Monday, January 22, 2007

Comic Book Caballeros

There are clearly a lot of fans out there of The Three Caballeros. When news surfaced last year of a rumored makeover for World Showcase’s El Rio del Tiempo involving Donald and his pals, numerous cranky mouseketeers across the Internet decried yet another potential “characterization” of a classic Epcot attraction. In a refreshing twist, many others came quickly to the defense of our trio of amigos, countering a great deal of misinformation and some genuinely mean-spirited negativity. My own article, Caballeros in the Age of Misinformation, has proven to be one of 2719 Hyperion’s most popular posts to date.

But just how many of these south-of-the-border enthusiasts are familiar with the further adventures of Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles? In recent years, there have been not one, but two sequels to Disney’s classic 1945 feature. But just not quite in the format you would expect. These incarnations are not in fact animated features, but comic book stories.

Yes, comic book stories. Really, really good comic book stories. But alas, somewhat difficult to find comic book stories.

But first a little background--

Disney-themed comic book publishing has undergone an interesting evolution over the past three decades. In recent years, traditional Disney comic books have faded, and Disney comic stories have migrated into publications like Disney Adventures and its occasional spinoffs.

Things are a bit different overseas, however. Companies in numerous countries, especially throughout Europe, still publish traditional format Disney comic books to very substantial and passionate readerships. It is in those venues that artist/scribe Don Rosa continues to produce original Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories. Rosa has been chronicling the adventures of the Disney ducks for the past twenty years, much to the delight of countless international readers, and an extremely small but equally passionate American audience.

And Rosa just happens to be a huge fan of The Three Caballeros. Hence, in 2000, he produced The Three Caballeros Ride Again, and then followed up with The Magnificent Seven (minus 4) Caballeros a few years later.

Rosa typically works within the largely Carl Barks-created landscape of Duckburg, and the larger, often historically and geographically authentic world it inhabits. In a companion essay to the U.S. reprint of The Three Caballeros Ride Again, he explained why he took a detour out of Barks-inpired settings:

"I have never been especially interested in the animated Disney Donald Duck cartoons... they seemed to be a different character to me altogether. However, the best thing I think that the Disney Company ever did with Donald was his appearance in the 1945 film "The Three Caballeros"! I thought the interaction between Donald and the other two characters, Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, was marvelous, and the action and music in the film was wonderful! In fact, their rendition of "We're Three Caballeros" is one of my very favorite musical numbers in any movie! I have always thought it would be a neat idea to do a new Donald Duck adventure with Jose and Panchito, and in 2000 I finally got around to it! And when I did, I knew I'd include a new rendition of the classic musical number from the film, even though that's a wacky idea to attempt in a comic book!"

Both of Rosa’s Caballeros stories are high energy tales that return Donald to the environs of central and South America where he reunites with his good friends Jose and Panchito. Adventure, slapstick humor and even music combine in these delightful and beautifully rendered stories.

The Three Caballeros Ride Again takes us to the Copper Canyon of Panchito’s native Mexico where the trio engages in a Treasure of Sierra Madre-style quest for a hidden silver. Fortunes are won and quickly lost, but friendship and camaraderie ultimately prove to be the greatest treasures of all.

In The Magnificent Seven (minus 4) Caballeros, the setting moves south to Jose’s stomping ground of Rio de Janeiro. The three set off to seek their fortunes as diamond prospectors traveling across Brazil’s vast central plateau. Action and hilarity combine again with highly entertaining results. One particular sight gag (pictured) involving a capybara, the world’s largest rodent, is priceless.

It is a real shame that these and Rosa’s many other wonderful stories are by and large inaccessible here in the United States. Both Caballeros stories are available directly from Gemstone Publishing, but unfortunately, each one is split among three separate issues of Walt Disney’s Comic & Stories, with each issue costing a pricey $6.95.

One wishes that Gemstone would focus less on publishing in the traditional ongoing issue style, and concentrate more on trade paperback collections featuring distinct themes and/or specific creator spotlights. The recent editions of Rosa’s own The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck and the Disney Comics Treasures are certainly steps in the right direction. There are no doubt numerous folks out there who would likely be interested in the Caballeros stories, but will clearly balk at the $42 cost of having to purchase the six individual issues.

The Three Caballeros Ride Again was serialized in Walt Disney Comics & Stories #635-637. The Magnificent Seven (minus 4) Caballeros appeared in Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories #663-665.

8 comments:

Don Rosa said...

Golly. You make those stories sound so good I might go back and read them again myself to see what I missed!

Jeff Pepper said...

Okay, I just can't help it-- I'm going to go all fanboy here . . .

Wow, Don . . . you read my blog!

I'm very flattered. Thanks for the interest. I hope you had a chance to see the earlier post I did about you back in October.

FoxxFur said...

Fantastic! I've been meaning to get ahold of these for some time, as well as seeing if I can't track down some of the older Jose and Panchito standalones - if my information is correct, Panchito is a children's toy brought to life originally!

Jeff, next time you're at Epcot stop by Mexico and see the excellent new Panchito and Jose walkaround costumes - although I haven't seen all three together yet, I rounded a corner on Friday and almost ran clear into Jose and my mate nearly had to peel me off the sidewalk.

Jeff Pepper said...

Hey Chris--

The Caballeros were out and about when we were at Epcot back in November, but unfortunately we were never at Mexico at the right time. I'm heading back down in a couple weeks and hope to catch a glimpse of one the "birds" then!

recca phoenix said...

I regularly blog about Disney's Latin America features at http://latinbaby.wordpress.com

I have to get ahold of these comics, I wish someone would scan them!!!
I might have to bite the bullet and shell out the money for them.....I am a huge 3 caballeros fan....

jjpenguin said...

Hiya Jeff,

Over here in the Netherlands there is a weekly Donald Duck comic book and the José Carioca is featured regularly (about once every 6-8 weeks i would say).

Peggy said...

I ran across this blog looking for the elusive Jose Carioca comics for my 9 yr old son who is SUCH a dedicated Jose fan, he is going to be JOSE CARIOCA for Halloween - a tough one for mom to put together! After Hannukah and Christmas, I will show him this blog, because he will think it is SO cool Don Rosa commented - uh, as do we all! If anyone wants to help make my comic search easier,feel free to post!
Thanks!
Peg

Peggy said...

And YES, we have PIX with JOSE in Disney World from October 2007 !
I thought my son's mouth would never close when he saw a The Three Caballeros ride and the JOSE CHARACTER standing there waiting to shake his hand! Re dressin up like Jose on Halloween: my 9 yr old son's girl friend, who would be dressing up like something in High School Musical, says to my son very softly and concerned, " Aren't you worried no one will know who you are?" Of course, the flip side would be, "Aren't YOU worried ALL the other girls will have your costume?" My child will be so happy to be Jose, he will not be too concerned if anyone knows who he is or not.