Review: Uncle Scrooge #1

Let me learn you some comics history. If you don't know a ton about comics, then you might not know that Donald Duck and, by extension, Uncle Scrooge, actually have a rich history in the comics medium.  In fact, the creator of Scrooge McDuck, Carl Barks, is considered a master of the art form.  This is common knowledge among comic enthusiasts, but for a lot of people my age, our main association with quacking Scottish avarice is the cartoon DuckTales (good luck getting the opening theme song out of your head).

Some people, even aware of the iconic status of Scrooge in the world of comics, might not know about the state of Disney comics in Italy.  As much as they have had a storied history in their country of origin (USA! USA! USA!), Mickey Mouse and his Disney pals were equally revered in the nerd pamphlet form in Italy in the 1950's and 60's.  If there is a successor to Barks' style and eye for humor, then it is the Italian penciller Romano Scarpa.  He mimicked Barks' iconic style while benefiting from small flourishes of his own as well as valuable ink work from some names that would come back around as staples in Italian comics.

UncleScrooge01_cvrA_idwScarpa's stories are thus classic tales full of small gags both visual and verbal.  If you ever stole the funnies section of the paper from your parents growing up, no matter when you grew up, then many of these Uncle Scrooge stories are longer, indulgent tales, but center on the same kind of great fun that gave comics their name.  Parts of the Italian lineage of these stories has been collected in English over a dozen times in the past, and IDW's current project is the latest, with the contents of Uncle Scrooge #1 containing two longer Scarpa stories and a one-pager, all never-before-seen in English.

And this was just damn fun to read.  The style of the comic, both in art, narrative, and the types of gags it deploys, makes it very clear that these stories were originally published in the 1960's or earlier.  I think that kind of dated feel turns away a lot of comic readers looking for something edgy or sexy or something; but, one of the reasons that Barks gets so much credit is because his creation, Scrooge McDuck, is timelessly funny.  And the entire creative team over in Italy, aided in an impossible-to-overstate capacity by Scarpa's eye for Duckburg and its inhabitants, has a full grasp of what makes (and will continue to make) these stories contain so much simple fun.

I can't imagine the kind of task that the translators faced in putting together this volume: imagine being an Italian and writing for a Scottish duck in your native tongue.  Surely that lends itself to some linguistic idiosyncrasies that are endemic to portraying a SCOTTISH DUCK in Italian.  Now, imagine having to translate that dialog from Italian into English while losing the Italian idiosyncrasies but having to maintain the Scottish idioms in addition to the spirit of the original dialog itself in order to maintain the integrity of the visual and verbal gags as they appear in the original story.

That said, I think this is a book that undersells itself.  People are going to go to their comic shops tomorrow and see Uncle Scrooge #1 and have little-to-no concept of the feat that this comic really is.  I've reviewed a historically significant comic before, but it was overpriced and, stylistically, aged poorly.  Here, though, we're talking about 48 pages of influential and carefully crafted storytelling from classic characters which have been meticulously prepared for English-language consumption.  IDW's got the proper fanfare on their site, but I hope that LCS owners across the country know what they have sitting in their store on Wednesday and really push this book on people.

Kudos to IDW and to Disney for working together to bring us this line of stories.  $3.99 an issue will not set me back nearly as much as an Italian edition of Rosetta Stone.  And only one of those things features a rich old Scottish duck in a dress because an ambiguously Russian rat tailor keeps trying to steal his jacket.

Score: 4/5

Uncle Scrooge #1 Writers: Various Artists: Various Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/22/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital