Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Looks On Books: Floyd Gottfredson's early comic strips

This review is dedicated to a real Disney Legend: Floyd Gottfredson, born in 1905 in Utah, created Mickey Mouse Comic strips for amazing 45.5 years! Actually, Walt wanted him to draw the strips just for two weeks - until he had found another artist. But nothing further was ever said about it and thus, we are happy to enjoy Gottfredson's cartoons today: With Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Classic Collection Fantagraphics Books published a must-have for everyone who's interested in early works of the Walt Disney Company!

Front page Vol. 1 "Race to death valley"

Floyd's strips became very popular after his first adventure story "Mickey Mouse in death valley", which was published in the newspapers from April to September 1930. Afterwards, Mickey had to experience many precarious situations for a long time - but he already met his worst antagonists in the very first story: Pegleg Pete and Sylvester Shyster, two dubious characters who never stopped to make our pal's life harder.

After the first continuing strip, Gottfredson was responsible for many other stories; firstly both as artist and writer, after 1932 as a manager of the comic strip department. Under his control, the company published great strips like "Mr. Slicker and the egg robbers", "Traffic troubles", "Mickey Mouse vs. Kat Nipp" or "Circus Roustabout". But Gottfredson's name was never mentioned in the papers - all artists had to sign their panels with Walt's Signature to guarantee a consistent label, which was easy to recognize.

Early Mickey-performance

Volume 1 contains several strips from April 1930 to January 1932 and in addition amazing background stories about Gottfredson and the historical context. Every strip begins with some information, which is very helpful to understand the story and its gags completely.

The most famous story is definitely the first one, because its success was trend-setting for the following adventure strips. In "Mickey Mouse in death valley", the strange lawyer Sylvester Shyster wants to buy a house Minnie inherited from her rich uncle; but an odd creature in disguise who calls himself "The Fox" advises Mickey to avoid the sale. So a strange journey begins, which is about to uncover some secrets about Shyster, "The Fox" and Minnie's heritage...

Some romantic time with Minnie

The last chapter of Volume 1 is called "The Gottfredson Archives" and offers amazing articles about the "birth" of Mickey Mouse, bonus panels which were never published and different artists in the spotlight (such as Al Taliaferro and Jack King).

But luckily I can tell you that there are more books with Gottfredson's strips: "Race to death valley" marks just the beginning of a great line; Volume 2 is called "Trapped on Treasure Island" and contains masterpieces such as "Mickey Mouse sails for Treasure Island", "Blaggard Castle" (a definitely creepy one), "The mail pilot" and "Mickey Mouse and his horse Tanglefoot". Of course, Mickey meets Pete and Shyster again and has to illuminate their strange business. Again there is a chapter with incredible bonus material which informs about the villains, Floyd's colleagues and additional comic strips.

Front page Vol. 2 "Trapped on Treasure Island"

Volumes 3 and 4 also depict great work of Gottfredson - but I will introduce them in detail in a following post. There are just two things left to say: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Classic Collection is definitely worth to achieve a reservation in your book shelve and secondly, Floyd Gottfredson was deservedly named a Disney Legend in 2003 after his passing in 1986.

Panel 1 from "Mickey Mouse vs. Kat Nipp" (page 119), Panel 2 from "Mickey Mouse and the ransom plot" (page 178), both found in Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: "Race to Death Valley", Fantagraphics Books, 2011


  1. Great review—allow me to pass you a "thanks" from the Fantagraphics editorial team! We've linked to you from our Facebook page here.
    —David Gerstein, Series Editor

  2. Wow thank you for your great comment! We enjoyed Gottfredsons strips very much and are especially glad that we are able to read Disney comics from the very beginning!