Move over Mickey: In Germany, Donald Duck reigns

BERLIN (AFP) – Mickey Mouse may be Disney’s top star in most parts of the world, but in Germany Donald Duck is king.

More than 50 years after the cartoon featuring the hot-tempered duck arrived in the land of Goethe, it remains one of the bestselling comic title at the newsstands.

Generations of children grew up with the so-called Lustiges Taschenbuch (which translates as Funny Paperback) featuring the cantankerous Donald and family – including his rich but miserly uncle, Scrooge McDuck, who swims in gold coins, and his three mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Many adults are still hooked, and are known as Donaldists. These hardcore fans gather regularly to pore over and dissect the latest comic together, noting inconsistencies in the colourful drawings between editions or to ask probing questions about the solar system in Donald’s world.

“We Donaldists assume that Duckburg really exists, and we ask ourselves questions on all kinds of details from the adventures of the Duck family, which for us are not made-up stories but factual reports,” said Alexander Poth, 46.

“All discrepancies in these reports are examined scientifically by our members, and the results are published in our trade magazine, ‘The Donaldist’, and presented and discussed at our annual congress,” added Poth, who encountered his first Lustiges Taschenbuch (LTB) at age two.

Poth is a member of the group DONALD (the German Organisation of non-commercial members of Donaldism), which organises the annual conference.

Hundreds of covers of Donald Duck comic paperbacks, called ‘Lustiges Taschenbuch’ (LTB) in German, display the appeal of the LTBs which sell around five million copies annually
Stairs at a Berlin metro station are covered with an advert to mark the 50th anniversary of the German version of the Donald Duck comics-still the bestselling comic title at the newsstands. – PHOTOS: AFP

Not bad for a duck from across the pond, which landed in Germany at a time when the country viewed American comic imports suspiciously as potential corrupters of youth.

Even Erika Fuchs, the woman credited with popularising Donald in Germany, was horrified when first tasked by her editor with translating the cartoon.

But she took on the job, and changed Carl Barks’s fictional city of Duckburg forever.

Rather than a straight translation of the cartoons, Fuchs set them in the southern German region of Upper Franconia, complete with typical Bavarian farmhouses and bakeries.

She gave the ducks German names and Germanic manners of speaking – the elderly Scrooge (known as Dagobert in German) is the pedantic duck who knows every single German verb conjugation, while Donald swings between angry tirades and the poetic verses of Schiller and Goethe.

Fuchs “taught Donald to quack” – in German at least, said the Museum for Comic and Speech Art, also known as Erika Fuchs House, in Bavaria.

At a time when magazine sales are floundering, newstands still devote several shelves to the comic, including the latest copies, special editions and older editions.

Christian Behr, sales director at publisher Egmont Ehapa, said five million copies of LTBs are sold annually, or an average of around 420,000 a month. The 500th edition was published this week.