Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse in Color – I read the first two recently released collections of Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse strips last year, and while more have come out since then, the library system doesn’t appear to have them. They did, however, have this collection from 1988. It reprints several of the stories from the comics, including a few that were in the other collections I’d read, only here in color. One of the stories included is “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot,” which I’d heard about, but hadn’t yet read. The title character is a shadowy figure dressed all in black, who is on a crime spree stealing cheap cameras.
Throughout the tale, he places Mickey in several elaborate death traps, always leaving before they can do their work. While the Blot claims he couldn’t kill Mickey directly because of his “soft heart,” apparently the reason behind the scenes was to get past the censors.
I wonder if that’s where the cliché of the villain always leaving after setting a trap originates. The Blot is eventually unmasked and turns out to resemble Walt Disney, although he generally wasn’t unmasked in later appearances.
The Blot showed up in a DuckTales episode, which I kind of remember, although I don’t recall what his voice was like.
The introduction and the interview with Gottfredson give some interesting information on how the character and the strip developed. It’s pretty well-known that Mickey became less mean over the years, and gradually became more of a straight man. Really, most early cartoon characters were pretty amoral, probably because that made it easier to involve them in gags. The Mickey of the strip was originally conceived as a little guy always having to work his way out of big trouble through his pluck and ingenuity, a “Mouse Against the World,” as Gottfredson called him. There are a few early appearances from Donald Duck, before he got his own comic, and his personality also seems to have changed somewhat over time. Early cartoons and comics featuring Donald tend to make him childish and belligerent.
I remember reading that Walt originally intended him to take on some of the bad traits that he had had to abandon with Mickey. I have to suspect that it was the introduction of his nephews that forced him to become somewhat more mature, if still hot-headed. Speaking of nephews, while Mickey’s nephews Morty and Ferdie don’t appear in any of the stories in this volume, there is some information about their creation. They were based on the mouse children in the cartoon “Orphans’ Benefit.” In early strips, he calls their mother “Mrs. Fieldmouse,” which is pretty weird if she’s supposed to be his sister.
When Gottfredson and writer Bill Walsh felt that Mickey’s nephews were too similar to Donald’s (even though I’m pretty sure Mickey’s appeared first), they made Morty into a mechanical type and pretty much stopped using Ferdie.