By Darren Franich
June 23, 2011 at 02:00 PM EDT

Did Scrooge McDuck cause the financial crisis? The answer to that question depends on how you choose to read the subtext of DuckTales, a frothy Reagan-era cartoon based loosely on the work of comics maestro Carl Barks. You could argue that Scrooge McDuck is the very image of insatiable capitalism unbound. He owns every company in Duckburg, an unthinkable monopoly that could only exist in a world with a financial system managed by Ayn Rand zealots. (There is something of Fountainhead protagonist Howard Roarke in Scrooge’s recurrent mantra: “I made my money by being tougher than the toughies, and smarter than the smarties! And I made it square!”) Most episodes of DuckTales essentially come down to one recurring plotline: Scrooge defending his hard-earned money from economic parasites like the Beagle Boys and Magica deSpell. Replace “The Beagle Boys” with “Welfare Queens” and “Magica deSpell” with “income tax,” and DuckTales sounds like a conservative fairy tale that Sean Hannity recites every evening as he tucks his children into bed.

But you could just as easily argue that DuckTales was quite the opposite: a progressive fable. Although Scrooge often attempts to rob other countries of their great riches — treasure, gold, lost lamps, magical minerals — he is invariably punished for overreaching. Most episodes of DuckTales end with lovable underdogs coming out on top, while Scrooge is forced to learn the value of human companionship. His nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie are positive visions of liberal elitism — forever quoting from their cross-cultural textbook, the Junior Woodchucks’ Guidebook — and they often encourage Scrooge to take pity on less fortunate folk (like Bubba the Caveduck). And Scrooge is hardly a good capitalist: Instead of circulating his money through the system, he dives around in it like a porpoise and burrows through it like a gopher. He’s like some kind of gazillionaire capitalist hippie.

But anyways, who’s the coolest character on DuckTales? Let’s run down the list:

Scrooge McDuck

Hobbies: Making money, swimming through money, going on adventures, rescuing various nephews, learning various lessons from said nephews

Favorite Book: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Quackzgerald

Why He Is Cool: Because he is a vision of the hardscrabble American Dreamer. Also, he’s a snappy dresser.

Huebert “Huey” Duck

Hobbies: Wearing red, hanging out with his brothers, being a Junior Woodchuck

Favorite Book: Where the Red Fern Grows, by Duckson Rawls

Why He Is Cool: Because he’s BFF with Dewey

Deuteronomy “Dewey” Duck

Hobbies: Wearing blue, hanging out with his brothers, being a Junior Woodchuck

Favorite Book: Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Duck

Why He Is Cool: Because he’s BFF with Louie

Louis “Louie” Duck

Hobbies: Wearing green, hanging out with his brothers, being a Junior Woodchuck

Favorite Book: How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellduck

Why He Is Cool: Because he’s BFF with Huey

Launchpad McQuack

Hobbies: Flying planes, crashing planes

Favorite Book: Catch-22, by Joseph Hellerduck

Why He Is Cool: Has survived an untold number of plane crashes, which means he is either extremely lucky or extremely unlucky.

Webigail “Webby” Vanderquack

Hobbies: Horseback riding, being adorable, trying to play with the Duck nephews

Favorite Book: Animal Farm, by George Quackwell

Why She Is Cool: A stealth tomboy in pretty little princess attire, Webby’s the girl you thought was annoying in second grade who wound up being the coolest girl in your college dorm.

Mrs. Beakley

Hobbies: Cooking, cleaning, underground rap battles

Favorite Book: The Help, by Kathryn Stockettduckpun

Why She Is Cool: Come on, didn’t you ever see Upstairs, Downstairs?

Duckworth the Butler

Hobbies: Offering smarmy exit lines, turning up his nose

Favorite Book: The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishigurquack

Why He Is Cool: He’s basically P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves crossed with Alfred from Batman. Also, even though “Duck” is in his last name, he is not actually a duck, so you know there’s some weird story there. Maybe he has to pass as a duck in order to find work. Hey, the name of the freaking city is “Duckburg”: How easy do you think it is for a non-waterfowl to get a job?

Fenton Crackshell, a.k.a. Gizmoduck

Hobbies: Totally ruining TV shows

Favorite Book: I Am Lamest Duck in the World: A Memoir, by Fenton Crackshell

Why He Is Cool: N/A

So, duck fans, who would you put on the cover of Entertainment Beakly?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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