OVERLAP OF FANTASY AND METALEPSIS IN DISNEY COMICS

Katja Kontturi

University of Jyväskylä

Considering Disney comics, we often see them as good-natured animal comics without profound content. However, already Carl Barks (1901–2000) tackled themes such as Vietnam War, environmental issues as well as American consumerism. His so-called successor, Don Rosa (1951-) has not taken the satirist path that Barks did, but concentrated more in deepening the characters and creating a whole “Duckverse” based on references taken from Barks’s works.

In addition to the historical accuracy and meticulous work to situate Scrooge McDuck as part of the eminent world events such as the sinking of the Titanic, Rosa takes on the more postmodern approach and combines fact with (fantastic) fiction. Rosa’s Duckverse includes several storylines that has fantastic content. His Ducks travel to lost valleys, outer space, the era of King Arthur, dreams and mythical places such as Finnish national epic, Kalevala, to name but a few. Besides, the city of Duckburg itself has operators like the inventor Gyro Gearloose and sorceress Magica DeSpell to create fantastic and supernatural events confusing the local citizens.

From the perspective of comics studies, what is interested about Rosa’s fantasy, is how often postmodern phenomenon called metalepsis occurs side by side of it.Metalepsis, as described by comics scholar Karin Kukkonen (2011), means breaking, transforming or moving the borders of fictional word. This means that the characters inside the fiction realize the borders or their fictionality in some way. Talking about metalepsis, there is always a hierarchy: there’s the world of which the story is about (the storyworld) and the world where the telling of the story occurs (actual world) and metalepsis is the transition between these worlds.

To be more precise, according to another comics scholar, Jan Baetens (1991), the fictional world of comics lies within the panels. And whenever a character moves from panel to gutter, he or she leaves the fictional world – thus enabling metalepsis.

This paper aims to study the Disney comics by Don Rosa (in addition to some Italian comics artists who practice the same method in various ways) from the perspective of fantasy and metalepsis. I will concentrate especially in the transitions between the fantastic worlds and compare them to the transitions between the hierarchical narrative levels and the comics narrative methods typical for metalepsis. For instance, in Don Rosa’s “Escape from Forbidden Valley”, when Donald is thrown in a valley of dinosaurs by angry native people, he actually falls through the border of the panel. Similarly, in Roberto Gagnor’sand Giorgio Cavazzano’s “Destino”, Mickey, Goofy and Donald fall into the painting of Salvador Dalí. The painting can be interpreted both as a secondary fantasy world according to fantasy scholar Maria Nikolajeva (1988), or as a work by an artist thus making it hierarchically a lower narration level inside the comic.

I will ground my arguments within the theories of suitable comics scholars as well as fantasy genre theories. As comics haven’t been studied much from the fantasy genre perspective, the visual cues and narration will be in the centre of this paper.

References:

Baetens, Jan 1991: “Pour unepoétique de la gouttière.” Word & Image 7.4. Taylor & Francis, s. 365–376.

Kukkonen, Karin 2011a: “Metalepsis in Popular Culture: An Introduction”. Metalepsis in Popular Culture.Toim. Karin Kukkonen& Sonja Klimek. Narratologia #28, Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berliini / New York, pp. 1–21.

Kukkonen, Karin 2011b: “Metalepsis in Comics and Graphic Novels”. Metalepsis in Popular Culture.Toim. Karin Kukkonen& Sonja Klimek. Narratologia #28, Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berliini / New York, pp. 213–231.

Nikolajeva, Maria 1988: The Magic Code. The Use of Magical Patterns in Fantasy for Children. Almqvist &Wiksell, Göteborg.