Mickey Mouse Vol. 2: Trapped on Treasure IslandA comic review article by: Rafael Gaitan
You must've been reading my fucking mind, Gottfredson. After having eloquently dissected the finer points of Gottfredson's first year, I had no idea how Mickey Mouse comics could get better. Then they did. Fantagraphics' second volume of Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse daily strip delves into the imagination of the cartoonist -- while the pinnacle of Mickey's previous adventures included battling egg robbers and traipsing through badlands, here we see a Mickey whose adventures toss and turn him into high-concept situations that are expertly depicted.
Possessing an altruistic edge, the shenanigans Mickey and his merry band find themselves are often for the benefit of others. The opening story has the crew staging a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin in all its racist glory, in order to raise enough money to bail an orphanage out after a robbery. But Mickey (and Gottfredson to boot) don't stay grounded long -- the addition of co-writers and plotters would allow the stories he wanted to tell to literally soar (as in the excellent "The Mail Pilot") and challenge the notions of what a mouse with a temper and a gun could achieve. Former radio employee Ted Osborne was brought on to write and dialogue the aforementioned story, and it is a pinnacle turn in the quality of the work. Originally hired to develop a Mickey Mouse radio program, Osborne's knack for pacing and beats could not be more fine-tuned. Gottfredson's stories as writer/ artist were enjoyable and bubbling with inventive, but Osborne's twisty, sci-fi heavy plot both was ahead of its time for 1932 and also exactly what I want from comics. Mickey, having decided to join the Mail Service in order to do his civic duty, uncovers a conspiracy involving missing mail planes, a mystic spider-web that turns out to be a net attached to the grand daddy of All Things Awesome: A GIANT FUCKING ZEPPELIN. MY GOD.
If that wasn't This Reviewer enough, the subsequent story finds Mickey and Dippy Dawg (a prototype for Goofy) opening a detective agency and solving a crime wave! A titularly Crazy Crime Wave! This story, written by Merrill De Maris, is probably the most purely related to Gottfredson's originals, and it has a wicked sense of humor that led Gottfredson to declare De Maris the most talented of all his collaborators.
Gottfredson's art is the star of the show, of course -- it remains as fluid, kinetic and unparalleled as ever. But his raw brilliance is surgically enhanced and complemented by inkers Al Tallafierro and Ted Thwaites, filling in the minute details that even Floyd's incredibly thorough pencils would be remiss without. Editors David Gerstein and Gary Groth continue to prove their expertise and devotion to the material with insightful commentary and extrapolations about the creative process as well as fascinatingly factual interludes about the animation parallels -- one revelatory passage indicates that when characters would be phased out of the animated series, the strips followed suit, and how Mickey's nemeses Sylvester Shyster and Peg-Leg Pete had roots in the days of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (Walt Disney's previous rising star). This volume also includes several samplings of Gottfredson's breathtaking paintings, done in the early to mid-'80s, each one encompassing one of the stories in this volume. They're vivid, vibrant and demonstrative that true talent never dulls.
Floyd Gottfredson is one of the most truly talented individuals that is finally getting his day in the sun. His contributions to the character and development of Mickey Mouse and newspaper storytelling are nothing short of revolutionary. Mickey Mouse Volume 2: Trapped on Treasure Island stands as second and essential tome in one of the most richly visionary and creative outputs in modern sequential art. We as lovers of comics owe Gottfredson, Osborne, De Manis, Tallafierro and Thwaites a huge debt of gratitude for these treasures, these wonderful, richly rewarding stories, and fuck you if you don't think so.
Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the '70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a hilariously infrequent blog and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart. He ain't got time to bleed.