The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is one of the greatest fictional biographies that I’ve ever read.
That may sound like a bit of hyperbole, considering the subject matter is about a penny pinching, treasure hunting old duck, but getting into the true background of the character, past the treasure hunts and beyond the conning Donald into his next big scheme becomes far more compelling a story than one would imagine. While the end of the story shows the results of being “the richest duck in the world”, what that wealth is worth and actually means is a journey onto itself.
The series was originally presented as a a 12-part saga (and there are sub chapters and side stories that fit in if you really want to look), and for the longest time, was out of print for the average reader until Boom Studios put it out (I subsequently have the first volume autographed by Don Rosa), and have won multiple awards.
The main series spans from 1877 to 1947, starting with Scrooge’s childhood, and the McDuck name in ruins. Exiled from their ancestral castle in Scotland, and dirt poor, Scrooge’s father, Fergus McDuck, decides to teach his 10-year old son a lesson about the world in hopes of spurring him to find his own fortunes. With a set-up “life lesson”, Fergus’ plan succeeds, and Scrooge earns his most valuable possession: His “Number One Dime”.
Scrooge emigrates to the United States shortly after, taking part in a series of adventures that not only shape him, but the landscape of a young America. It is here where he sails on the mighty Mississippi, meets his arch-enemies the Beagle Boys, and becomes a cowboy.
As his fortune grows, Scrooge travels the world, going from South Africa to Australia, before returning to America to take part in the gold rush, thus finally starting the journey of expanding his empire.
Along the way, Scrooge meets several notable historical figures, including Theodore Roosevelt, meets the only girl who would ever have his heart outside of making money, and starts becoming the duck that people more regularly know from comics and animation. It is a tale met with personal loss, from failure, to family, to even his naive and optimistic nature. Scrooge does amazing things to increase his fortune, but also terrible things.
In one instance, he does something so mercenary that he loses one of his most valuable possessions, but is too blinded by greed to even notice. There are some of these losses that pull at the reader’s sympathy, and mistakes made are not without repercussion.
The story ends in 1947 with Scrooge finally meeting Donald and his nephews in person, thus setting the stage for all new adventures, and showing what the true value of Scrooge’s wealth really means to him. In many ways, this is another story of it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey. In this instance, the journey spans 70 years.
The story itself is interesting, and the attention to detail is incredible. The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is Don Rosa’s biography of Scrooge, but is taken from so many asides presented in earlier Carl Barks stories. What was once a seemingly throw away line used to establish Scrooge’s background is developed into a full storyline. The art is equally as impressive. with so many side things going on the background, including some places out west that I noticed that I’ve visited just by looking at scenery detail.
People have seemed surprised in the past when I tell them that Scrooge McDuck is my favorite “cartoon” character. Truth be told, it was this story that turned me into a fan. Granted, both the high-quality of production of DuckTales and Mickey’s Christmas Carol were my primary introduction the character and motivation to pick this up, but it was this story, coupled with Rosa’s love for both the original Barks stories and Scrooge himself that makes the character become something so much more.
It’s a fascinating and meticulous historical journey that provides both heart and hubris, and has become one of my favorite book reads ever since. If you believe that you know the character of Scrooge McDuck, it’s this series that shows you how you never knew him at all until this particular duck tale.