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Donald Duck, Ordinary and Extraordinary

Donald Duck, Ordinary and Extraordinary

“I always say Mickey Mouse is what we’d like to be, but Donald Duck is what we really are: problematic, sometimes disastrous, but always ready to start over. Here, ninety years later, Donald Duck is always starting over (and us with him) every day. Make mistakes, try again, make mistakes again, try again. Is there anything more humane and greater than this? Screenwriter Roberto Gagnor, who was on the staff of the writers of “Mice and Ducks” for twenty years, says this about the beloved character. Among other things, there is an unpublished story of him (the only one, the other is reprinted). “Donald Duck and the Marine Multiplicity”, by Federica Salvo, in the festive volume “Tutti in festa con Donaldino” (Giunti).


The future Walt Disney star made his debut as a supporting actor in the animated short “The Wise Little Hen,” released on June 9, 1934, ninety years ago.

The two heroes are unemployed people who do their best not to work and are fed freely by two chickens: a pig, Peter Pig (Mio Porcello), and a duck named Donald Duck (Donald Duck in the Italian version, although “duck” literally means duck, not duck).

Donald Duck quickly became the protagonist, both in animated shorts, with the character design gradually changing, and in comic books. First he joins Mickey and Goofy in the adventures of the newspaper strip created by the great Floyd Gottfredson, then he gets his own strip, written by Bob Karp and drawn by Al Taliaferro in which his grandchildren Qui, Quo, Qua, his girlfriend Daisy Duck make their first appearance and Grandma Duck.

Since the 1940s, he has also become a big star in comic books thanks to Carl Barks. The Great Duck Man (a well-deserved title) develops their character, makes his nephews more responsible (even as scouts in the Young Woodchuck Corps), creates the rich Uncle Scrooge (with whom he searches for treasures all over the world and even in space), the lucky cousin Gaston, The genius inventor, Archimedes Pythagoras, gives a name (Duck City) and a founder (Cornelius Cote) to his city, and is practically the creator of Disney’s Duck World. To which Italian cartoonists also contributed greatly.

A (very) Italian duck, too

“Colleagues and friends, when they accidentally learn that I like to read Donald Duck stories, they laugh at me, as if I were stupid. They laugh too. Personally, I am convinced that it is one of the greatest narrative inventions of the modern era.

So begins Dino Buzzatti’s introduction to Oscar Mondadori’s first comic strip, The Life and Dollars of Scrooge McDuck, published in 1968, which reprints some of Barks’ famous stories.

But the duck feeling of our country goes back thirty years. Already in 1937, “Donald Duck and Other Adventures” was released, the world’s first comic book dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which hosted the first episode of his first adventure on a comic book publication (and not on a newspaper strip), “Paulino Donald Duck and the Mystery of Mars” by Federico Pedrochi.

There are many Italian Disney masters, suffice it to mention, among the historical ones, screenwriters such as Guido Martina, Giorgio Pezin, Carlo Cindi, and full-fledged auteurs (illustrators who often write their own stories) such as Romano Scarpa, Marco Rota and Massimo. De Vita and Luciano Bottaro or designers such as Giovan Battista Carpi, Giorgio Cavazzano and Luciano Gatto.


There are many faces to Donald Duck: there is the common man (but often with unexpected resources) for Parks, the lazy, incompetent man in debt, harassed by creditors and exploited by his uncle (the classic ending to many stories with the angry curmudgeon stalking his nephew) for many… Italian stories, especially those by Guido Martina. But there are also his secret identities, such as Paperinik, which Martina created himself (based on drawings by Giovan Battista Carpi) also to make Donald Duck, who often insulted him, the winner.

The name brings to mind the “black” hero Diabolik, but he’s more like a superhero, a fallible superhero (still Donald Duck). Among other things, if Donald Duck was born on June 9, 1934, then Papernick made his debut on June 8, 1969, so he is fifty-five these days.


Since 2008, Donald Duck has also been Agent Double Duck, in stories that wink at the modern spy story of films like “The Bourne Identity.”

In the issue of Mickey Mouse now on newsstands (3,576), with stories all devoted to the duck, a lovely little figurine is included that sees him stretched out in an armchair. A classic image, like the one where he’s sleeping in a hammock: But Donald can be so energetic at times, he’s truly a duck with a thousand faces, depending on whether the authors want to emphasize one of his characteristics rather than another.

Donald Duck was a pilot (of an airplane, or of a Formula 1, or of a spaceship) for Scrooge, he did dozens of jobs (often strange ones like wasting concepts or testing mattresses), he’s been on all continents (including the Poles) and even on different planets .

Even an author he doesn’t like very much (he prefers his uncle), like Italian-American Don Rosa in the 1994 story (released on his 60th birthday) “Donald Duck and the Christmas Elf,” inspired by Frank Capra’s classic film “No.” Vita It’s Wonderful” (1946), explains that if Donald Duck had not been born, life in Duckburg would have been much worse, especially for his uncle and nephews.

The first Mickey Mouse story mentioned above is 3576, written by Marco Nucci and drawn by the legendary Cavazzano (since the 1990s there has almost always been a Duck Christmas story in the weekly magazine), “Donald Duck and the Shady.” “One” is narrated in a different key, poetic and twilight. We are at the beginning of Donald Duck’s adventures. He is a sailor, has not yet met Daisy Duck and her nephews (he will throughout the story), has not seen his Uncle Scrooge in years (here the controversial Nucci follows Don Rosa’s chronology), and has seen the monster known as the Shadowy One. Nucci pays tribute to the famous story of the “paper lovers” Buzzati “Il Colombre”, but our story turns out to be, despite appearances, much braver than Stefano Rui, the story’s hero.

It is an almost metaphysical adventure, once again demonstrating the extraordinary resilience of the duck.

He can be lazy, unlucky or fearful, but he is also brave, brilliant and adventurous, he can live strange adventures like Indiana Jones, escape from creditors or even argue with the neighbors (Jones or Anacleto Mitraglia, taking turns in the same house with the aim of annoying him) in surreal confrontations in the style of The cartoon, living a thousand different adventures, is loved by the audiences who read it and the authors who write and draw it (and who have read it and still do).

He’s actually an ordinary duck (man, Disney ducks are human through and through), who has to make ends meet to support his grandchildren (which makes the reader sympathize with him), but at the same time he’s an extraordinary adventurer as well, though often times despite… Himself.

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