Disney-comics digest #521.
9475609 at arran.sms.edinburgh.ac.uk
Mon Jan 9 17:08:35 CET 1995
With today's courses over, I return to the terminal to write
about Disney comics AGAIN (why does that somehow fail to surprise
me?). I think I'll start off by imitating Torsten and discuss a bit
of what I saw, comic-wise, on my travels around Europe.
In ITALY Disney comics are celebrated with a vigor that
outmatches any other country, even Germany (the closest competitor).
About 2000 pages of them are published every month, counting some
reprints. There are a whole slew of titles, none of them less than
100 pages. ZIO PAPERONE reprints Barks only at present, taking most
of its material from the CBL but using different color than the new
Gladstone albums do. MEGA-ALMANACCO contains a mixture of Egmont and
Brazilian stories, with the emphasis on the former these days.
PAPERINO MESE is a mix of Danish, Italian, Disney Studio, and French
(I think) material, all reformatted to three rows; it is where the
more prestigious Danish stuff goes, I think. TOPOLINO, TOPOMISTERY
(not like the Egmont MM series; these are old Italian reprints) and
one Donald adventure digest which I also saw, are mainly composed of
Italian stories. And there are probably MORE titles which I am
Unfortunately, all of these publications, with fine production
values and excellent color, are in the hands of Disney Italy.
Apparently their reign has been much like that of Disney Comics Inc.
was in the U. S. The Italian Disney folks continue to tout Italy's
long tradition of homegrown Disney comics. They not only print
complete credits for their own stories, but sometimes have articles
about the various creators of the tales. But they seem to know
nothing about non-Italian stuff. So even Marco Rota's work, so
celebrated in the publisher's own articles, is printed without
credits in the MEGA-ALMANACCO when it comes time to print his recent
Egmont stories for the first time. And the editors have put a plan to
feature the LO$ in PAPERINO MESE on hold for whatever reason, which
means that another sub-editor in charge of MEGA-ALMANACCO may begin
running that same series with chapters in RANDOM order, in that
title, if nothing is done soon. Who knows what's going to happen?
Alberto Becattini, who is in charge of editing some special stories
and one-shots (more on this later) is unable to fathom what some of
his Disney-bred coworkers are thinking, nor is he able to effectively
wield any sort of influence over the entire operation (which he
doesn't nominally have anyway). So the current Italian market is one
of extremely creative confusion. It's both a delight to see, and a
shame in some ways. I asked Alberto why Disney didn't just print the
LO$ flat-out in 12 consecutive TOPOLINOs or PMs. "Why not?!" he
replied. "That's too logical for Disney!"
The reprint front, when it comes to old American stories by
those other than Barks, is handled by Comic Art Inc. Apparently CA's
license is for the same material and characters as Disney Italy. No
one minds that two publishers are publishing the same characters.
Anyway, CA prints a series of books collecting everyone ELSE's work
chronologically. An oversize (11 by 17) series collects the entire
Sunday strip -- that is, MM in sequence on the bottom half of each
page, and Silly Symphony on top -- from 1932 on, restoring whatever
they can't get proofs to. A similar oversize series collects the
daily MM strip, although I have no idea why the books are oversize
when they don't need to be. And A4 hardbacks collect the Disney work
of Paul Murry, Bill Wright, Dick Moores, Carl Buettner, and Walt
Kelly, as well as homegrown folk like Scarpa.
Finally, the copyright laws are such that earlier Disney
comics, perhaps the lion's share of the newspaper strips, are in the
public domain! So at shopping malls, some booksellers sell cheaply
reprinted facsimiles of the original 1930s publications of such
stories as "Wolf Barker" and "Hoppy the Kangaroo" (Sunday stories
particularly prominent for some reason). Comic Art has jumped on
this bandwagon too, reprinting prewar TOPOLINO and PAPERINO issues in
bound volumes and issuing facsimiles of the Italian equivalent to
FOUR COLOR, a series called NEL REGNO TOPOLINO, and an equivalent to
LARGE FEATURE COMICS called ALBO D' ORO.
Oh, yes... each time an old American story is reprinted, it
gets a NEW translation over here! So the most famous Gottfredson and
Barks stories have about five translations apiece.
Donald may be more popular than Mickey here -- but if so, it's
hard to tell, as the Mouse gets droves of exposure. Ellsworth and
Eega Beeva are both very well known. And I've seen Ellsworth's
adopted son -- he is never used together with his father and looks
and acts almost the same, so if I was to translate one of the stories
for the U. S. I would simply call him Ellsworth.
Hog-Haid Moe is not well-known, but some looking revealed many
more stories with him than we have listed, including many very recent
In GERMANY -- well, I've told you about Germany. About all the
Egmont stuff sees reprint, and since the German weekly is 60 pages
rather than 48 there's more Dutch material here, too. The
pocket-books remain in print -- something that didn't seem to be the
case in France or Holland. All 200+ pocket books can still be
bought, although scarcity varies as it's a long time between press
runs on the early volumes.
FABIO, as thanks for your hospitality, I contributed a German
pocket-book to a package Harry will soon send you. Why? Simple --
it's the German version of your favorite, "The Lentils from Babylon."
I hope you enjoy it!
