A Witch in Time, by Constance Sayers – This is another book I found at a discount from some promotion I don’t remember. It’s the story of Helen Lambert, a recently divorced woman who goes on a date with a man named Luke who claims he recognizes her from past lives. She obviously thinks it’s nonsense until she starts dreaming about the people she’s been before: an artist’s muse in 1890s France, an actress in 1930s Hollywood, and a musician in 1970s New Mexico. In every one of her lives, she fell in love with some version of the same guy, the latest being her ex-husband, but the relationship would never work out for various reasons. She’d then meet with Luke, for whom she also had feelings. Helen finds out she’s a witch laboring under a curse, starting with when her mother cast a spell on her back in the nineteenth century, which had unforeseen consequences. We learn the details of Helen’s past lives, and she finally finds out how she can break the curse. It’s well-written, disturbing in parts due to the hardship in her past lives, and able to work in several different historical periods. I’m not sure I bought the love stories, but I guess her earlier lives were pretty desperate, especially Juliet who’s almost forced into an abusive marriage.
Uncle Scrooge: The Mines of King Solomon, by Carl Barks – The titular story has Scrooge and his nephews inspecting his properties around the world, carrying an enormous pile of tickets with them. Huey, Dewey, and Louie are practicing animal calls for the Junior Woodchucks, and end up calling wildlife in every place they visit. When they check out the sand that Scrooge’s glassware factory needs, they end up finding the mines, which honestly come across as a bit of an afterthought. “The Money Well” returns to the idea of Scrooge having to hide the entire contents of his money bin from a scheme by the Beagle Boys, using an old passage from the former Fort Duckburg to move it. The Beagles are strangely complex characters, persistent and quite clever in their elaborate plans to steal Scrooge’s money, often genuinely scaring the tycoon, but always ultimately falling for tricks. We also see the oddities of Scrooge’s cheapness, as he buys a plot of land to hide the money, but absolutely refuses to spend ten dollars on new glasses until he absolutely has to. “The Golden River” uses the fairy tale by John Ruskin as a backdrop, with Scrooge’s nephews teaching him a lesson about stinginess. While he does end up giving them the five dollars they wanted for a playground, he also becomes much richer in the end, so the moral is a bit skewed. There are also several short Gyro Gearloose stories here, the notes explaining that there was a discount postage rate at the time for comic books containing stories with totally different characters, so they have the inventor interacting with characters other than the Ducks, including Morty and Ferdie in one story. The general theme is that Gyro can invent pretty much anything, but overlooks obvious flaws at the same time.
A Night in the Netherhells, by Craig Shaw Gardner – The final book in the Ebenezum Trilogy has Wuntvor entering the Netherhells to try to prevent the rhyming demon Guxx Unfufadoo from taking over the world. He’s armed with a constantly complaining magic sword and a hat that produces ferrets. Much to the dismay of his demonic companion Snarks, the Netherhells have been rearranged and commercialized, focusing on capitalism and producing disgusting fast food. The witch Norei, the warrior Hendrek, the Dealer of Death, and the musical team of Dragon and Damsel all show up as well. It feels like I’ve seen a lot of the sort of humor in this series before, with the common elements of fantasy being subverted. That said, I’m not sure when Gardner wrote relative to other funny fantasy authors, so maybe he did some of it first. Regardless, it’s still enjoyable reading. And I liked the salesdemon Brax’s observation that humans are supposed to annoy demons as much as the reverse.
Mickey Mouse: The Ice Sword Saga, Book 2, by Massimo De Vita – The adventures of Mickey and Goofy in the mythological land of Aargar continue with two more stories, shorter than the first two but still amusing and well-realized. The first, “The Prince of Mists Strikes Back!”, starts when the Gherrod Volcano erupts and uncovers the helmet of the titular Prince, which corrupts anyone who wears it. Pluto is accidentally transported to Aargar, and the sage Yor helps Mickey and Goofy return to the mystical world through their dreams in order to rescue the dog and destroy the helmet.
Mickey’s dream reminds me of the 1933 short The Mad Doctor, as Mickey has a nightmare that involves chasing after Pluto and getting caught in a giant spider web.
That’s probably too vague of a connection to be intentional, but that cartoon has been referenced quite a bit. Goofy once again helps to save the day with a toy, in this case a pair of dice that entertain the Old Man of the Mountain who keeps a magical snow crystal. “The Sleeping Beauty in the Stars” has Argaar hit with a curse that puts almost everyone to sleep, so it’s once again up to the two protagonists to save the day. This one brings in a science fiction component, albeit a comical one, with carnivorous comets and physical constellations. Goofy also starts outright breaking the fourth wall, addressing the cartoonist directly and sometimes actually getting help that way.
Both include creative new animals, like the snow-eating jabber-walkies, the space-hopping cosmo-locust, and the cavern-traveling megamole.
There’s also a Donald Duck story in the collection, “The Secret of 313,” based largely on the 1937 short Don Donald, set in the Mexican desert, where Donald trades his burro for a car, which breaks down and falls apart.This car, identified as a 1934 Belchfire Runabout, became Donald’s standard vehicle in later media, maintaining its habit of constantly breaking down. This comic gives an idea as to why Donald doesn’t just get rid of it, the story he tells Ludwig von Drake being that it was enchanted by a mystic to always retain a spark of life. In the cartoon, Donald has a girlfriend named Donna Duck, sort of a proto-Daisy. The name was later used for a different character in the comics, but here it’s just Daisy, and the back story takes place soon after they started dating, when they were working as extras for a movie being filmed in Mexico. Finally, “Arizona Goof and the Tiger’s Fiery Eye” has Mickey accompanying Goofy’s archaeologist cousin to India to find a long-lost treasure, with help from a powerful yogi. Interestingly, another Italian Disney artist, Andrea Castellan, later introduced Eurasia Toft, another Indiana Jones type who’s friends with Mickey.