Review by Frank Plowright
There’s a wonderful conceit to this reworking of Mickey Mouse. It’s pretended that Lewis Trondheim and Nicolas Keramidas were rummaging in a yard sale when they came across a whole bunch of forgotten issues of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. These contained one page instalments of a serial that kept kids captivated from 1962 to 1969 in comics only ever distributed regionally, and only 44 pages could be located, roughly half the run. Mickey shares most pages with Donald Duck, and several other familiar characters appear.
These, of course, are Keramidas drawing from Trondheim’s plots, and the surprise is that it’s never previously occurred what a great match Trondheim’s imaginative and constantly shifting scripts are with Disney characters. Keramidas isn’t as well known outside Europe, but his cartooning is superb, capturing the energetic essence of Mickey Mouse adventure strips, in a succession of wonderfully composed pages. In keeping with the joke, these are deliberately yellowed and stained, some with unidentifiable smudges or torn corners, as if read over and over by a child and then stored in a box for decades. Don’t gloss over the content reading only the word balloons, as much of the humour is visual.
It might be assumed that the story allegedly jumping forward several episodes at a time would prove off-putting, but it’s brilliantly conceived. It retains the urgency of a Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse serial without having to bother about niceties such as concluding a plot once the creators tire of it. At one point the entire contents of Uncle Scrooge’s money bin have to be retrieved, yet skipping from chapter 28 to 31 permits a mere reference to it taking four days as we move on. Despite the gaps, this is a cohesive story with an identifiable connecting thread from start to finish. All pages begin with a decorative silhouette title banner presenting the essence of the page in microcosm, and they all conclude with a decent gag. Here Trondheim’s inventiveness shines through. One page has Gyro Gearloose trapped in a fridge being transported by lorry. Making a great effort Donald Duck tips the fridge into a river as the lorry crosses a bridge, then jumps down to land on it. Except there’s already another fridge floating down the river.
Mickey’s Craziest Adventure is a liberation. Creators who worked with Disney long term have related stories of interference from the company over frustrating and preposterously trivial concerns about how Mickey or Donald might be diverging from the desired wholesome presentation. Such shackles obviously didn’t apply to Trondheim and Keramidas, whose joyful pages celebrate the seamier side of life, and begin with Mickey looking as if he’s driving on the pavement. It doesn’t matter.
As is the case with the best Mickey Mouse comics, the story can be reduced down to one long chase scene, and the creators unite the supporting casts and villains from Mickey and Donald’s strips. We have Peg Leg Pete accompanied by the Beagle Boys, Donald and Goofy arguing over food, and there’s some toying with the logical aspects of Mickey’s world-saving efforts and having to maintain a comedy persona. This is amid playful digs at plots that recur in Disney strips. For all the meta-commentary, however, this isn’t some dry elitist exercise, and children will take as much from it as adults.
Mickey’s Craziest Adventures is a remarkable graphic novel, lovingly conceived, rich in detail, and more fun than most people have while still clothed.