Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Don Rosa's The Son of the Sun

Okay, so maybe I tend to overdo it a bit when I acknowledge anniversaries around here. But here’s one I just can’t let pass without some degree of celebration.

It was twenty years ago in the spring of 1987 that the comic book story “The Son of the Sun” debuted in the pages of Uncle Scrooge #219, and marked the beginning of what has become the illustrious and prolific career of writer/artist Don Rosa. In these past score of years, Don has produced numerous wonderful stories featuring Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and the many other colorful characters of Disney’s “duck universe,” all the while paying homage to, and expanding on, the creative legacy of Disney Legend and original “duck man” Carl Barks.

In a 1997 publication, Gladstone Comics staffer John Clark told of how “The Son of the Sun” came to be:

In July of 1986, as soon as the first of Gladstone's Disney comics hit the stands, Don Rosa called then-Editor-in-Chief Byron Erickson and told him of his life-long ambition to write and draw his own Uncle Scrooge comics. Rosa's name was familiar to Erickson as a contributor of long-standing to various fan publica­tions and creator of the Scrooge-like comic strip, "The Pertwillaby Papers," but Erickson explained that he would nevertheless need to see samples of what Rosa could do with the Disney Ducks. After receiving some model sheets, Erickson told Rosa he could begin a Scrooge story "on spec" — if it turned out good it would be paid for and printed. Don dusted off an old Lance Pertwillaby adven­ture entitled, interestingly enough, "Lost in the Andes," and revamped it into "The Son of the Sun." The rest, as they say, is history.

“The Son of the Sun” is an amazing piece of storytelling. Epic in scope and scale, it is a tour de force of fast paced action, clever and often hilarious dialogue, and dynamic, detailed artwork that at times is simply breathtaking in its execution.

Previously established by Carl Barks in a number of his own stories, the contentious rivalry between Scrooge McDuck and his arch adversary Flintheart Glomgold sets the stage for a contest involving the search for the legendary lost treasure of the Incan Empire. Information from the infallible Junior Woodchucks Guidebook points Scrooge, Donald and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie to the Andes and a hidden temple dedicated to the Incas’ chief deity Manco Capac, the Son of the Sun. Devious and conniving, Glomgold shadows their every move as they journey high into the mountains of Peru.

There is action present that matches anything from an Indiana Jones movie. Spectacular airplane crashes, collapsing ancient rope bridges and a literally earth shattering climax that is both hilarious and stunning at the same time. Rosa’s penchant for details is evident just about everywhere. Superb examples include the spectacular mountaintop temple:

The vast Incan treasure room:

And the quest’s final penultimate object, the jewel-laden Eye of Manco Capac:

Peppered throughout the panels are delightful references to previous Barks-chronicled duck adventures. The opening museum sequence is filled with one homage after another to earlier Scrooge adventures, and upon arriving at Lake Titicoocoo later in the story, the group meets a very notable character previously featured in the classic Barks tale “Lost in the Andes,” who goes on to play a very humorous role in the story’s conclusion.

Don’t let the fact that this is a comic book fool you. “The Son of the Sun” is dense in both plot and details. And make no mistake, Rosa leaves no thread unraveled and no details unaddressed. It is clever, witty and highly satisfying storytelling.

Fortunately, “The Son of the Sun” was reprinted a few years ago and is still available from Gemstone Publishing. It can be ordered directly from their website.


Rae! said...

I remember this.Thanks for sharing.

Johnny Jackhammer said...

Thanks for profiling Don Rosa! If you want a terrific and riveting read, then grab a copy of "The Life and Times of $crooge McDuck." You can find it at the library, from Amazon or other online bookstore, or from your local comic shop. You'll be surprised and glad you did!