Tales from Euro Disney: The Surprise Party

In which Mickey Mouse gets a supervillain deathtrap for his birthday

SOME CONTEXT:

Growing up as a nerdy kid in Denmark meant growing up with Donald Duck comics. Both from a weekly published magazine, but also more pertinently from quarterly 256-page Volumes. These collected Duck/Mickey Mouse stories from across various publication outlets in Europe, usually averaging around 6 or 7 stories per volume. These stories had absolutely nothing to do with each other, even within a volume, and would span all sorts of different artstyles and takes on the characters. Some were situational comedies, some were epic space/fantasy adventures taking up half the volume, some were period pieces, some parodies of existing stories. On rare occasions a previous story would be referenced, but mostly they were entirely self-contained standalones. This meant you were never quite sure what you were gonna get in a volume, but also that they were forever fresh and unburdened by continuity, and this is probably part of the reason there’s been more than 508 main volumes published across 54 years and counting – its very easy to find at least something that jives with you.

An incomplete collection of “Jumbo-books”

And according to the internet, these stories do not exist. I’m used to being able to shore up everything from original publication dates to alternate endings to exhaustive plot-describing wikia pages for the pop culture I consume, but these stories? Nada. Zip. Silch. Which is a shame, because some of them go to weird or unexpected places, and so I found myself thinking: If no one else is writing about these things, why not me? So I threw myself into this venture in order to show a facet of the worlds premier pop-culture superpower that people might be unaware of.

TODAYS SUBJECT: The surprise party, written by Byron Ericson art by Joaquin, original publication ??????

Most of these Euro-Disney stories usually adhere to some universally recognizable traits of the characters. Donald is unlucky and irritable, Scrooge is cynical and greedy, Goofy…is used surprisingly little, but is pretty goofy. And then there’s’ Mickey Mouse.

Mickey is not used as much as the Duck characters – I would say 1-2 stories for every 7 or so – and though interpretations would vary, there was a tendency for these to be more dramatic in scope, longer than the others. And though there was a lot of stories where Mickey was as bland as his larger reputation, a subset of stories had him as an everyman action-hero. This Mickey was clever, driven, capable of wit and sarcasm. This Mickey would get embroiled in fantastical adventures and mysteries. Upon revisiting the stories, adult me realized that one of them was literally Harrison Fords’ The Fugitive, but with Mickey Mouse. He was never an actual cop or detective but would just get tangled up in various villainous plots, and he was a frequent collaborator and friend of the local police force. The best comparison I can give is something like TinTin. Which means you get to see Mickey Mouse take on everything from otherworldly threats to smugglers and Supervillains. People are often legit trying to kill him. With guns. As I was in my preteens reading these things, these stories were unsurprisingly some of my favorites.

I especially like the ones drawn by Joaquin, who gives Mickey a lot of personality.

And it is one such story I wanted to showcase here, featuring Mickeys nemesis subjecting him to a deadly birthday party as punishment for all the schemes Mickey has foiled over the years. I could’ve started out with a story showing one such plan getting foiled to set the stage, but ultimately I could spend all day providing context, and what I wanted to do with this column was share the stories that made a big impression on young me. And this one is a doozy – way darker and more dramatic than the average tale.

So lets get to it:

This story naturally starts with Mickey being visited by his friend Eega Beeva (Danish: Alfa Beta), a super-evolved smurf-looking “human” from the future. Already I’m tempted to go down a context rabbit hole for this guy, but suffice to say: he’s Mickeys friend from the future and will show up to provide sci-fi tweaks to stories, sometimes slight sometimes big. I couldn’t tell you his origin, but for an authentic Euro Disney experience it doesn’t matter – you just roll with it and go “I guess this is a character in this story”.  Eega Beeva is there to celebrate Mickeys birthday, and has brought him some sci-fi tech in the form of a gravity-defying remote-controlled hovering ball. When Mickey stuffs the ball down his shirt to try and apply the gravity-defying to himself he promptly spins comically out of control and wrecks the ball, but retains the gravity-manipulating chip within.

