Comic Shots: Uncle Scrooge and Sam Adams Utopias

Each week the iFanStaff passes along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail (or beer, or wine, or booze) and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.


Though you often hear about very expensive wine or liquor, expensive beer is still a foreign concept to a lot of people. Generally speaking, a ten-spot can buy you a terrible bottle of liquor, a decent bottle of wine, or a stellar six-pack of beer. Beer is, as it has always been, a working class drink at a working class price point.

There is an arm of the beer industry that has put a focus on producing, shall we say, “luxury” beer. There’s a small cadre of breweries producing beers that cost $30, $40, $50 a case sixer bottle. Some of this pricing can be blamed on cultural differences, and even more can be ascribed to weird, silly gimmicks. Still, high cost in beer is usually directly related to high quality. Storing and aging beer for years (or decades), time- and labor-intensive brewing techniques, and pricey ingredients all up the retail cost of beer, but make for world-class libations.

One of the best of the bunch is Samuel Adams’ Utopias, a super-strong ale released by the brewery every two years. Made from a blend of fresh and vintage batches aged in liquor barrels, the uncarbonated ale has much more in common with a high-end liquor than the typical beer. At around 25% alcohol by volume (or 50 proof), it’s about as strong as some liquors, too. The whole shebang comes in numbered, 22oz ceramic brew kettle-shaped decanters, which retail for about $150. Given the price and the strength (it’s strong enough to be illegal in 13 states), it’s a brew to be sipped and savored rather than chugged.

Utopias is a delightful drink, although it’s probably 180 degrees from what you typically think of as beer. Uncarbonated and sweet, with notes of dark fruit and figs, the flavor reminds me more of sherry than anything else. Vanilla, cocoa and maple syrup (used while brewing) are present, too. It’s a crisp brew with a clean finish, and none of the biting alcohol burn you’ll find in lower-quality liquor and beer. It’s complex and unique – definitely worth seeking out at a beer festival or tasting, even if you aren’t up for dropping over $100 on a bottle of what still technically qualifies as “beer.”

So, what book to pair with high-end booze? There’s only one real option; Uncle Scrooge, who just got a slick new hardcover from Fantagraphics.

Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge : “Only a Poor Old Man”
by Carl Barks
Published by Fantagraphics Books

“If you had a fortune of umpteen-certrifugillion dollars, what would you do with it?”

The opening line of Carl Barks’ “Only a Poor Old Man” effectively sets up the stingy Scrooge McDuck in his first starring role. The character, Donald Duck’s maternal uncle, had been the antagonist in a number of Donald Duck comics before jumping to his own book in 1952. This beautiful hardcover, the second collecting Barks’ Disney stories, holds the first Scrooge story, three other classics (“Back to the Klondike,” “Tralla La La,” and “The Secret of Atlantis”), and dozens of shorter stories. All the pages have been recolored for the new edition, and the book is rounded out by nearly 30 pages of story notes that detail the comics’ history and Barks’ process.

Also included is an introduction by George Lucas, whose admiration for Scrooge’s quintessentially “American” attitude may go a long way towards exploring the director’s love of merchandising.

As a fella who was raised watching Ducktales, it’s impossible for me to separate my love for this book from my own nostalgia. I was, perhaps, predestined to love these new editions of Barks’ classics. Nevertheless, these stories tap into something deeper – they are, at their core, good stories. Barks’ characters are funny and charming, and their constant scheming (be it in an attempt to save a dollar or to thwart the Beagle Boys) is wildly creative. It’s a reminder that comics can be fun, and comics can be silly, and these comics can still be very very good. The one-page gags occasionally show their age, but the four central stories still feel fresh.

By the time he was writing and drawing Uncle Scrooge, Carl Barks was a masterful cartoonist. No one will confuse the anthropomorphic ducks and dogs in Uncle Scrooge with their counterparts in Blacksad, but the light touch in Barks’ work has its own appeal. The artist also drew with astounding fluidity, particularly in action sequences. There’s a sense of kinetic energy in Uncle Scrooge that fits perfectly with the lightning-paced 50s storytelling. It’s all pulled together by the new coloring from the publisher, which really makes the panels pop.

My fiance suggested I might be stretching credulity by pairing a beer with a children’s book, but I’ll stand by it. Uncle Scrooge is the perfect all-ages book, which has plenty of appeal for folks young and old. There’s a lot of book here, but it reads fast. Scrooge himself would undoubtedly approve if you chose to read the book while enjoying a few ounces (just a miserly portion, of course) of the very expensive, very tasty Utopias.


More of Josh Christie’s discretionary income goes to beer than he’d like to admit. Follow him on Twitter for plenty of talk about beer, books, bookselling, and even comics.

Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy the comics that make you happy. Smile more.

Comments

  1. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    I want one of those decanters for sheer beauty, that’d look great on a shelf next to some of my other liquor related decor/bottles and pint glasses including the soon to be in my collection Spaceghost toon tumbler pint glass.

  2. VTfan says:

    I grew up reading these books. To me, Barks is an under-appreciated genius of comic books, who deserves to be held in the same esteem as Eisner or Kirby. This review is right on. But in addition, Barks meticulously researched the exotic settings around the globe where many adventures led Scrooge and the nephews, and there is a subtlety to the characters lacking in most other comics aimed at children. Consider, for example, one of his masterpieces, Back to the Klondike, where the action sequences, some censored by Disney, have been called “Kirby with ducks” but the overall story shows both why Scrooge is so tough and that he can be very gentle. If you haven’t read the Barks opus, you have a real treat. It’s great to see these respectful editions. Well worth the splurge!

    • +1 to all this. I should mention that this new edition includes those censored action sequences, and has a discussion of the reasons for the removal in the “liner notes” at the end of the book.

  3. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Love, love, love me some Disney comics. Fond memories of various Disney digests in my youth. Look forward to grabbing this new collection. The hardcovers are so beautifully constructed.

  4. MaxPower MaxPower says:

    As a lover of comics and a self proclaimed beer connoisseur (and proud homebrewer) these posts are always my absolute favorite and I have to say that they’ve been excellent recently. Thanks Ali, Ryan and Josh for the great beer descriptions and clever ties to some true classic comics. Whoever’s up next, I’d love to know if they could get their hands on some Westvletern 12 to experience its majesty and pair it with something equally exquisite (The Incal perhaps?)

    • Thanks! I don’t want to speak for Ryan or Ali, but I’m pretty confident saying we all get a kick out of writing these features.

      I’ve been lucky enough to drink Westy 12 a couple times, but finding a comic to pair it with is a headscratcher. Maybe HABIBI or something equally epic (and, as you said, exquisite).

  5. brattyben brattyben says:

    Love me some Carl Barks!

    The mayor here in Portland, OR is named Sam Adams. Huh…no wonder nothing ever gets done.

  6. OddsBodkins OddsBodkins says:

    I have a 2003 Westy 12 in the cellar and I’d pair it with anything by Tardi.