The Seven Cities of Cibola

Some Kids Preferred Superheroes … But Not Me

When I look back at what I loved most as a kid, I would have to say that superheroes never made the list. Yes, yes, I know that a complete run of Marvel Comics from the 1950s would have made me wealthy. But not nearly as wealthy as my real hero—Scrooge McDuck. The reclusive millionaire of Duckburg was my Numero Uno comic book hero. Teamed up with his nephew Donald, and Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, they had great comic book adventures.

You could talk about great comic book artists, but I would have to name Carl Barks (1901-2000), inventor of Uncle Scrooge. I still remember with great fondness two of his feature comic stories, “The Seven Cities of Cibola“ and “The Land Beneath the Ground.”

From “The Land Beneath the Ground”

The first is about finding El Dorado, the legendary city of gold which drew the Spanish conquistadores into the American Southwest, only to return with nothing but cactus spines. In Barks’s comic, the gang finds the city—but alas it’s all booby-trapped and they end up doing no better than Coronado.

The other one presents an alternative theory of earthquakes. Deep in the earth, there are two species known as “terries” and “fermies,” whose activities underground lead to earth tremors. When Uncle Scrooge finds that his money could disappear into a hole in the ground, he gets serious about investigating this phenomenon.


With the Terries and the Firmies

Carl Barks Painting of Uncle Scrooge

Carl Barks Painting of Uncle Scrooge

As a kid who loved to read, where do you suppose I found my most interesting stories? The answer is simple: I was a devout reader of Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge Comics, created by the redoubtable artist Carl Barks who created the character and illustrated so many great Scrooge and Donald Duck cartoons.

Another big fan of Barks’s work was George Lucas, who frequently borrowed incidents from the Scrooge archive, such as the rolling rock in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. And it is said that the musical Mackenna’s Gold was largely based on the “Seven Cities of Gold” episode.

Perhaps my favorite of them all was Barks’s explanation of how earthquakes happen. One day, when all the money from Uncle Scrooge’s huge money vault disappears underground (a plot device he used often), the tycoon travels with Donald and his three nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, to discover the cause.

The Boys Discover What Really Causes Earthquakes

The Boys Discover What Really Causes Earthquakes

The episode entitled “The Land Beneath the Ground” speculates that under the earth are two types of apodal (legless) creatures that, together, cause the shaking and rolling characteristics of temblors. They are called “Terries” and “Firmies” respectively. Fortunately, Huey, Dewey, and Louie find the answers to all their problems in their voluminous Junior Woodchucks Handbook and save the day, and their uncle’s treasure.

I should get a copy of that for my library!