No Capes Thursday

As reported last week, Game Tape is no longer a weekly feature. I’m auditioning a few different fill-ins for those weeks when Game Tape doesn’t appear. First up is No Capes Thursday, where I’ll look at something I’ve read that doesn’t involve superheroes or superhero elements. Expect to see in depth reviews of books containing mice, ducks, dicks, douches, pulp style, and historical fiction and historical fact.

This week is we look at one of the best things I bought last year: Fantagraphic’s first two volumes of the collected Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse strips. About the presentation of the volumes, the quality is on par with other collections published by Fantagraphics. That is to say high. They’re hard covers of the oblong shape best for presenting comic strips.

To my mind, Mickey Mouse lost all interesting qualities in the cartoons when he moved to the suburbs and became domesticated. These strips capture that surreal, violent, optimism (?) of those early cartoons prior to “Fantasia.” This frenzied spirit and (mostly) good natured humor is just one of the reasons to pick up one or both of these volumes.

Gottfredson’s art in these volumes is crisp and consistent with the Disney look. Probably because he worked in the animation studio before taking over the strips, there’s a great sense of movement and fluidity in the panels.

Speaking of panels one of the most surprising and pleasant things about Gottfredson’s work is that the panels are usually packed with detail. Keep in mind that this was a daily strip! Most modern strips can barely muster a monochromatic background with a character.

As impressive as the detailed panels are, the craft of the story shows equal skill. Under Gottfredson, the strip presents a daily gag while progressing a long form adventure story.  A maximum four panels to progress a story and tell a complete joke? Wow. And again, it’s happening every day.

The down sides? Only two… and they’re minor. First, it takes a really long time to tell a story. This is takes story decompression to a level that would make Geoff Johns feel funny and spoil his pants. But, it’s a flaw of the form rather than the former. The second flaw is that many of the verbal gags (especially the puns) are dependent on familiarity with slang of the time.

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