Capcom’s DuckTales and the Half-Century History of the Terra-Firmie King

DuckTales NES

Capcom’s DuckTales for NES was based on the 1987 DuckTales cartoon. That much is fairly obvious. What’s less commonly known, however, is that the DuckTales cartoon was actually based on a series of comic books by a man named Carl Barks, published in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

Barks is the creator of many of DuckTales‘ most memorable characters, such as Scrooge McDuck, Flintheart Glomgold, Magica DeSpell, and the Beagle Boys (he had done a lot of this work anonymously under a Disney contract, and even though his identity was made public in the 1960s, Disney still owns all this stuff). I could go on and on and on about the profound influence Barks’ works had on my childhood (or the fact that George Lucas cites Barks as an influence), but that’s not what this article is about.

Instead, I want to point out that the Terra-Firmie King, who is the boss of the African Mines stage in Capcom’s DuckTales, is sort of a through-line that connects so many of the DuckTales properties. He is also a creation of Carl Barks. Sort of.

Terra-Firmie King

The plot of the African Mines stage is based loosely off an episode of the 1987 TV series called “Earth Quack.”

What plot? Okay, for 8-bit purists who have never played DuckTales Remastered (or at least consider DuckTales Remastered to be non-canon), the African Mines stage only uses the Terra-Firmie King without any of the other plot elements of the TV show. Not even the game’s manual hints about earthquakes or strange noises coming from the mine, both of which are major plot elements of the cartoon episode.

DuckTales NES Manual

Also, it’s always sort of baffled me that the treasure here wasn’t the Crack Pot trophy, but then again, that thing’s probably not worth as much as the Giant Diamond of the Inner-Earth.

So, unlike the original NES game, DuckTales Remastered features voice-acted cutscenes that loosely follow the events of “Earth Quack.” (DuckTales Remastered also moved the skeleton key so it’s no longer in Transylvania, which is more convenient for players but it’s probably kind of annoying to the 8-bit purists I referenced earlier.)

DuckTales Remastered


In “Earth Quack,” Scrooge heads underground and meets a society of subterranean creatures called Terra-Firmians. These Terra-Firmians compete in a series of events to see who can create the biggest earthquake. This is bad news for Scrooge, because his Money Bin is right above the cavern where the tournament is being held. Scrooge attempts to steal the Crack Pot trophy, which he believes will bring an end to the games, and a series of wholesome hijinks happens as a result.

This episode was actually based off a Carl Barks story called “Land Beneath the Ground!” which was first printed in 1956. The TV show follows many of the basic story beats as the comic book, though with some notable changes. For example, in the comic book, the Terries and Firmies are two different races who are competing against each other in the games, while in the cartoon it’s just one race, the Terra-Firmians. Also, like many of the DuckTales adaptations of Barks’ works, the cartoon replaces Donald Duck with Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Leader of the Terries

The creature Scrooge is shouting at in the panels above is the Terrie leader, and it seems the Terries have a democratic form of government in place. The leader of the Terries was turned into the Terra-Firmie King for the cartoon, and the NES game follows the cartoon’s lead here.

I should point out that the game version has a beard and is more grumpy-looking than either the cartoon version or the comic book version. In fact, the cartoon version and the comic book version are quite similar, visually, whereas the video game version is a bit of a departure.

DuckTales Remastered

The DuckTales Remastered (2013) version of the King is modeled after the NES game version, but the voice is the same as in the cartoon (Frank Welker voiced the King in the cartoon and the 2013 game; he voiced Bigtime Beagle in both as well).

Now, there’s an interesting tidbit of information that comes from the Disney Afternoon Collection‘s art gallery. There’s some old concept art of Dracula based on the DuckTales episode “Ducky Horror Picture Show.” According to the first slide in the gallery, the Capcom team was given concept art to work with. However, in the caption for the slide below (which is the second slide), it’s stated that the Capcom designers didn’t always stick to the concept art.

DuckTales Concept Art

This makes me wonder whether or not the Terra-Firmie King’s beard was added by a rogue character designer at Capcom (in fact, there’s a pretty decent chance that this rogue designer was Mr. Mega Man, Keiji Inafune himself, as Inafune is credited as a character designer for this game).

I also wonder if the boss for the Himalayas level was actually supposed to be the Abominable Snowman (erm, Snow Woman) from the DuckTales episode “Lost Crown of Genghis Khan.” The crown, mentioned in the title, is the treasure you are seeking in the video game’s Himalayas stage, only the boss there is the Snow Monster rather than the Abominable Snow Woman.

DuckTales NES

The Snow Monster does not look much like the Abominable Snow Woman at all, besides the white fur and cute little round nose (which is not even the same color in both places).

DuckTales Abominable Snow Woman

This image comes courtesy Erin’s Blog. (I could have screencapped my own, but since Erin has such great shots, I didn’t see the point.)

If you can forgive one last distraction before I get back to the Terra-Firmie King, I just want to mention that this episode of the TV series is based off another Carl Barks story, “The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan” (same title as the TV show episode, only with The at the front). This story was also published in 1956. In fact, the two stories mentioned in this article originally appeared in consecutive issues of the Uncle Scrooge comic book — “Land Beneath the Ground!” in issue 13, and “The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan” in issue 14.

Carl Barks - Gu the Abominable Snowman

I’m not quite done yet! The Abominable Snowman in the comic looks quite different from both the cartoon version and the video game version. Also, in the comic, its name is Gu. Phew!


The Terra-Firmie King makes one more appearance that I think it worth mentioning here. In “Terror of the Terra-firmians!” an episode of the 2017 DuckTales cartoon, Webby is reading from a book about the Terra-firmians. We see a picture of the Terra-Firmie King sketched in the book.

DuckTales 2017 - Terra-Firmie King

If it makes you happy to know that the Terra-Firmie king is still kicking, I have some bad news for you. According to Webby’s story (which might have been completely made up by Webby), he died an untimely death.

DuckTales 2017 - Terra-Firmie King

Oh, and his death would be the catalyst for a civil war between the Terries and the Firmies, which are, once again, two separate races.


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