The second of the in-between, or “B”, chapters in Keno Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark (1998) takes place immediately after young Scrooge’s first American adventure in The Buckaroo of the Badlands (1992, annotations here).
Having left the employ of the Scottish-born Montana cattle baron Murdo MacKenzie, Scrooge is shipping two Texas longhorns aboard the famous Cutty Sark to the Dutch East Indies, where he will witness the eruption of Krakatoa.
The plot came easy to Rosa. Having decided he wanted Scrooge near Krakatoa in 1883, he discovered that the greatest sport on Java, the main island in what is now Indonesia, at the time was the annual Madura Island bull race, or karapan sapi. The Cutty Sark really did make a voyage to Australia for wool in 1883. There is no record she made a side trip to Batavia (now Jakarta) that year, but, writes Rosa in Volume 8 of Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library (2017), “prove that it didn’t happen, I dare ya’!”
Less easy was drawing the Cutty Sark, with its tens of thousands of square feet of sail and its ten miles of lines, in every other panel…
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Lady Mechanika, Volume 4: The Clockwork Assassin (chronologically the fifth in the series, as the unnumbered volume La Dame de la Muerte fits best in between 1 and 2) takes us to Mechanika City, home to the Lady Mechanika and her friends.
It is one of her closest friends, perhaps her closest, Mr Lewis, that this volume focuses on. You see, people from his past have started to die, and the murderer has an M.O. suspiciously like that of his mechanically augmented friend.
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Much like he entered the steamboat business at the dawn of the railway era in The Master of the Mississippi (annotations here), Scrooge seeks his fortune in the American West when it was scarcely “Wild” anymore in The Buckaroo of the Badlands (1992). At age 15, Scrooge is employed by Murdo MacKenzie, the Scottish-born Montana cattle baron, and meets the later president Theodore Roosevelt (although he doesn’t know it yet).
Keno Don Rosa skillfully integrates the tidbits about Scrooge’s cowboy days Carl Barks had revealed over the years, starting with “Only a Poor Old Man,” published in the very first issue of Uncle Scrooge (1952), in which the then richest duck in the world tells Huey, Dewey and Louie he made his fortune “on the seas, and in the mines, and in the cattle wars of the old frontier.”
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Fatale is widely regarded as one of the top-ten horror comics available. Surely, this little noir gem by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips is making good on that promise with their almost surreal detective story.
Book 1: Death Chases Me introduces us to the contemporary leads, but the real star of the story is Josephine. A woman looking like the clichéd femme fatale, but with a dark secret. Immortal and forever beautiful, her strange magic affects men and what seems to be a Lovecraftian cult behind her.
That may sound a little much and bizarre, but the way the story unfolds, with flashbacks to the 1950s mixed in with current events, really works.
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The Master of the Mississippi (1992) is the beginning of Scrooge’s American adventure.
Having worked as a cabin boy for passage across the Atlantic, the 13 year-old lad from Scotland finds his Uncle Angus “Pothole” McDuck — who also sought his fortune in the New World — down on his luck in Louisville, Kentucky. But Pothole wins a steamboat, the Dilly Dollar, in a poker match and hires his nephew as deckhand, introducing him to both a lifelong ally — Ratchet Gearloose, the grandfather of Duckburg’s eccentric inventor Gyro — and lifelong enemies: the criminal Beagle Boys.
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Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies (1995) is the first of the in-between chapters in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. Keno Don Rosa places it before Chapter 1, calling it “Chapter 0”. It was even written and drawn before Chapter 1, but, as Rosa writes in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion (2006), which collects all the “B” chapters, it would have been “bad form” to release the two stories around the same time, since they both tell how Scrooge earned his Number One Dime. Hence Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies wasn’t released until after the twelve chapters of The Life and Times.
The title mimics the wording and meter of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” poem in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871):
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings –“
(Rosa never drew a cover for the story, so that’s why I’m showing you the first page.)
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If you’re not familiar with the comics of Uncle Scrooge, you’re missing out. The treasure hunts of the globe-trotting “richest duck in the world” draw inspiration from steam- and diesel-era adventures and inspired George Lucas in making Indiana Jones!
Scrooge’s creator, Carl Barks, who is widely regarded as the best Duck artist of all time, never consciously established a biography for Donald Duck’s uncle, but he did reveal tidbits about the old miser’s younger years through dozens of stories.
In the twelve-part The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Keno Ron Rosa masterfully weaves together every detail Barks revealed about Scrooge’s past with real-world history, from the heydays of the Mississippi steamboat to the Klondike Gold Rush. It’s that real-world history we’re going to explore. Hence the emphasis on the “times” of Scrooge McDuck.
The twelve chapters of The Life and Times are best read in order. They form a narrative whole, from Scrooge’s rise to his fall to his redemption. Eight additional “untold tales” (Don Rosa prefers the term “B chapters”) are mostly pure adventure stories and best read after. For our purposes, however, a chronological order makes sense.
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Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill have created in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen the most ambitious and inspiring steampunk franchise. Volumes 1 and 2 will top many steampunks’ list of favorite books and deservedly so. They are rich stories with intricate plot lines and sympathetic characters.
The in-between Black Dossier was a bit of a letdown story-wise and I’m afraid things have gone further downhill.
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Those who follow Brian Kesinger on social media undoubtedly remember his mermaid drawings for Mermay a while back. These popular images have now been bundled in a coffee-table book, Brian Kesinger’s Inked Tails.
Inked Tails is a fun, all-ages book, focusing mostly on mermaids, with the image on one page and a few lines about the character on the opposite.
It’s great for just looking at beautiful art, when you want a very quick read or to read with kids.
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Lady Mechanika is a title to look forward to every year when Free Comic Book Day arrives and this year’s edition was no different.
Although in theory these free comics are only available for free on the first Saturday of May, the reality is that many, especially online, stores have stock of Free Comic Book Day issues left and will allow you to include them for free with an order. So it’s still possible to get your hands on a copy.
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