An Analysis of DuckTales #1

Exploring The Comic Book

In May 2011, Disney’s popular DuckTales franchise was relaunched into the comic book medium.  KABOOM! publishing company released DuckTales #1 – Rightful Owners Part 1: Many Happy Returns.  The story, written by Warren Spector, follows the affluent Scrooge McDuck, and centers on his foray into the world of philanthropy.

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The comic begins with the grand opening of “The Scrooge McDuck Collection”, an exhibit at the Duckburg Museum which contains the valuable artifacts collected by Scrooge throughout his lifetime.  Though a crowd of Duckburgians have formed a line in front of the museum, special access is granted to the children (Scrooges’ family members) Huey, Dewy, and Louie Duck, and Webbigail (Webby) Vanderquack.  Fellow money-tycoon (and presumed nemesis of Scrooge), John D. Rockerduck also follows in, as Scrooge explains each item on display and how they were acquired. 
Following the event, the children discuss the virtue behind the wealthy materials on display, and how many of the items were not obtained rightfully.  This leads to them inquiring on the matter with their uncle scrooge, yet he negates their concerns.  Shortly thereafter, John D. Rockerduck appears on the television screen discussing how he plans to return all of the historic artifacts that he’s obtained, back to their rightful owners.  This eventually prompts a bet between the two rivals, in which Scrooge agrees to return his artifacts as well.  Scrooge begins his first journey to the island of Rippan Taro to return a candy-striped ruby, and it is revealed that John D. Rockerduck has assembled a team of villains to try and steal the different treasures that Scrooge returns.  The story ends with the natives seeming different than they were on Scrooge’s first voyage to the island, and a hired villain lurking in the shadows.

The narrative is brought forth by the contributions of all those involved in the comic-making process.  The writer of DuckTales #1 – Rightful Owners Part 1: Many Happy Returns, Warren Spector, is responsible for plotting the different elements of the story that’s featured throughout the pages.  Spector plans the different occurrences, featured throughout the script.  He delivers the story carefully, making sure that each event is cohesive, pinpointing exactly where certain events should take place.  Whether it’s Scrooge McDuck jumping out of an airplane (page 5), or the flashback montage displaying Scrooge’s past adventures (page 16), Spector carefully orchestrates the events of the plot so that it makes sense, and is also entertaining to the reader.

The penciller’s involved in the issue are Leonel Castellani, José Massaroli, and Magic Eye Studios.  Their role entails drawing the specific scenes in each panel, displaying the story through the use of pictures.  The artwork of a comic is a key element to the medium, showing action of the story in such a fashion that the reader becomes involved in the experience.  Stylistically, the artwork follows a certain design throughout the issue.  The characters are recognizable by the reader, and the different scenes all follow a similar style of art.  The splash page (page 4) displays several of the main characters of the comic book on a helicopter, along with the credits of those involved in the creation of the comic.  This early introduction, along with the title pages, familiarizes the reader with what the artwork will look like.  The artists also implement many different panel sizes throughout the pages, offering diversity in their drawings, allowing them to stay away from the stagnant repetitions of congruent dimensions.  The differences in panel sizes is displayed excellently throughout the comic book, notably on page 13 (panels 1-5), where an airplane crash takes up the entire left side of the page, conveying boldness on the collision of the wreck.  The different sized panels create a more interesting experience for the reader, allowing them to perceive more or less artwork, depending on how the penciller wishes to illustrate the story. 

The penciller’s were also responsible for the depicting the different types of transitions used between the panels.  The most notable method that they incorporated was action-to-action.  Action-to-action is shown well in the transitions between the panels, displaying how one action leads into another, in the encounters the characters experience.  One great example of action-to-action is depicted when Webby is climbing down a rope-ladder on a boat during a flash storm (page 23, panel 4).  The rope breaks (panel 5), and Webby plummets towards circling sharks (panel  7).  What appears to be certain doom for young Webby, reveals itself as salvation when a gigantic jellyfish appears from nowhere and rescues her (panel 8).  The transition of action-to-action between the panels captivates the reader, allowing progress to occur in the story through the different events taking place, being entertaining all the while.

Another important role in the creation of DuckTales #1 – Rightful Owners Part 1: Many Happy Returns, is that of the inker, who’s role is most likely credited to Leonel Castellani, José Massaroli, and Magic Eye Studios as well (their cumulative title being that of artist, not distinguishing them from penciller, inker, etc.).  The different textures, depth, shading, and shadows in the artwork are all products of the inker’s involvement in the comic.  The silhouette of Webby, seen through a window (page 14, panel 2) is shaded appropriately, in order to depict that she is behind the glass.  The inker adds a certain depth, so that the images drawn by the penciller are conveyed better to the reader.
The colorist of the comic book is Braden Lamb.  Lamb’s job in the process was to add different hues to the drawings, creating a more vivid world.  The colors were carefully selected, most often for specific reasons that highlighted the meaning behind the story.  Dull colors were added to the background objects of the museum that Scrooges artifacts were presented in, in order to embolden the gold of the different expensive artifacts (page 9, panels 3-5).  Due to careful color placement, Lamb forces the grandeur of the gold to be highlighted amidst the different panels. 

