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‘Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Donald’s Happiest Adventures’ GN (review)

Written and Illustrated by
Lewis Trondheim & Nicolas Kéramidas
Edited and translated by David Gerstein

Published by Fantagraphics Books


Disney comics have long been more popular in other parts of the world than in Disney’s native America. This quickly led to the need for more stories with Donald and Mickey and the gang than were being turned out in the US.

Tradition was, for decades, though, to continue to draw these new European and South American adventures as closely as possible to the standard Carl Barks or Paul Murry style.

Somewhere along the way, that tradition fell by the wayside and some very stylized versions of the Disney ducks and mice began hitting the stands. Beginning in the 1990s, some of these “off-model” stories began making their way into the US market.

I wasn’t a fan…at first.

But my son liked the thick little book format they were in so we ended up with quite a few, and they grew on me. Since then, there has been all kinds of similarly stylized Disney product, both here and abroad. Some, naturally, are better than others, with my money being on the Italians for the best.

Donald’s Happiest Adventures, however, comes to us from France via Fantagraphics and estimable editor/translator David Gerstein, originally created in 2018 by Lewis Trondheim and Nikolas Keramidas. Ignore the cartoonists’ silly Introduction, which attempts to convince us this is a collection of vintage, rare Donald Duck one-pagers.

It isn’t.

What it is, though, is a fun, funny, and at times surprisingly philosophical romp that takes our hapless old pal Donald around the world in search of the secret of happiness. Along the way, we also meet the nephews, Uncle Scrooge, Grandma Duck and Gus Goose, Gladstone Gander, Mickey and Minnie, Pegleg Pete, some new or lesser-known characters, and, for a change, Professor Ludwig Von Drake is even a major player.

Another minor trend in recent comics is to artificially age the pages and that’s on view here to good result, helping to make the whole story look a bit like leftovers from the infamous underground Air Pirates Funnies from the 1970s, which featured Disney characters in adult situations.

Something always seems to be moving in the panels, too, hinting at early Disney animation. Ultimately, we get 42 single page installments where Donald not only finds his personal secret of happiness to be (SPOILER) reading a book, but the reader finds that reading THIS book has also brough at least some fleeting moments of happiness.

Donald’s Happiest Adventures is a hoot for any and all ages!

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