Review by Frank Plowright
This segment of Scrooge McDuck’s biography covers the longest time span of these four books, and that’s with the opening chapter occurring over two days.
That’s quite the delight, playing with what Don Rosa knows about Scrooge’s future. It picks up pretty well immediately after the conclusion of 1896-1902, sparing us only Scrooge and his sisters’ journey from Scotland to Duckburg. Once there Rosa slyly paints in the forebears of Scrooge’s later relations, depicts the first time the Beagle Boys try raiding Scrooge’s premises on the Duckburg hilltop, introduces the Junior Woodchucks, and the famous money bin. In the last time we see a really cheerful Scrooge in this volume, it also reprises the company of Theodore, now President Roosevelt from the opening book 1877-1882.
To this point Rosa has chronicled Scrooge learning lessons and making his fortune, but from the chapter titled ‘The Empire Builder from Calisota’ we see him acquiring the negative traits that came to be associated with Scrooge. There’s the ruthless business dealings, the excessive miserliness, and the covetousness that eventually leads him to overstep the mark when he wants some land in the heart of Africa. Rosa hangs a story around that incident enabling him to fill out the assorted references to Scrooge’s past exploits with which Carl Barks populated his stories, intending them, of course, to be mere throwaway amusing lines. Scrooge has his wish in this story, travelling for years and shipping more and more coins back to his money bin, but at the cost of alienating his family. Along the way he throws in several nice touches, including how Scrooge discovered he could dive through coins like a porpoise.
Rosa throws in a clever Citizen Kane reference via faux cinema newsreel footage about Scrooge near the start of his closing story. This chronicles Scrooge’s gradual re-integration into the wider world, the rejuvenation of his lust for adventure and his first meeting with the now adult Donald Duck, along with Huey, Dewey and Louie. The Beagle Boys are also back, although this time they’re descendants of those from the first chapter, and Rosa segues everything neatly into the Barks tale that introduced Scrooge.
The entire saga is also available as a more traditional sized graphic novel both in paperback and hardback, but the advantage of this album sized serialisation is the larger format of the artwork. It better showcases both Rosa’s quality and the gags with which he packs his panels.
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is a story revered in Europe, where the Disney ducks still sustain regular comic titles. Rosa’s work in general, and this in particular, is on a par with characters known throughout the world, sitting easily alongside the holy trinity of European children’s comics Asterix, Tintin and Lucky Luke. The tragedy is that as he, in effect, worked for Disney, Rosa has neither the acclaim nor the riches his material deserves.