Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Vol. 1: Artist’s Edition Hardcover
Published by IDW Publishing, June, 2015. Hardcover of 160 pages at $125.00.
If you’ve never heard of IDW’s Artist’s Editions a little backstory is required. I’m copying the following information from IDW’s website: “An Artist’s Edition presents complete stories with each page scanned from the actual original art. While appearing to be in black & white, each page has been scanned in color to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art — for example, you are able to clearly see paste-overs, blue pencils in the art, editorial notes, art corrections. Each page is printed in the same size as drawn, and the paper selected is as close as possible to the original art board.” The size of this book is huge — it’s 14″ x 20″. I’m a huge fan of original art, but most art is priced far beyond my means. Through their Artist’s Editions, IDW has created a way for fans to have the same experience as owning original artwork at more than reasonable price. Since 2011, the Artist’s Editions have won the Eisner Award for Best Archival Collection/Project. IDW has had so much success in creating these collections that other companies have followed suit with similar editions.
I’ve enjoyed looking at the various editions that have been published but haven’t run across one that I had to own until hearing about this edition. I’ve been a tremendous fan of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge since I was young, going so far as to purchase the Another Rainbow hardcover collection of Carl Barks’ duck books from the 1980s when they were new. I fell in love with Don Rosa’s duck stories as well and purchased them as they were published. His origin saga of Uncle Scrooge incorporates elements of Barks’ stories into one narrative of his creation and it’s spectacular. This collection collects the first six chapters that originally ran in Uncle Scrooge #285 – #290.
The covers: That’s right, there are even variants for editions such as this. The Regular cover is the one I used for the picture accompanying this review. It features Scrooge standing on a pedestal, holding his lucky first dime, surrounded by his family and friends. In the background is his monstrous money bin with several villains easily made out. This is a terrific image that features all the main characters in Scrooge’s tales. As good as this was, I had to purchase the San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, since I was in attendance. It features the artwork from the cover of Uncle Scrooge #288, minus the inserted image of Scrooge that’s dated 1884. I love seeing Scrooge in action more so than posing, so this was the cover I had to purchase. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+
The story: The six stories, written by Don Rosa, cover Scrooge’s life from 1877 through 1887. “The Last of Clan McDuck” has young Scrooge’s family introduced as is his lucky dime. The issue has him confronting foes on his family’s land with some supernatural assistance. “The Master of the Mississippi” is set in the United States with the eager duck looking to make an income assisting a family member in a hunt for treasure. Along the way he meets a famous scientist and encounters a group that will forever plague him. “The Buckaroo of the Badlands” takes place in the wild west with McDuck driving cattle and meeting a future president. “The Raider of Copper Hill” has him still in the west, though trying to make money from a mine. “The New Laird of Castle McDuck” returns him to his homeland to help his family maintain their castle and features numerous ancestors in a very clever way. The final installment is “The Terror of Transvaal.” The story is set in Africa with the bird, again, trying to make a buck and encountering his worst foe for the first time. Every story is fantastic. My favorite was the last, because of the setting and whom he meets. Overall grade: A+
The art: I’ve poured over these stories in their original format. I thought I’d seen it all. Looking at this work in glorious black and white makes me appreciate Don Rosa’s abilities all the more. The details are staggering. I always knew that he filled every panel with little visual jokes, usually bystanders or animals reacting to something in silence. After reading this book I feel as though I’ve seen even more of these gags, with “The Terror of Transvaal” and “The Buckaroo of the Badlands” having an incredible amount of detail. However, I found myself enjoying other stories more. This is the case with “The Master of the Mississippi.” I was floored with the amount of work put into the opening sequence in the saloon. Porker Hogg is stunning in this chapter. Rosa’s workmanship on the steamboats is awe inspiring. What he puts each vessel through is wonderful and hilarious. It’s always stunning to see the emotion that an illustration can capture. My favorite is the fifth panel of the first page of the opening story. Yes, this is the earliest point in the collection, but in silence Scrooge communicates so much about his character anyone can tell what he’s about to say before he says it. I weep at the beauty of these illustrations. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Todd Klein is responsible for the dialogue, letters written home, sounds, and the opening page title of each installment. His lettering is crisp and clear, with certain bits of dialogue put in italics to allow the reader to better hear what’s being said. I love the letters written by Scrooge (Oh, cursive! How I miss you so!) and the fantastic chapter titles. Overall grade: A+
The extras: After the stories follows a collection of storyboard-scripts. There are four to a page and show a “glimpse into the process Don Rosa uses to create his stories.” These storyboards would be given to an editor for approval, with some rewrites being done. The dialogue and key story points were “fine-tuned” along the way. I’ve never seen these before and I was eager to devour them. However, it’s the final sentence in the introduction to this section that sent me into heaven: “There will occasionally be differences between the storyboard-scripts, rewrites, and the final published pages.” This was like looking at the first draft of a classic novel. I went back and forth between these storyboards and the final product to see what was changed. This was an unexpected and outstanding inclusion. Overall grade: A+
The final line: This is a must have item for any fan of Uncle Scrooge. I’ve read these stories before, but fell in love with them all over in again. I’m looking forward to seeing the next volume that concludes this series and am hopeful that all of Rosa’s work will be collected in this format. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+