Mickey Mouse: The Tomorrow Wars Edited by David Gerstein and Gary Groth
Fantagraphics latest volume in their on-going Floyd Gottfredson library has just come out. Subtitled The Tomorrow Wars, the new book features the continuities and gag-a-day panels from mid-1944 through mid-1946 in Disney’s remarkable Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip.
Once again, editors Gerstein and Groth have compiled a beautiful package of comic art rarities – a must for any collectors/historians of Disneyana, comic strips and animation. At this point in the strip’s chronology, Gottfredson (and writer Bill Walsh) alternate between serial adventures and gag-a-day strips (the latter introduce artists Paul Murray, Dick Moores, Emanuel Gonzales and Bill Wright into the mix).
The comic strips themselves are a delight. Gottfredson (and crew) provide bouncy, upbeat artwork befitting the lead character – and the serials herein provide particularly interesting escapist fare (as most of these were produced during the height of World War II). Mickey takes on pirates, goes west, explores a haunted house; the title feature, The World of Tomorrow, is a spectacular sci-fi fantasy. I may be in the minority, but I found the gag-a-days and the experimental “short stories” (one-two- and three-week continuities in 1946-47) to be illuminating – you can feel writer Walsh trying to figure out a new format for the strip while they are actually producing it.
As usual, David Gerstein has amassed a selection of bonus front and back matter that augment our appreciation of the strips. A special highlight here is the publication here of four rare comic strips by Walt Disney himself, his 1920 samples for Mr. George’s Wife. Thomas Andre explains the inspirations for The World Of Tomorrow and The House of Mystery, the two most intriguing serials included here. Italian Mickey Mouse maestro Giorgio Cavazzano discusses how Gottfredson inspired his own Disney comics work. Among the special features are a spotlight on Dick Moores and Paul Murry – as well as Gladstone Comics editor Byron Erickson; a cover gallery of foreign Mickey comics volumes; and a wonderful and obscure Gottdredson 4-page Community Chest giveaway comic, Chesty and Coptie, is reprinted.
If I had any nits to pick in this volume it would be the unfortunate use of purple for the pages that feature expert introductions (by Thad Komorowski, Jonathan H. Gray, Leonardo Gori, Frank Stajano and Joe Torciva). The black type against the dark purple makes it a little hard to read (at least to this old codger) – they should have gone with white type (which they use for the “About The Editors” on page 288).
That said, these volumes are vital to our understanding of the big picture of Disney history – not to mention being fun to read and delightful to look at. Volume 8 continues the tradition, adding valuable information to the collective knowledge pool. Attention Mekka Men, you have your orders! Buy this book. Buy them all!
Here is a remarkable tale of Hollywood history that sheds light on the man who provided the music for several TV cartoon series of the 1960s – not to mention the infamous Ed Wood feature Plan 9 From Outer Space.
The son of poverty-row movie composer Lee Zahler, Gordon Zahler was paralyzed as a teenager in a ninth-grade gymnastic stunt gone horribly wrong. But that didn’t stop him from starting one of the first companies to license and re-license stock musical themes from his father’s archives to new film and TV productions (everything from Crusader Rabbit to The New Three Stooges cartoons).
Author Chip Jacobs was Gordon Zahler’s nephew and he throughly traces his uncles incredible career – which included providing music to numerous animated series including the King Features TV Popeye’s, Filmation’s Superman and Larry Harman’s Bozo (to name but a few).
Zahler also partnered with Walter Lantz for years in a venture that allowed the pair to pocket the music royalties for cues heard in Universal’s cartoons. It’s a fascinating read. If you’ve ever wondered about the man behind those stock tracks – or the origin of those sound tracks in the first place – you’ll appreciate this one.
The Nine Old Men: Lessons, Techniques, and Inspiration from Disney’s Great Animators by Andreas Deja
Not to be confused with John Canemaker’s excellent biographical Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men, animator Andreas Deja’s new volume (via Taylor & Francis Group and Focal Press), sheds further light on the work of the fabled “Nine Old Men” (Clark, Reitherman, Larson, Kimball, Kahl, Thomas, Johnston, Lounsbery and Davis) as only Andreas can.
If you’ve ever seen any of Andreas’ in-person talks about Disney’s classic animators you know what a treat this is: a masterful dissertation by a major current-day practitioner who has studied this work extensively for decades. His insights on each is a master class on character animation. Andreas does not disappoint.
He traces each animators career, film by film (features and shorts), each film illustrated a choice scene of pencil animation, pointing out what makes each animators work distinct – and important. It must be noted that the reproduction of the pencil art is magnificent – the next best thing to holding the original drawings themselves.
Needless to say, whether student or an enthusiast, this one’s a keeper. Highly recommended.