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Comic Book / The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck

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"The quality of your lives depends on what you make of them! The only limits to adventure are the limits of your imagination!"
Scrooge McDuck, The Richest Duck in the World

Keno Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck was the ultimate Arc Welding project of the Promoted Fanboy of Carl Barks already famous for his Continuity Porn. Defying Comic-Book Time, Don Rosa's 12-part epic takes every (reasonably possible) Noodle Incident, adventure, and reference from Scrooge McDuck's life in Barks's comics and organizes them into a coherent, plausible timeline.

The saga begins when Scrooge is ten years old in 1877 and ends with meeting his nephew Donald Duck at the time of his premiere story in Christmas 1947. In-between, the series tells the story of how a poor lad from Scotland traveled the globe building up a fortune and financial empire by being smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies to become the richest man in the world, having every possible adventure a Self-Made Man could find. The series gives us our best look at Scrooge's family — his parents, uncles, and sisters — and shows how he met enemies like Flintheart Glomgold and the Beagle Boys, friends like Theodore Roosevelt, and Mentors like Howard Rockerduck that helped mold him into the Anti-Hero Jerk with a Heart of Gold we've known him as. The epic is packed with Character Development, adventure, Continuity Nods, Leaning on the Fourth Wall, a miraculous amount of violence and innuendo that got past the radar, and of course Don Rosa's trademark Scenery Porn and insane amount of historical, geographical, and cultural research.

The 12 original chapters were released in issues of Uncle Scrooge from April 1994 through February 1996. They were published together in an anthology in June 2005. In the spirit of Disney's love of midquels, in September 2006, Gemstone released The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion, which turned 7 of Don Rosa's previously published Uncle Scrooge stories (and 1 brand new story) into Midquels since they were Flashbacks about more adventures from Scrooge's glory days... essentially Arc Welding within Arc Welding. Most of the midquels use a Framing Device of Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie unearthing Scrooge's trunk of memorabilia in his money bin and asking questions about the stories behind its contents, prompting said flashbacks.

Most of the stories (including the midquels) were released in Europe before appearing in the American Uncle Scrooge series; for example, the original twelve chapters appeared in countries including Denmark, Germany, and Norway in 1992. The release dates given below give the first publication and then its American equivalent.

This work earned Don Rosa the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in 1995 for "Best Serialized Story".

A concept album based on the book by Tuomas Holopainen, simply titled Music Inspired By The Life and Times of Scrooge, was released in April 2014.

Tropes across the series:

