Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pipeline - Remembering Uncle Scrooge, and the Significance of DC's "Rebirth"


via Comic Book Resources

DC, DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

There are spoilers floating out there for this week's "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 that I will not be repeating here. I've read them, don't get me wrong, but I maintain a spoiler free zone at Pipeline for books that aren't out yet.

Some of the details that have startled people and gotten them ready to raise the pitchforks actually came across as pretty clever to me. Given the state of DC Comics today, they make sense. You may not like them, but those horses left the barn years ago. It's too late to get irate that they're running free now.

That said, the whole situation at DC is a morass. A confusing, complicated, interconnected snake eating its own tail Em Ee Ess Ess.

It says a lot that things have gotten so bad that this is the way they choose to simplify things. It's almost to the point where having 52 separate universes feels like a cleaner status quo than a world that combined multiple universes into one and tries to have its cake and eat it, too. Furthermore, relying on the characters' knowledge of this merged universe as a plot point just makes it harder for a new reader to jump in.

I don't want to jump into the DC Universe today. It's a universe that doesn't even know who Superman is, for goodness sakes. Once you've reached that level, it's time to give up hope.

In a completely unrelated note, have you read Abhay Khosla's detailed case against Dan DiDio? The prosecution is stunning, but well documented and detailed. It's purposefully one-sided, but worth a read.

MY SCROOGE IS GONE

Tad Stones, producer on "Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers" and "Darkwing Duck," offered his tribute to Alan Young on Twitter over the weekend.

To the consternation of many old school Duck fans, I'm sure, I came to Duck fandom through DuckTales. I never knew of an Uncle Scrooge who spoke in anyone's voice other than Alan Young, even going back a bit to "Mickey's Christmas Carol," which I had seen earlier.

Sadly, Young died this week at the age of 93. He continued to be the voice of Scrooge up until a couple of years ago. The new "DuckTales" series will have to go on without him, which will take some getting used to. Let's hope they don't just hire Mike Myers (Shrek) to be the new Scrooge. He needs more than just the Scottish accent and the ability to properly pronounce "The heather in the loch goes round and round the block."

The funny thing is, I knew Alan Young as Wilbur before I knew him as Uncle Scrooge. Sit back, kids, and let Grandpa Augie tell you a short story: In the early '80s, when Nickelodeon was new, the station didn't program a never-ending diet of Dan Schneider-created tween sit-coms. Schneider wouldn't even don the guise of Dennis Blunden for a few more years.

Nick survived on re-purposed Canadian shows ("Turkey TV," "You Can't Do That On Television," "Mr. Wizard's World," anyone?) and old black and white family friendly sitcoms. I remember as a kid spending afternoons watching "The Brady Bunch" (over on TBS) before turning to Nickeloden for "My Three Sons" and "Mr. Ed." I didn't know it then, but Mr. Ed's owner, Wilbur, was Alan Young, the man Disney would turn to to be the voice of the great rich Scottish waterfowl, Scrooge McDuck.

Because everything old is new again, years later those shows would show up on Nickelodeon again as part of their "Nick at Nite" programming.

I ate up "DuckTales" when it debuted in the late '80s. Through that, I came to pick up a couple of Gladstone comics around 1989 or 1990. I devoured those comics for the next 10 or 15 years, always enjoying the Scrooge comics the most. I still consider Don Rosa's "The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck" to be one of the finest comics in my lifetime.

While the characterization of Carl Barks' Scrooge and DuckTales' Scrooge had its differences, I always heard Alan Young's voice in my head as I read those comics. I think even many of the comics purists would admit that Young did a good job there.

I doubt there's any other voice anyone in my generation could imagine taking its place. When the new "DuckTales" series starts up next year, I suppose we'll find out if it's possible to recapture the original series' energy. One thing's for certain: their job just got a whole lot harder.

Rest in peace, Alan Young, and thanks for all the memories.

HISTORY OF COMICS IS A FOOL'S ERRAND

Robert Kirkman is involved in a television miniseries which will tell some of the stories in the history of comics.

It might be less painful for him to dive into a large bucket of chum and then throw himself into shark-infested waters. There is literally no way to win with a project like this.

No, strike that. There is a way, and that's to stay the heck off the Internet and not to listen to comics fans for the duration of the project, plus the two to three years that follow.

Obviously, there's no way to cover everything comics-related from the last 100 years in the span of six hours. Wait, I've already offended those who want to make the case for cave wall paintings being the earliest examples of comics. ("Why does Kirkman hate the native peoples?")

He can pick and choose some big events, but people will grouse about that. He can pick the formation of Image Comics, which was definitely one of the biggest comics industry events of the last 30 years, and catch flack that he's just self-promoting. He can cover the bankruptcy of Marvel Comics through to their story of Hollywood domination and a $4 billion sale to Disney, and be accused of being Yet Another Documentary that only talks about American superhero comics.

The truth is, to make a television series to appeal to a larger niche than just the tens of thousands of people left reading comics, that's the first place he has to go -- to a topic where a broader demographic will show interest and be curious. People know comics from the superhero movies that rake in a billion dollars every year. They aren't Robert Crumb fans. They aren't kicking in to Fantagraphics' Kickstarter.

If he dares to ignore the Internet's favorite cause du jours from independent comics, underground comics, Asian/Women/LGBTQ/etc., he'll be accused of rampant misogyny, racism, homophobia, patriarchy, etc.

I'm not making this stuff up; I already saw one comments thread on a blog asking if he was going to discuss the problems in his own work with all those -isms.

This is a no win thing. I hope his asbestos suit is freshly pressed and ready for him to wear. He's going to need it.

Why can't we have nice things? Tune in to find out...

WHO'S COPYING WHO?

This is a question I ask every so often as the landscape of (mostly superhero) comics shifts:

What style is everyone copying today?

25 years ago, it was easy. Everyone was trying to be Jim Lee, who was already just trying to be Art Adams. That style took hold fiercely not just across Homage/Wildstorm, but particularly poorly at Marvel and DC.

Joe Madureira came around and a new wave of artists tried that manga style.

Bryan Hitch inspired the photorealistic/cinematic knock-offs.

But who's the artist that everyone coming up next wants to be now? Who's the influencer?

Has comic art fragmented to such a degree now that we don't have that one style anymore? That would be a good thing.

Lots of people express their admiration for the likes of Darwyn Cooke or Frank Quitely or Chris Samnee or Art Adams (still), but are there lots of copycats of those styles? I don't think so.

Has the industry matured to the point where the entry point is so high that such copycats don't have a chance to get through? Those Jim Lee rip-offs came at a time when Marvel was expanding super fast in the face of mad money to push everyone else off the racks. We don't have that issue these days.

Do we need to look at DeviantArt and other on-line sites to get a grip on what that new Wannabe style is?

I don't have an answer to this one. If you have any ideas, please tweet them at me or leave a message on the Pipeline message board. The links for both of those are at the end of this column.

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