Pipeline: First Impression of Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse

Tue, May 10th, 2011 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

FIRST IMPRESSION: MICKEY MOUSE

I didn't pay much attention to the Floyd Gottfredson "Mickey Mouse" comic strip reprints in "Walt Disney's Comics and Stories" from the last two decades. I've always been more a Duck man, and the regular contributions from Carl Barks, Don Rosa, William Van Horn, and others kept my readership going. It's not that I didn't like Mickey; I've praised Cesar Ferioli's Mouse work for being particularly strong from the modern era. While I read and appreciated some of Gottfredson's work, I never got excited by it.

At the beginning of June, Fantagraphics is releasing "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson," Volume 1, collecting Gottfredson's strips from 1930 and 1931. I saw it as my grand chance to educate myself in the era by doing a full immersion into it. I have a review copy here of the book I received last week, and I have to say that, so far, it's working. I'm charmed and excited to read these strips on a daily basis, fighting to find time to sit down with the Mouse and his combination of humor and adventure. (I’m still in the earliest days of the strips. It would seem the humor fades as time goes by to make room for more adventure. I'm all for that.)

Fantagraphics does a very smart thing with this book, packing it full of historical materials to set the story for the comic strip. Having David Gerstein edit it is, of course, the smartest thing they could have done. The guy grew up translating Disney comics on his parents' kitchen table, for goodness sake, and his enthusiasm for the material is infectious. After a simple introduction, he gets out of the way to let others set the stage. That includes Warren Spector, renowned video game designer and world class Mickey fan; Thomas Andrae, historian who places these strips in the proper context for the Disney fans; and Floyd Norman, Disney animator and Mickey Mouse comic book creator. That combination provides all the background you need, from how Gottfredson's drawing style was heavily influenced by a childhood accident with a gun, to how the prevailing comic strip trends of the day turned the strip into a straight-up adventure strip, like "Terry and the Pirates" with talking animals. It's an interesting story all on its own, and that's before you get to the first strip.

Gerstein returns in the back of the book to show off a treasure trove of historical materials, including mock Mickey interviews, comic book covers from around the world, the stories of the other creators involved with the strip, original pencil work, and a lot more. Simply put, it's the most extensive collection of "extras" I've ever seen in one of these comic strip reprint series to date. You can tell that they're working hard with this book to create an exhaustive historical body of work, and not just a quick Mickey Mouse cash-in. And this is just the first volume!

There's roughly 230 pages of comic strips in this hardcover book, presented three to a page. The line work is so dense and the lettering so tight that I wish the book could have been another inch or two larger to help show it off better, but I'll take what I can get. Besides, this was probably the size the strips were seen in the newspapers originally, so I can't complain.

Reproductions are as great as you could ever hope for from material that's 80 years old and originally printed in the inkiest of newspapers you could imagine. Using solid white paper without any gloss really helps the art stand out and give the reader the sense that you're reading the real works here. In every other comic strip book I've ever read, there's inevitably a strip or two that came from lesser reprint stock. I haven't found one of those yet, though I admit I'm still very early on in the book. Flipping through it, though, nothing jumps out like that.

I'll hold back on judging the strips for now until I've read more of them, though I think you can tell I've been enjoying them so far. It's a kick to see this more interesting version of Mickey running around, saying and doing politically incorrect things. It's amazing to see how much detail an artist could pack into a small series of panels like this. But, most of all, it's a whole lot of fun.

"Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse by Floyd Gottfredson" will be available on June 1st. The cover price is $29.99, which is a steal for this presentation of the material. The second volume is due out in October. Maybe by then, I'll find something I don't love about this book.

QUICK THOUGHTS AND RANDOM NOTES

  • My new rule of thumb: If I can't tell from a thumbnail whether soemthing is a drawing or a photograph, I'm not interested in reading the comic.

  • At what point does the outrage over the outrage become more obnoxious than the original outrage? It seems to me there are people who look for something to get worked up over and try to gin it up as best they can. Some do it for obvious reasons -- it brings hits to their site -- but I fear there are people who just enjoy being outraged, even by things that are marginal, obvious and easy to ignore. I like when a particular bit of news breaks and the first reactions are from people waiting to see the outraged reactions of those they disagree with. Is chasing one's own tail really that much fun?

  • This tour of Don Rosa's comics collection has been floating around for a few weeks now. Don't know if I ever linked to it in Pipeline, but it's worth a look, even with the shaky cam.

