Donald Duck makes his debut on the 9th June, 1934 in the short film The wise little hen with Peter Pig as his first shoulder. Directed by Wilfred Jackson and animated by Dick Huemer and Art Babbitt, reinterprets the famous fairy tale, which will then be implemented on daily strips from the 16th September of the same year: in this case, it was written by Ted Osborne and drawned by Al Taliaferro. From now the carreer of the most famous anthropomorphic duck started, divided between animation and comics. In particular, in the latter field you can see the growth of the character.
The first author to use it in unusual context was Floyd Gottfredson with The Case of the Vanishing Coats (sunday pages, 1935 texts by Osborne), Editor-in-Grief (daily strips, 1935, again with Osborne) and especially The Seven Ghosts: three detective stories with a loto of gag that showned how the character has enormous potential even within different genres from the humorous. This idea is followed also by Carl Barks since his debubt story, Donald Duck finds Pirate Gold, a parody of The treasure island, created together with Bob Karp and Jack Hannah.
However, it is interesting to note that, between Gottfredson and Barks, another cartoonist started to use Donald Duck in adventures: the italian editor and writer Federico Pedrocchi, who started to publish The secret of Mars, the first great adventure in the world with Donald Duck as the protagonist.
From Mars to the Native Americans
The success in Italy of the Mickey’s newspaper (Topolino) and the dearth of original material were insufficient to maintain a weekly magazine. So Pedrocchi send to Walt Disney the subject of the first Italian story, The secret of Mars. The story, printed in U.S. on Donald Duck #286, fits into the genre of science fiction at the time of vogue thanks to the italian success of Flash Gordon and Saturn against the Earth, written by Pedrocchi and Zavattini and drawined by Giovanni Scolari.
Thus begins a long adventure that will lead to achieving Pedrocchi also many stories with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, whose dark atmospheres would certainly influence another italian disney cartoonist as Guido Martina.
Another interesting story, that in particular create the italian characterization of Donald, is Donald and the Redskins (Paperino tra i Pellirosse), realized with Enrico Mauro Pinochi. Pedrocchi reunite the original couple Donald Duck-Peter Pig: the two meet again at the newspaper directed by Linotipi, Another World (there had previously worked together in the previous Pedrocchi’s story), which gives them the delicate task of making a journalistic reportage of a lost tribe of Native Americans, concealed in a remote corner of the country, guided only by a map. The nemesis is Bartholomew Circumlocution, said the Cat, an anthropomorphic cat with a scowl and a impervious like Dick Tracy, who as a journalist competitor of Donald-Peter. After the discovery of the mission of the two friends, he decided to put a spoke in the wheels to arrive before the Indians and force them to pay back taxes.
Fortunately Donald resolve the situation, showing a bit authoritarian: just think, for example, that not only Donald showed a great intelligence designing plan to get himself out of trouble, but he is shown a ruthless and violent ago mercilessly whipped the Cat, tied to the stake of torture of the lost Indian tribe. It would have been especially this aspect, combined with the laziness shown in the cartoons, to influence the next generation of authors, in particular Martina and Bioletto.
Another fundamental aspect to emerge is Donald’s opportunism: at the beginning the two friends, the wrong road, come across a farm run by a goat, Mr. Capricorn; so Donald worked for him in order to investigate in the surrounding area. During the night he discovers that the factor is a former bandit who has buried in his field the spoils of a robbery many years ago: with this booty will be just that Donald will help the Native Americans, who will elect Donald and Meo sorcerers directly inspired by the Great Spirit.
Pedrocchi, however, also takes care of the humorous aspects (misfortunes, in fact, are all treated as a funny gag series): for example the two friends try to give each other the blame for accepting the mission, but after the successful conclusion Donald take for himself the merit to accept the job!
Career in palmistry
The next story is Donald Duck fortune teller (Paperino chiromante), where our hero tries to pursue a career as the greatest fortun teller in the universe!
To support our hero will be there, this time, Goofy, which will prove even more naive and simple than Peter Pig, as necessary and sufficient to allow Donald to dupe their fellow citizens with ghostly apparitions genuinely fake!
