UNCLE $CROOGE #285: "The Life and Times of $crooge
McDuck – The Last of the Clan McDuck" (1877-1880)
COVER: I had decided to try to do something to tie together the 12 covers I would do for Gladstone's reprinting of the "Life and Times of $crooge McDuck". One possibility might have been to do covers that would all tie together to form one large scene, or one long tableau. But since each chapter opened with a page out of Matilda McDuck's scrapbook, I thought it might be better to use an element from the scrapbook for each cover, so I picked the idea of an oval, sepia-tone photo of $crooge as he appears in that particular issue. This portrait would also be the only place where a year is mentioned, as the years were not used in the actual Egmont stories for fear it might confuse some readers. Then it was a problem to decide what would be on the cover for chapter I since to use only the 10-year-old $crooge would lose the recognition factor of the adult image of $crooge. So, I decided to ease in with the adult $crooge rummaging through his old trunk of memorabilia (which is glimpsed throughout the series) and thinking back on the adventure which appears in that issue. All these problems lead to more problems -- often, even if I am satisfied with a story, I still can't think of a scene which would make a compelling cover. I decided on a shot of the blazing suit of armor on horseback that young $crooge uses to scare off the Whiskervilles. The next problem is that Disney would not approve that scene since the blazing armor looked too scary for young readers. This seemed like a legitimate point, if I am to worry about such things, since the readers would not already know that the suit of armor shown was empty -- it would look like some poor knight burning alive! So, I inked the cover with the flames removed.
I believe it was also Byron that suggested that each episode open with a scrapbook page, which was another of his peachy ideas. I think that gives the stories a better feel of being stories of past events... untold tales of a great Duck. I carry this idea through to chapter XI where the splash panel shows Matilda putting away the scrapbook since she has lost her faith in her big brother; then the splash panel of chapter XII shows no scrapbook elements at all, but simply shows what has replaced all else in $crooge's life at that point -- MONEY.
The first "Barksian fact" I use in this first chapter was the existence of $crooge's two sisters, Hortense and Matilda. This comes from a Duck Family Tree that Barks composed in the 50s for his own reference. In a later chapter you'll see which sister turns out to be Donald's mother. Most of the McDuck ancestors mentioned come from Barks' "The Old Castle's Secret", a treasure trove of McDuck history, first appearing in DONALD DUCK / FOUR COLOR #189. The Whiskerville clan and their hound come from "The Hound of the Whiskervilles" (what else?) in UNCLE $CROOGE #29.
I regard any $crooge tale not written by Barks to be apocryphal. However in UNCLE $CROOGE #50 there was a story drawn by Tony Strobl which showed a young $crooge earning his first dime by cleaning a ditchdigger's boots. This seemed completely appropriate for a poor Glasgow lad, so I allowed a non-Barksian "fact" to direct me this once. There was another story in UNCLE $CROOGE #44 drawn but not written by Barks which also showed a scene of a young $crooge shining shoes; I lifted some of the art only from that tale and disregarded the silly plot.
The fact that $crooge collected and sold firewood to the rich city-dwellers was mentioned in UNCLE $CROOGE #21 - "The King of the Golden River". That story also told that $crooge's grandfather had been a miner, something I had written into the original version of the script.
$crooge's Uncle Pothole comes from "The Great Steamboat Race" in UNCLE $CROOGE #11. And Uncle Jake is mentioned in DONALD DUCK / FOUR COLOR #367 - "A Christmas for Shacktown".
The two McDuck family heirlooms: the golden dentures are from the untitled story in UNCLE $CROOGE / FOUR COLOR #495 (UNCLE $CROOGE #3). The heirloom watch is mentioned in the story of the same name in UNCLE $CROOGE #10.
DONALD DUCK / FOUR COLOR #291 - "The Magic Hourglass" - is the story that implied that $crooge came to America as a cabin boy on a cattle boat... however, I choose to ignore the existence of some magic hourglass as the basis for the McDuck fortune which, as we all know, $crooge earned through his own hard work! That was a very early use of $crooge, before Barks decided on $crooge as the quintessential self-made-Duck. There are actually very few Barksian "facts" that I was forced or chose to ignore during this series -- Barks' continuity wasn't self-concious, but still hangs together quite well. I will be sure to point out the "false facts" that I've chosen through the course of these texts.
Though Gladstone's coloring (by Susan Daigle-Leach) on this series was justly nominated for an Eisner Award, I was shocked when I saw that she had given $crooge and his father brown hair. I always pictured male Ducks as having white hair (and the female Ducks might have colored hair since they may have dyed it?). I mentioned that to Susan and she didn't know what to do since the issue had already appeared. But in part IV she thought of a way to turn $crooge's hair suddenly white. I thought it was a clever touch, though I hope the story might be reprinted someday with all-white Duck hair.
All of the coins in the nearest piles in the splash panel are drawn with templates, and lots of 'em!
The grand hall of McDuck castle is copied from the grand hall of Camelot as drawn by Hal Foster in an early PRINCE VALIANT page.
If you look closely at Sir Swamphole's armor (page 11, panel 4) you can see his skull peeking from the helmet, as discovered by a nephew in "The Old Castle's Secret".
Whenever Matilda appears (throughout the series), watch how the daisy on her hat losses one petal per panel. When she first appears in this episode, her posy is already denuded; this is because that sequence is a continuation from another story where her flower had already lost its petals (see "Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies").
A mistake in the caption of the second splash panel, the one on page 2: I had made a change in the original script, but failed to correct all references. McDuck castle had been abandoned since 1675, which is the 17th century, not the 13th century as this caption states.
According to this tale, I have $crooge's 10th birthday in 1877, placing his birth-date in 1867. I chose that partly because that's the latest I could get $crooge to be born and still be able to do some of the things Barks said he did in the years Barks said he did 'em. Still, this has him piloting a riverboat (see part II) at age 15-- pretty darn young! But also, Barks retired in 1967, so I can think of $crooge living a nice even 100 years. How could he live such a long, active life? Remember he drank from the Fountain of Youth in that one Barks story, which is supposed to give one great health, though (according to that story) only bathing in the water would make one younger.