  • Acquaintance Denial: Scrooge tries to capture the McViper brothers who had stolen a bull from Scrooge's boss. He accidentally gets one of them tied to a grizzly, and when the tangled brother tries to get his sibling to help him, the latter refuses because he's too busy running away from the bear.
    Snake-Eyes: Save me, Haggis! I'm your own brother!
    Haggis: I've never seen you before! Go away!
  • All There in the Manual: Between each chapter, Rosa explains which "Barksian facts" he used to create it.
  • An Aesop: Hard work and perseverance pays off! Don Rosa himself was shocked and touched to receive letters from people who would tell him that reading Life and Times inspired them in Real Life to work hard for their dreams and to not be afraid of failure. Not bad for a (technically) children's comic about an anthropomorphic duck.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • In the "Hearts of Yukon", the residents of Dawson City was getting freaked out over the possible arrival of someone named Steele. As Scrooge wonders who this "Steele" is, a large man riding a bear strolls in the bar Scrooge is drinking in, and starts demanding food and guzzling the beer. At first it would seem that this menace is "Steele", only for the man to just as quickly leave because he too is scared of Steele.
    • In "The Prisoner of White Agony Creek", after Scrooge rescues Goldie from falling off a waterfall. When they are safe, she points at the pair of thugs that kidnapped her and tells Scrooge he can't leave them to fall. Scrooge agrees and goes over to the pair, and when the overjoyed thugs thought they were going to be saved, Scrooge simply cuts off the leash of their sled dogs and leaves with the critters, leaving the thugs to their doom.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Scrooge meets many real historical figures and unwittingly causes the sinking of the Titanic.
  • Beta Couple: Quackmore Duck/Hortense McDuck for Alpha Couple Scrooge McDuck/Glittering Goldie. Both couples run on Belligerent Sexual Tension, and frequently communicate by insulting each other. However, while Scrooge and Goldie are adamant to keep up their tough-talking charade that they never actually confess, Quackmore and Hortense always end their argument by swooning for one another and ends up pretty Happily Married, all things considered.
  • Blue Blood: The Clan McDuck is a long dynasty of nobles who once served kings and owned a large mansion and the surrounding lands in Scotland. However, when Scrooge was born, they've lost most of their wealth and could barely pay the taxes to keep their castle.
  • Book Ends: The series starts and ends with Scrooge going through his money and memories. Don lampshades this trope, saying, "It's just the sort of corny thing we writers and artists do."
  • Bowdlerize: The series' frequent Symbol Swearing is removed in many translations to not include swearing at all.
  • Continuity Porn: Don Rosa attempts to explain every reference that Cark Barks had Scrooge make to his life before coming into contact with his nephews. The series therefore provides references and call backs to numerous stories written by Carl Barks. For example, the end of the first story, The Last of the Clan McDuck, has Scrooge's father give him a watch and a set of golden teeth. The watch had shown up years previously in Carl Barks' Heirloom Watch. That same story also references Barks' Whiskervilles, The Horseradish Story, and The Old Castle's Secret. He even managed to take some stories into account that he did not personally enjoy too much, such as Voodoo Hoodoo, in which Scrooge McDuck, who is touted as having made his entire fortune square, fondly remembers the time he cheated an African tribe out of their land. Other stories are outright ignored, such as The Magic Hourglass, which implied that the titular hourglass was responsible for Scrooge's wealth through luck.
  • Cool Horse: Hortense, an ill-tempered mare Scrooge was given when he began working for cattle baron Murdo MacKenzie, and named after his youngest sister (who was not amused). Despite her temper, Hortense proved to be a horse with some unusual talents.
    Scrooge: "I'll get Hortense later, cap'n! She's stretching her legs!"
    Sailor on the mast: "Blimey! There's a bloomin' 'orse on the tops'l yardarm!"
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Scrooge and Goldie doesn't end up together despite their mutual attraction. Which as adamant and vocal a Scrooge/Goldie shipper as Don Rosa is, deserves major credit for maintaining.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The musicians aboard Titanic continues to calmly play their instruments as the ship is sinking to give the other passengers courage. When they finally do decide to bail due to Bombie's appearance, they do so in an equally deadpan manner — and they're still playing their instruments as they jump off the ship.
  • Dominance Through Furniture: The Sultans of Djokja (modern day Jogjakarta) and Solo use servants as their convenient chairs.
  • End of an Era: An unfortunate recurring theme of Scrooge's life; by the time he travelled to America in 1891 to seek his fortune, the Frontier Era was drawing to a close, and most of the businesses that had thrived in those early days went with it. The transcontinental railroad made the river boats obsolete, the mid-western grasslands were being divided up into homesteads and put the iconic cowboys out of work, the great mineral rushes were all but over, and the U.S was slowly changing from a wild, untamed land into an industrial nation, with Scrooge seemingly always one step behind.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: After Scrooge destroys Foola Zoola's village and tricks him into selling him the land it was built on, Hortense and Matilda leave him a letter where they say that while they understand how his experiences have hardened him, there's no excuse for his dishonesty.
  • Funetik Aksent: All Scottish characters (including Scrooge in his youth) speak with a funetik aksent.
    "Ah'm Fergus McDuck and ah cannae trespass on me own land?!"
