Scarpa's "periods" and more

Frank Stajano fms at
Mon Sep 4 12:59:06 CEST 1995

Hi all! Back from hols, busy trying to catch up with the past digests! :-)

Kathy, to Don, #759:

>"Cashflow" is the story in which you (I believe) created the
>frustrated inventor who struggles ever to create "odorless cabbage"
>and had created instead the weapons that enabled the Beagle Boys
>to have "cashflow", and he has been in more than one story. 

I don't know about "cashflow" (I hope I'll read that story one day),
but the inventor who wants to make "fumeless cabbage" was created by
Carl Barks in a classical 1955 story, "Uncle Scrooge the Mysterious
Unfinished Invention" [originally in US#8, reprinted in US#111]. This
story contains one of my favorite panels: the doctor visits Scrooge
and notices that his skin is full of gold dust, so he says "I don't
understand how you got that way! Do you ROLL in money?" And Scrooge, a
bit uneasy, putting his clothes back on: "We won't discuss that!
(Coff! Coff!)". Brilliant!

Lutz (to me), #759:

Glad to see that you share my theory about "the Genesis effect" of
Don's stories! :-)

Don, to Kathy, #760:

>If you can wait, Gladstone will begin reprinting all of my
>stories in album form in about  1 1/2 years or so.

That sounds like a route I too could follow to catch up on your past
work, Don -- although I'm not sure I want to wait that long.  By the
way, one question for you: which one do you personally consider "the
original edition" of a given story you write? The
Danish/German/whatever comic that FOR THE FIRST TIME publishes it, or
the American comic that first carries the story with the characters
speaking with the same English words as you originally wrote, with no
translation in between?

Harry, to me, #760:

(re: Romano Scarpa)
>I saw his work in a reprint of Topolino #500 (I think), one of the
>celebration stories. His Ducks were way too long, with too big behinds.
>Really awful!

If it was TL 500, you must be referring to "Paperino e
l'impareggiabile Rob", a story where Donald is overwhelmed with work
and gets a robot from Gyro to help him out.  It is true that this was
a period in which Scarpa used to draw "tall" ducks, although I
strongly disagree with your "awful" -- I actually liked this
style. But it was, I agree, a peculiar period: his best was yet to
come. I call it the "Dirty, Modernizing" period.

Here is my personal breakdown of Scarpa's periods; of course, anything
involving aesthetic judgement is going to be highly personal, so your
mileage may vary and you may disagree with some or all of my
classification. Note that the boundaries between the periods are based
primarily on art, not scripts. Of course the transitions are never as
abrupt as the years seem to indicate -- there is substantial
overlap. The names identifying the periods are of my invention. For
the references I am indebted to Alberto Becattini's excellent
chronology of Scarpa's work; I have read all the stories I quote, of
course, but sometimes only in a reprint.

1953 - 1963 : Ancient.

His mice start out very Gottfredson-like; indeed, many readers thought
his stories were actually from Gottfredson himself. The stroke is
spiky but attractive. His ducks are peculiar, sort of squeezed. In
this period he writes some of his best plots, although he hasn't yet
attained his graphical apogee.

Sample stories: 
Topolino e il mistero di Tapioco VI, TL 142-142 (1956)
Topolino e l'unghia di Kali`, TL 183-184 (1958)
Topolino e la dimensione Delta, TL 206-207 (1959)

1963 - 1966 : Dirty, Modernizing.

This is a transition phase. The characters are drawn very dynamically,
so much so that they sometimes look slightly out of proportion. They
seem to want to grow out of the simpler and more naive shapes they had
in the preceding period and the nervous stroke is part of the
attractiveness of this otherwise minor phase.

Sample stories:
Paperina e i gemelli veneziani, TL 424 (1964)
Zio Paperone e le uova di esportazione, AT 10/1965 (1965)
Paperino allievo scroccone, TL 548 (1966)

1967 - 1973 : Archetypal.