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Another role of importance in DuckTales #1 is that of letterer Derron Bennett.  Bennett is responsible for the lettering in the different panels, writing captions, and creating balloons.  The progression of the story through the dialogue is all arranged by Bennett, many times in a specific way, illuminating delivery through typography.  The variation of the different fonts used, creates a different understanding through the reader, allowing them to pick up on how a specific phrase is vocalized.  When Scrooge McDuck leaps from an airplane and says “Geronimo!” (page 5, panel 3), it is indicated to that the word is shouted through the boldness and stretched out size of the lettering.  Onomatopoeia is also a device employed by Bennett, depicting what a specific noise sounds like through the use of a word.  When a person kicks a metallic bucket, the sound-effect “CRASH” is spelled out (page 22, panel 3).  This allows the reader to have an idea of the noise created, adding an extra element of depth to the story.

All of these different jobs come together in order to tell a specific story.  Following Steele & Redding’s Partial List of Values Underlying American Popular Culture, one can dissect the values represented in DuckTales #1 – Rightful Owners Part 1: Many Happy Returns.  One specific value featured throughout the pages of the comic, is Generosity and Considerateness.  The implementation of this value is one of the main themes of the story, following Scrooge McDuck’s journey in refuting wealth and becoming a humanitarian.  Instead of being permanently consumed with greed, generosity and considerateness overpowers, and he decides to give back the artifacts that he took from several different cultures across the world. 
The humanitarian outlook of Generosity and Considerateness isn’t accepted by Scrooge McDuck without personal gain, he only decides to do this when it occurs to him that giving away his treasures will be “good press”, which in return, is “good business” (page 18, panel 7).  This removes the selflessness aspect from Scrooge McDuck’s generosity, however for Scrooge to become selfless, is a rejection of his character (which is notorious for being money-hungry). 
Following the definition of Steele & Redding’s value of Generosity and Considerateness, “Americans have the missionary spiriting in trying to bring the world God’s benevolence as manifested in American economic, political, and social institutions”, one can infer that Scrooge doesn’t abide by the exact rules.  He is doing well to others in his actions; however he mainly has himself in mind.  This contradicts the value, but it is supported in the comic through the virtue of Webby, who states “Having money doesn’t just mean that you can do whatever you want.” (page 14, panel 10).  Her ideologies of Scrooge giving back his artifacts are pure in nature, solidifying the art of doing the right thing.  The contrast between her reasoning for philanthropy, and Scrooges, presents quite the contrast to the reader.  Generosity and Considerateness wins overall, primarily because of Webby, whose good nature overshadows Scrooge’s corrupt nature, which causes the philanthropy to become a positive force due to her intent.  The worldview that it relates to the reader is that giving away your material possessions to the less fortunate is the right thing to do.
Another value taken from Steele & Redding’s A Partial List of Values Underlying American Popular Culture, is Achievement and Success.  The definition states “the greatest success is that achieved in business; yet the wealth accumulated must be used for the general good.”  Within the story, Scrooge McDuck is obviously a person who has Achievement and Success in the realm of wealth, yet he is only learning how to use his wealth for the general good.  The idea of using the wealth for the general good occurs in the dialogue between Scrooge and the wealthy John D. Rockerduck.  Rockerduck states “I just want to do the right thing for the children of the world.  Restoring heritage… Honoring the past.”  Though the intentions of Rockerduck reveal themselves to be corrupt, he uses the ideologies behind Achievement and Success, in order to trick Scrooge into giving his personal possessions away. 
Though Scrooge is somewhat flawed in his reasoning for using his wealth for the general good, he eventually does follow the value defined by Steele & Redding.  In several instances, he uses his own wealth in order to give away artifacts that he owned.  Scrooge takes his boat to a remote island (a pricey excursion) in order to give away a candy-striped ruby to its original owners.  This example indicates that Scrooge uses his wealth for the general good, thus he follows the defined value of Achievement and Success. 
The dominant message presented is that one must do good works in order to have true success in their lives.  The reader sees Scrooge McDuck giving possessions away at his own expense.  This does a good job at teaching the reader the value of Achievement and Success, which directly correlates with the value of Generosity and Considerateness mentioned previouslyThese values may be somewhat skewed from true virtue due to Scrooge’s greedy nature, but they are still displayed justly in context.  Though Scrooge does have his flaws, his actions are still a positive force, and the reader learns the right thing to do through the story.