Everything I ever do I do for you, but sometimes, that's not as easy as one might hope. I actually had wanted to write about this story for a long time, but man alive. It's a dense text to get through, and I realize that that's kind of a weird thing to say about a Disney comic, but it's true nonetheless. Still, I finally got through it--for what really must be only the second time--and now...here it is.
This is interesting for many reasons. Published in 1949, it's a very early Italian story--one of the earliest, in fact. There were those Pedrocchi stories, of course, but they were sort of different--they don't feel like they're really part of the same evolutionary path as Italian Disney comics as we know them today. And aside from those...well, the first installment of "Mickey's Inferno" appeared in Topolino 7. Most of the previous issues had been taken up with Western reprints; Guido Martina had written two or three stories prior to this, but I think this might well have been only the fourth or fifth Italian story proper. This means, naturally, that (again, apart fro Pedrocchi) it's the earliest Italian story to see print in the US.
It's also the beginning of that fascinating (to me, anyway) form, the Italian Disney story based on a work of literature, and the fact that this started with Dante is highly appropriate: Italians taking a quintessentially American form and making it their own. Well done, fellas.
Nice art from Angelo Bioletto, a newcomer to this blog.
What makes reading this a bit slow going is, naturally, the poetic (well...rhyming) narration. This localization is certainly impressive that it follows the original's terza (sets of three lines with an ABA, BCB, CDC etc rhyme scheme), though it doesn't even make a passing effort to give it any kind of consistent scansion (I've no idea what Martina's script did in this regard) (and honestly, I'm not entirely sure how it worked in Dante himself; all I can say is how it works in this English rendering). This admittedly would've been a hell of a task, but as it stands, I find it amusing in places but more functional than anything else. Nobody would read this for its poetic sublimity.
Obviously, it's pointless to even try to think about, like, the theology of this or anything. You must accept it as it is! Yeah, it's goofy! That's the point! It's an exercise in futility to ponder what underpinnings it may have! But really, what fun is that? Expect to see an awful lot of it as this entry progresses.
I find the preamble a bit dull; things perk up a bit when we get to actual souls being tortured. So! Let's start here! This story, you will see, has a massive hate-on for teachers. For whatever reason. Well, for a fairly obvious reason: because the story's aimed at kids, and kids hate their teachers. Or so Martina perceived. There are several of these "actually, most teachers are great, but..." bits. I don't know if those are Martina originals or if they're just there in translation in order to make the story seem a bit less savage.
Also, I don't care what you say, I feel like eternal damnation is an excessive price to pay for boring some eight-year-olds. We also have that "the tricks they play don't kill me, so who gives two hoots?" which basic sentiment recurs several times throughout, and I just have to say: well...no, it doesn't kill you. Because you're already dead. That's why you're in Hell. Of course it doesn't "kill" you; you just have to suffer it until the Final Judgment. Have you lost track of the concept here?
Then, there are parts of this that are just confusing. Why is Homer here? Undetermined. I suppose Julius Caesar probably would be, but again, there's no in-text justification. And all this stuff about philosophers...it's supposed to be funny, presumably, but it's just...what? Why? Where am I? Who am I?
I merely include this image by way of noting that this can become edifyingly gruesome at times. I suppose everyone already knows that that Gemstone was somehow able to get this into WDC 666? I continue to find that highly awesome, even if that sort of numerology doesn't have anything to do with Dante.
Hey, look who's here. One thing you notice is that this story really does shove everyone who was anyone in 1949 into the story, as well as a few who really weren't, which is a cool thing that I appreciate. Well, everyone except Bucky Bug. I don't think he had much presence in Italy at the time. OH WELL!
Did I say "appreciate?" Er...well. Look, I know we don't like to think about these things, but can we possibly admit that, regardless of anyone's intention, Eli Squinch has something of the anti-Semitic caricature about him under the best of circumstances, and that having him burning in Hell in a pile of money kind of makes that seem a whole lot more egregious? I'm not saying; I'm just saying. Actually...scratch that. I am saying. Yeesh.
Oh look, another teacher, 'cause FUCK TEACHERS.
See, his students have all grown up and died and likewise gone to Hell where they can torment him eternally, until it turns out he's just a robot. Wait, what?
The Inducks entry claims of this localization that there's "one scene removed." I'd love to know what that refers to; I always speculated that it was here, because it says we skipped a canto, and there's, gawd, Little Hiawatha's father whose name I absolutely refuse to look up for no apparent reason, doing absolutely nothing. It just feels like we missed some context, and you can see why there might have been an interest in snipping out this particular hypothetical segment. Then again, said inducks entry also doesn't list Hiawatha appearing here at all, so you got me.
We see Donald in three or four different contexts here, 'cause two was not enough. That's cool. I'm just posting this 'cause it's kind of creepy and neat.
OH BOY, it's Cousin Bertie! Who could forget this guy? Well, almost everyone, probably. Western's effort to make him a regular character was just bizarrely abortive: two stories in in fall of 1943, and that was it. Their hearts were clearly not in it. One of those stories subsequently appeared in Italy in 1948, explaining his presence here. I'm afraid this did not help raise his overall profile, however.
My question: are these in fact children who died? This could get awfully macabre if you spent too long thinking about it, as I do. Maybe they were adults who were reduced to childhood for their punishment, but that doesn't seem to be the case, as we'll see. Again, a pretty grim situation. Still, we see that it's not just teachers; there's also payback for those damn students we all hate so much. What?
So this is, like, the Harrowing of Hell, Disney-style? Cool, cool. I'm down with that. But you have to wonder: how is the Blue Fairy's rationale not complete nonsense? What do you mean they "repented?" Sure, they were sad because they were being punished, but I think anyonewould "repent" in that sense. And "a truly good deed?" Bah! It's not that I think eternal damnation is a good concept, but the alternative here just seems to be nonsense.
