Wednesday, 17 December 2008


In addition to illustrated story books, comics albums and 'movie story books' by David McKay Co., the earliest Mickey Mouse publications also include two coloring books by Saalfield Co.: Mickey Mouse Coloring Book and Mickey Mouse Pictures to Paint, both of which came out in the summer of 1931. I have never seen the latter anywhere, but the former is available at ebay.
Available scans indicate that some of the illustrations in Mickey Mouse Coloring Book come from Mickey Mouse Book published by Bibo & Lang the year before (see the Nov.22 post in this blog), such as the middle illustration in the first scan below and the bottom illustration in the second scan below:

Below are some other nice scans from Mickey Mouse Coloring Book

With this post, I round up the coverage of earliest American Mickey Mouse publications from 1930-31. Coming posts in this blog will deal with other Mickey Mouse publications from 1930s, so stay tuned on..


Anyone interested in vintage comics in general are invited to take a look at my other blog on pre-war and wartime comics, which I have recently re-activated after several months of inactivity there:

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Besides illustrated story books with original material and reprints of Mickey Mouse newspaper comics in album format, David McKay Co. also published a series of books featuring story adaptations of Mickey cartoon shorts, with stills fom the cartoons themselves used as illustrations.
The first of this kind was the hardcover Mickey Mouse Illustrated Movie Stories which came out at the tail end of 1931. This 200+ pages book featured stories and stills of 11 cartoon shorts from 1930-31.

A budget-priced abridged version featuring only four cartoons (all also featured in the other book) was also published the same year, titled simply as Mickey Mouse Story Book, featuring a different, and more alluring, cover illustration, which saw probably the first-ever appearence of Pluto on a book cover. A Turkish edition of this book would be published in 1944:

David McKay's next pair of 'movie story books' would come in 1934.
The oblong-format Mickey Mouse Movie Stories - Book 2 contains stories of 12 cartoons from the years 1932-34.

Mickey Mouse Stories from the same year contains stories of only four cartoons, all which had earlier been published in 1931's Mickey Mouse Illustrated Movie Stories.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


The first-ever Disney comics book published in the US is titled as Mickey Mouse Series No. 1. It was published by David McKay Co. in 1931 as the first installement of a series of annual comics albums reprinting select Mickey Mouse newspaper comics. It is in the format of other comics albums published in the 1930s by McKay reprinting other popular newspaper comics such as Popeye, that is roughly in square shape with cardboard cover (the book is slightly larger size than my scanner's area, so the above and below scans trim approximately 1 cm length from both the top and the bottom).
The reverse of the front cover carries an ad for the first printing of the illustrated story book The Adventures of Mickey Mouse and below is the scan of the title page:

Reverse of the title page features a "foreword" by Walt Disney where he dedicates this volume both to the fans of Mickey Mouse and to "those masters of merriment, my ever loyal associates, whose brains and brushes, pens and pencils, have been of untold aid". The rest of the book is 47 pages of comics, reprinting Mickey Mouse strips, re-formatted as below in the first page:

This re-formatting, which breaks each daily strip (originally of one row) into two rows, is nevertheless quite acceptable because each page still has one daily strip, so the original intent of the original creators with regards to rihtym is faithfully reproduced.
The daily strips reprinted in this volume date from a time span of from late 1930 to early 1931. First, we have one month of strips from Sept. 23 to Oct. 24 which tell the story of Minnie being courted and apparently seduced by an irritating (for Mickey!) rat named Slicker. All this drives Mickey to several unsuccessful suicide attempts! This is a now-legendary episode in the history of Mickey Mouse comics and has never been reprinted in the US again...
In the original newspaper run of the strips, Slicker was eventually revealed to be a fortune-hunter, but the reprints in Mickey Mouse Series No. 1 jump from Mickey qiving up his futile suicide attempts to a series of loosely-related gag strips where he and Minnie have united. These are originally dated from Dec. 27th to Jan. 14th; the volume ends with one more reprint of a gag strip, dated Jan. 17th.
The reverse of the back cover is blank and the back cover itself carries the same illustration as on the front cover.

