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Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: "Trapped on Treasure Island" (Vol. 2) (Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse) Hardcover – October 31, 2011
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“…[A] revelation. As in his contemporaneous animated cartoons, this Mickey is a feisty, wisecracking daredevil… Gottfredson’s charmingly old-fashioned drawings accentuate the gags and briskly propel the plotlines.”
- Gordon Flagg, Booklist
“The stories are dense, packing plenty of dialogue into the strips ― and the themes are darker than the bright-eyed, factory-sealed tales of today.... The reproduction is crisp ― the black inks are meticulous in their separation…. This dynamic look is a revelation in the life of the character who started it all for Disney.”
- Alex Carr, Omnivoracious (Amazon.com)
“Gottfredson’s comics are as classy, funny and as slick as the Disney shorts from the same period.... A fine package, a full meal, and a perfect follow-up to volume 1, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 2: Trapped on Treasure Island fills a gap long-neglected in animation history. Buy it.”
- Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew
“Can you believe that the tapioca-plain Mickey Mouse was… once a high-spirited adventurer...? He was in the original comic strips... It's one of the classics.”
- David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
“Over time, Mickey’s personality becomes more refined…; scrappier, tougher and more determined to seek justice (or an adventure) regardless of the odds. …[T]his series is rich with detail, both in the strip itself and in the editorial handling of the material, [in a way] that puts other reprint projects to shame.”
- Chris Mautner, Robot 6
“These Floyd Gottfredson-created adventure strips… are everything you want from a feature like this: exuberant, lovely-looking and a lot of fun.”
- Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
“…[A]s amazing as it sounds David Gerstein and Fantagraphics have managed to do it again: they have produced at the same time the best Disney comic book of 2011 and one of the best Disney history books of the year.”
- Didier Ghez, Disney History
“The Mickey Mouse books from Fantagraphics… feel like the Criterion Collection DVDs translated into comic strip compilations, a prime example of how to give the readers more than their money’s worth.... With Mickey Mouse: Trapped on Treasure Island, I’m already eager to see what Gottfredson did next. I’m in for the long haul.”
- Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
About the Author
Hired as a short-term replacement on the fledgling Mickey Mouse daily strip in 1930, Floyd Gottfredson (1905–1986) went on to draw the feature for the next 45 years. He created the most famous Mickey tales ever told in print. He is a Disney Legend and was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2006.
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I also came to learn that the great Mickey Mouse adventure stories by Gottfredson were actually reprints of the daily and Sunday Mickey Mouse comic strips. But what was frustrating, was that while Carl Barks materials were reprinted completely several times (and now are again being reprinted by Fantagraphics), no one had done a comprehensive reprint of Gottfredson's work. Until now.
This then is the second of what should be about 15 or so volumes reprinting all the dailies (and now also Sunday) Mickey Mouse adventure strips by Gottfredson. While he worked on the strip for several decades, I believe they will only go from 1930 to 1955, when the adventure stories ended in favor of gag-a-day strips (per editorial decree). And he also only worked on the Sunday strip for about 5 years. So with about 2 years per daily volume, there should be 12 volumes of dailies and 2 of Sundays.
Each volume will follow the same basic format. A great introductory essay that gives info on the strip and the current set of stories. Then the stories, broken up into distinct storylines with some introductory info on each. Then followed up by a variety of extras: info on the reprinting of the stories, info on the major secondary characters, other background info, and sometimes bonus material in the form of stuff like sequels done oversees and never seen in the US!
Volume 2 has about 2 years of dailies. The stories are:
"The Great Orphanage Robbery" has Mickey helping raise funds for an orphanage. Among other things, he organizes a production of the play "Uncle Tom's Cabin", which may seem strange to modern audiences. But villains Sylvester Shyster and Pegleg Pete return, steal the money, and frame Horace Horsecollar (who is part of a budding romance with Clarabelle Cow). But of course Mickey triumphs over all.
"Mickey Mouse Sails for Treasure Island" introduces us to Captain Churchmouse, an old salt, who would lead Mickey and Minnie in a new adventure in this story and in several future ones. We are also introduced to Spook the Gorilla, who will return in a future story. This one is loosely based on the classic "Treasure Island", and has Peglet and Shyster as the main villains (having escaped from jail from the last adventure).
"Blaggard Castle" is a classic story of Mickey and pal Horace in an adventure at Blaggard Castle, dealing with a trio of mad scientists: Ecks, Doublex, and Triplex.
