A Christmas story appropriate for the season kicks off the new volume of duck tales showcasing the genius of writer/artist Carl Barks. A Christmas For Shacktown tells the story of the year that the nephews of Donald Duck – Hewey, Dewey, and Louie – decide to raise money to give some poor kids (who live in a Dickensian part of Duckburg called Shacktown) a good Christmas. Donald is quick to help but enlisting the aid of miserly Uncle Scrooge McDuck is another matter.
There are plenty of comic antics as Donald Duck tries every way he knows to raise the money the kids need. Finally Uncle Scrooge – who has so many tons of money in his vault that it sinks deep into the earth – reluctantly becomes the biggest donor. It all makes for a funny, heartwarming Christmas story.
What follows are another 21 tales, ranging in length from single page gags to full-length globetrotting adventures. Some of my favorite stories in this volume ( a hard choice to make) include: "The Big Bin On Killmoor Hill," in which has Uncle Scrooge constructs the ultimate money bin with so many booby traps that once he's joined by Donald and the nephews he realizes that there is no way to get out; "Statuesque Spendtrifts" in which Uncle Scrooge gets into a competition with the Maharajah of Howdoyustan over who is the richest and each tries to one-up the other by building bigger and more ornate statues of themselves; "The Golden Helmet," which features an exciting race as Donald and his nephews try to find an ancient viking helmet that enables its possessor to claim ownership of North America; and "The Gilded Man," another globetrotting adventure in which Donald and his nephews travel to British Guiana to find a valuable stamp and run into El Dorado.
Besides Uncle Scrooge, Donald and the nephews are joined by other ducks in some of the stories. These include: Gladstone Gander, Donald's "lucky, lucky" cousin whose luck at acquiring free wealth (and even simple groceries) frustrates Donald to no end; Gyro Gearloose, the dizzy inventor who appears in a tale in which he seems to invent something that actually works, much to the surprise of the doubting Donald; and, of course, Donald's sweetie Daisy Duck. These additional ducks help flesh out the town of Duckburg.
This comic-book-sized hardcover is beautifully put together. The full-color comic reproductions are pristine, printed on off-white paper resembling the original comic books. The story notes in the back of the book, illustrated by Barks's comic book covers and written by "Duck scholars," are brief but informative, giving readers insights into each of the stories in this volume. This series is another (duck) feather in the cap of Fantagraphics Books, which has also released reprint series of classic comic characters such as Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Peanuts, and Prince Valiant. The plan for this series to to collect every Carl Barks duck story but Fantagraphics is releasing the volumes out of order (this is volume 11, covering Dec.1951- Oct. 1952) so these first releases will showcase Barks's best and most famous stories created at the height of his ability. It's a smart move since it usually takes comic artists several years to hit their stride.
This volume, as well as the other books in this series (volume one of Donald Duck and volume 1 of Uncle Scrooge), can be enjoyed by everyone. The ducks have very human foibles, making them surprisingly thee-dimensional characters. Adults can reread (or enjoy for the first time) the charming, funny adventures brought to life by Barks. Young readers can also enjoy the stories alongside adults (who can explain some of the 1950s sensibilities). "A Christmas For Shacktown" is the perfect gift for fans – young or old – of Disney, Carl Barks, comics, Donald Duck, and great storytelling.