Mickey and Eega Beeva then head for a surprise party at Minnies, whereupon his friends hurl abuse (and cake) at him. Immediately the villain of this piece is revealed, as it turns out the hostile friends are shapeshifting plastic doppelgangers (!) controlled by none other than the Phantom Blot.

In very brief: The Phantom Blot is an evil genius who is covered head to toe in a black robe. He’s the kind of villain who wants to rule the world because he’s the smartest person alive, who leaves his foe alone to face his doom because “he can’t bear the sight of blood” and so on. You know the type of guy, he’s a bit Blofeld, a bit Moriarty, and he’s hell bent on crushing the one person who keeps foiling his schemes: Mickey Mouse. Their rivalry is so great that one story had it extend even to their descendants in the far future. Usually he only emotes through his eyes and body language; sometimes he will be drawn with a mouth on his cloak, sometimes he’s even unmasked to reveal a mustachioed unthreatening Villain Face, but here he’s kept simple and sinister which I prefer.

This time around the Blot wants to rule the world by replacing high ranking officials –heads of police, politicians, military generals – with shapeshifting plastic doubles under his direct control, which is comparatively restrained for him (one of his former schemes involved a combination of satellite mind control and a battalion of bipedal man eating plants). But really, the Scheme here is a sideshow: The main point is to exact the ultimate twisted revenge on Mickey Mouse. And so, the Blots’ plastic doubles do not tear Mickey limb from limb because that’d be “too easy”, but rather challenge him to find his missing friends before they meet a grisly fate (again, you know this kind of guy). Then they merge into a Bullet Bill and blast out of the house.

Because of their storied history Mickey knows that the Blots “Sick mind” will have left clues for him to find, and he and Eega Beeva are soon led to an abandoned plasticware factory, where the Blot triggers near-death jumpscares with accompanying glib notes along the way. All this really sells the idea that Mickey and the Blot have a long, hateful history even if you haven’t read it yourself – I totally buy this guy as basically Mickeys Green Goblin. Eventually Eega Beeva is abducted, and a solitary Mickey finds himself at the final trap, the centerpiece of the Blots revenge.

Comic images that have lived rent free in my mind for 25+ years #1

For a plot that also involves semi-sentient shapeshifting plastic creatures, this trap is deceptively simple: on one platform you have Mickey, on another his friends, and below them a tank full of hungry crocodiles. Mickeys platform is pressure sensitive, and by entering the room he has set off a timer: If he’s still standing on his platform after 2 minutes, his friends are lowered down to the crocodiles. Same happens if he tries to leave. If he’s NOT standing on the platform after 2 minutes, his friends get to leave unharmed – in other words, Mickey has no choice but to throw himself into the jaws of death to save everyone he loves.

This whole thing is depicted with complete seriousness and gravitas. Theres no jokes to be found. The Blot really rubs it in, and has lines like “The Choice is yours, Mickey Mouse! Your life or your friends! Either way, vengeance will be mine”. Mickeys friends look legitimately scared, yet tell Mickey to save himself. As Mickey does the one thing he can do and dives into the water, Minnie shrieks in terror, and she and the others are left devastated, sobbing, as their friend has apparently just killed himself. It really goes for it.

Intense!

Anyway, it’s chekhows future-gizmo time, and Mickey uses his gift from Eega Beeva to escape the crocodile pit by spin-hovering out of it. After untying his friends and sending them to fetch the cops he heads off to face down the Blot armed with the gravity gizmo, and a slingshot and a piece of gum borrowed from his friends, because Action Mickey is not a genius combatant, more of a “quick thinker”, wily kind of guy. Using these tools, Mickey is able to manipulate the plastic double into knocking out the Blot and then fall into a superheated plastic pit to get melted, in an suitably dramatic finish.