  • Funny Background Event: Happens all the time thanks to Don Rosa's attention to details. Scrooge may be doing one thing with a minor repercussion shown in the background of the next panel.
  • Genre-Busting: It's a Funny Animals comic book that follows all the conventions of the classic Epic — a truly modern epic.
  • Glasses of Aging: Scrooge starts wearing his distinctive glasses when he moved to Duckburg, where he would eventually build his business empire, which also marks the beginning of his gradual descent to greed and villainy. He actually used glasses for reading as early as his mid-20's, due to the toll prospecting and cattle ranching had begun to take on his body, but this is only shown in one panel of The New Laird of Castle McDuck, and only began wearing them permanently when he moved to Duckburg.
  • Gold Fever: Kicks in for Scrooge at the end of The New Laird of Castle McDuck
  • Hair Memento: Scrooge's most prized possession is not any of his money or treasures, but a lock of hair from Goldie O'Gilt. Though unlike most examples she didn't give it to him, but he cut it off while saving her from a bear.
  • He's Back!: “The Richest Duck In The World”. It's Christmas Day 1947. The Duck boys have just met their old uncle Scrooge and have returned to his mansion after the events of Christmas on Bear Mountain, just in time for the Beagle Boys to lock them in Scrooge’s old storage closet. Donald picks up an old pickaxe and says rich Uncle Scrooge wouldn’t know how to use such a thing. Scrooge finally snaps, straightens up, shrugs off his dressing gown to reveal his classic broadcloth jacket beneath, grabs the pick, breaks the door down himself and sets off to catch the Beagles. The King Of The Klondike is back.
  • Historical Person Punchline: The series is rife with famous historical persons, but their identities generally get revealed right away. There are exceptions though:
    • In The Buckaroo of the Badlands, Scrooge befriends a young man who chose to become a cowboy instead of continuing his political career. Scrooge inspires him to go back into politics. The story's last panel reveals this fellow's initials to be T. R..
    • In The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff, Scrooge meets a lot of legends of The Wild West: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, P. T. Barnum, and the Daltons. And an elderly Native American who escaped from his reservation and now performs in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He is Gokhlayeh, which well-read readers might recognise as the native name of Geronimo, the famous Apache leader.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Scrooge McDuck has established his badass credentials several times with these. When he was left for dead in the South African Savanna, he went berserk against all the animals trying to eat or kill him and cowed a lion into becoming his steed. In Australia, he encountered an Emu and used it instead, at least until it ran off from an approaching flood. In the Klondike, he has used moose for transport on more than one occasion. In Hearts of the Yukon, we also briefly see a rider arrive into Dawson City on a bear—but even he's scared of Samuel Steele.
  • Humans Are Bastards: A running theme is that people who will be perfectly nice to you when you're both poor will, the second you become rich, start to resent you like crazy. And try to mooch off of you at best, outright rob you at worst.
  • Idea Bulb: Parodied in both The Vigilante Of Pizen Bluff and Hearts of the Yukon, where an oil lamp being turned on by hand appears as a substitute, even though Scrooge already had an encounter with an actual lightbulb in Raider Of The Copper Hill.
  • Identical Grandson: Gyro Gearloose looks like his grandfather Ratchet.
  • In the Blood: Greed is in the McDuck blood.
  • I See Dead People: As a young lad, Scrooge was the only one the ghosts of the McDuck clan would reveal themselves to, particularly Quackly, though Scrooge never realized who Quackly actually was when they met. The closest he got was a Near-Death Experience where he met his ancestors in the afterlife, which he forgot when he revived.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Scrooge's sister Matilda made a scrapbook of letters, artifacts, and newspaper clippings from all his adventures, which appears on the first page of the original chapters and which the boys are looking at in the midquels.
  • Last of His Kind: Scrooge is the last of the McDuck clan.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Notably during the end of The Empire Builder From Calisota, where young Donald Duck delivers a kick to Scrooge's ass. At the conclusion of The Richest Duck in the World, Scrooge recalls this and kicks Donald's ass in return, solidifying his Adrenaline Makeover.
  • Manchild: Downplayed with Roosevelt, who doesn't behave in an overtly childish manner, but his thirst for adventure and his antics to indulge in this boyish fancy is described as rather juvenile.
    Private: Why is the president taking a steam shovel out on a late-night spin?
    Secret Service Agent: Don't worry about it. Just remember that, at heart, the President is six-years old.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Soapy Slick and his goons give a frightened reaction upon realizing they've pushed Scrooge too far.
    Soapy: Oops!
  • Meaningful Name: Why else would Scrooge's eventual love interest be named Goldie?
  • Media Watchdog: Several illustrations with guns were altered because Disney only permitted guns to be shown if they weren't pointed at people.
  • Noodle Incident: Defied as every Carl Barks Noodle Incident ever is "un-noodled".
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Scrooge is just a scrawny duck who, by the time he reaches his prime, is capable of taking out fifty or some enemies with his bare hands.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The entire series captures Scrooge's development through life, how his experiences and hardships shaped him from an optimistic youth to the money-hungry villain he was in his debut, and his eventual redemption. If you pay particular attention to the portraits of the main albums, he gets progressively meaner with each portrait until he ends up a broken old man.
