Review: ‘Mickey Mouse: The Delta Dimension’ and ‘Donald Duck: Uncle Scrooge’s Money Rocket’
Fantagraphics continues to expand its line of well curated, beautifully designed collections of classic Disney comics beyond their original Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson libraries. The publisher’s latest effort is the Disney Masters series, each volume of which features the work of a single international artist working in the long-form adventure tradition established and perfected by Gottfredson and Barks.
The first volume in the line of 180-page, $29.99 hardcovers is Mickey Mouse: The Delta Dimension by Romano Scarpa, the late Italian mouse maestro who succeeded Gottfredson on the Mickey Mouse feature in Topolino in 1956 (and some of whose work Fantagraphics previously collected in 2017’s The Return of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs).
The three stories included date from 1959, 1960, and 1961, respectively, and pit Mickey against his traditional arch enemy, Pegleg Pete (Fun fact: While Pete is drawn sans pegleg throughout, there’s a panel in the title story where he removes his left shoe, revealing the pegleg beneath). Aside from the artist, it’s the Mickey vs. Pete conflict that binds the stories together.
The title story is a rather extravagantly plotted one, in which Mouseton is beset with a series of freak weather events, which the local government tries to cover up and private investigator Mickey tries to get to the bottom of. Mickey tracks the source to the Delta Dimension, discovered by his old super-scientist friend Dr. Einmug, who has set up shop there where he can conduct his weird experiments without interference.
One such experiment resulted in enlarging a pair of atoms to human size and then training them to be human. These are the heroic, blue-skinned anthropomorphic atom Atomo Bleep-Bleep and the wicked, red-skinned anthropomorphic atom Atomo Bloop-Bloop. Both have fantastic powers, but Bloop-Bloop allies himself with Pete to menace Mouseton.
Mickey’s new friend Bleep-Bleep also figures prominently in the second story, “The Bleep-Bleep 15.” Bleep-Bleep moves in with Mickey for a while, but when his powers become news, everyone seems to want to get their hands on Bleep-Bleep. The one who finally succeeds in doing so? Pete, of course, and once more the world is in danger—at least until Mickey sets things right. The final story, “The Fabulous City of Shan-Grilla,” is an extended Lost Horizons parody of sorts, set in the fabulous lost city of eternal youth that the movie (and book) Lost Or Risin’! was based on. In addition to another Mickey and Pete conflict, this one also involves their respective paramours, Minnie and Trudy.
The second book in the Disney Masters series, Donald Duck: Uncle Scrooge’s Money Rocket, features the work of another Italian Disney artist, the late Luciano Bottaro, who was responsible for comics featuring both mice and ducks, as well as other Disney characters, and plenty of non-Disney characters, most notably his own creation, Pepito, a young pirate character who held his own series for some 20 years.
As the title indicates, this collection of his work features the ducks. The trio of stories date from 1960, 1995, and 1963. In the title story, Uncle Scrooge decides the best way to hide his vast fortune from the Beagle Boys is to relocate it all to the moon, and he enlists Gyro Gearloose to construct the rocket and Donald to come along to provide lunar money bin-building manual labor. With Huey, Dewey, and Louie stowing away, however, the rocket’s too heavy, and they miss the moon entirely, crash-landing on Jupiter, where the natives eat metals. Their favorite metals? Gold and silver, which make up the coins of Scrooge’s hoard. Donald, meanwhile, gets caught up in the Saturnarians’ plans to invade and conquer Jupiter and is forced to build a robot army for them.
Bottaro’s design work obviously owes a lot to Barks’ version of the Disney designs, at least when it comes to the duck characters, but there’s a sense of wildness to both his character designs and his renderings that fits the crazy nature of the story, with its several races of aliens and bizarre landscapes and space-scapes. “Money Rocket” at once looks well within the expected Disney visual tradition, while simultaneously pushing rather hard against it.
Bottaro’s style is even sharper and more refined in the second story, “The Return of Rebo,” in which the Saturnarian military dictator comes to Earth, seeking revenge on Jupiter’s great war hero Donald Duck…at the very same time that Scrooge is staging a UFO sighting scam to boost the circulation of a magazine he owns. The collection’s final story, “TV Trickery,” pits Uncle Scrooge against a TV thief of sorts—one who perches on the ledge outside his window every night to watch his TV over his shoulder…without paying for it! The culprit turns out to be an extant Disney character who first appeared in a Donald Duck short cartoon, and who was apparently a particular favorite of Bottaro’s, as he used her repeatedly, often paired with Goofy.
That’s according to the two-page biography of Bottaro that follows the three stories. Each edition of the line features a biography of the “Master” being featured, providing context to the stories that can range from interesting to downright enticing—after reading Bottaro’s biography, for example, I wanted to read many of the particular Disney comics that are mentioned in it.
Fantagraphics has already announced the next few books in the line. Mickey Mouse: The Case of The Vanishing Bandit by Paul Murry is set for a July release, Donald Duck: The Great Survival Test by Daan Jippes and Freddy Milton follows in August, and then Scarpa gets another turn in the spotlight with Mickey Mouse: The Phantom Blot’s Double Mystery.
That makes for five volumes total so far, but here’s hoping Fantagraphics doesn’t stop there…
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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