Interview from Komix #156

Kriton Kyrimis kyrimis at
Mon Jul 2 07:22:12 CEST 2001

[ This message was much delayed because of technical problems and my
  vacation. Sorry! /Per ]

Here is the translation of Don's interview in last month's issue of Komix.
[As usual, comments in square brackets are my own.]


		         A Cowboy in the Pacific

  Don Rosa recounts to the readers of Komix the chronicle of the creation
  of what may possibly be the most explosive "Lost Chapter" of the Life
  and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

*The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark* is episode 3b of the _Life and
Times of Scrooge McDuck_ and its place is between episodes 3 and 4,
as it takes place during the time when young Scrooge was working as
a cowboy at the hers of the (existing) Murdo McKenzie. I add a new
episode with Scrooge's "old" adventures to this series once every one
or two years. For this particular episode I decided to show Scrooge in a
particularly interesting moment in time and in a particularly interesting
place and, then, to find a way to bring him to that point. This time I
wanted to send him to Java in 1883!


Without having any idea about the plot of the story, I began doing
some research and, as always, the idea for the plot was there. The most
popular sport in Java, in 1883, as well as in the present, is the annual
bull race on the island of Madura. And Scrooge had been working in the
world's largest ox ranch of the time! That's the reason for which he
found himself in Java in 1883! Some times it is terribly easy... this,
however, does not happen often! And since Scrooge had to take a boat to
Java, why not have him travel on the Cutty Sark, the most famous clipper
in the world, which is, to this day, a great tourist attraction in
England?! However... where was the Cutty Sark in the summer of 1883? It
might have been impossible for it to be in Java at that time. Thus,
I conducted an extensive search in the deck logs of the Cutty Sark!

Here it is then! In the summer of 1883, the Cutty Sark was carrying a
load of wool to Australia. This means that it could easily have made a
detour to go by Batavia! No, the logs do not mention that it docked at
Batavia... However, I challenge you to prove that it did not pass that
way! I'm trying to say that it would have been much easier for me if I
had decided not to use the Cutty Sark, a ship with a sail area totaling
thousands of square meters and with ten kilometers of rigging... I had
to draw all these in each panel! Ouch!


Some readers have noticed that Captain Moor of the Cutty Sark has been
inspired by Gregory Peck, _Moby Dick's_ Captain Ahab, in the movie version
of the classic novel by Herman Melville, directed by John Huston. I admit
that I had Gregory Peck's face in my mind, because the photographs and
references to the character of captain Moor brought this particular movie
to my mind.  Perhaps John Huston, and his script write, Ray Bradbury, who
later became the dean of science fiction, had also based their version
of Captain Ahab on the stoic character of Captain Moor. Who knows? I
also discovered that one of the captains of the Cutty Sark had a passion
with photography and cameras...  Could it have been his predecessor and
mentor, who transferred this passion to him? Apart from this, as you can
easily guess, the names and faces of the two sultans of Java are based
on authentic data that exist only in traveling stories of the time,
which I found looking through the archives of a local university.


Why all this searching, when most readers assume that all these are
fictional stories, anyway? Simply because I'm enjoying it. And what I
enjoy even more is that one day this story might be read by someone who
is well versed in the history of Java and realizes that all these details
are extremely accurate.  All this work was done for the enjoyment of
that one reader! And mine, that is!

[signed] Don Rosa



*How did all this _Life and Times_ story begin*?

Jack Chalkers [*please* correct my spelling], a science fiction writer,
had once written his own version of the life of Scrooge, based on the
information that he found in the first seventy issue of _uncle Scrooge_,
which he titled _An Unofficial Biography of Scrooge McDuck_. I had
read that text and I found it a wonderful story, a loving homage to the
heroes of the great master, Barks. Anyway, I wasn't planning on doing
something similar until the middle of 1991. Then my editors at _Egmont_
suggested that I would write a story cycle about the life of Scrooge
McDuck. The rest is known. I wrote down all references to Scrooge's past
which exist in Carl Barks' stories, put them in chronological order,
which I then divided into twelve parts. I must mention that, initially,
I wanted to have my story begin in 400 A.D., during the time of the siege
of Adrian's wall, and to show that a McDuich (this is the ancient Celtic
writing of the McDuck name) drove the Romans away and founded Scotland.

