Donald's Cousin from Overseas
by Simone Cavazzuti
Duck family is very large and has got a great bunch of several relatives; one of this relatives is Fethry Duck, Donald's “manual-addict” cousin.
The editorial story of this character is pretty-complicated, let's try to explain clearly...
In early 1960s, European and Brazilian Disney publishers continued to ask the American publishers new stories to manage to keep “quiet” the readers. So, George Sherman, head of Disney's Publications Department at the time, hired Tom Goldberg and created the Overseas Comics Program, which produced, between 1960s and 1990s, thousands of new stories with the S code, that means “Studio Disney”.
Sherman's idea was that of create new characters for foreign publications, characters don't used in USA, characters to use in European issues which were (and still are) weekly.
These authors and particularly the last two, Richard “Dick” Kinney, brother of the great animator and cartoon director Jack, and Allan “Al” Hubbard, created new great characters now famous and used worldwide. Characters like Fethry Duck (1964), Tabby the Cat (1964). Hard Haid Moe (1964), 0.0. Duck and Mata Harrier (1966), Belle Duck (1967) and The Sleuth (1975).
This is the background in which Fethry was created. His first story, “The Health Nut”, by Al Hubbard and Dick Kinney, was firstly published in Italy on the 2nd August 1964 with the title “Paperino e il Fanatico Igienista”. The same story will be published in USA only in 2003. NOTE: Italian name of Fethry is “Paperoga”, a portmanteau between words “papero” (duck) and “yoga”.
American readers will know Fethry only in 1966, with the story “Donald's Buzzin' Cousin”, by Tony Strobl. In America editors published only ten stories with Fethry between 1966 and 1982, for this cause, when American cartoonist Keno Don Hugo Rosa (famous for his “Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”, (1992-1993) produced his own Duck Family Tree in early 1990s, he didn't include Fethry because he didn't know him and because he isn't a Barks' character. Anyway, the editor wanted to see Fethry on the tree and so Don Rosa drew him as brother of Abner “Whitewater” Duck and son of Eider Duck (both from Carl Barks' stories) and Lulubelle Loon (Rosa's own creature).
In 1973, inspired by a beautiful drawing by Giovan Battista Carpi, Brazilian authors Ivan Saidenberg and Carlos Edgard Herrero created “Morcego Vermelho” (Red Bat), a super-hero alias of Fethry in the story “Quem É O Morcego Vermelho? ”(Origin of the Red Bat). Always in Brazil, in 1982 was created Fethry's nephew Biquinho, a little yellow-feathered duckling.
Now that we saw how Fethry was born, let's see who is Fethry...
Fethry Duck, whose name sounds like “feathery” shows a very healthy and nature-saver spirit. He is from the beginning an addict of manuals of every kind, from gardening to martial arts, from eating to weaving. His name indeed is a portmanteau itself between the words “feather” and “poetry”.
Fethry is a tall and skinny duck with an odd almost-maniacal behavior. I his first two story, “The Health Nut” (1964) and “Weaving and Ducking” (1964), he show off long reddish hair which will lose starting from the third one, “It's Magic” (1964), in which he has long unkempt balding “wires”. Even though, thank to Tony Strobl, Ferhry will have his red hair again in other three stories: “Donald's Buzzin' Cousin” (1966), “Ducky Date” (1966) and “Jungle Journey” (1966).
In February 2008, Fethry recovers his old-style hairstyle in the cover of “Zio Paperone” #213, thought and drawn by the Italian artist Marco Rota, creator of Donald's ancestor Andold Wild Duck.
In “The Shoppers” (1971), by Dick Kinney (?) and Al Hubbard, Donald and Fethry are hired by Scrooge for his newspaper, “The (Duckburg) Chronicle”. This story is actually one of a series of stories started in 1969 by Kinney and Strobl and never published in USA, in which Fethry and Donald work for Scrooge's “Papersera” (Italian name; no English names existing).
The greatest productions of Fethry's stories and materials are surely the Brazilian and the Italian ones.
In 1970s, Brazilian authors took Fethry and they abandoned him in 1990s after inventing the “Red Bat” and Biquinho and used them in thousands of stories. Brazilians author also continued the “Papersera” series and Brazilian Fethry invented for the newspaper an “Old West” hero comic strip with his own appearance.
In “Origin of the Red Bat” (1973), we know that Red Bat was born by chance, Fethry found a bat costume in Donald's attic and he wore it to go to a costume party (they weren't able to go there
as journalists because press was not admitted).
According to “O Nascimento Do Biquinho” (1982), Fethry has a sister. When he explains how Biquinho came by him, he says indeed that “it all started in summer, four years ago, at my sister's who lives in Duckburg ”.
Italian authors use Fethry since 1960s and they still use it. Fethry is one of the main characters of Italian weekly “TOPOLINO” and he appears at least once a week.
In 1996, American editors published Italian “Paperino e il croccante al diamante” (1977), by Giorgio Pezzin and Giorgio Cavazzano, with the title “The Snacking Sleuths”. As said, Fethry was appeared in USA only in few 1960s stories and then in 1980 and in 1984; so, American readers didn't know the character. For this cause, the translator, Gary, referred to Fethry like “Donald's Cousin from Overseas”, suggesting he comes from Europe; however, this statement is considered by authors (such as David Gerstein) non-canonical because Fethry acts 100 % like an American.
The weird behavior of Fethry is stood out mainly in Italian and Brazilian production. In Italy, Fethry is (as already said) a very recurrent character. He is inopportune and doesn't understand anything. When relatives see him, they try to escape and to hide from him. Brazilian Fethry is a bit different; he is more adult and plays lots of different roles, he is like Donald even if more dumb.
Danish author Lars Jensen states that:
“ 1. is as smart as Barks' version of Donald Duck
2. has the manipulative powers of Scrooge
Which means Fethry can manipulate others into joining him in whatever it is he wants to do (like Scrooge can), but isn't good at getting himself (and his followers) out of the resultant scrapes.”
Jensen uses indeed a Kinney Fethry, sly and manipulator, so far from the Italian point of view.
In 2003, thank to David Gerstein, American Gladstone started to publish Fethry new and old stories. The American Fethry is a kind of city-hippie, very interested in nature and against the unscrupulous entrepreneurs.
The last curiosity; in 1973, since Fethry was almost-unknown in USA, when editors published the book “Disney's Wonderful World of Knowledge” with Fethry illustrations by Giovan Battista Carpi, they erased Fethry's balding hair and called him “Donald” pretending he was Donald Duck.
About the creation of Fethry, we can cite the strange Donald from Mickey cartoon “On Ice” (1935). He wears a hat and a sweater like Fethry's ones, his beak furthermore looked like Fethry's being long and quite pointed.
I think "That's All, Folks!" S'Long!