Disney-published Comics

Jonathan H. Gray jongraywb at hotmail.com
Fri May 19 00:40:19 CEST 2006

replying to several emails at once to save time:

>>>>>Huck Akin's "The Oak Island Treasure," a Scrooge graphic novel
>>announced by Disney (in 1991? I don't have my records here), was also
>revived at Egmont, but shelved and never completed.
>>    Yeah, that jogged my memory. I remember suggesting to the sales and
>marketing wizards that long stories would be a good thing to do. Maybe run 
>initially in several issues of one of the titles, then reprint the 
>compilation  in
>hardback book form. I think some of them ran about 96 - 100 pages, but 
>were fully fleshed out stories with great plots, sub-plots and tangential
>character exposition. I'd forgotten about Huck Akin's "Oak Island 
>Treasure." I
>remember he did a ton of research and came in with an exciting plot outline
>that  just had to be done.

That sounds really interesting to be honest. i would have been all over 
something like that in a second. Its really a shame that its probably 
sitting somewhere on a shelf in limbo. =\ For anyone in the know, who was 
slated to draw it? I suppose the idea of bringing it
out of limbo and possibly reviving it for the prestige Scrooge books is out 
of order at this time and date. Ah well... :(

the idea of Disney comics graphic novels - both original material and 
reprint material - is actually a very ideal one IMO (and maybe more cost 
effective than the old school oversized album prints in the long run). I've 
seen a scant few bookstores that have already done this with the Prestige 
books i.e. stacking them alongside graphic novels and whatnot. Thats why I'm 
really hoping that the Treasures books and the DuckTales books will work in 
the long run, so we can get more graphic novel style Disney material out in 
the open. Who knows, maybe someday we can have long style original stories 
printed in graphic novels here in the states again...

>>Pat McGreal did one involving Hawaiian mythology that
>    I did  see in print.

Really? what was the name of the story.

>>I recall another story notion based on a Swing Music
>    orchestra  contest involving a symphony-sized gathering of Beagle Boys 
>"Boogie  Woogie Beagle Boys," but I don't know what happened with that.

Ha! That sounds like fun as well. :D

>>    I think the Disney "implosion" was more of a 1992 event and was  one 
>>of the
>things that motivated my departure.

As one of the disney fans who was introduced to the books during your tenure 
I was wondering where you had went after the line crumbled.You were IMO one 
of the only really good editors there. :(

> >   As for "...so they could no longer afford to have the stories  
>drawn..." good
>grief! If the money controllers had just stood behind us  and supported us,
>we might have done some memorable, groundbreaking stuff.  But, no... they 
>to squeeze us into monetary oblivion.

i've come to the conclusion in my very very *very* small time in the comic 
book industry that its the corporate executive type that almost always kills 
comic books if only because they don't seem to understand simple things we 
in the real world like to call "common sense". Things that actually do make 
sense are often "far too much like right" to go on ahead with. The worst 
however comes from those corporate power happy types who micromanage the 
creative process to insanely minute details, thus killing potentially 
brilliant ideas before they can really even come to conception. Sad really. 

>>Gladstone operated for  years on a
>    handful of dedicated and talented people in modest offices in an  
>affordable area
>(Arizona). Disney had about 35 people in some of the most  expensive real 
>in Burbank, with computers (I didn't get one), secretaries  (not me), and
>supervisors (I had four).

And I think thats part of whats made Gemstone/Gladstone so successful: A 
small close knit group of people who love what they do and aren't busy being 
inflated on thier own egos. you don't have to modernize everything or change 
the formula to everything to make it work. Sometimes if you're just genuine 
about what you do and you do it RIGHT it shows and pays off. Even worse than 
the oft-maligned Disney run, compare what Marvel Comics did to the Disney 
Afternoon characters as opposed to what Disney did to the DA characters. 
They turned the more interesting modern Disney characters into
regurgitated kiddie pap. If they'd gotten thier hands on the classic 
characters they'd have probably maimed them into something unrocgnizable. 
Thankfully (if I remember correctly) its a small blessing that Gladstone II 
had not quite folded yet so they still had the classics liscence. My guess 
is that they (Marvel) probably were trying to emulate DC's Looney 
Tunes/Scooby Doo line but had no clue what they were doing (and it really 
showed too). Honestly i think that the very short lived Marvel/Disney series 
did more damage to that specific set of characters than the Disney company 
could have ever done. =\

>>No wonder they couldn't afford to  publish comics. My
>    favorite quote by one of the semi-suits - "Here at WD  Publications, 
>we're not
>building a publishing empire, we're building  resumes."  They saw Disney
>Comics as a way to prove they could reduce  budgets and still get the work 
>then used that skill to get jobs elsewhere.

typical suits in action. =\

>  >  Hey, I'm just really curious here what the deal was
>with the Disney-published comics circa 1990. As this
>forum and others have demonstrated, there is a lot of
>resentment, anger, and generally unhappy feelings
>about Disney publishing.