In the first part of the story, then, Donald build his reputation by requiring to the beggars absurd solutions, such as asking to Clarabelle Cow to walk around the city with a candle on his head. This council will create havoc in the city and became a good introduction to the second part of the story, where Peg-Leg Pete and Eli Squinch launch to our hero a public challenge to demonstrate his powers.
On this challenge, within the municipal theater, will play a series of gags, which show a slightly arrogant and diabolical Donald, who despite all the shenanigans and the intervention of the Cat, will triumph in the challenge. In fact, the success of Donald Duck, despite the obvious fakes, looks like a not-too-veiled dig at the gullible that more and more often fall into the net of a whole series of fixers committed to get money from bragging possession of amazing psychic powers.
When a freighter carrying 5,000 sheep capsized at the docks in Kuwait harbor in the Persian Gulf and threatened to contaminate a water-purification plant, an idea from a Walt Disney Donald Duck cartoon helped to raise it. Karl Kroeyer, a Danish engineer called in, remembered the cartoon in a Copenhagen newspaper.
In it Donald pumped tennis-balls into the hold of a sunken ship to displace the water and give the ship enough buoyancy to float. Instead of tennis-balls, Kroeyer used polystyrene foam. The plastic is in crystals that heating expands to air-filled bubbles occupying 40 times the volume.
The freighter’s keel was weighted and the bubbles pumped first between the two highest decks, then into lower holds. It took 150 tons of foam and three months to raise the ship and tow it savely away.
Steve Gerber and Don Rosa have been selected to receive the 2013 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. The selection, made by a blue-ribbon committee chaired by writer-historian Mark Evanier, was unanimous.
“The premise of this award is to recognize writers for a body of work that has not received its rightful reward and/or recognition,” Evanier explains. “That was what Jerry Robinson intended as his way of remembering his friend, Bill Finger. Bill is still kind of the industry poster boy for writers not receiving proper reward or recognition.” Evanier also notes the appropriateness of this year’s selections: “Steve Gerber was one of the most influential writers of his day, and his work has stood the rest of time. Don Rosa is now retired from producing his acclaimed work with Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. He also drew the comics, but we honor him for the excellence of his stories, which will forever be reprinted around the world. Also, we liked the idea of having an ‘all-duck’ Finger ceremony.”
Some informations about Don Rosa
[He] got his start in fanzines, with “The Pertwillaby Papers,” a comic strip for his college newspaper in Kentucky. An avid collector of comics, he chose for a time to write and draw as a hobby and to make his livelihood in his family’s tile business. In 1986, though, he had the opportunity to write and draw stories of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge, his favorite characters when in the hands of the legendary Carl Barks. His meticulous, carefully researched work caught on big, at first in America and then overseas, where he was hailed for expanding on the foundation laid by Barks. Particularly popular was a 12-part series he began in 1991, “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck,” which filled in many details of the character’s past. That series, along with Rosa’s other tales, has been reprinted around the world as much as any comic book of the last quarter-century. Rosa has now retired from creating new stories, due to failing eyesight and disputes with his publisher over compensation.
And now the prize:
The Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing was created in 2005 at the instigation of comic book legend Jerry Robinson. Each year, the awards committee selects two recipients—one living and one deceased—who have produced a significant body of work in the comics field. The award is named for William Finger (1914–1974), who was the first, and some say most important, writer of Batman. Many have called him the “unsung hero” of the character and have hailed his work not only on that iconic figure, but on dozens of others, primarily for DC Comics. The Finger Award recipients are chosen by a committee chaired by Mark Evanier, and the awards are presented at the Eisner Awards ceremony.
Mickey’s Inferno (L’inferno di Topolino) was the second Italian story to be published on Topolino (#7-12): it was the first Italian Great Parody and the first Disney story featuring credits (under the title of the story it is written “verseggiatura di Guido Martina“, “verses by Guido Martina“)(1).
The story, drawned by Angelo Bioletto, was published also in USA on Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories #666(2) (here you can see a couple of pages from the american version) and it seems that was censured because it is too “graphic” and violent for american readers(3)
The image in the opening, by Fabio Celoni, is published on Toplino #3000.