Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Return to Shacktown

I believe it was either Christmas of 1987 or 1988 when a very good friend introduced me to A Christmas for Shacktown. It was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.

A Christmas for Shacktown is a comic book story that first appeared in issue 367 of the Dell Four Color Comics series, published in 1951. It features Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and the many other denizens of Duckburg. Well into adulthood, it was my first real exposure to classic Disney comics, and more importantly, to the storytelling genius of Disney legend Carl Barks.

As I have chronicled earlier, my passion for all things Disney developed fairly early in my childhood. But interestingly enough, it never extended to Disney comics until much, much later. In my youth, I read comic books. Tons of comic books. Dennis the Menace, Archie, Harvey and Superman, just to name a few. But I have little to no memories of reading Disney in a four color format. It wasn’t a lack of desire; it was just at that time, the late 1960s through the early 1970s, they were extremely hard for me to find. Disney comics were then published by Gold Key, and at least in my neighborhood, were not to be found on the normal comic book spinners. The only place I remember seeing them was on a coloring book rack on a fairly distant Woolworth’s.

So on that day so many years ago when my friend gently and lovingly slid a copy of Donald Duck Four Color #367 out of its plastic protector, and proceeded to read to me panel by panel the story of A Christmas for Shacktown, I became immediately and forever taken in by the imagination of Carl Barks.

A Christmas for Shacktown would be a great piece of storytelling in any genre; in the realm of comics it is a pure classic. Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, in their desire to bring holiday cheer to the underprivileged children of Shacktown, set in motion a sequence of events that is fast-paced, funny, occasionally ironic, at times both cynical and endearing, and with just the right doses of morality and sentiment. This is not the typical critical assessment warranted by a 1950s era “funny book” and it is an example of why Barks and his library of duck tales have endured for so long.

My friend’s gift of Shacktown extended far beyond the physical copy he would later present to me. In the years that followed, I immersed myself in the many adventures of Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, the Junior Woodchucks and countless other memorable characters as chronicled by Mr. Barks. I have long lost contact with that very good friend, but every year I unwrap A Christmas for Shacktown and appreciate it every bit as much as I did that first time. And my bookshelves are filled with volumes of Carl Barks collections that I consistently revisit, and that my own children have come to discover and enjoy.

Thanks, Marc. And Merry Christmas.

“More fun than we ever had in our lives!”

Gemstone Comics has reprinted A Christmas for Shacktown, and it can be ordered through their website.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,
I could wax poetic about this one. I've started listening to WDW Radio and migrated over to your blog. Noticed immediately that we share some Disney interests (comics and corporate Christmas cards). But Christmas for Shacktown is one of my absolute faves. I discovered it at age 7 in the Gold Key Christmas Parade reprint for 1969. I knew even then that this was a special story of the true meaning of the season and the power of redemption. I'm looking forward to sharing it with my daughter for the first time this coming holiday season. (She turns five tomorrow and has just started to "get" the story flow of the comic format.)

I do have one question for you, and my apologies in advance if this is covered in a post i haven't read yet. Being a philatelist as well, I noted your use on your 2719 envelope logo of the 6c Disney commemorative and also the 5c 1964 NY World's Fair (understandable through the Disney connection), but your choice of the 3c 1939 NY World's Fair left me scratching my head. What am I missing? Last year at the 2719 Hyperion perhaps?

Thanks for the great site,
Chuck Munson
Herndon, Virginia

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Hi Chuck--

Thanks for the very nice words about the podcast and blog. Very much appreciated.

The 1939 connection relates to a series of articles I wrote that discuss the connections between that particular World's Fair and the inspirations behind EPCOT Center. I am a HUGE fan of the 39 Fair as you will likley tell should you read those particular posts. I think its influence and significance is often very understated. Check the "EPCOT 1939" link under the Departments heading.