‘Lost in the Andes’ is the first in a series of volumes reprinting comics by legendary Disney cartoonist Carl Barks. I had never read any of the material in this book before – I wasn’t even born when these stories were first printed, between 1942 and 1966, and most of the reprint volumes I’ve seen in the past have been rather expensive – but I had certainly heard about it, have always wanted to check some of it out, and was very keen to get a copy of this book. It is certainly a great-looking book – I love that cover! – and it’s obvious even just flicking through it why Barks is held in such high regard, but I’m slightly embarrassed to report that I didn’t particularly enjoy reading it (embarrassed because it’s obviously quality material and everyone else seems to love this stuff).
This reprints four longish stores (about 20 pages each), nine shorter stories (about 10 pages each), and a handful of one-pagers. The first of the longish stories, ‘Lost in the Andes’, is the best one. In it, Donald Duck and his three nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, get lost in the Andes while searching for the source of some square eggs that Donald discovered while working as ‘fourth assistant janitor’ at the Museum of Natural Sciences, and eventually they stumble upon the lost city of Plain Awful, where nearly everything is square and everyone talks in an outrageous Southern US accent (because the only other person to discover the city was an American professor) and eats nothing but (square) eggs. The art here is fantastic – as it is throughout the book – particularly on the panel in which Donald and his nephews stumble upon Plain Awful, while the story is mildly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny. Of the remaining longish stories, ‘Race to the South Seas’ and ‘Voodoo Hoodoo’ are okay but I got a bit bored with both of them long before they ended, while ‘The Golden Christmas Tree’, in which Huey, Dewey and Louie, seeking a golden Christmas tree, are lured up a mountain by a witch, is juvenile nonsense.
I actually preferred the shorter stories to the longer adventures – they were funnier and Donald seemed to have more personality in these strips, while in the longer strips he was quite bland and more or less any character could have played his role – and I particularly liked the one in which Donald and his nephews competed against each other on a rigged TV quiz. The ending of this strip, in which Donald managed to answer a seemingly impossible question, but in doing so fried his brain and ended up choosing a tricycle as his prize, rather than a barrel full of money, was quite brilliant. Overall, though, I found this book a bit disappointing and was quite pleased to reach the end. I guess the main problem is the fact that I am 42 years old. I am too old to really enjoy (most) comics written for young children, but too young to have read these stories the first time around, and therefore I have no emotional attachment to them. I also have no real emotional attachment to the Disney characters – if this was a collection of Daffy Duck strips, I may have felt differently – and while Huey, Dewey and Louie were cute enough, it was hard to get too attached to Donald based on his personality – or lack thereof – in this book. I probably enjoyed reading the introduction to this book more than I enjoyed reading the book itself, but then I always enjoy reading about the lives of great cartoonists. Having said all that, I may still buy the next volume in this series, a collection of comics about Donald’s stingy uncle Scrooge McDuck – Barks’ own creation – as based on his few appearances in this book, he seems like a much more amusing character.
Cost: This has a recommended retail price of £17.99 / $24.99. I bought my copy from Amazon, where it was priced at £13.65, but I had a £5.00 Amazon voucher I got for answering online surveys for the Radio Times, which reduced the price to just £8.65. At that price, I’m glad I bought it.