Gottfredson's Mickey

Cord Wiljes cord at
Fri Jun 14 21:22:54 CEST 2002

David Gerstein wrote:

> I feel the same way about Gottfredson's Mickey. He is eternally
> rushing into dangerous adventures with a schoolboy's overenthusiasm- an
> optimism which, in truth, also functions as Mickey's knee-jerk defense
> against a very real self-doubt. The most important moments for Mickey are
> the moments when he realizes that he is trapped, or otherwise confronted by
> hopelessness, and he sees the dark side of the impulsiveness that brought
> him there. He is miserable; he is human. And yet, when the stress is done
> with, his adventurous impulse rises again. It's as if he searches for
> excitement, tries to dive into the largeness of the world, to dodge the fact
> that on the flip side, its sheer size can also intimidate him a little.
> What a wonderfully real person such a mouse can become.

If I had to attribute an age to Barks' Donald and Gottfredson's Mickey I would say:

Donald is an older teenager: He is moody, sometimes depressed, sometimes overconfident.
He thinks of himself as an adult but still acts childish in many ways. He knows how
life is but has not yet come to terms with it.

Gottfredson's Mickey is a pre-school kid of five to eight years: He is still
young enough to have a child's raw energy and a child's interest in everything. But he is
already old enough to get glimpses of life beyond this age of innocence. He gets in contact
with hardships, with cruelty and even death. Mickey is a child acting as an adult. Or an
adult with s child's personality. He is Walt Disney's alter ego in this regard - even in
Gottfredson's strips. Like a child he throws himself head over heels into action,
acts intuitively and is very open-minded. And he acts like an adult: He takes responsibility,
helps people, and makes his own decisions. Which also means that he makes mistakes which
he regrets afterwards. He sees that there is failure, cruelty and death. In the early strips
Mickey tries to commit suicide (this plot had been suggested by Disney himself). But in
spite of this Mickey remains an innocent child. He shows us how our life and the world
could be if we were able to preserve our own childhood. Instead what happens
to us is what also happened to Mickey over the yeard: We grow up, we settle down, we get
more quiet, we loose our dreams. Maybe the best example are the elaborate death traps
the Phantom Blot builds: They are deadly serious, yes, but they are also a (child's)game,
and a very imaginative game at that. In later years in contrast we often have a Pet Leg
Pete who simply uses a pistol, which he never fires because children could be disturbed.

Of course there also were very good Micky stories done in later year and by other artists,
but nevertheless I still miss the raw and untamed Mickey charm of the early years.
And what I bemoan even more is the lack of a complete reprint of Gottfredson's Mickey strips.
The "Mickey Mouse in Color" book is great and the reprints in Gladstone's "Mickey Mouse"
series have been much appreciated. But a complete edition in good quality like the Barks library
would be a dream come true.


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