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My Don Rosa Dilemma

March 17, 2013

Like insects trapped in amber, some of my memories are conserved in books. And this particular one is trapped in a comic.

The memory of the room is vague – bright and friendly, sunlit windows across from me, something made of wood behind me, and I guess there must have been a bench or couch I was sitting on, and to the right, a door my mother has disappeared through.

I’m reasonably sure that behind that door, my mother was meeting with her midwife, which means she was pregnant with the Carpenter Brother.

But the one thing I remember clearly is the comic magazine clutched in my hands, the story I was reading, and my grumpiness when my mother came out of the door again and told me it was time to leave, and that no, I couldn’t take the magazine with me because it belonged to the midwife’s children.

I was seven at the time, spending a lot of time reading about Duckburg, but too young to realize that there was more than one person writing and drawing the stories. Still, I seem to have recognized a good story when I saw one, because I never quite forgot that moment, that story I had had to leave behind.


Playdates often turned into reading-dates. Luckily, this particular friend also liked reading comics.

Years later, I often came home from Sunday-morning flea market tours with armfuls of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics (which still fill a lot of shelf-space both in the Nettle Nest and my mother’s place), and on one of those Sundays, I must have purchased the magazine I had been reading at the midwife’s place. I was slowly beginning to see the differences between drawing styles, and the first artist I could recognize reliably was the one whose story had so captivated me: Don Rosa.

The story I had read then had been The Last of the Clan McDuck, the first in Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck series. Maybe I had only been fascinated by seeing Uncle Scrooge as a little boy, and not so much by Rosa’s detailed drawing style. I definitely didn’t get the many references to Carl Barks’ stories, and I think many of the jokes also went over my seven-year-old head.

But whatever had fascinated me then, as I grew older, I continued to buy Disney comics, both new and old, and when I was poking through boxes of old magazines on flea markets, I started to look specifically for Don Rosa stories. When I was lucky, I found another part of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. I had figured out that it was a series, and wanted to read all of it, and when I found out that there was a book containing the whole series, I knew I would have to buy that book eventually.

Last of the Clan McDuck

I still remember the excitement I felt when I stumbled on a copy, once again years later. I was in a bookshop in Big Town, buying stuff for an upcoming Harry Potter party (which means it was either 2005 or 2007), and the friend I was with took the opportunity to look for some comic book. I was idly looking at the shelves – until I suddenly snatched down a book and yelped, “Do you know how long I’ve been looking for this?!”

So whatever it was that we had been lookingg for, I walked out with The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, at last.

Then, I didn’t hesitate a moment before buying it – but then, it was only about € 20. Now I’m greedily eyeing something else that is a whole lot more expensive.

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon the Don Rosa Collection. Now, I really, really want it… but it costs over € 500. Yes, it’s nine hardcover volumes, and as I understand it, it has all his stories (well, all the Duck-universe stories, anyway), and lots of background stuff… but still, € 525 is a ridiculous lot of money for me.

Still, despite all the teeth-gnashing that the price is causing, I really want it. It would mean I could get rid of a large part of the comic magazines I still have – just think of it, two metres of free bookshelf-space! And while there seems to be a cheaper version, I’m not sure how complete it is and the quality doesn’t seem to be that good, either…

Besides the price, there are still two things that bother me, though. One is that I want my books to be… accessible. Comics were my introduction to reading, and I want to be the next generation – my own children if ever I have them, or my brother’s, cousins’, friends’ – to be able to freely pick their reading material from my shelves, just as I was always free to take anything from my parents’ bookcases. And something so expensive is not something I would like seeing in a child’s hands.

The other thing is that I don’t like reading things in translation. Don Rosa’s dialogues are often quite funny, but I can’t help but wonder what things get lost in translation…

But as far as I can find, there is no complete edition in English, because Don Rosa is a lot less popular in the US than in Europe – in fact, he seems to be as obscure there as most superheroes are here. I was considering waiting and hoping there would be one, but… then stumbled on this page. And this.

And decided I would much rather have things lost in translation than censored stories. Even if there were a complete edition in English, I wouldn’t buy it. I’m not going to support censorship, even if it’s only the Beagle Boys’ underwear and a couple of guns being censored.

In the US version, Scrooge is only threatened with a finger.

In the US version, Scrooge is only threatened with a finger.

And I must say, this whole gun censorship thing confuses me. From my European point of view, guns are a lot more common in the US than they are here… so why censor them?!


Anyway… in the end, I think I will probably buy the Don Rosa collection. Not for a while, though, because my work shoes are coming dangerously close to falling apart, and as much as I like books, I would prefer not to work barefoot…

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