"To Be Irreproachable in the Donaldistic Sense": Intersections of Fandom and Scholarship in Germany

Curator's Note

1982 was a momentous year for Donald Duck.  Another Rainbow Publishing was preparing to publish the first hardcover reprints of the old Carl Barks comics, the readership for the old Disney comics supported two long-running fanzines, and the first convention (BarksCon) was set to be held in June.  Across the Atlantic, the German organization D.O.N.A.L.D. (Deutsche Organisation nichtkommerzieller Anhänger des lauteren Donaldismus, roughly translated as the "German Organization of Non-commercial Devotees of Pure Donaldism") supported academic scholarship.

The discussion of the comics is framed in academic terms, the stories framed as "reports" on "scientific Donaldism," accounting also for satiric responses to the comics themselves (he mentions a book that posits the Duck comics as a retelling of the New Testament).  Of special interest is Jürgen Wollina’s creation of the Duckburg map, heavily influenced by applications of civil engineering and geography, becoming accepted as the canonical map even as Disney released an official version previously.  My framework leans on fan and audience studies, as well as a deeper exploration of the several versions of the map produced by both fans and more “official” versions, to explore how the canonicity of these maps develops over time. 

The absorption of Donaldism by the brains and hearts of the young was, however, heavily impeded, especially in Germany.  In the German Democratic Republic the circulation of Donaldistic reports on Duckburg and the Duck family was prevented from the outset, and in the Federal Republic of Germany mass media and the pillar of public morals, the German housewife, was mobilized.  "The membership is open to everybody who can truthfully declare to wholly submit to the Society's statutes, to guarantee the Bill of Donaldistic Rights and to be irreproachable in the Donaldistic sense.  It is, however, not required to be in full possession of one's mental or physical powers or one's civil rights."  This offers a hint of the dry German humor that pervades D.O.N.A.L.D., which further include various political factions (the Scroogeists are right wing, the Daisyists are feminist, the Barkists are their own segment) and the D.A.D.A. ("Documentation of Anti-Donaldistic Aggressions"), which might offer a sense of the group's philosophy.  There is a degree of scholarship inherent to the group, which von Storch outlines in his sardonic fashion, with a discussion of the various disciplines of Donaldism, though he glosses over his role as the first president of the organization, accusing the various "Presidentes" of being "flops."

As a unique site of fan interaction that might point to a potential evolution of these spaces, the organization has a uniquely academic bent, attempting to answer plot holes and character history with the application of pure science, featuring a number of educated professionals in their ranks.  Rather than the academics entering the fan space, they are the fans, and they shift the space toward an academic perspective, albeit with a healthy dose of German humor.  I would offer a brief exploration of the development and nature of this community, and what clues in might offer to stateside interactions.

This provides a case of parallel, divergent evolution within the fandoms.  Whereas the American community rose and fell upon fairly recognizable lines, and the comics never outgrew their niche, the German community developed into something different.  It is not as though one is more legitimate than the other, but reflects survival of the fittest within the two fandoms: Donald Duck may have been invented in America, but he flew in Germany.

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