Again, this comic aint messing around

As the Blot escapes Mickeys victory seems short lived, as the Blot reveals that he has backups for the plastic double schematics (which is more foresight than such villains are usually afforded?), and will be siccing newly produced ones on Mickey in the near future. However, Mickey discovers the Blots’ private server on a computer terminal, which is naturally guarded by a password. But again, rather than making Mickey a master hacker or something he guesses the password using his wits and his knowledge of the Blot, again underscoring the depth of their rivalry (said password: “Ruler of the world”). I love this shit. Like a good troll Mickey leaves the Blots’ server as nothing but a big honking Mickey Mouse logo as payback for the Blots glib notes and tricks, and heads home to another surprise party, this time featuring his hovering friends with improved gravity doodads. The End.

This is one of my very favorites among Disney comic stories, hence why I choose to lead with it. It feels almost kind of perverse describing the seriousness of this story and the intensity of its stakes in the context of what Mickey Mouse is usually depicted as, but this is also what burned the story into my memory. And as a kid? I accepted the validity of this type of story wholesale. It is not a favorite of mine because it feels “Twisted” or “Transgressive”, but simply because its just an exciting story, well told. Wild swings in canon, characters, personalities, artstyle and tone would happen from one story to the next, so why couldn’t Mickey be in a dramatic action story? As restrictive as Disney can be with its IPs, revisiting these comics can have a refreshing “anything goes” vibe to them.

The Surprise Party scores 10 Crocodile death traps out of 10

ELSEWHERE IN THE EURO-MULTIVERSE (I’m workshopping the format of these things ok) also known as other stories In the same volume:

  • As a contrast to the main feature, the volumes one other Mickey offering has him trying to convince Minnies disapproving relatives that he’s a worthy fiancée over dinner, while also trying to covertly babysit a hypercompetent Russian Police dog named Vladimir who’s driving Mickeys friends at the precinct crazy. Hijinx ensue. A mobster named Catface shows up with guns to kill Minnies uncle, whom it is revealed is a secret agent, but Vladimir takes him out. Cue Mickey getting the relatives’ approval, andgetting more russian dogs to babysit. The whole thing is done as a complete farce.
Also, Mickey makes this face
  • An adventure wherein Donald Duck and his cousin Fethry foil an evil scholar who wants a diamond to make him “ruler of the world”, which turns out to be a small island with a tribe that considers it “the world”. It’s a rather low-energy affair, full of the sadly too-commonplace racism in these older stories that depicts indigenous people as simpleminded, primitive, and easily duped.
  • Donald Duck feuds with his grouchy neighbor, and are picked up by an eccentric theatre producer who wants to harness their energy on the stage. It doesn’t do too much with the concept beyond more Loony-Tunes esque sabotaging of each other in a theatre setting, but its pretty cute in ultimately painting their feud as more of a crass, violent sport between them rather than genuine hatred.
  • A superhero story wherein Donald Duck, as his Batman-esque alter ego PK (In Danish, Stålanden – the Duck of Steel) battles a wheather-themed supervillain who flies on a cloud and shoots lightning. Its pretty generic.
  • A steampunk period piece. Scrooge is on the hunt for iron, but the indigenous people of an iron-rich island are unwilling to sell it for cheap (literally Scrooge tries using fake jewelry as payment. Dick move). Scrooge is convinced by Gyro and Donald to go to the moon for it instead. Scrooge cheaps out on the rocket, and they crash land on the iron-rich island, mistaking the people there for moon men. The depiction of indigenous people is better here as they are framed as intelligent, economically savvy, and ultimately sell their iron for triple what they originally demanded from Scrooge, before he discovers he’s not on the moon. 
  • A short one that is basically a version of the Donald Duck short where his faucet is dripping
  • Donald Duck unleashes the seven deadly sins who take his likeness, and If he doesn’t reclaim their pendants in time, an ancient evil god will be reawakened to terrorize the world.

NEXT TIME: Something valentines day related maybe?