We usually highlight comics characters you might want to know more about when a new movie or TV series puts a little known character in the spotlight. Disney is currently ramping up promotion for a new DuckTales series due out next year, making this the perfect time to get to know the richest duck in the world.
Who is Scrooge McDuck?
Scrooge (sometimes spelled $crooge) is a wealthy old duck with a taste for adventure. Unlike his famous family members – nephew Donald Duck and his grand nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Scrooge originally appeared in comics and later transitioned to film and TV stardom. Scrooge was created in 1947 by the celebrated comics creator Carl Barks, without credit until 1960, as all Disney comics were originally attributed to “Walt Disney.”
Scrooge first appeared in a Christmas story as a misanthropic old miser, much like his Dickensian namesake. The character proved popular and Barks quickly realized that a rich uncle provided both means and motivation for the blue collar Donald to travel to exotic locales. Scrooge became less frail and more active, the better to seek out legendary treasures and protect his fortunes. Many stories focused on his resourcefulness and his adventurous spirit, but he could still be greedy and self-centered when called on to play the antagonist to the other ducks. By 1952, Scrooge had his own ongoing comic series and was unquestionably one of the most popular characters in Disney comics history.
Why is he so awesome?
At his most basic, Scrooge is an excuse to go on adventures. His pursuit of ever greater fortunes and treasures allows the ducks, the readers, and the creators to visit the depths of the oceans, ancient ruins, lost worlds, and everything in between. Both Barks and later Scrooge artist and scribe Don Rosa, have suggested that Scrooge himself pursues adventure as much as he does wealth, if not more so. The money bin is less a tribute to his vast riches than Scrooge’s life story in coins.
Barks tended to tailor Scrooge to the needs of the story he was creating at the time. Scrooge could be a hero or an antagonist, a realist or a romantic, loyal to his family or completely self-absorbed. It might sound like this approach leaves Scrooge with no consistent character, but it actually gives him more complexity. He’s a self made duck who earned his riches through hard work. But he’s made mistakes and can be blinded to what he truly values in life by his love of money. For a duck, he’s very human.
Just about any Scrooge story by Barks or Rosa is well worth your time, but if you need more guidance than that, these are a few good ones to start with. Many of them have recently been reprinted in lovely hardcover volumes. Ask your favorite local comic shop to help you find them.
The Old Castle’s Secret by Carl Barks
In Scrooge’s second appearance, he takes his family on the first of many treasure hunts. The ducks search the ancestral castle of the clan McDuck for a lost fortune and contend with a ghostly skeleton.
Only a Poor Old Man by Carl Barks
This was the main story in the first issue of the Uncle Scrooge comic book. When Scrooge’s longtime foes the Beagle Boys buy up the land next to his money bin, the ducks take action to move Scrooge’s fortune before it’s stolen out from under him. The beagles counter with increasingly goofy plans to nab Scrooge’s riches, a story that we’d see play out again and again over the years.
Back to the Klondike by Carl Barks
Barks often brought up Scrooge’s past as a way of kicking off a new story and giving Scrooge an excuse to visit a particular place. This story reveals that Scrooge earned his initial fortune as a prospector in the Klondike. He returns to his old claim to recover a stash of gold he left there and ends up reuniting with a duck from his younger days. This is one of several Barks stories to be adapted into an episode of DuckTales.
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck By Don Rosa
Rosa’s twelve part epic takes Barks’s references to Scrooge’s past adventures and weaves them into a single cohesive narrative. The result isn’t just a timeline of Scrooge’s life, but a story of how his character was shaped by these experiences, for good or for ill. Since it’s kind of Scrooge’s “origin story,” it can be a good place to start, though you’ll get more out of it if you’ve read more of the Barks stories that inspired it.
The Quest for Kalevala by Don Rosa
The Duck comics have long been popular in Scandinavia, so it’s no surprise that Scrooge paid a visit to Finland in search of a legendary gold producing device. His quest leads to encounters with characters from the Finnish epic poem Kalevala and a moment where Scrooge has to decide what he truly values most. This was the first Don Rosa story I ever read, so it’s definitely a good introduction to Scrooge and one of his greatest chroniclers.