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‘Mickey Mouse: Zombie Coffee’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Régis Loisel
Published by Fantagraphics Books

 

As great as they were—and there was a time when they were some of the greatest comics of them all—Disney comics always had a nice, clean, familiar, homogenized look to them.

I actually never read any Disneys except for Super Goof until the 1980s when the various book collections and the Gladstone revival were hot.

The Gladstone Disney comics were a mix of new material by new creators (like Don Rosa and William Van Horn), classic reprints (by Paul Murry and Carl Barks), and, perhaps most intriguingly, European Disney comics, sometimes dating back as far as the 1950s, that had never been printed in the United States!

These latter stories had to be translated and on occasion have their art retouched. Scrooge’s money bin, for instance, had a pound note symbol rather than its familiar dollar sign in some of the originals.

Overall, though, whether Dutch or German or Italian, they looked and felt like Disney! Over time and additional US license holders, however, that slowly began to change, with Scrooge, Mickey, and Donald stories showing up that had been drawn in a looser, less-controlled, style. At first, I wasn’t a fan but on seeing more and more, they grew on me.

In more recent years, Disney even embarked on a series of new animated cartoons that have more in common with the work of John Kricfalusi or Ralph Bakshi than that of any of Disney’s Nine Old Men. No doubt Uncle Walt was spinning in his cryogenic chamber but these new cartoons were, for the most part, astonishingly funny and well made, showing an obvious love for, and understanding of, the characters.

And that’s basically what we get with Mickey Mouse: Zombie Coffee, the latest Fantagraphics book to reprint a Euro-Disney epic. This one is by an artist entirely new to me, one Régis Loisel, a much-lauded French artist living in Canada according to Internet sources.

As far as the heavy lifting goes, 2016’s Mickey Mouse: Zombie Coffee is a one-man operation, with Régis Loisel credited with Story, Art, and Color. The whole book, though, has sort of an underground comix feel to it, almost as though it were an early 1970s Air Pirates version of Mickey and friends rather than an official one.

Everything about the book is frenetic. Everything and everyone is moving all the time, backgrounds are dense and busy, there’s dirt everywhere, and hair! There’s a lot more hair than one generally finds in a Disney story. Even Mickey’s ears are noticeably fuzzy!

Mickey remains the plucky hero, though, Donald (in what amounts to little more than a cameo) the annoying but true-blue friend, and Horace Horsecollar Mickey’s bosom buddy sidekick. Wait! Shouldn’t that be Goofy? Well, Goofy’s here, all right, but he’s more than a bit thicker than his classic version, more akin to his vintage “Dippy Dog” personality.

The whole story seems to be set in the Great Depression era of the U.S. although if that is ever explicitly stated, I missed it. Lots of clues seem to indicate it, though, such as long lines for jobs and complaints that 25 cents was sure a lot to pay for a hamburger.

The book starts out with Mickey and Horace unable to get construction jobs so they decide to take Minnie and Clarabelle Cow camping and, along with Donald, boating. Upon their return, the town isn’t the same. Many homeowners have been forced to sell out suddenly for the new construction but the workers seem like zombies, even Goofy…though admittedly it’s difficult to tell with him. Mickey slips into his traditional do-gooder role and he and Horace set out to find the secret behind the zombie workers, which seems to be free drugged coffee distributed to everyone daily…by old adversary Peg-Leg Pete!

Mickey’s adventure is fairly traditional from that point, although, again in a much more frenetic, kinetic and lived-in looking style, with nearly every panel filled with speed lines and other cartooning shorthand to show that everything is happening a mile-a-minute.

The story isn’t really all that much, the translation is notably off in a few spots, and the camping section feels at times like filler, but this is such a down-and-dirty alternate world Mickey that I just couldn’t take my eyes off it. The old Dell editors might have kicked Régis Loisel to the curb for drawing off-model but his work here is so much fun that anyone familiar with the more modern Mouse adventures will eat it up like a mouse eats cheese and close the last page wanting more M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-EEEeeeeeeeee!

Booksteve recommends.

  

 

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