Incident at McDuck Tower header image with Donald Duck on top of the building

DRL: “Incident at McDuck Tower” (1991)

First panel of Don Rosa's "Incident at McDuck Tower"

It’s like “Die Hard”, but with Ducks, right?

No, not exactly, though the title treatment in the opening panel makes you think you’re about to read “Towering Duck Inferno” or something. (Now I have “Disco Inferno” playing on a loop in my mind. Argh! At least it’s not “Disco Duck”…)

Nope, this is another 10-page story where Donald takes on a new job. He’s not a landscape architect or an astronaut garbage man anymore. He’s moved on and now does high-rise building window washing. Or, in Donald’s terms, he’s a “daredevil window cleaner.”

This story, for me, is a giant leap in quality beyond “The Master Landscapist.” It feels more like a Don Rosa story than even that one did. For starters, it’s not entirely about setting up one big avalanche of gags at the end. Things come about a little more naturally and surprisingly without needing to be set up and clearly foreshadowed. It’s very visual like “Landscapist,” but it does even more by using the comic book page as a storytelling device.

Rosa’s years of experience doing non-Duck comics come into play here. He borrows from his own work to set up some of the story pieces in this one. And, finally, Rosa’s very dry sense of humor comes up here.

It’s that one gag in a story that makes me stop and laugh out loud that only Don Rosa could do. Here, I’ll show you.

Unca Scrooge panic over a lost nickel
Uncle Scrooge blankly stares at Donald Duck

Donald Duck is annoyed that Scrooge is making a big deal out of losing a nickel. That leads to the silent panel for a beat followed by Scrooge’s deadpan, “Yes — go on — it was a nickel. So what’s your point?”

Donald immediately realized the error of his ways and could only shake his head at his own gaffe.

Maybe I didn’t read enough Duck comics up until that point, but I don’t remember any other Duck creator using those silent panels so well and delivering such deadpan moments like that one. It’s a gag construction that Rosa will use elsewhere, and it always cracks me up.

That low-key amusement at harrowing situations repeats itself on the next page. An overconfident Donald has fallen off the side of the building and the boys look over the edge in a dry tone mocking Donald’s language by narrating how he’s casually fallen off the building because he casually forgot to fasten his belt straps.

Donald casually shows off his high rise skills
The nephews casually watching Unca Donald fall off the building

These are moments when other creators would want to keep the story pushing along and have the boys be more excitable and go running to save their uncle. Rosa lets the moment play out for the joke and restarts the forward momentum of the story in the next panel. I love those choices.

It’s tough to tell whether this is coming from a love of Vaudeville or maybe Monty Python. But it works to see in a Duck comic, for sure. It’s a big part of the reason I fell in love with these stories.

The other half of Rosa’s strengths in these shorter stories is the way he uses the comic page as a medium for telling the stories. He uses techniques and tricks that are unique to comics. In this story, it’s the two-page sequence at the end of the story where Donald falls off the building again, bounces into the building, rolls into an empty elevator shaft, bounces off a couch, rolls on a mail cart, and then bounces off an insane sequence of awnings to break his fall. That’s the visually memorable part of this story that makes everything worth it.

Comics should be visual. It’s far too easy to have characters narrate everything they do instead of showing it to us and letting us see the moment unfold.

Some parts of that sequence needed to be set up and were — like why there are awnings on the first few stories but not above — but most of it happens naturally and without needing setup. It’s easy to follow with the way Rosa lays out all the action, and it’s funny to see.

This story is also in a bit of a sweet spot for me. I love a good set piece. Some of my favorite Star Trek stories, for example, were set entirely on the Enterprise. If the entire adventure could be had across the ship, itself, that’s awesome. I love the movie, “The Panic Room,” which is set entirely in one house and is about using that house in a back-and-forth struggle.

This story is about Donald falling off the side of a skyscraper and living to tell the tale in a most convoluted and entertaining way. I love this stuff.

Rosa’s Correction

As seen in the back of the book, one sequence in the story appears in this book for the first time as it was actually scripted. Donald is trying to climb into an open window, but a secretary inside slams the window shut on his fingers. An off-panel voice asks, “Did I just hear you shut the window, Gretta?” Gretta helpfully explains, “Yes, it was getting too drafty.”

Gretta closes the window on Donald's hands

The original incorrect line from off-panel was “Don’t ever speak to me like that again, Gretta!” And she responds, “I didn’t! I only closed the window!”

I took that line to be a reference to how difficult to understand Donald can be sometimes, particularly when he’s excited and someone just slammed a window on his fingers. I can understand not wanting to bring a story element in that’s about an overbearing boss yelling at his secretary for the wrong reasons, but I think the gag works as a commentary on Donald’s voice, even if his movie voice isn’t often a plot point in Duck comics.

The real controversial moment happens a couple panels later where Gretta realizes what she’s done and refers to Donald as “that fresh window washer… [who is] always flirting with me.” She opens the window, slaps him across the face, and walks away as he struggles to stay on the window ledge.

The Duckburg #MeToo movement was strong in McDuck Tower.

I hope Daisy doesn’t read this story. And, really, how much game does Donald have?

Given Gretta’s reaction to him, I guess he doesn’t have all that much.


“Incident at McDuck” tower is a fun short story, loaded with visual elements that break free from the usual panel grid format. It also has some of Don Rosa’s trademark humor. While I can nitpick a couple of points, it’s a fun read that I enjoyed a lot.

It even ends on a high note, bringing back something from the beginning to help the story come full circle and end on one last strong gag.

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