Talking Ducks

Michael Hayward

My love of reading has its roots in comic books; I could (and did) spend many delinquent hours at our neighbourhood drugstore, dazzled by Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, and equally absorbed in the world of talking ducks. Scrooge McDuck—the world’s richest duck, with a net worth that Time magazine once estimated at “one multiplujillion, nine obsquatumatillion, six hundred twenty-three dollars and sixty-two cents”—was a particular favourite. Scrooge loved to plunge into his colossal money bin, “to dive around in it like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it hit me on the head!” It was decades before I learned that it was Carl Barks who had written the best of the talking duck adventures. Barks was an anonymous Disney artist for decades, but late in life was able to emerge from relative obscurity and enjoy the appreciation of his many fans. Fantagraphics Books began publishing The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library in 211, starting with the most familiar stories; The Old Castle’s Secret—volume 6 in that undertaking—features stories that first appeared in the Disney magazines in 1948. In the title story, Scrooge travels to Scotland with his nephew Donald and his three nephews, the intrepid Huey, Dewey and Louie, in an attempt to find treasure hidden somewhere within the walls of “the huge old castle of Dismal Downs.” There they encounter an X-ray machine that can see through stone walls, a walking skeleton wielding a sword, a subterranean passage that ends in a graveyard, a loyal retainer who isn’t what he seems, and an invisibility spray stolen “from a foreign spy during the war.” Indiana Jones, eat your heart out!

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