading and occasionally looking up to say “Oh man, you should have seen who Batman just punched!”. This can work.
What’s the point of this article again?
TITLE: The Life And Times of Scrooge McDuck
Writer and Artist: Don Rosa
Publisher: Egmont (whoa, there’s a new one by me)
Protagonists: Scrooge McDuck
Antagonists: The Beagle Boys, The Whiskervilles, other crooks and cons along the way.
This is a book I have had loaded on my Kindle for months (if not a year or more), and just never got around to reading. It just sat there and waited amidst other books that came and went as I removed or added them. And then this week, I thought I could do with something middling; an easy-peasy read that I could blow right through, find a thousand words to say it was a decent read for kiddies, slap a five-out-of-ten on, and be done with it. So I dove in.
And this one really surprised me, I have to be honest.
I wasn’t aware the series was an Eisner Award winner when I started it, or else that might have tipped me off, but there is some genuine heart and wit in this title. Obviously drawing from the characters that starred in the popular children’s cartoon Duck Tales, this book is certainly for younger readers. But at no point does it feel juvenile, nor does it lack the depth more experienced readers would want.
EDIT: People are very twittipated about the verbiage I used in that paragraph. I don’t know; it reads fine to me, but I’ll throw this in here. Obviously I’m not intending to imply that Ducktales created these characters, just that for a lot of fans (and especially given the time this book was released), Ducktales was a major source for these characters. Sorry for any confusion!
The series really covers all the major points of Scrooge’s pre-cartoon life, from the day he earns his Number One Dime as a ten year old in Scotland through his meeting his grand-nephews for the first time as an eighty year old duck. The story of the Number One Dime—a “payment” that Scrooge’s father planned for him to teach him about the harshness of the world and instill within his son a work ethic—sets Scrooge up to leave his family and seek his fortune. He trots the globe as well as time, and Scrooge’s adventures take him to not only North America, but also to Australia and Africa. Scrooge accrues a hell of a set of skills over the course of his adventures, but for the first several volumes is met with setback after setback and failure after failure. It is at about the midway point in the series that McDuck finally has some true success by mining for gold in the Yukon, and possibly coincidentally, those are some of the best chapters.
While in the Yukon and making the base of his fortune, Scrooge meets “Glittering” Goldie O’Gilt, a singer for a local saloon. The two become rivals, and at one point, Scrooge kidnaps her to work on his claim after Goldie attempts to rob him. Their relationship isn’t anything brand new—it’s a play on the “will they/won’t they” tease, and for that matter, Don Rosa did not even create Goldie or come up with the basis of their relationship (Goldie and parts of her backstory appeared in an older Scrooge comic, as well as an episode of the cartoon, now pardon my thought break within a thought break)—but it’s just handled so brilliant by Rosa that you can’t help but feel for the two. It does break from the typical “will they/won’t they” trope in that, well, ultimately they don’t, but Rosa’s deft work showing how the two ducks fight their own feelings only to come so close to admitting them to each other is the height of Scrooge’s life and times.
The series loses a touch of steam near the end—the last issue in particular is kind of a throwaway story of Scrooge and his nephews stopping a Beagle Boys plot to steal his wealth—but the series overall is actually pretty enjoyable. The one complaint I really had about it (that near the end, Scrooge’s sisters estrange themselves from him and the story never resolves that) isn’t really valid because the eventual outcome would be revealed a few years later in another comic. But as a standalone arc, I did feel that it was a letdown when they just vanished and did not come back at all.
Talking Point: Children’s cartoon characters receiving a well-written backstory that makes them a more developed character that can be appreciated by anyone. Who would you like to see? Who else has received one that you enjoyed?
Yeah, this was an absolute joy to read. It’s not Watchmen or anything, but it’s smart, packs an emotional punch, makes you care about the players within, and is full of humor you can enjoy at any age. This was a great surprise book for me this week.