We do not know precisely in which month Mickey Mouse Series No. 1 was printed, but since it carries an ad for the first printing of the illustrated story book The Adventures of Mickey Mouse, which had come out around May, it must have come out around either mid-1931 or in the 2nd half of the year. This estimate disqualifies it from being the first-ever Disney comics book published in the world because a French album, titled Les aventures de Mickey, reprinting Mickey Mouse strips had already been published in France by Hachette around March that year. And even before that, a Mickey Mouse Annual, featuring short gag comics beside non-comics material, had been published in UK around the Christmas season of 1930.

The second through to the the fourth volumes carry the title Book No. 2, Book Bo.3 and Book No. 4, rather than the word "series" as in the first volume. Book No. 3 reprints Mickey Mouse Sunday half-page comics and is in full color:

The last of the series, Book No. 4, came out in 1934:
This book once again reprints daily strips in black&white. The strips reprinted in this volume are all from 1931. First, there is a continuity from early 1931 in which Mickey engages in a series of fights with a new cat in the neighborhood. This continuity has never been reprinted in the US again, perhaps because of its violent contents. Then, there is another continuity from late 1931 in which Mickey decides to play the cupid. Only parts of this continuity entailing a subplot where Mickey works as a fireman has seen further reprints.

Saturday, 6 December 2008


While the significance of The Adventures of Mickey Mouse (1931) stems from the facts that it is the first Disney book published for retail and that it features the pseudo-debut of Donald Duck (see below post), it is also interesting for some other aspects and is overall a very nice book on its own merits.
First of all, The Adventures of Mickey Mouse is ideal stuff for those (like me) who have a soft spot for stories where Mickey is accompanied by a bunch of other vintage characters, as seen in this spread illustration on the reverse of its front cover:
This spread illustration also signals that the book will reflect the tone of the Mickey Mouse cartoons of the era. The setting clearly belongs to a farm building, in line with the 'barnyard' origin of Mickey Mouse. The depicted event is a musical gathering, which was the central theme of a large part of the earliest cartoons.
Below scans are those of the credits page (the image therein will be used in later Mickey Mouse books as well), copyright page and the dedication page:
The image on the dedication page (above right) actually contradicts the content of the story featured in the book. In that image, Minnie is seen standing by a house proper to her size; however, in the story, both Mickey and Minnie are portrayed as real-life mice-sized creatures living in "nests": Minnie's "home nest" is said to be "hidden, soft and warm, somewhere in the chicken house" while Mickey "lives in cozy nest under the floor of the old barn". Below image is a scan of the full-page illustration prior to the first text page, showing the interiors of Mickey's nest, perfectly capturing the "cozy" nature expressed in the text:
And below image is a scan of an illustration depicting the exteriors of the same nest, similarly made beautiful by the subtle use of soft-tone coloring, as well as by the simple but very charming props:
And below are scans of two pages further in the story, where Minnie's nest is depicted (not to mention her patched panty in full view!):
The plot of the story is very simple: Mickey tricks the ever-menacing Claws the Cat into getting caught in a trap he'd set up for Mickey and safely holds a party for his farm friends. These friends include many characters familiar from Mickey cartoons of the era, some of which turned out to be long-lasting and some of which largely faded into oblivion over the years. These are, first and foremost, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabella Cow, who are named here as "Henry Horse" and "Carloyn Cow". It would be interesting track down when these two of Mickey's oldest friends were first named under the names we know them today. Other mentioned characters are Patricia Pig, Donald Duck (see below post), Clara Cluck the Hen, Robert Rooster, Long Dog the Dachshund, George and Gertie Goat.
Patricia Pig is portrayed in several of the illustrations, including the below:
In addition to the early Mickey Mouse cartoons since 1929, Patricia Pig was also featured in Mickey Mouse daily strip and Sunday page comics in the early 1930s. Her comics appearances would become less sparodic in the 1940s and she would disappear from newspaper comics from early 1950s onwards ('though she would be revived in the 1980s).
On the other hand, I can not spot Clara Cluck, or any hen for that matter, in any of the illustrations in The Adventures of Mickey Mouse even though she is mentioned twice in the text. More curiosly, -not counting an unmaned hen in Mickey's Follies (1929)- the hen known as Clara Cluck does not seem to have appeared in Mickey cartoons by then either! So, Donald Duck is not alone in getting a reference in this book prior to a cartoon appearance... Clara Cluck wouldn't appear in newspaper comics in the 1930s despite her highlight performance in the popular cartoon Orphan's Benefit (1934), but she would have her own comics stories in comics magazines after Orphan's Benefit's color remake in 1943.
As for "Robert Rooster", I cannot spot any rooster in any of the illustrations, either. Actually, I am not aware of any Disney character explicitly named as such in any other media, but there was a rooster in at least two Mickey Mouse cartoons from 1929: The Plowboy and Mickey's Follies.
On the other hand, "George and Gertie Goat" does appear in several of the illustrations. Goat characters had also appeared in early Mickey Mouse cartoons, but I am not aware if they were ever named in that media. A similar goat character named Gideon Goat would appear in Mickey Mouse newspaper comics in the first half of the 1930s before disappearing into complete oblivion.
"Long Dog the Dachshund" also does appear in one illustration, the beautiful one scanned below. He had debutted in the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy (1928) and appeared in the earliest Mickey Mouse daily strips, but could not become a long-lasting character.
I will post about other Mickey Mouse books from 1931 in this blog as well, so stay tune on..