  • Wizard World added a new member to its Board of Directors, trumpeting his connections to the company he founded to manage "an amazing group of talent," including the likes of Ken Watanabe, Chris Hemsworth, Cobie Smulders, and a few who haven't been in superhero comic movies in the past decade. Next, they might want to plan on hiring someone to run their digital magazine, since there's nobody left there.

    Oh, but his true job mandate is "leveraging Wizard World’s intellectual property assets across the entertainment industry."

    What IP does Wizard World own? Besides putting word balloons in action figures' mouths? Or does this mean we're going to see a "GateCrasher" movie, or the return of the TV show that was in development? (Does anyone there still remember Black Bull, do you think?)

  • A comic book about diabetes? May the Great God Insulinius heap Her great blessings upon you, Colin Upton. Granted, the author is a pill-popping diabetic and not an Injector like myself, but I imagine there are certain universal lessons to be learned from such a book.

  • Sad news that Carlos Trillo passed away over the weekend. For as little overseas material that isn't manga gets translated and reprinted over here, it seemed like his name was attached to every other one a few years back. His work was a mainstay of publishers like Dark Horse and SAF Comics. I reviewed two of his collaborations with Eduardo Risso here in the past: "Boy Vampire" and "Video Noire". Also, there was the wonderful "Chocolate and French Fries" graphic novel that SAF Comics published, with art from then "She-Hulk" favorite, Juan Bobillo. I think that book is my favorite of Trillo's material.

  • These are glorious days for my generation of comics fandom. Marvel is producing oversized hardcover Omnibus compilation editions of Todd McFarlane's "Amazing Spider-Man" work (with David Michelinie) and Chris Claremont and Jim Lee's "Uncanny X-Men" run. Both will include fill-in issues from the likes of Erik Larsen and Rob Liefeld. Those two runs of those two books, in particular, were cornerstones of comics fandom in the latest part of the 1980s and early 1990s.

    But what else is available from that era to reprint in such editions? It wouldn't amount to an Omnibus, I know, but I'm still waiting for a complete reprinting of the adjectiveless "Spider-Man" series. While "Torment" so often gets a new printing, there's a bunch more issues to that series that never see reprint, including some beautiful artwork featuring Ghost Rider, Hobgoblin, Morbius, and Wolverine.

    Rob Liefeld's run on "New Mutants" and "X-Force" didn't have enough issues to warrant a thicker Omnibus, but there's certainly enough there to fill a book of the same size as that "Spider-Man" book I just conjectured.

    Then we'll need an Erik Larsen's "Amazing Spider-Man" Omnibus, likely with his issues of adjectiveless "Spider-Man" to round it out.

    Was Jim Valentino's "Guardians of the Galaxy" popular enough to warrant a new Omnibus? Maybe they could tie it in, marketing wise, with the more recent series and sell it that way.

    On Twitter, Chris Partin suggested a Marc Silvestri "Uncanny X-Men" Omnibus. That would be cool, too.

    I'm thinking here along the lines of the Image Founding Fathers Series of Omnibi. I don't think there'd be enough Whilce Portacio material, unless you started throwing in "Foolkiller" or something.... We could push a generation up from there, but Stephen Platt's "Moon Knight" run would barely fit in a trade paperback these days.

  • Ran across a copy of Weird Al Yankovic's 2010 Concert Tour contract. Amongst other items, it outlines the six dressing rooms his posse will need. Check out Dressing Room #6:

    # 6 - Local 501st Legion (very large room). These performers are featured during the Star Wars-themed song in the show. Room needs to accommodate up to 15 people with general seating (couches and/or chairs) and a central area for rehearsing. Please provide (1) ONE boombox for playback/rehearsal.

    Here's footage of what goes on in that dressing room, too.

    The 501st, remember, maintains security at WonderCon, and shows up in full force at San Diego every year. And you thought I couldn't justify a comics connection here? Silly.

  • Not only does Chip Kidd own two complete issues' worth of Frank Quitely art, he's made a book out of them, complete with glass cover. This is an impressive collection.

  • Speaking of original art, I'm cutting down my collection. You can see a big chunk of what I have at ComicArtFans.com, and most of it has price tags attached if you're interested. There's more stuff going up all the time, so keep an eye out.
In case you're looking for me, I'm also experimenting with time lapses at AugieShoots.com and blogging anything else at VariousandSundry.com

How to get in touch: Twitter @augiedb || E-mail || Pipeline Message Board

TAGS:  pipeline, fantagraphics, mickey mouse, floyd gottfredson

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