When I was a kid and we still had a newspaper delivered to the house, when my father was all done reading it – and before I fell in love with the sports page – the comic pages were my first destination. I pretty much read anything – with the possible exception of Apartment 3-G and Rex Morgan, MD, which were soap opera strips and, therefore, not funny – on that page.
I loved Peanuts the most. There was no denying that Charles Schulz just got it, whether it was Charlie Brown’s epic loser-ness or Linus’ deep-seated blanket issues. I also couldn’t miss Dagwood or BC or Hagar the Horrible. As I got older, I added Doonesberry, Bloom County (Thank goodness the brilliant Berkeley Brethed recently brought this gem back.), and Calvin & Hobbes (Your turn, Mr. Watterson!) to my can’t misses.
That being said, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to review the complete Donald Duck Daily Newspaper Comics anthology. While they are before my time, you still get that same sense of wonder reading a strip, whether it is 75 years old or if it was created yesterday. I found myself unable to put it down.
To get a sense of what you are reading, you really need some of the backstory and an understanding of the times. There is a great forward that tells all about the birth of Donald Duck, his growth as a character in both movies and strips, the hard fight that strip creator Al Taliaferro had to wage to get the strip going and keep it a staple in newspapers, and the scrutiny they were all under.
It is also valuable to know the general landscape of history. The US was just starting to come out of the Great Depression, and the stories told within the daily strips were very reflective of that. Donald Duck, who is a legendarily angry character, was a different kind of angry back then. He was a mischievous prankster who was thrown to real fits of anger. It took the introduction of his three equally mischievous nephews – Huey, Dewey, and Louie – to tame his anger. Taliferro had created the nephews in 1937 and held back on using them at the urging of Walt Disney, who preferred he use Mickey Mouse’s nephews – Mortimer and Ferdie – instead.
They were introduced in the Donald Duck precursor (and the strip that introduced him) Silly Symphonies in late 1937 and became part of the all-new Donald Duck daily comic, which debuted in February, 1938. The strip continued with Taliferro at the helm until 1969 and still appears daily today, more than 75 years later.
This collection is fantastic as it reprints every single daily strip from the debut through July 20, 1940. You will find some real gems here, but the strips that will stick out are the ones that make you rethink your impression of the affable, yet angry, duck. Pre-World War II, he was quick to blow his top and do some really stupid things . . . break things, try to hurt other characters, scream inappropriate things (that the letterer had to creatively use symbol for), and mostly just be an angry duck.
But, the payoff is in the moments where, even 75 years on, you see the duck you love today. If you are a comics page devotee, you will love – and want – this collection.