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‘Walt Disney’s Mickey and Donald Fantastic Futures: Classic Tales with a 22nd Century Twist’ (HC GN review)

Written by Francesco Artibani
Art by Lorenzo Pastrovicchio,
Claudio Sciarrone, David Gerstein
Published by Fantagraphics Books

 

Foreign comics creators have long respected Disney comics to a greater extent than most Americans. After decades of slavishly copying the style of Carl Barks and other US Disney artists (sometimes with spectacular results, mind you!), they slowly started sneaking in their own styles.

From that point on, European and South American Disney stories began seeming more like experimental alternate dimension comics of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.

These days, Fantagraphics has been regularly sharing many of those unusual stories with American readers and this latest volume is called … Well, I’m not sure what it’s called.

The fine print says it’s Disney Once Upon a Mouse…In the Future, Volume 1.  The book’s cover is Walt Disney’s Mickey and Donald Fantastic Futures: Classic Tales with a 22nd Century Twist.  Perhaps that’s the title of this volume and it’s the first in a similar series.

The conceit of the stories herein is that they take their plots from a handful of classic, nay I say, “beloved,” Disney cartoons from the 1930s and ‘40s, only this time with a science fiction twist!

The original cartoons redone in this volume are Lonesome Ghosts, Clock Cleaners, Trailer Horn, Mickey’s Trailer, Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip, Boat Builders, Mickey’s Fire Brigade, and finally, one of my personal favorites, Thru the Mirror.

That last one is now Thru the Betaverse. The others are, respectively, Lonesome Ghosts in the Machine, Robot Cleaners, Exoplanet Trailer, Mickey’s Martian Rover, Mr. Mouse Takes a Space Trip, Starship Builder, and Firefighters of Tomorrow.

One Francesco Artibani is given either plot or story credit for all of the stories, with various scripters and artists—using various modern art styles handling the illustrations. Although all are beautiful to look at, with some being downright lush, the only one that really stands out to me visually is Firefighters of Tomorrow. The artist on it, Donald Soffriti, has opted for a very cartoony pseudo-John K style, even more cartoony than the original cartoon.

Thru the Betaverse is probably the most disappointing story in this volume. It’s also the one where the art sticks closest to traditional Disney comics art. While it retains quite a bit of the Alice in Wonderland parody of the original, the updating to a gamer dimension setting just feels pointless.

At age 65, I still love classic Disney comic book stories and I love classic Disney cartoons. In fact, for my recent birthday, I treated myself to a newish book on the history of the latter. I think that’s the problem I have with Mickey and Donald, Fantastic Futures. These stories are neither fish nor fowl (or should that be rodent or fowl?). The Disney comics have always existed in a very different universe from the Disney cartoons. It’s always been hard to reconcile the sputtering, tempestuous Donald Duck of the movies with the hapless but adventuresome Donald of Carl Barks’ comics. Since the book at hand is offering us all new comics, and yet based on old cartoons, the characters here just feel off-model for Disney comic books.

Disney Once Upon a Mouse…In the Future, Volume 1 (?) is a very colorful, pretty to look at, book and a fun way to spend some time with old friends in a uniquely 21st century setting that Disney or his nine old men could never have foreseen. But if that “Volume 1” really is teasing more of the same, I hope that doesn’t happen.

As an experiment, this volume is interesting and mildly entertaining on its own, but I don’t really feel it was completely successful in what it set out to do.

By a thin margin, though… Booksteve recommends.

 

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