Don Rosa, in one of the essays in the back of Fantagraphics’s recent collections of his Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck stories, says he always treated the residents of Carl Barks’s Duckberg as people, not animals. If a story required Donald to write with a quill, Rosa says, he’d never have Donald pluck a feather from his tail. He’d have to go find a feather somewhere. Maybe even from a non-anthropomorphic duck! Donald and family aren’t explicitly not Ducks, but they’re more or less treated as people and not animals in the stories. (It also helps paper over why Goofy is a person but Pluto is a dog, though those characters don’t really feature into Barks’s stories.)
I’ve just watched the new Mickey Mouse “Duck the Halls” Christmas special. I liked it, as I’ve liked most of the set of Mickey Mouse shorts that Disney has been releasing over the past few years. (Aside: It’s a bit hard to hear Uncle Scrooge voiced by someone new after the passing of Alan Young.) The premise of this special is that Donald, a duck, has to migrate south for the winter but doesn’t want to miss Mickey’s snowy Christmas. A far cry from the Barks/Rosa treatment!
Rosa isn’t a fan of the 90s DuckTales series but it was unquestionably struck from the Barks mold. With a new version launching next year, I’m guessing it’ll have more in common with the Mickey Mouse shorts. Maybe that’s okay. I love how Batman can be both The Dark Knight and the ’66 Caped Crusader. I like how the Mickey shorts felt comfortable not just putting Mickey in Paris, or Holland, or Mumbai, but also having him speak entirely in unsubtitled foreign languages. The new DuckTales series promises to make Webby a main character, bringing a tiny bit of gender diversity to the cast. The earlier show often had her fill the role of wet blanket, though, so maybe they’ll improve on that.
Jack Kirby had a set of loose rules he followed when drawing his characters. The stripe under Captain America’s star was always red. Mr. Fantastic doesn’t stretch his neck; if he wanted to reach something, he’d stretch his torso, instead, which Kirby felt looked more dignified. I can’t read Fantastic Four comics now without being critical of any artist who has Reed stretch his neck. He’s breaking a Kirby rule (that Kirby himself something broke)! Many of the great FF books nonetheless have neck-stretching Reeds in them. Is it okay that the new special treats Donald as a duck, not a person? Sure! I just thought it was mildly interesting to point out.