Review: Ghost of The Grotto
Ghost of The Grotto
By Carl Barks
It seems almost silly to call this new Fantagraphics collection of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics, the first in a new format, a kid-friendly collection, if only because that implies that somehow the previous Barks books weren’t also kid-friendly.
And all of Fanta’s duck comics collections to date have been kid-friendly. If any work of popular entertainment of the 20th century could truly be called timeless, than Barks’ duck comics were. The highly imaginative and inventive, fact-packed, often humorous, rollicking-but-rarely-rowdy adventure stories have barely aged over the decades; the only potential stumbling blocks Barks’ comics might offer today’s kids are their occasionally dated depictions of non-Western cultures and their post-war level of technology.
Better then to call these new collections in this new format kid-friendlier. Barks’ original art has been chopped into a 7.5″x5.5″ landscape-format trade paperback, which fits more easily into little hands than the bigger, more expensive hardcovers of The Carl Barks Library. (Never fear, purists: The pages are indeed sliced in half, but no panels are lost or altered.) It also comes sans all of the background prose material—introductions, biographies, story notes—that grown-up fans might find infinitely fascinating but aren’t exactly the main attraction.
The title story features Donald and his nephews working a kelp boat in the West Indies, where they stumble upon a centuries-old mystery involving a spectral armored figure, a kidnapping, a lost ship and treasure and a giant octopus. At 52 pages, it fills the bulk of the 128-page package, the rest of which is occupied with shorter stories and one-page gag strips (which now, of course, run two-page). These are all more or less domestic, occurring within the confines of Duckburg and, in particular, Donald’s house, save for one which sends the ducks out into the desert, following a phony treasure map.
Fantagraphics has done such an excellent job with The Carl Barks Library that this is hardly the ideal format for adults to experience these very same stories, but it is a pretty ideal companion format: Cheaper, more portable and more convenient, it offers an excellent introduction to some of the great stories of one of the greatest cartoonists.
Filed under: Reviews
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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