When the Disney's DuckTales reboot aired its sixth episode, "The House of the Lucky Gander!," in 2017, casual fans of the original series might have been confused as to who Gladstone Gander was. Is he really Donald's cousin, as the episode states? Is he an original character? Why is he so supernaturally lucky?
To answer that, we have to go back a little more than 70 years, and dig into some Disney comics history, to find out why he's so lucky, where he came from, and just how he's related to Donald and Scrooge.
Who Is Gladstone Gander?
Introduced in 1948 by the greatest Disney cartoonist of all, Carl Barks, in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, Gladstone was, from the beginning, a rival to his cousin Donald in every aspect.
Initially, Gladstone was simply an inverse of Donald. While Donald was prideful, Gladstone was arrogant and boastful. Further Barks stories established that, while Donald was willing to work hard even if it meant getting a little ahead, Gladstone was lazy and slightly gullible. His supernatural luckiness was made part of the equation in 1949, and by 1953, Barks had established Gladstone as Donald's premier rival for Daisy's affections (similar to how Mickey battles Mortimer Mouse over Minnie). He was also the fiercest competition for Scrooge's fortune and businesses through stories like "Race to the South Seas!" where the above panel is from.
It was in that excerpt that Gladstone established his relationship to Scrooge, described as, "My mother's brother's brother-in-law!" For simplicity's sake, Barks and those who followed simply referred to Scrooge as Gladstone's uncle.
How he's related to Donald isn't always so clear. In the 1950s, Barks created a Duck family tree, for his own reference, in which Gladstone was the son of Luke the Goose and Daphne Duck. After they died from overeating at a free picnic (and you wonder why Barks never printed this?), Gladstone was adopted by Scrooge's younger sister Matilda and her husband, Goosetave Gander. In a 1995 interview, Barks confirmed that Donald and Gladstone's mothers, Hortense and Matilda, were sisters, making them maternal cousins.
Don Rosa, Barks' most devout disciple (who deliberately set his stories in between Barks' in an internal chronology of his own devising) took that one step further. In his own family tree, first published in 1993 and widely disseminated around the Internet before it was officially collected in Fantagraphics' Don Rosa Library, Gladstone's parents were Goosetave and Daphne Duck, Donald's paternal aunt. Thus, Scrooge really is Gladstone's mother's brother's brother-in-law. Rosa's version is generally the accepted one among Disney comics creators and fans.
Thus, Huey, Dewey and Louie are Gladstone's first cousins once removed. But did they ever meet on TV in the 1980s?
A Jerk, But Less
While he remained a staple of comics, Gladstone didn't appear onscreen until the 1987 DuckTales serues. While he was still supernaturally lucky, his gullibility was played up, perhaps in a bid to make him a bit more sympathetic for kids.
Voiced by Rob Paulsem (Animaniacs), Gladstone's most notable appearance was in Season 1's "Dime Enough For Luck," where he was hypnotized by Magica De Spell into stealing Scrooge's Number One Dime. Other than one minor appearance, and some non-speaking cameos, that was basically it.
After his introduction and adventure in "House of the Lucky Gander!," which established that he was just as lazy as ever if a bit less haughty, Gladstone (voiced by Paul F. Tompkins) has only come back in cameos so far. Will his luck play a role in the last stretch of Season 2? We'll just have to watch.