cover image Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: "Race to Death Valley"

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: "Race to Death Valley"

Floyd Gottfredson. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (260p) ISBN 978-1-60699-441-2

Mickey Mouse wasn't always the cute and harmless rodent of Disney megabranding fame. As this dense and action-packed book shows, the early years of Mickey were quite a bit rougher. The first in a series, "Race to Death Valley" compiles the daily newspaper strips written by the inventive Gottfredson (often working from story and character concepts invented by Walt himself) between April 1930 and January 1932, interwoven with thoughtful essays by fellow Disney artists. Gottfredson's strips are jammed with incident and detail, energized with a loopy energy that matches the spunky determination of Mickey himself. Running pell-mell from one dangerous escapade to the next (spooky houses and runaway trains predominate), Mickey is all spit and fire as he confronts louts like Pegleg Pete and the Fox while protecting his risk-prone flapper girlfriend, Minnie: "Give up?? Never!!" The quite visible specter of the Depression and occasional dark humor, as when Mickey tries multiple times to kill himself and fails comically, only add to the sense of heroic grit. (June)