Around this time of year I usually devote a few columns to some of the literary lions that have helped to make Dawson City famous since 1898. This year I’m going to diverge a bit and write about another bit of fiction.
It is, perhaps, not known to the general public that the fortune of Scrooge McDuck (which has been estimated by no less than Forbes magazine to be on the order of $27 trillion, or five billion quintiplitilion unptuplatillion multuplatillion impossibidillion fantasticatrillion dollars, according to his creator) began with his discovery of a massive gold nugget the size of goose egg on White Agony Creek, near Dawson, in the Yukon.
It enabled him to make his first million.
The story was told by Carl Barks for Dell Comics (licensing Walt Disney properties) in March 1953 in Back to the Klondike and has been reprinted many times, including an oversized edition from Gladstone in 1987 and a limited edition from the same company after it regained the Disney licensing again in the early 1990s, just in time for the Klondike Gold Rush Centennials.
In this tale, Scrooge, Donald and the triplets, Huey, Dewey and Louie, return to Dawson and discover not only a forgotten piece of Scrooge’s history, but also the love of his life, Glittering Goldie, still living the cabin he had left 50 years before.
In the nature of comic books in those days, the story was fast and furious and narrative arcs that would take five of six full-length issues to play out now got disposed of in 32 pages, which was actually a really long story in those days.
Fortunately for us Don Rosa, who is generally considered to be the heir of Barks’ informal title “The Good Duck Artist”, also took a shine to Scrooge’s sojourn in Dawson and made it a major part of his 12-volume series, The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.
He fleshed out the flashback sequence from Barks’ tale in a 24-page story called “Hearts of the Yukon” (reprinted in 1995), and then went back to Scrooge’s discovery of gold in “King of the Klondike”, which became chapter eight of the “official” biography. It can be found in the Boom Kids hardcover edition of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Volume 2.
Rosa loved the Klondike-flavoured stories and did several more than I am aware of, including “The Prisoner of White Agony Creek”.
In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion (Gemstone Publishing), Rosa collected another dozen stories that fit in between the 12 tales in his original plan, and let us know that both “The Prisoner …” and “Hearts …” fit in right after “King of the Klondike” in his chronology as chapters 8b and 8c.
There is one more story, “The Last Sled to Dawson”, which was apparently Rosa’s very first attempt at using the Klondike setting in 1988. A portion of that tale can be found in The Companion …. The Klondike portions of this tale are, as in Barks’ original story, a memory flashback within a current events story.
That Rosa sees the Klondike portion of Scrooge’s life as being a key to his character is indicated by the way it is used in one final story, “The Dream of a Lifetime,” a rather hallucinogenic tale which begins and ends with Scrooge dreaming of Goldie and the Klondike.
All of these stories are a lot of fun, full of slapstick humour and puns. They are well known around the world and there are probably many adults living today who first learned of Klondike gold in the pages of a Walt Disney comic book.