Friday, Feb 08, 2013
by Ned Wazowski
Behind the Wheel of Mickey Mouse
For the 40th anniversary of the Angoulême International Comics Festival, organizers went back way more than 40 years to trace the history of Mickey Mouse in comics around the world.
A special pavilion at the Angoulême International Comics Festival focused on the artists working behind the “Walt Disney” name to bring Mickey (and Donald, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar, Scrooge McDuck and more) to the pages of comic books and to bring smiles to faces everywhere.
I went first thing when the festival opened on Thursday, knowing it would be crowded with visitors. (I can only imagine how hard it was to get through it on Saturday!) As it was, I still had to wait about 20 minutes to get in. The exhibition was beautiful, giving you the feeling of being in Mickey’s cartoon living room, admiring the images of his friends and family and photos of his various exploits.
Mickey Mouse first appeared in comics in 1930, years after he’d scored success on the big screen. Originally the stories were written by Walt Disney, but were soon handed over to apprentice animator and inbetweener Floyd Gottfredson. Gottfredson was promised the gig would only be short-term, but the temporary job lasted 45 years until he retired in 1975.
The Mickey Mouse comic strips under Gottfredson focused on adventure and comedy and were full of cliffhangers and villains, not to mention plenty of Mickey’s plucky energy. Gottfredson’s stories introduced the characters Morty and Ferdie, the Phantom Blot and “the Man from Tomorrow” Eega Beeva. In keeping with company policy at the time, Gottfredson wasn’t allowed to sign his work.
Late in his life, Gottfredson said about his work, “I've always felt that it was our job to try to capture the spirit of animation.” He did a pretty good job of capturing our hearts too.