Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge: World of the Dragonlords | Review
Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge: World of the Dragonlords
Writer: Byron Erickson
Artists: Giorgio Cavazzano and Sandro Zemolin
Fantagraphics; Gr 4 Up
As a family, Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie and Uncle Scrooge have shared a lot of adventures, but they’ve never been on an adventure quite like that in Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge: World of the Dragonlords, an epic European comic newly collected and published by Fantagraphics.
That is, as writer Byron Erickson explains in the foreword to the collection, in large part by design. During what he calls a crisis meeting in 1999, the publishers of the German Disney comics gave him a series of criteria they would like him to meet in an attempt to help pull them out of a sales slump.
They wanted a long story told serially, one that would therefore help keep readers returning issue to issue; they wanted it to star the nephews, who market research told them readers identified most with; and they wanted it to be a fantasy adventure, in a sharp departure from the usual treasure hunts the duck characters generally found themselves starring in.
The story that became World of the Dragonlords ticked all those boxes. It was told in 12 chapters, giving it the scope and heft of a novel in its final, collected form, but helping fill a dozen issues when published serially; the nephews were the stars (even if they didn’t get their names in the title like their uncles did); and it was set in a fantasy world which little resembled Duckburg or the exotic locales Uncle Scrooge would often whisk them away to.
The final story that Erickson came up with and built with artist Giorgio Cavazzano ended up being too much of what the publisher had originally requested, though, and they thought it too “radical” for the German comic it was originally intended for, Erickson explained. It spent a few years in a drawer before seeing the light of day, first in a couple of European-only publications and, finally, here in America.
The tale begins in familiar enough territory. Donald has rounded up his nephews and Uncle Scrooge for a family picnic, following the advice of a pop psychology book and intent on forcing them into family togetherness, whether they like it or not (and the nephews do not; they are already plotting their escape in the very first panel).
Suddenly a huge portal from another world opens, and out stumbles a human warrior and magician. (“They look like ducks! But they’re wearing clothes!” the warrior Brendon says upon meeting our heroes). They are soon followed by Morg warriors, ogre-like fighters who have trained flying dragons as steeds and have all but conquered the humans’ medieval world.
In the ensuing battle, the ducks are knocked hat-less and unconscious and are dragged back to the world of the humans and Morg in a net, where they are separated and sold as slaves in the fortress city of Toom.
The boys work as stable hands, feeding and caring for the dragon steeds; Donald ends up in the Morgs’ tower, polishing weapons in the armory; and Scrooge is the personal slave to the lord of the city, a position he immediately twists to his advantage by becoming a sort of unofficial vizier and fomenting hostility between the war-like Morg.
In short order, the ducks find themselves swept up in the new world’s war between Morg conquerors and human rebels, the leader of the latter being Brandon, the warrior they accidentally met during their interrupted picnic.
In the course of he 167-page adventure, Erickson and Cavazzao build a compelling fantasy world in conflict, insert the ducks at various levels, and have the reluctant heroes play decisive roles in the all-out war between freedom and tyranny that will decide the fate of the world…and if they can ever be reunited and get back to their own world in the process.
It is, as was ordered and custom-made, a Disney adventure, but rather different one then we’re used to seeing the ducks star in. Sweeping in size and scope, boldly and fully committed to its genre-jumping, and an at times moving portrait of a family fighting to be together when they’re threatened, it’s as great a comic book fantasy as a reader could hope for.
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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