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


The first Disney publication of 1931 was The Adventures of Mickey Mouse, which appears to have come out around May (it was copyrighted on May 19). Besides being the first-ever Disney book produced for retail (1930's Mickey Mouse Book was largely, if not exclusively, utilized as a promotional give-away), this book also has a great curiosity value in that if features the pseudo-debut of the most popular Disney character, Donald Duck, long before his appearance in the cartoon short Wise Little Hen (1933).
The Donald Duck of The Adventures of Mickey Mouse actually has got what can be called a 'bit part' in this illustrated story book. In the first page of the story, Mickey's "many friends in the old barn" are listed by their names and one of the six names (besides Minnie) listed is "Donald Duck". No duck picture accompanies this page.

Interestingly, all the other characters named together with Donald Duck as Mickey's friends were at the time already frequently appearing as side characters in Mickey Mouse cartoons of the era, but it was only Donald Duck which had not yet appeared in a cartoon prior to the publication of this book. Perhaps some sense can be made out of this seeming anomaly by hypothesizing that there might have existed in the Disney studio what might be a list, however rudimentary, of possible side characters with tentative names to populate the Disney universe.
Or, even a wilder hyphothesis might be that perhaps this "Donald Duck" had already appeared in Mickey cartoons by then?! Look at the Mickey Mouse cartoon The Birthday Party, released in January 1931, that is a only few months before the publication of The Adventures of Mickey Mouse, and you'll see ducks there among the crowd throwing a party at Mickey, alongside the other familiar (and some unfamiliar) side characters...

It would not be too farfetched to think that one of the unnamed ducks of the cartoon might be the duck named as Donald in the book. At least this much can be assumed with reasonable safety: the creators of the book almost certainly must have looked at the most recent cartoons to draw upon the supporting cast of their story, and when they did, they saw ducks as well as horses, cows, pigs, et al. Of course, where did the name Donald came from and who named that name might never be known.

Besides the introduction at the first page, Donald Duck is mentioned for the second and last time in the text halfway through story as one of the farm characters who accept Mickey's invitation for a party:

In the illustration, we see two ducks coming out of the pond to meet Mickey and Minnie. However, unlike all the other farm folk, these ducks do not appear to be clothed. Even Horace (by the way, he is named as Henry in this story) who is on his fours is wearing a hat and is hence semi-humanized, but these ducks are not.
A pair of fully clothed ducks do appear on the spread illustration on the reverse of the back cover 'though:
The text reference to farm folk accepting Mickey's invitation had mentioned "their families" as well and hence we have a male and a female duck in this illustration. (Is the female duck a pseudo-debut of Daisy? Well, I will not go into that... ). The back cover features the male duck - obviously Donald Duck of the text- solo:
The next mention of Donald Duck as one of Mickey's friends would come one and a half years later in the British Mickey Mouse Annual and the inspiration for that text reference almost certainly have come from The Adventures of Mickey Mouse.
In the next post in this blog, I will cover The Adventures of Mickey Mouse extensively on its own merits, so stay tuned on...