This post is sponsored by Disney's Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two the video game:
I'm a duck snob, so I never paid much attention to Mickey Mouse. That turned out to be a mistake. In the past couple of years I've become acquainted with Disney's most prolific Mickey Mouse cartoonist: Floyd Gottfredson through the release of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: "Race to Death Valley," a compilation of his newspaper comic strips, published by Fantagraphics. Boy, was I missing out!
Born in 1905, Gottfredson got a job at Walt Disney Studios in 1929 as an apprentice animator. A year later he was asked to temporarily fill in on the Mickey Mouse daily newspaper comic strip, which Walt Disney had originally scripted. This short-term assignment ended up lasting 45 years. For the first four years or so good Gottfredson scripted, penciled, and inked every strip by himself. After that he focused on plotting and penciling, leaving the inking and dialogue to other talented artists and writers that he collaborated with.
Gottfredson's Mickey is a plucky, goodhearted imp, bursting with energy and impulsively eager for adventure. Mickey and his pals (Horace Horsecollar!) are very much a product of the Great Depression -- resourceful and always on the lookout for a way to make ends meet, with a fondness for get rich quick schemes. The strips are loaded with action, adventure, romance, exotic locales, perilous cliffhangers, and dastardly villains, such as pirates, mad scientists, and heartless bandits. The artwork is lively and expressive.
The long-running stories in the Mickey Mouse strip came to an end in 1955. In an effort to cater to short attention spans, Disney ordered Gottfredson to stop doing serials, and to make Mickey a daily gag strip instead. The daily panel gag strip ran until 1975. (I don't remember much of the daily panel gag Mickey strips, but what I do remember did not impress me.)
Barks will always have a special place in my heart, but I've added Gottfredson to my short list of great American cartoonists.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.