  • Rags to Riches: The series depicts Scrooge's ascension from a poor boy from Glasgow to the planet's richest duck.
  • Real After All: The ghosts of Castle McDuck.
  • Red Baron: Scrooge earns himself the titles the Master of the Mississippi, the Buckaroo of the Badlands, the Pizen of Pizen Bluff, the King of the Klondike and finally, The Richest Duck In The World.
  • Retcon: While generally very faithful to the Carl Barks stories, some aspects are changed:
    • In Voodoo Hoodoo, Scrooge looked like Donald Duck when Bombie the Zombie first went after him because that was his natural youthful appearance. Here, it was just a disguise, including the flattened sideburns, which are never visible in other pictures of him with Bombie. He also changed the year the story took place, since Barks' year simply couldn't work with Rosa's timeline.
    • Any claims that Scrooge's #1 Dime is "lucky"note  are just rumors spread by an ignorant public. It did serve as his inspiration, and helped motivate him to earn his fortune, but there's nothing supernatural about the coin itself. (Which makes the Carl Barks story where Scrooge began losing his fortune as soon as he lost his dime, which Don referenced numerous times, into Canon Discontinuity.)
    • Goldie wasn't really kidnapped. She was acting in order to get Scrooge to lower his guard and reveal where he'd hidden the deed to his claim to her. She was also armed with a derringer, meaning she could have turned the tables on Scrooge the moment he turned his back.
  • Rhyming Names: The witch doctor of the voodoo village is named Foola Zoola, and the zombie he conjures to go after Scrooge after the latter stole his land is named Bombie.
  • The Seven Western Plots: The comic is an empire story chronicling Scrooge McDuck's rise to becoming the richest duck in the world, and much of the early story is actually set in the old west where Scrooge works on a riverboat in Louisville, as a cowboy in Montana, and in copper mining when the cattle boom ends.
  • Shown Their Work: In addition to the many Carl Barks in-jokes, Don Rosa packed a lot of historical anecdotes into the stories.
  • Symbol Swearing: Even printed on a newspaper at the end of "The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut" and a sign during "The Richest Duck in the World". Not present in "Of Ducks, Dimes, and Destinies" or "The Last of the Clan McDuck".
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry:
    • Judge Roy Bean, when running away from a moose stampede remarks, "I'm horrified. Appalled. Visibly shaken."
    • Captain Moore is such The Stoic and would frequently state his emotions in a deadpan manner rather than expressing them with his face.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Hortense and Matilda McDuck, Scrooge's younger sisters. Hortense is easily angered and fights ferociously, Matilda is gentle and worries for her brother when he is abroad. Curiously, Matilda (the middle child) is the only one of the siblings who lacks a nasty temper.
  • Town Contest Episode: In "The Billionaire of Dismal Downs", Scrooge participates in the Highland Games to reintigrate himself with Scottish society. It doesn't work, as Scrooge has been gone so long and experienced so much of the world that he's effectively a stranger in his own hometown. The contest just made it painfully clear.
  • Trigger-Happy: Annie Oakley in The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff, Goldie, and Scrooge to an extent
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Most of the chapter titles are titles applied to Scrooge.
  • Voodoo Zombie: Bombie the Zombie was enchanted by African voodoo priest Foola Zoola to get revenge on Scrooge McDuck for attacking his tribe and stealing his land. Scrooge, who strongly resembled his future nephew Donald, changed his appearance back just enough to confuse Bombie to leave him be. However, Bombie continued to pursue Scrooge for years as the curse was never lifted, and eventually went after Donald in Carl Barks's original story. (In the original story, Bombie is incapable of understanding that Scrooge has aged since they last met, and goes after the person that most closely resembles a younger Scrooge.)
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Scrooge's quest for riches is accompanied with many losses, which at the end raises the question of if becoming the richest duck in the world had any sense after all. Lampshaded, as his quest for the position of "world's richest duck" alienated him from his beloved sisters and his extended family, left him friendless, and essentially alone. In 1947, the 80-year-old Scrooge has money, but lives a solidary life and seems to have lost his hopes and ambitions.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Scrooge's horse Hortense, named after his equally fiery sister.
  • The Wild West: Scrooge arrives in America during the last decade of the Old West, with things like cattle drives, cowboys, outlaws and Indians slowly becoming outdated.
  • Wintry Auroral Sky: Scrooge McDuck made his initial fortune during the Klondike Gold Rush. During the nighttimes, Scrooge is often shown admiring the aurora borealis, or to underscore moodier scenes.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: So how old is Blackheart Beagle supposed to be? He was already an experienced river pirate in 1880 with his three sons as his lackeys (who themselves were adults or at the very least in their late teens) when they first tussled with a 13-year-old Scrooge. Even assuming that Blackheart was a a very young dad and in his early 30s in 1880-1882, that would still mean he was pushing 100 years old when he first reunited with the 80-year-old Scrooge in 1947, yet he’s just as spry and active as Scrooge himself (without context, you'd think they were the same age), and the same is true during Blackheart’s comeback in A Little Something Special.