*This would mean that Scrooge would have been a distant descendant of
a distant descendant of a distant relative of Asterix!*

I intended to continue this quest for the McDucks through the centuries,
and to show a McDuck and his Stinginess being present in all the great
moments of the history of Scotland. However, my editor, Byron Erickson,
said that this series was not a story about the McDucks, but about a
particular McDuck and that I had to limit myself to the life of that
particular person. Perhaps, one day, these notes may be presented in
a reprint of the _Life and Times_...  Byron permitted me, however,
to refer to some of Scrooge's ancestors who had already been mentioned
in stories such as _The Old Castle's Secret_ (_Komix_ #37), so that I
was able to include all the information about scrooge's life and family
which was in Carl Barks' stories.

*One of the "Lost Chapters" was written before you began writing Scrooge's

Only one of the lost chapters, _Of Ducks, Dimes, and Destinies_, was
written before the _Life and Times_. It was a story presented exclusively
as a flash back and was about a very particular adventure from Scrooge's
youth. At the time when I wrote this story, I had no fixed plans regarding
the creation of a series, but the idea had already been in my head. I was
thinking that a lot of time would be required for such a story. However,
certain circumstances drove me to convince _Egmont_ to ask me or someone
else to write such a story before this task was undertaken by someone else
[who?] who would make a mess of things.

*But why do you write stories about the past? Is it just a game with
Barksian references?*

In part, it was one of those games that kids who love comics enjoy
(fanboy project). That is, to take all the vague and isolated references
of Barks to Scrooge's past, connect them and try to talk about them
within the framework of a single series of stories. For me, it was a
game... or rather a large jigsaw puzzle.

*It would seem that readers also liked this game a lot!*

I never expected that so many readers would become excited, given that
the references were rather dark, and the plot and action in the stories
was strictly imposed by the facts which I had to cover and mention in
each chapter. However, it seems that it was the most popular series of
Duck stories which was published ever since Carl Barks retired. And
these stories had a a special appeal to people who had never read
Duck stories... I'm referring mainly to America. Many readers, through
messages, either written or electronic, tell me that the stories in the
*Life and Times* are their favorite.

*But could they have also been an attempt to write a new kind of stories
starring Scrooge?*

Yes! This subject has a lot of fun, because in this stories with young
Scrooge, I had to present a slightly different personality, and to
place them in a different time, place, and historical context. The hero,
however, must always be Scrooge. This is the beauty of the game. If I had
wanted to write a story about Donald as a cowboy, I would have had to
have him play some part in an imitation ranch. If I had wanted to show
Donald meeting great figures in recent history, commanding a schooner
carrying tea in the Indian ocean and looking for gold during the gold
rush in the Yukon, I would have had to have him dream or play in some
amateur theater group in Duckburg, or to find some other far-fetched
explanation which would have removed all dramatic elements from the
entire story. With Scrooge, however, things are different. I could write
stories about the real Scrooge in the real world, not in some dream
or in the theater. I can place him in all these situations, because,
according to Barks and his work, he had actually been there!

*How different is the young Scrooge of the Cutty Sark from the classic

He's quite different, and this is true for all the stories of the *Life
and Times* cycle. Indeed, I had a very definite plan about these twelve
particular chapters. Scrooge as a kid full of idealism and enthusiasm,
who sets out to travel around the globe. Gradually, however, he changes,
as he meets greed and villainy, as he loses what he has earned to
fate and the "bad guys". He is subjected, however, to the loss of his
family and to other misfortunes, which make him realize that he has
gone beyond certain limits. After this, he retains his honesty and
integrity... Despite all this, he is a very embittered hero. Finally,
his meeting with Donald and his nephews in the twelfth chapter wakes
up in him the spirit of adventure. His character changes and, finally,
he becomes the Scrooge whom we see in the stories that take place in his
present.  He is always suspicious, but not bilious, he has an appetite
for adventure, he can feel excitement and wonder again. However, all
these are camouflaged, because of his desire for more money, which may or
may not be just posing. He is no longer certain that his life is what it
should have been, or what it should become one day. I don't think he is
aware of internal conflicts. They exist, however, deep in his mind, and
it is exactly for this reason that he wants, or even needs, the company
of Donald and his nephews. Is this psychoanalytical blabbering enough?


	Kriton	(e-mail: kyrimis at
"The golden rule is that those with the gold make the rules."

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