Article from Komix #146
kyrimis at cti.gr
Mon Sep 4 07:56:45 CEST 2000
This is the translation of an article from last month's Komix, which may
be of some interest to the list. [As usual, comments in square brackets
are my own.]
A Duck upsets Superman's world.
SUPERHERO FOR A DAY
In 1949, Barks gave Donald the amazing power of superheroes, who had
just begun appearing in the pages of comic books. In 1992, Rosa repeats
the endeavor, giving Donald a second chance.
During the time when Barks gradually began forming Donald Duck's universe,
the appearance of a new type of heroes radically upset the world of
American comics. A bunch of strange characters, with weird powers and
an even weirder taste in clothes, invaded the pages of magazines.
CHARGE OF THE SUPERHEROES
In June 1938, in the first issue of _Action Comics_ magazine, the
first adventure of Superman, by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, was
published. This new hero wore a characteristic tight blue outfit with
a red cape and had superhuman powers, which he put immediately in the
service of Good... Superman's success was only the beginning. In the
next year he gets his own magazine, with the same name, as well as his
first imitators and rivals: In April 1939 Namor the Submariner appears,
the first adventures of Bob Cane's Batman appear in May, and the first
issue of _Marvel Comics_, with the adventures of Carl Burgos' Human
Torch is published in November. 1940 is the year of Captain Marvel,
the Daredevil, and the Atom; in 1941 Green Arrow, Aquaman, and Joe Simon
and Jack Kirby's Captain America will make their appearance.
The superheroes of this first generation had, usually, hardly realistic
powers or ultramodern equipment, which they would put in the service
of the fight against crime or--mainly after the US involvement in the
Second World War--against the Nazis and their allies. They were wearing
impressive costumes of dubious taste, and their characters were even
more than one-dimensional and sketchy. Besides, their public demanded no
more... What counted was how they could crush the most hardened criminals
and the most combat-ready Nazi divisions with one blow. This was a form
of consolation for the readers, who were living what were perhaps the
most dramatic moments of the twentieth century.
THE DUCKS' COUNTERATTACK
In August 1949, Carl Barks felt the need to comment on the superhero
fashion. In the ten-page story titled _Super Snooper_, Donald catches his
nephews reading a comic book with the adventures of super Snooper. It is,
of course, a comic book published only in Duckburg, but Super Snooper is
strongly reminiscent of his colleagues, who almost monopolize the comics
of that era. He "jumps over giant buildings, smashes brick walls with
his fists and knocks over whole armies with his breath", say the nephews
[actually Donald] in the story. Donald, who thinks that his nephews take
these absurdities seriously, drinks a radioactive isotope, capable of
making "a rat as strong as a horse", by mistakes, and acquires amazing
powers. He levels forests with a one blow, runs faster than light,
ties the tails of two passing comets into a knot... Unfortunately,
however, the effect of the isotope passes at the moment he was preparing
to demonstrate his powers to his nephews. Crashing on a wall, he falls
unconscious and, when he recovers, he no longer remembers anything...
Carl Barks is not satirizing stories with superheroes as much as he
is satirizing those readers who do not realize that all these are just
fairly tales. "Unca' Donald thought we believed that stuff in the Super
Snooper stories... He thought we didn't know Super Snooper's stunts
were impossible", comment the kids in the page before last of Barks'
story. In the end, they throw away their magazine in the trash. This
kind of reading material is dangerous for adults who don't know how to
read a fairy tale correctly...
HEROES AND ANTIHEROES
In _Super Snooper Strikes Again_, Don Rosa returns to the same subject,
but from a different angle. "Unca Donald is an old fuddy-duddy... Imagine
anyone thinking Super Snooper isn't strictly super duper", wonder the
kids in the first page of Barks' story. This phrase summarizes the main
theme on which Don will also develop his story: the comparison between
a hardly heroic reality and the epic, though completely unreal, universe
of the superheroes.
Donald acquires superhuman powers once more, and tries to show off to his
nephews. This time, he realizes that even of it had been possible for
one to acquire superpowers, they would have been rather useless in the
real world. To be precise, the only time that these powers come in handy,
is when he manages to correct a nearly fatal mistake that he made during
his desperate excitement. As in Barks' story, his nephews don't realize
anything, but they do learn their lesson. In the end, it becomes obvious
that even the most heroic comic book superhero is worth nothing compared
to loved, though hardly heroic, uncle in flesh, bones and feathers... For
Rosa, comic books are not an escape from reality. As it was for Barks,
comics are an art that help us face reality with humor (and more...).
[Caption, page 1]
Following his policy of "continuing" Barks' work, Don Rosa draws a story
with superhero Donald, 43 years later.
[Caption, page 2, left]
FOR COLLECTORS WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR
When editor John Clark asked Don Rosa to draw a cover for _Walt Disney
Giant_ magazine, in which _Super Snooper Strikes Again_ would be printed,
he submitted a draft drawing which was a parody of the cover of the
first issue of _Superman_ magazine in 1939. Unfortunately, however,
it was considered that the joke might not have been understood by the
less informed readers, and the idea was rejected at the last moment.
[Captions, page 2, right]
Rosa makes some enjoyable references to Barks' original story by redrawing
some classic panels from the '49 story.
Donald discovers his superhero powers in Barks' story, and Rosa redraws the
panel with little change.
The raising of a shipwreck by Carl Barks in 1949 and by Don Rosa, 43 years
Kriton (e-mail: kyrimis at cti.gr)
"I don't make threats; but I *do* keep promises!"
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