Disney-comics digest #521.

DAVID.A.GERSTEIN 9475609 at arran.sms.edinburgh.ac.uk
Mon Jan 9 17:08:35 CET 1995

      Greetings, folks.

      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 
      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 
Brazilian stories.

      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 
pretty good.  
      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 
sometime soon.
      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.

      David Gerstein
      <9475609 at arran.sms.ed.ac.uk>

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