Friday, June 7, 2013

"Blow your horn, you invisible juggernaut!" Donald Duck: the Old Castle's Secret

The most recent entry in Fantagraphics' Carl Barks Library is the Donald Duck collection dubbed "The Old Castle's Secret" after the first tale reprinted therein. It's another fine hardcover collecting Barks' Donald Duck stories circa 1948, featuring Donald, his nephews and some early Scrooge McDuck appearances, plus the very first tale to feature Donald's insufferably lucky cousin, Gladstone Gander. The titular story involves Scrooge inviting Donald and the nephews to his ancestral castle in Scotland to investigate the legendary ghost supposedly haunting the premises. Other lengthy tales include a trip to Africa to find rare butterflies in "Darkest Africa;" Donald entering a rocket race in "Rocket Race to the Moon;" and Donald becoming a lawman in "Sheriff of Bullet Valley."

In "the Old Castle's Secret," it's amusing to note the supposed ghost is intended to be one Sir Quackly, a member of the McDuck clan - and therefore, a duck. The ghost's shadow, however, is definitely not a duck's, which you'd think the Ducks would take as their first clue that there's something screwy about the hauntings. I suppose in the adrenaline of the moment, they didn't connect the dots. Or ligaments.

Uncle Scrooge was still a new character in 1948 and while his personality is mostly in place (although his buried conscience seems dug into a deeper grave in this collection than in later tales), visually he's just a little off from later appearances. His whisker-feathers are bushier than the length they'd eventually settle upon and his top hat wasn't yet his chapeau of choice (he doesn't wear any hats in this collection).

"Rocket Race to the Moon" is a fun little tale; Donald is often punished in his own stories for ignoring problems, unwittingly aiding antagonists and hindering people trying to solve problems (like his nephews); in this tale, Donald gets to be a true protagonist, naively playing a gentleman as he races his rocket against Baron de Sleezy, only for de Sleezy to prove himself less than a gentleman; who could have expected a man named de Sleezy to be such a reprobate?

In Fantagraphics' previous Carl Barks Library volumes, I'd previously encountered at least one story from each collection; this is the first collection to be all-new for me, so it's a fine treat; if you can spare the change, it's worth following the series. Don't we all deserve something a little fun?

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