We’re ~ 6 months into Uncle Scrooge’s 60th Anniversary and I felt it was high time that I devote a little more time and attention to the celebration. For its part, Gemstone has featured a back-cover poster depicting significant people, places and events in Scrooge’s life as illustrated by Duckman Don Rosa in each issue of Uncle Scrooge this year. Each piece also features historic information and commentary by the artist on the flip cover, so that’s been a nice touch in addition to the fine work they’re already producing and re-printing between the covers. Look for the posters on issues that proudly declare Uncle Scrooge’s 60th! Gemstone Publishing also released the fine Walt Disney Treasures TPB entitled “Uncle Scrooge: A Little Something Special” that also celebrates Scrooge McDuck and his celebrated creator, Carl Barks. So please check that publication out if you’re looking for a good place to start a Duck-collection all your own.
In the foreword of the Something Special TPB, David Gerstein provided a terrific look back on 60-years of Uncle Scrooge history and I thought I’d post an excerpt from those comments as a means of providing a few details into the creation of Scrooge McDuck and where he stands now. Please purchase the collection for the entire piece, and so that you can see for yourself what all the hub-bub is about.
Uncle Scrooge is sixty years old! In a manner of speaking that is. At the time of his creation, Duckburg’s favorite son was already an octogenarian in his fictional world — and in the real world today, one might term Scroge’s spirit to be seventy-seven. For Disney comics themselves are seventy-seven, and Scrooge McDuck is a waddling incarnation of the medium at its best: creativity, industry, and iconoclasm rolled into one representative figure. That Scrooge should have been created for comics, rather than animation, seems only natural: one of the form’s most distinct players was quite fittingly born within it.
It was less a birth, however, than a coalescence. Crafting “Christmas on Bear Mountain” (Four Color 178), his famed 1947 yuletide tale, Carl Barks needed a one-off relative to test Donald’s mettle. This being a Christmas story, A Dickensian miser named Scrooge McDuck must have seemed an obvious choice. But consciously or not, barks was sourcing a character type to which he was already predisposed. Many Barks tales had a self-interested treasure seeker. In January 1947, just eleven months before McDuck’s debut, a non-Disney Barks story had featured a stingy Scotsman called McDuff — even referred to as “that old scrooge” by other characters (Our Gang 30). Scrooge McDuck, then, was less a wholly new creation than a combination of seasoned tropes, and as such, the resulting ‘one off’ character was strong enough on inception that prompt reuse was almost inevitable. ‘The Old Castle’s Secret’ (Four Color 189, 1948), fleshing out the McDuck’s Scots heritage, was in the works not long after ‘Bear Mountain’ reached newsstands.
This is not to say that Scrooge hatched fully-formed from the egg. In ‘Bear Mountain,’ McDuck was a decrepit, nearly infirm family elder; in keeping with this, another early appearance referred to his having already been a grown man some ‘seventy years ago’ (‘Voodoo Hoodoo,’ Four Color 238, 1949). the early Scrooge, too, was portrayed more negatively than would later be the case. The angry energy that, in ‘Bear Mountain,’ was channeled toward a positive goal — upholding the family honor — reappeared as late as 1952 in the service of less laudable aims like squeezing the poor and conning his relatives. In ‘The Magic Hourglass’ (Four Color 291, 1950), one even got the impression that Scrooge had earned his money through luck rather than ennobling hard work. Scrooge was often two-dimensional and fundamentally unpleasant; Scrooge was a scrooge.
Then the storm broke — or, more specifically, Scrooge’s popularity led to his receipt of his own comic, and the need for a more sympathetic star. To counterbalance McDuck’s penury and rotten temper, Barks now gifted him with a love of adventure and culture. Scrooge’s accumulated fortune began to matter as much for the experiences it represented…
…The year 2007 finds Carl Barks’ Scrooge McDuck a celebrity at sixty — an awkward spot for the famously solitary penny-pincher, yet an exciting place for any of us who look forward to his next great adventure or business deal. Scrooge’s life, his times, his rogues gallery, and his particular combination of personal quirks place him among the most unique fictional characters ever created — and due to that unique nature, also among the most enjoyable figures to read about and ponder. Were Scrooge suddenly, one day, to exist in our real-life world, few of us can say we’d like to work for him; but almost all of us would find it inspiring to meet with him. Even though, should the meeting take place, it would likely end with our being unceremoniously thrown out of his money bin through a trapdoor.
No doubt. Well, that, or try to convince you to scrub the money bin at 30-cents an hour (poor Donald)!
For me, Scrooge McDuck is simply one of the most fascinating characters ever created. He’s the ultra-successful tycoon with more money than any of us will ever be able to wrap our heads around, but for him — at least as I understand him — it isn’t about the money so much as it’s about the journey that led to his fortune. From the poor streets of Scotland, to a prosperous life surrounded by his closest friends and family, Scrooge represents the value of honest hard work, the American Dream, and the importance of an adventurous spirit in truly being alive. All wrapped up in a gruff little Scot. Yes, its never hurt that he’s a fellow Scot and that I love the kinship I feel as a fellow “Mac.” His adventures are always among my favorite stories and I’ll forever hear the Scottish brogue that I knew so well from Disne’y Duck Tales as I read his many adventures. Scrooge has something to offer everyone young and old alike and I hope that you’ll take the opportunity on his 60th to really enjoy Carl Bark’s most famous creation. You’ll be glad you did.