"Pluto and the Dogcatcher" is a brief comedic story with Pluto hiding from the dogcatcher after loosing his license tag.
"The Mail Pilot" is another classic story with Mickey becoming an airmail pilot. In this story, we are also introduced to Captain Doberman of the Airmail Service, who would also bring Mickey into adventures in the future as an adhoc government agent of sorts. He also encounters a group of air pirates led by Shyster and Pete.
"Mickey Mouse and his Horse Tanglefoot" is a humorous story dealing with Mickey now owning a troublesome race horse, Tangelfoot.
"The Crazy Crime Wave" has Mickey opening up a detective agency with "Dippy Dawg", a character who would later evolve into Goofy. The must contend with and solve a real crime wave, which they do.
We see Mickey as a character continue to develop in these early strips. Is he a kid or a young adult? Its not clear. We go back and from between adventure strips (with some danger) and more humorous stuff as Gottfredson gets more comfortable with the strip (this will further develop). We will also see development in the other characters in the strip, such as the marriage of Horace and Clarabelle, the intro of characters like Dippy, who would become Goofy.
Bonus material is great.
We get cast studies on Horace, Clarebelle and Dippy, Ecks, Doublex, and Triplex, and Tanglefoot.
We get a sequel Blaggard Castle created for comics in 1993.
All together a great collection, and I look forward to the next volumes.
Mickey has evolved into the now familiar unimpeachable good guy. I would contrast him with his contemporary Popeye the Sailor who, like Mickey and many depression era heroes, had a soft spot for widows and orphans. Unlike Mickey, his altruistic bent went hand in hand with some serious character flaws most notably a violent often uncontrollable temper. Mickey, on the other hand, is nearly perfect. Where Popeye would often find his attempts at good deeds blowing up in his face Mickey's goodness invariably turns out well but it was the multidimensionality of Popeye that made him such an interesting character. In addition to having characters flaws Popeye was also legitimately funny and Elzie Segar leveraged Popeye's uniqueness for all its worth. It's not that Gottfredson is incapable of humor it's that I don't think he is trying to make Mickey or Minnie humorous. Mickey is a good guy end of story. The only characters who are actually funny are Clarabelle, Horace Horsecollar and Dippy Dawg a.k.a. Goofy (who is actually very funny).
The other issue is that when Mickey comes out on top it often isn't so much because of his determination and grit but through sheer dumb luck. In the first story Mickey tries to raise money for orphans and starts walking the streets with a sandwich board soliciting donations. He spots a flyer for a contest offering $50 cash for the best homemade glider when suddenly a gust of winds turns his sandwich board 90 degrees turning them essentially into wings, lofts him in the air and deposits him at the contest just in time to accept the prize. This kind of stuff happens all through the book. When Mickey is stuck far from home and needs to return quickly he just comes across a gassed up ready to go "abandoned" plane. When that plane gets wrecked he finds a pilot who happens to be flying where Mickey is going. Apparently Gottfredson wrote Mickey to be a Horatio Alger type hero but like the heroes from Alger's books Mickey's pluck was only the lead in to a series of amazing strokes of luck.
I enjoyed this book but not as much as volume 1. Gottfredson seems to have taken a step backwards using a lot of cliché's (and some unfortunate moments of racism) so common to the 1930's that make some of the stories feel dated. He's also taken Mickey away from the simple depression era mouse. In the first story Peg Leg Pete and Sylvester S. steal a sack of money from orphans but by the fourth story the duo put together a plan worthy of the most audacious Bond villain. In the story "Blaggard Castle" Mickey and Horace foil a plan for world domination and possibly genocide. Quite a departure from Mickey's early fight with Kat Nip.
None of this is to say I didn't enjoy this book immensely. Gottfredson is a wonderful artist and an archetypical good guy can be entertaining in his/her simplicity. There is very little depth to Mickey Mouse but you can't fault him for being unreliable. Mickey would never have had such an enduring appeal if people didn't like his unswerving wholesomeness and this was probably exactly the type of figure that many during the depression were looking for when people were desperate for something good, stable and predictable. You could always count on Mickey Mouse to do what's good. Fantagraphics has probably put together the best collection from one of the all time greatest comic writers and despite any complaints I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another volume.
Postscript: In case you're wondering why I used the name Sylvester S. to refer to Peg Leg Pete's cohort rather than the name that is defined as a crooked lawyer and why I still won't use it it's because it's actually among Amazon's list of swear words and my review won't get posted if I use it. Weird.