Book Review: Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge “Cave of Ali Baba” by Carl Barks

Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge “Cave of Ali Baba” is Volume 28 in Fantagraphics’ The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library. It sounds daunting to enter a series at Volume 28, but the adventures of Scrooge and those of his nephew Gyro Gearloose are self-contained and don’t require knowing any backstory. While I had read Disney comics growing up in the ’70s, I began the Barks series with this volume, and the pleasure of the stories and accompanying artwork is not impacted by what may have come before.

Plus, as stated in the bibliography notes, “stories within a volume may or may not follow the publication sequence of the original comics.” And here they don’t as the book opens with “Cave of Ali Baba” (March-May 1962) followed by the other Scrooge stories (up to December 1964) then present the Gyro stories, the first of which in this volume is from June 1961. Published in 2007, the final story is “Pied Piper of Duckburg,” in which Scrooge (mistakenly) hires Gyro to remove the rats from his money bin. For those who want more information, the book concludes with “Story Notes,” annotations by a team of writers, and “Carl Barks: Life Among the Ducks,” a biography by Donald Ault.

All the stories presented have been written and drawn by Barks except the the first seven Gyro stories which were written by Vic Lockman. “Pied Piper…” had its first three pages scripted and pencilled by Barks in 1959 with Daan Jippes finishing the script and the art decades later. The book credits page mentions the single-page gag strip “Million-Dollar Shower” and the cover to Uncle Scrooge #39 are not included.

The longer Scrooge stories feature globe-trotting adventures as greedy Uncle Scrooge constantly looks to expand his wealth, from seeking jewels in Persia to Ulysses’ treasure in Italy and salvaging pearls from a sunken ship off the imaginary Cape Splattery. He also conducts business dealings in Duckburg. At times, he is joined by his other nephew Donald and his grand nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, all of whom can be a help or a hindrance. Trying to get the treasure before him or to steal what he already has are the Beagle Boys gang or the sorceress Magica De Spell. The one-page Scrooge story are typically wealth-related gags.

Gyro stories, regardless of length, are comic misadventures. He is a hapless inventor, smart enough to create new devices but not wise enough to determine if they are practical. He turns Duckburg into “Monsterville” when gadgets intended to make life easier make life unlivable. In “Buffaloed by Buffaloes,” he travels to Farbackishan and sees how hard the people work without electricity. He devises a treadmill in which electric power will be generated by water buffaloes traversing it but so many men are required to wrangle the animals onto the treadmill, they have no time for their other chores.

While the stories are geared toward children, the art can be appreciated by a reader of any age as Barks is a talented illustrator. The emotions characters experience is apparent in their facial expressions and body language. Barks creates a sense of movement in and across panels by the way he draws items and accents that pull a reader’s eye. Backgrounds are well detailed with Barks’ line work, creating an authenticity and believability in the story settings.

Fans of Disney comics and youth adventures should enter the“Cave of Ali Baba” and the other fowl stories Fantagraphics has to offer in this volume as they are fun, nostalgic reads. The color reproduction is impressive, resulting in the strips popping with vibrant hues. As stated above, this is the first volume I have read from the Barks library. The quality of work within by Barks and Fantagraphics assures it won’t be my last.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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