Guest writer Noe Valladolid looks at Paperinik
Donald Duck was a very popular character overseas. This was thanks more in part to the comic book canon established by Carl Barks rather than the classic animated shorts. Barks established the Duckburg universe and created a cast of characters including Scrooge McDuck, Gyro Gearloose and Gladstone Gander that all complimented Donald. These stories had been in circulation for decades and were widely popular among the generations of comic fans. Many European countries hired writers and artists that could tell stories in the Barks style but were natively produced. Very few dared push the established canon or run the risk of a fan backlash. Italian comic book creators were far bolder however and made the greatest changes to Donald Duck. They invented an entirely new super hero persona for him and changed the way he was perceived in Europe.
The Italian fans were tired of seeing Donald (known as Paperino to them) cast as a perpetual loser. Paperino’s plans would often fall astray and he could never seemingly get ahead in the world. The super hero Paperinik was created in 1969 by Elisa Penna, Guido Martina and Giovan Batitista Carpi as an antithesis to the downtrodden Donald. He was given a costume with contrasting colors, black, dark blue, red and yellow as well as a black mask to conceal his identity. Paperinik did keep a familiar blue sailor cap on with his costume change though. He was also given a list of gadgets for which to fight crime, including a jet-black variation of his classic 313 car that could fly. These gadgets were created for him by Disney’s best inventor Gyro Gearloose. Paperinik was brave and clever and had quickly amassed a following. While the character was not recognized as falling into traditional Disney continuity, the universe and story he existed in was still respected in comic book circles. The character of Paperinik was actually based on an earlier Italian comic book anti-hero named Diabolik.
Diabolik was created by the sisters Angel and Guliana Giussani. He was a master of disguise and also a professional thief. The character appeared in his own fumetti (Italian for comic book) as a sort of dark and gritty version of a modern underworld Robin Hood. He was assisted by a blonde bombshell known as Eva Kant. When the Paperinik universe was rebooted in the 1990’s the character and his origins were updated in the series called PK. An artificial intelligence creature named Uno replaced Gyro Gearloose as the creator of the gadgets and this time he was also given a blonde partner to mirror Eva through the android Lyla Lei.
Paperinik and PK became popular in European reprint stories, known as Phantomias to German fans and making it as far North as England under the name of Phantom Duck. Modern audiences wanted to see the character in other formats and developers were clearly listening. PK appeared in videogames for the Sony and Nintendo consoles and even in an enjoyable cell phone game.
While he did not get an animated series Paperinik had been a part of the Disney universe for over 40 years, appearing not only in print but also in toy, model and collectable form. He showed the world that a Disney cartoon character could lead a secret life and remain true to his roots.