A Duck for ALL Seasons
[Excerpts]
 
Since February 7, 1938, Donald Duck's personal life has been chronicled in those unpretentious tidbits of that lowly American art form, the comic strip. These snippets had been published daily in hundreds of newspapers printed throughout the world. To date over 17,000 incidents have been recorded recounting Donald's encounters with circumstances from the most mundane to the truly bizarre.

The Donald Duck of the comic strips is an individual quite different from the fowl tempered drake of the movies. But should anyone be surprised? After all Donald is an thespian by profession. A talented performer, the duck is not a method actor but a movie star whose performances in film represent exaggerations of his true disposition and mannerisms. Audiences know what to expect for a Duck performance just as they would from John Wayne or Arnold Schwarzenagger. He is a scene stealer who, if given the chance, tends to over act and chew up the scenery like a John Barrymore or Jack Nickelson. Think about it. What performer has ever come close to matching the duck in scenes of his "quacking up?"





Between 1938 and 1955, Donald was indirectly (after all he is a cartoon character) nominated nine times for an Academy Award, a record that few can match in shear number or years of recognition. In 1943 his handlers won an Oscar for Der Fuehrer's Face. No other 'toon has been so appreciated by his peers and fellows of the film industry.

In the movie cartoons what we see is Donald Duck acting the part of. . . . Donald Duck. And that caricature is what most people think of when they think of Donald. However, the true Donald is much more complex than what we ever seen on film. Like every other actor Duck has a personal life that differs from his screen persona. At the end of day on a shoot, he walks off the set like others of his profession, removes the Technicolor makeup, and returns home to a relatively modest life in Duckburg.

My suspicion is that the Donald of the comic strips is the real Donald Duck, candidly revealed as he goes through the routine of day to day existence. And is he real. He contends with all the nuisances and headaches of urban life. He experiences pleasure. He's capable of commitment and affection. He tends to be a little lazy and not above being manipulative at times. He also struggles, like you and I, with conflicts, disappointments, confusion, doubts, and even isolation. Sometimes he's out of step with those around him.

While Duck has basically good character, I suspect that if the truth be know he has fudged a little on his income tax maybe by over estimating charitable contributions or failing to report the twenty five dollars he made varnishing Daisy's living room floor. Again, little stuff.

Finally, Donald tends to be his own worse enemy. Not as he presents himself in the movies. (On the screen, his battles with his nephews or Chip and Dale display personal flaws exaggerated to Shakespearean proportions!) Rather as we all do with our little emotional blind spots, the assumptions we don't even realize are assumptions but assume are facts, and tendency to repeatedly put ourselves in situations that experience would indicate are not good for us.

As an over grown kid and as a psychologist with a solid list of professional accomplishments I find Donald's life experiences, as revealed in the daily comic strips, illuminating of the realities of life. I can personally identify with many of Donald's quirks (or is that quacks?) I can see in many of the patients with whom I've worked the same difficulties facing life as Donald has. This is not a put down but an affirmation of their lovableness and tenacity despite personal struggles.

Donald Duck may not be the greatest comic strip ever drawn. Gary Larson's Far Side is weirder. Schultz' Peanuts subtler and more cerebral. Trudeau's Doomesbury more politically challenging. Pogo was more reflective.

As for the characters of comic strips, Cathy is a more complex person than Daisy Duck. Calvin (with his pal Hobbs) is a more interesting kid than Huey, Louie, and Dewey combined. The Wizard of Id is nuttier than Ludwig von Drake.

But panel for panel few comic strips outweigh the overall content of the Donald Duck strip.

Comic strips are a fragile thing usually having the brief life of a morning glory. A particular strip that appeals to someone may find a reprieve from oblivion on a refrigerator or office door. But like a pressed flower these cuttings soon fade, become brittle and eventually are torn and lost.

Recently, Donald has fallen on
Hard Times

 

Copyright 2008  Brian R. Johnson, Ph.D.  All rights Reserved.

This comic strip art is from my personal collection.  It was prepared
 in the late 1980's for a proposed updated Donald Duck daily comic
titled Poor, Poor Donald..

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