I think a lot of it stems from two major things:

If you're a fan of the classic characters (for fun, let's call them Pre-80's 
BGB - Before Gummi Bears ^__^), and an old school Disney fan - it really 
does look as if they totally raked Gladstone over the coals. Here's this 
small close company (Gladstone I) that basically revived the Disney liscence 
from limbo all on thier own (not an easy feat). Disney sees this success, 
says "Hey, we can do this ourselves and get more of a cut on this revenue!" 
takes it, and tries to change the formula entirely (going back to "if it 
broke don't fix it") - Goofy barely appeared as Goofy in his own book, 
following on the heels of Gottfredson and Scarpa made Disne'ys "modernized 
Mickey" look like bunk. And at first everything just came out garish. So 
Disney realizes that maybe they bit off more than they can chew "imploding" 
all books into 3 and shelving all the modern characters into 1 magazine 
book. This fixes things temporarily but it still doesnt work. Disney then 
tries to give the people what they want to some degree (what should have 
been done at first) while still doing thier own thing. While they succeed in 
many areas, ultimately they fail. Disney realizes they cant do it anymore, 
and hands back over the semi-battered remains of the liscence back to the 
company that originally made it work (Gladstone II). But the damage done to 
the liscence is too much. Without a steady readership, most of the fan base 
burnt out and wondering where the other characters are, and the industry 
having changed tremendously since they'd started out - small company folds. 
Then the entire line folds. Fast forward to reboot of line: take two 
(Gemstone II) in which they must start all over again at rebuilding what 
they once had from scratch.

Now if you're a fan of the Modern characters (Post 80's AGB - After Gummi 
Bears ^__^) and new school Disney fan you got screwed over moreso. For the 
most part, outside of the ever popular DuckTales, Gladstone didnt really 
have much to do with the modern characters. Wuzzles had a few entries in 
early G1 Comics and Stories, Gummi
Bears was nowhere to be seen, and Pooh Bear was always more of a classic 
character than a modern one depending on your preference. So the INITIAL 
Disney line dealing with the "Disney Afternoon" characters was a GODSEND. 
But it was inherently flawed. Disney relied on Studio artists to get the 
bulk of thier work done on classics and modern: specifically the 
oft-maligned Jaime Diaz studios. Some of them could not do proper ducks and 
mice to save thier lives, and outside of perhaps Cosme Quartieri on Duck 
Tales (who is a personal favorite of mine), the Saavedra's on Rescue 
Rangers, and I know I'm forgetting one other whom I did like - the majority 
of the Jaime Diaz studio artists were pretty crappy. =\ For things that were 
not studio work (such as Mickey Mouse or Roger
Rabbit) they expirimented with industry professionals who'd done superhero 
comics, such as Marv Wolfman of Teen Titans doing the first 7 issue arc 
story for Duck Tales (I still say it is a fact that The Gold Odyssey was 10 
times better and a hell of lot more readable and coherent than the very 
disjointed "Scrooge's Quest" ever was - just cause Wolfman wrote it didnt 
make it any good...) or Kurt Busiek doing an issue of Mickey Mouse or Sparky 
Moore on Roger Rabbit. They also introduced the concept of overarching story 
arcs to Disney comics: failing badly on Mickey Mouse but IMO succeeding 
somewhat with Rescue Rangers which was, I think, one of the stronger books 
("For The Love of Cheese" is an amazingly good story). And here is where  
the problem here came in: basically a huge clash with the classic material. 
With the new material it was OK to try out new things without stepping on 
what came before it, but with the old material classic fans seemed a bit 
enraged and jaded that the stuff that had been PROVEN to sell was being 
virtually ignored (just look at the various Mickey Mouse and Goofy 
Adventures letter columns) .Then came the implosion and all the modern 
characters were shuffled rather haphazardly into the Disney Adventures 
books. And with that shuffling went went much of the story quality as well. 
Some of the DA stories are good (a few of the earlier ones really stand out 
and shine – The Darkwing Duck “Fluffy” trilogy, A few early Duck Tales 
stories, The Legend Of The Chaos God crossover, Return to Blaggard Castle 
for instance) but the further you go, the worse they get. Here went all this 
potential for new characters and good storylines shunted into the back of a 
magazine that - as time went on - devoted less and less space to then (now 
you can barely find ANY actual Disney characters in DA). When the Disney 
line folded, Gladstone got the classics back, but the DA characters went to 
Marvel where they took good attempts at moden characters that had already 
been dumbed down and turned them into (as I stated earlier) "marvelous 
examples of vomitous kiddie pap".

Outside of DuckTales (and what seems to be a recent resurgence of Launchpad) 
- all hopes of seeing the modern characters get the same respect that the 
classics vanished into thin air. Here is an entire gamut of fun characters 
that intoduced many modern fans to the classics, that will never get a 
chance to be the next Scamps, Bucky Bugs, Chip and Dale, or 'Lil Bad Wolfs. 
and you cant even use Comics and Stories - what has always been the variety 
showcase book - to showcase these characters because the liscences for said 
characters cant be obtained by the people who HAVE done the classic 
characters right. And even if you did get the liscence would you **really** 
want to reprint the majority of the DA stories for the ones you do have 
access to? Pick and choose, pick and choose. =\

If you're old you're bitter at them. If you're new you're bitter at them. If 
you're a creator you're bitter at them. long story short: EVERYBODY BOT GOT 

>>Don Rosa also once wrote that he only did
>    "The Money Pit" (the story in the first Disney issue
>of "Donald Duck Adventures") as a goodwill gesture.

considering the tone of this whole conversation and whats been said about 
Disney by people in the know, maybe a title such as "The Money Pit" ended up 
actually being more of a jab than anyone might have guessed... ;)

> >   It's funny, because I was introduced to Disney
>character comics in 1990 with the beginning of this
>run, and I thought they were fantastic. Good paper,
>good coloring, great stories (so I thought, anyway).

Ditto. I like some of what they did and dont think all of it was bad. 
Without them I wouldnt know who Carl Barks was or why DuckTales was so 
different. =\

>They were almost completely responsible for the
>appreciation I currently hold for the comics of Donald
>Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and so on.

its like that for many. Surprisingly, most people I know still miss the old 
stuff and are under the crazy assumption that the line is still gone. It 
takes time to rebuild a fan base that was pretty much scattered to the 
winds. =\

Jonathan H. Gray

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