Frank Stajano's Introduc(k)tion

Hello everybody and thanks for making this list the high-quality forum that it is! I've only discovered it recently and I think I've found the Holy Grail. I was sure that there were other people in the world who loved the Disney comics just like I do and I was longing to find some to correspond with...

As this is my first message to the list, custom dictates that I start with an introduc(k)tion. So here it goes.

My name is Francesco Stajano, generally known as Frank. I am Italian but I've been moving around quite a lot; I lived in Belgium for four years in the '70s and I've been in Cambridge, UK, since 1992 (no, that's not university, I did that in Rome; this one in Cambridge is a permanent real-world job). English is my third language after Italian and French.

Like all of you on this list I am an enthusiastic Disney fan. I learnt to read at age three (STRICTLY ALL-CAPITALS, OF COURSE) thanks to Topolino, the Italian Mickey Mouse comic. While at primary school one of my most prized possessions was a small booklet that other Italians on the list won't fail to recognise, "Vita e dollari di Paperon De' Paperoni" ("Life and dollars of Scrooge Mc Duck"), a black and white paperback with some great Barks stories including "A Christmas for Shacktown", "Uncle Scrooge and the Seven Cities of Cibola", "Only a Poor Old Man" and "Back to the Klondike" (censored, of course, although I had no idea that it was). At the time I couldn't tell what the actual difference was (I naively believed that all the Disney comics in existence had been written by a gentleman named Walt Disney), but I very definitely felt that these stories were special compared to all the other ones. When aged 9 or 10 I got hold of a huge volume (for comparison: the format was slightly larger than that of the blue CBL volumes with which you are probably familiar) with more Barks stories: "Io, Paperone" ("I, Scrooge"). Again, these were "the special stories". Among the most prized comics I had at the time were also some Gottfredson reprints (that was the "Il Topolino d'oro" ("The Golden Mickey Mouse") series), including the Dr. Einmug "Island in the Sky" one and "Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot". In all fairness I must admit that, while I found them fascinating, I was a bit scared by the Gottfredson stories! Barks was gentler, more reassuring: the only Barks story that I ever found frightening was "The Old Castle's Secret", which despite that was one of the ones I liked best. And, as well as these golden oldies, I had lots of "plain" Italian Disney comics, which I all knew almost by heart: you could show me the cover and I would tell you the stories inside.

At that time my family moved to Waterloo, Belgium. As a sort of compensation for having left all my schoolfriends behind, I was granted a subscription to Topolino. A couple of years later this was stopped, on the grounds that I was a grown-up and I was not supposed to have that childish passion for comics, and all that sort of rubbish (sounds familiar to you? I hope not...). But the worst was yet to come: when, a couple more years later, we came back to Italy, my father obliged me to get rid of almost all my comics (!) because we couldn't afford to carry around all that junk (!!) and the new house was smaller anyway. Sigh! So this started a sad, dark Disney-less age that lasted for several years. (With hindsight I might say that it was a good thing that this happened at that time, as the late '70s and early '80s were a comparatively poor period for the Italian production of Disney comics.)

Many years later, when I was at university, I once found a second-hand comics shop with piles of "Topolino" in the back room. So I bought a few. You may guess the rest. You can't separate what Destiny once joined... Over the years, I bought back most of the comics that I had had to give away in Belgium, plus tons more. Back to full-time Disney passion again! Only, now I had a more "adult" perspective: I could tell the various artists apart (although I could only assign "Dances-With-Wolves"-style names to them, because the publisher didn't print the credits) and I liked to indulge in comparative studies of various reprints of the same story to find out, e.g., what the original format of the pages was, what bits had been added and what bits had been edited out from a translated edition and so on. I tried to assign a rough date to a story from the shape of accessories like telephones and cars... That's when I started to call myself, jokingly, "filologo disneyano", a Disney philologist. When I got into modems and bulletin boards I inserted this description in my signature and it has remained there since. It once upset somebody, a comics collector I met on a bulletin board who claimed that _he_, if anyone, should be the one "wearing" this title. He hadn't realised that "filologo disneyano" does not have a definite article in front of it; I am not claiming to be "THE" Disney philologist, just "A" Disney philologist -- just like the words "research engineer" on my business card shouldn't be taken to mean that I am the only person in the world with that qualification. Rest assured that, whenever I meet other people who are themselves Disney philologists, I am all too excited about it! That's why I am so happy I found this mailing list which, by what I've seen from the monthly digests, has a very high S/N ratio and a high density of dedicated comics lovers.

Let's now get more specific about my Disney preferences and knowledge (the Disney comics world is so large that most of us only know specific areas of it: I look forward to learning a lot more thanks to you all). I know the Italian production rather well. There has been so much of it, lately (more new authors than I can recognise), that not all of it is up to the highest standards; but there are still top-notch stories from selected authors coming out at a steady pace. The Italian artist who I think has been doing best in 1995 is definitely Massimo De Vita. There are also some *VERY* gifted newcomers, but I'll talk about these in later messages. I love Barks, of course, to me the best Disney author ever (the greatest joy in my life was to meet him in London in 1994 -- he even signed my old "Io, Paperone" book! There's a picture of him on my web page), and Gottfredson. I am not thrilled by the current French and Brazilian production (although I like the B-stories with Fethry Duck's nephew-- what's his name in English?) and don't know much about the D- and H- stuff.

I only discovered Don Rosa's work last year, when I went to a computer conference in America; I hoped to fill up on comics but didn't have any spare time to look for the right shops, so I came back with only ONE (can you believe it!?) comic, bought at the airport. Luckily it had part of the "Life of Scrooge" saga in it. That's how I got to know Don's stuff. At first I didn't like the art too much (too un-Disney: with all that woodcut-like inking it felt more like a "Where is Wally?" book than a duck comic) and I also felt it was a bit cheeky and assertive to want to complete Barks' universe... But the story was good, so I was intrigued. This year I went to Canada for another conference (the follow-up to last year's, actually), and this time I took a few days off to be sure I could fill up on comics. And I sure did. Just before that, I had been to another conference in Milan and I had found the new series of "If", with an article by Fabio Gadducci describing Don's work and mentioning this list (they managed to screw up the Internet address by the way...). The "Return to Xanadu" story sounded fascinating. You bet that, in Toronto, I especially looked for comics containing Don's stories!

I am a collector of stories, not of comics per se, and I've had some heated flame-wars with people from the opposite camp. I accept and enjoy reprints instead of originals if they are faithful and of reasonable quality. I was pleased to read Harry Fluks' introduc(k)tion which expresses a similar point of view. Don's "The Money Pit" story from Donald Duck Adventures (Disney) #1 is also close to my feelings, with lines such as "They put their coins in plastic sleeves, and are even afraid to TOUCH then for fear they'll be worth less to somebody ELSE! Hee hee!" Well said Don-- we know you were actually referring to COMICS collectors!

But this message is getting too long already-- time to stop. What about non-Disney things? I'll be very brief on that. I am a computer person, by passion and by trade (always good when the two go together, and you get paid to do what you like...); in 1992 I wrote a rather successful book on modems and communications (good news, it's free; bad news, at least for most of you, it's in Italian); in 1994 I created the DOOM Honorific Titles. For more information about me, including contact information and PGP keys, you may visit my web page. I add goodies from time to time. The Disney pages I have in mind may eventually make their long overdue appearance too. If you only have text access to the net, try finger.

Frank (Filologo Disneyano)

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    Originally written on 1995 08 16 (disney-comics digest 756).
    Last updated 1995 11 05.