In FRANCE the situation is very different. There is a weekly,
LE JOURNAL DE MICKEY, with about 40 pages of comics (and 25 pages of
other stuff). It features mostly its own stories, which from what I
have gathered are drawn in a pseudo-Italian style, but in writing
style, made for three-year-olds; then there are a few 1930s Sunday
strips (with various characters) in each issue, and at least one
Egmont story in each as well. Every year, several Gottfredson
stories are serialized too. The comic was once A4 size with
reformatted pages (5 rows), but now it's normal size with four rows.
Then there is PICSOU ("McDuck"), a monthly with about 60 pages of
comics (and 20 pages of other stuff, including video game reviews).
Until a few years ago it had mostly Brazilian and Disney Studio
stories, but around 1988 it began to change. Now it has a lot of
Egmont stories too, as well as a long Barks story in almost every
issue. There are occasional articles about the stories.
But then there's the down side. The translations are
reportedly unbelievably juvenile, so even though humor comics and
Disney animated films are both quite popular here, these comics are
taken to be for young children only. I gave my cousin a French
version of "Last Sled to Dawson," and though he liked the art and
admitted the story was interesting, he was put off entirely by the
simplistic, boring text. In short, even the best foreign stories are
murdered by the traditional approach of the local translators.
Looking at PICSOU and MICKEY I see a valiant effort to spread the
names Barks, Gottfredson, and Rosa, but you get the feeling that no
one over twelve may care.
Oh, yes... other comics. MICKEY MYSTERY is not the Danish
series but a reprint of the Italian one. And SUPER PICSOU GIANT is a
gigantic 256-page mix of Egmont and Italian stories. Dutch stories
don't seem to exist for the French.
Mickey is as popular as Donald here. The only attempt at
collectors' series in this country have been various
complete-Gottfredson sets. They have gone in and out of print, and
are currently "out". Oh, yes... I also saw one album of AT Three
Pigs Sundays, horribly cut and pasted to make them into a virtually
new story. >Sigh< No complete Barks series, either.
Ellsworth is famous here, having his own spot on the back page
of each week's MICKEY as well as, now and then, longer stories
inside. Unfortunately, he has devolved from a smart teen in
personality to a greedy and pratfall-taking Fourth Stooge. And this,
when the French call him "Genius"!
(YES, DON!!! You did hear me right when I mentioned "Last Sled
to Dawson"! Now here's the dope. Although the comic shops
do not sell old Disney comics here (for the reasons I stated), used
magazine shops do, and I was able to find PICSOU issues that included
"Son of the Sun," "Nobody's Business" and the aforementioned "Last
Sled to Dawson." I believe that French must be the first foreign
language your stories appeared in, as the printing of "Nobody's
Business" is from 1988. That may have been your first story to
appear here; I certainly know that it was published before "Son of
the Sun." And you'll get all three French comics very soon; Harry
will forward them to you along with some stuff he's preparing. Sorry
I couldn't find any more, Don, but I tried. Honest!)
HOLLAND is another Disney Valhalla. Although not as much
material appears here as in Germany, the overall quality is very
high. Harry himself showed me how Holland, beginning in the
mid-'70s, began to print editorials about the great, older stories of
the 1930s and 1940s; how they began approaching Barks reprints more
systematically and enthusiastically introduced Gottfredson to an
audience which, weaned on S-coded foreign material and Jim Fletcher's
local work, didn't even know who Horace Horsecollar was. By the late
1970s, when Daan Jippes hit his stride, we had some truly superb
comics appearing here. And as far as I can figure out, it's gone on
to the present day.
The comics are promoted as being for children, but it's simply
common knowledge that adults read them too. The translations vary in
quality with regard to the foreign material, but are often at least
There are albums of DD and US, which I think come out monthly.
They once contained CB material, but they've largely run out and so
now you get home-grown reprints as well as Egmont ones.
When it comes to popularity, Mickey is much less popular than
the Ducks, mainly because very few Mickey stories were published
in the 1950s and 1960s when the comics were developing. Instead
Li'l Bad Wolf and his gang have been the standard
"second-most-popular character universe" in the Dutch comics for
years now. This group, Br'er Rabbit included, have gotten the cover
of the weekly many times and there are some excellent stories with
them produced in Holland. I have cornered some of them and, with
any luck, can translate a few of the shortest ones for Gladstone
Mickey had an era of great popularity in the 1970s, when
Gottfredson was first published here; that's when Mickey got his own
comic. Unfortunately, the comic's editors were determined to fix
what wasn't broken, and after a few years it went from digest-sized
to full-sized. But it couldn't sell in the new size for some reason.
The editors tried altering the format and using all different kinds
of stories, even dropping Gottfredson for a while, but never hit on
shrinking the size again, and the comic ultimately failed. Now there
are Egmont and FG stories presented in DD weekly, but not in every
A series of features in DD Weekly about Disney comics around
the world illustrated a few from BRAZIL. Joe Carioca is the major
Disney star there (!!!) and wouldn't you know it -- the covers
pictured in the article show him hanging around with MOE! So it
looks like in Brazil, Moe is still very popular. I wondered if such
a screwball situation existed somewhere. It does.
* * * * *
Folks, I need your help for a big story I'm planning. A story
for Alberto Becattini (I talked about it with him extensively). I
need all the information I can get about Mickey Mouse's family as it
was revealed in NON-Gottfredson stories. So please send it my way,
if you can. The meaning of all this will become clear soon.
<9475609 at arran.sms.ed.ac.uk>
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