Graphically, this is Scarpa at his best. An uncluttered, neat, elegant
stroke with beautiful proportions. To me, very few Disney artists have
ever come close to this perfection. And it sure didn't hurt that the
great Giorgio Cavazzano, then at the start of his career and virtually
unknown, was inking his pencils.

Sample stories:
Topolino e il terribile Kala-Mit, TL 610-611 (1967)
Topolino e la bussola del Khan, TL 670 (1968)
Paperino e la triscaidecafobia, TL 718 (1969)
Paperinik torna a colpire, TL 788-789 (1971)
Pippo e i parastinchi di Olympia, CWD 45 (1972)

1974 - 1983 : Maturity.

A long period of consistently good art. The style and proportions are
those perfected in the Archetipal period, although there is that
little bit that is different. Hard to precisely define the boundaries
of this period.

Sample stories:
Topolino e la "Magnon 777", TL 1027-1028 (1975)
Zio Paperone e il casco d'oro, TL 1061-1062 (1976)
La storia di Marco Polo detta Il Milione, TL 1409-1412 (1982)

1984 - now  : Modern.

Same proportions again but the stroke becomes heavier; the characters
are simpler, more rubber-like. In this phase many new young artists
start to take him as a model and there almost is an inflation of
would-be Scarpas (not as many as the would-be Cavazzanos though!)
Perhaps due to this, there is in some stories a certain feeling of
tiredness in the art, which however disappears in others, most notably
in those beautiful long stories where the Master writes his own
plot. In this period he also introduces the "strip stories", a tribute
to the Gottfredson days.

Sample stories:
Venezia e i tesori de' Paperoni, TL 1524-1525 (1985)
Le Paperolimpiadi, TL 1705-1712 (1988)
Topolino e la banda dello sternuto, TL 1800-1810 (1990)

It must be noted that the differences between Archetipal, Maturity and
Modern are in fact rather subtle when compared to the differences with
and between the previous periods. If one wanted to simplify, one could
identify only two periods, the "old" one with the best plots and the
"new" one with the best art, with the boundary somewhere around

>Everything one doesn't know looks the same...

So true! The same happened to me with the D and H stories.

>If you had posted a message yourself to rec.arts.disney or so, one of us
>would have sent you a message about this list! We did that before, 

Sad to think I missed that chance! :-(

Knuth, to me, #761:

("Mickey Mouse outwits the Phantom Blot")
>The USA version had even
>more of those devilish plans to kill MM and had quite big changes in the
>order in which those plans appeared. Of course, I realize the USA version is
>probably the more original. When I find that book again, I'll be back with
>some more specific questions...

Because it's so scary for a kid, with all those terrible killing
machines, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that this story has been
edited heavily in its various reprints. And I suspect that in many
cases the editors have decided not to reprint it at all. But it's a
wonderful story and any Gottfredson fan will rank it highly.

Of course, as you say, the original version is the USA one. It was a
series of daily strips running from 1939.05.20 to 1939.09.09. To check
the consistency of your edition, look out for the small numbers in the
panels: every strip (generally four panels wide) has a date, with the
year in the (c) message and month-date written by hand. The original
has 6 strips per week, so if you see anything that's missing and it
wasn't a Sunday, then, well, you've found some censored panels.

Gianfranco, quoted by Arthur, #769:

> Today I know "Topolino" is sold in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg,
> Grait Britain (distributeed by A.I.E, an Italian agency); in Switzerland

This is what it says in the inside back cover, but in actual fact I
have _never_ seen a copy of Topolino on sale at any newsagent in the
U.K. I get my copy by subscription. Maybe Cambridge is outside the
distribution circuit? Maybe you can find Topolino in London? Hmmm...

By the way, does anybody else on this list live in the U.K.? If so,
where do you get your Disney comics from? The only two comics I can
find at the local newsagents are two childish things, mostly rubbish:
"Disney and friends" and another one I can't remember.

      Frank      (Filologo Disneyano)

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