Gottfredson’s Mickey: The Art and Science of Action

Before becoming the anodyne logo of Disney’s saccharine-soaked family image during the post-WWII era, Disney’s Mickey Mouse had some heroic chops. Make no mistake, Mickey was never even remotely “edgy” let alone hard-boiled in the style of some other 30s pulp protagonists. But he was imagined by Disney in the original animated shorts and then by Floyd Gottfredson in the daily comic strips, as a spunky, resourceful adventurer. In the 1930s, Mickey was thrust into a number of roles and across all of the pop culture genres: sky jockey, detective, western outlaw hunter, ghost-hunter, even sci-fi adventurer. As tame as Mickey’s 30s adventures may seem, the Disney corporation in its most controlling moments in the past has tried to disappear come of the earliest imagery of their corporate logo packing a gun or interacting with some cringe-worth but commonplace racial stereotyping of the era.

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Top 2019 Books: #7 Mickey Mouse As Adventure Hero

7. Mickey Mouse: The Greatest Adventures, by Floyd Gottfredson, Fantagraphics, $49.99.

Fantagraphics’ complete reprinting of the Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse dailies has been among the most literate and richly contextualized comics history projects in recent years. This one volume color rendering of some of Mickey’s best adventures between 1930 and 1951 is a shorter, more affordable sample. Here is Mickey evolving from scrappy, spunky adventure hero of the 30s to bland suburban everyman of the 50s. Lest we forget, Mickey’s 1930 comic strip launch places him at the advance guard of adventure strips, along with Orphan Annie and Wash Tubbs and Popeye that would bring us 30s powerhouses – Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Flash Gordon et. al. Gottfredson’s penchant for putting movement, gestures, expression and urgency into every panel is matched by his and collaborators’ mastery of story pacing and suspense. While I would quibble with some of the choices (really, no Phantom Blot?), this is a great sampling across eras for those who aren’t up for buying the enture run. 

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