Uncle Scrooge holds Magica's silver platter

DRL: “On a Silver Platter” (1990)

Capsule Summary: “On a Silver Platter” is a creative story that pits two extremely willful characters against each other. While we know there’s going to be a happy ending, watching Scrooge win the day through his perseverence and quick thinking is a delight. Rosa gets these characters and thinks them through, even in a crazy high concept story like this one.

"On a Silver Platter" begins with Donald answering Scrooge's mail

Don Rosa wastes no time in this story and goes in for the character-based comedy in the very first panel. I love Scrooge’s attitude right from the start.

In this story, Magica De Spell anonymously sends Scrooge a silver platter to rest his Number One Dime on. Secretly, it’s a portal that takes anything placed on top of it and magically transports it to her house on Mt. Vesuvius.

Scrooge puts his Number One dime down on the silver platter and loses it immediately

It’s a great back and forth between two pretty evenly matched competitors, each using whatever they have available at hand to try to defeat the other. It creates a series of hilarious visual moments, which is always nice to see in a comic. The images of Duck butts sticking through platters and cannonballs shooting out every window are instantly memorable and easy to follow. You could read this book without all the dialogue balloons and understand what’s going on, I’m convinced of it.

There’s also the visual of seeing Scrooge and Donald in their element. Yes, Scrooge is desperately trying to save his dime, but he’s a clever guy. He’ll figure it out. And the glee with each he strikes against Magica is delicious. It runs counter to the sweat coming off his brow as he stresses at the thought of losing his Number One Dime.

Donald, likewise, is a scrapper. Whether he’s following Scrooge’s orders or coming up with some on his own, he delivers every moment with intention. The exception to this is the first time he sticks his arm through the platter and an initial moment of shock makes him think he’s lost his arm and will never bowl again. (I’d have much the same reaction, I think…)

Don Rosa's page design shows the way the portal connects Magica to Scrooge and Donald

From a pure comics storytelling point of view, I love these three tiers of panels from page four of the story. The gutters to all the panels line up, and it sells that back-and-forth feeling between Magica against Scrooge and Donald. Magica is always looking to the left while Scrooge and Donald hold the platter in the direction where that portal would take them to Magica on the right. That gutter down the middle of the page might as well be the silver platter, acting as transport and mirror.

Uncle Scrooge’s eventual triumph was obviously going to happen, but it’s still satisfying because you can see him move from desperation to planning to execution and winning. When Scrooge cops an attitude and goes on the attack, it’s a thing of beauty.

Sound Effects and Lettering

Don Rosa uses a lot of sound effects in his work. It makes sense, particularly with these more comedic tales. Imagine your favorite funny Looney Tunes short and you’ll hear it as much as you’ll see it. Imagine Don Martin’s cartoons and you’ll see sound effects.

Magica is accompanied by an appropriate lettering sound effect

I know they’re not used as often in modern comics as they once were, but I think they’re great embellishments and accents to a story when used correctly. Even the well-executed “RATATATAT” of a machine gun in a superhero comic can add a lot. It doesn’t have to be just for humor’s sake.

I like the hand-drawn open letters used in so much of this story.

These are not perfectly drawn sound effects by any means. This is old-school comic-making with hand-drawn everything. That’s part of the charm, for me. Give me all the imperfect CRASHes and SPLASHes and SMASHes with their gradient yellow to orange/red colors. I love that stuff.

The part that’s less impressive, though, is where the sound effects lose that energy and that creativity and are just lettered in, almost as if they’re dialogue balloon words drawn twice as large. That happens in a few spots in this story. The gushing water is accompanied by a “GUSH!” that’s unimaginatively placed and drawn, for example.

The unimpressive "GUSH!" sound effect as the water flows through the silver platter

I don’t know how much of that was a deadline issue at the time, or if it was an issue in trying to fit things inside of panels drawn with such detail. But I do prefer the more expressive larger open letters.

I’m not sure who drew the sound effects in this story. Did Rosa do his own? Or did he leave them to the letterer?

The lettering for this story is done by the fantastic John Clark.

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