You know, as one of those hated teachers myself, I have to say: I kind of agree with Honest John. Let's be anarchists! We don't need no education; we don't need to thought control! Especially given that the alternative is Jiminy Cricket's nauseating bromides. "The most fun of all," I ASK YOU (or is he suggesting that "the most fun of all" is being able to look down from Heaven and watch the sinners being tortured? That, I'll admit, would make this significantly more interesting). Well, if he's as worthless a "conscience" here as he was in the movie, these kids are all ultimately going to be eternally damned anyway, so I guess it's okay.
Notice also that, as in the great "Donald Fracas," Martina has given the emphatically mute Gideon dialogue. Well done, Guido!
I mean...this teacher stuff is truly excessive. As I've said, I don't object to this in theory, but I feel as though Martina's hatred of the profession at this point is significantly outdoing that of his probable audience.
So we get the idea that this Inferno isn't permanent; people get out of it after a time. Only, the thing is, as everyone including Martina no doubt knows, there's a whole 'nuther part of the poem devoted to that premise. If you want to write "Mickey's Purgatorio," that's a whole 'nother thing. I actually remember liking the second part more than the first; it was very trippy and less mean-spirited. But your mileage will no doubt vary.
I don't want to spend much time on this Three Little Pigs bit because my feelings re these characters are well-known. I do appreciate the gruesomeness here, however.
I want to show this because it's cool, and also to acknowledge the inevitable "Duck in the Iron Pants" reference, probably more apposite here than it's ever been. Well done, all!
Somewhat bizarrely, this bottom layer of Hell is devoted to people cheating at sports. Is this just an Italian fixation? Whatevz. I'm disappointed and a little surprised that we don't get to see Chernabog from "Night on Bald Mountain;" that would've been appropriate and cool.
Well, anyway, it ends abruptly. I've skipped over a lot because, well, there's a lot here, it gets a bit dull in places, and it's not like this is all part of any kind of intricate overall plot. Still, I'll admit that in rereading it and writing about, I have started to appreciate the story a bit more than I had in the past. And it's nothing if not historically significant.
Okay okay, because I know you demand it, yes, this was republished in the US ten years later with a different translation. So how is it different? Well, I haven't read the whole thing, but I was able to find https://inducks.org/issue.php?c=us%2FMIHC+1>this promotional giveaway
that contains an excerpt floating around the internet. I think that's enough to get a fair idea of what it's about. Let's compare:
As you can see, it has the original three-tier layout, as opposed to the compacted four-tier version. So I kind of like that. It maintains the rhyme scheme, but again, doesn't scan in any way.
I mean, it's not unspeakably bad or anything. It'll do in the absence of any alternative. But it's not, to my mind, particularly good either. So many things to say about this one page:
-Compare: "No lights or reflectors on that thing? That's a ten-dollar fine!" vs "Your bike has a missing reflector! That's against the law, so I'm giving you a ticket! That's ten dollars!" Second one's pretty leaden, isn't it? This script isn't by Erin Brady...but it sure feels like it could be.
-I suppose you may appreciate that Zootopia reference and not find it painfully awkward, but...well, isn't it great how different people have different sensibilities?
-That whole "then we can move if it's true?" bit is just a failed attempt at sounding clever or natural or anything.
-Goofy does not normally style "I" as "ah." This looks to have been written by someone who wasn't familiar with the character's idiolect, at least in English. At least, that's what I want to say. And yet...per inducks, this was "adapted" by Stefan Petrucha, who as far as I know is a native English-speaker and who has written numerous Disney stories himself. So...I'm just going to assume that he was given limited latitude in the adaptation process. Or--to be scrupulously fair--we could suggest that possibly said adaptation wasn't actually applied to this preview, but only the full version; inducks has it wrong. If neither of these are true...I am a little bit confused.
-The less said about Goofy calling the lion "dude" the better.
Okay, just one more little thing:
"OTOH?" Look, I know I've used a few internet acronyms in fan translations I've done; guilty as charged. But there, the acronym was the joke. Here, it appears to just be there to save space. Very unprofessional-looking.
Yeah, so as I say, it's not super-painful or anything, but you'd do a..
I read this story when the English version was first published, and, well, I liked it. A lot, in fact. I'd go so far as to say that, after "The World to Come" and "Quandomai Island" (those sentimental favorites), it might actually be my favorite Casty story (I also like the much-feted "World of Tudor," but I find it's just a little too hard to fully suspend my disbelief). So there you go, but obviously, I didn't write anything about it. And...I haven't written anything about any Casty story, I see. Well, there's definitely a reason for that.
I remember when I was working on my PhD dissertation, I noticed something. It consisted of four chapters, the first two of which were about modern writers from the early part of the twentieth-century, and the latter two of which were about more contemporary writers, who were and are still alive. And what I noticed was that, for the former two, it was much easier for me to talk about themes or ideas that their books might embody, regardless of their intention. Whereas it was hard for me not to think about the latter two as being more...aware, let's say, of what they were doing, and thus perhaps less fertile ground for analysis. And I think this is really just a matter of them being more recent and therefore more difficult for me to historicize or put in their proper perspective.
And thus it is also for comics. I know I've written about a fair few contemporary stories here, but the balance of my entries is pretty heavily weighted towards classic material, and I think it's exactly for that reason. I just don't find I have as much to say about the average Rosa story, somehow (which in some instances hasn't stopped me, of course).
Anyway. That being my long-winded way of saying that I'm not entirely sure how much of interest I'll find to say about this one. But I shall give it my best!
So the idea is that narration boxes turn evil.
And...I guess that's that! We are done here! See ya next time, folks!
Okay, obviously not, but it does point to a problem with writing about a story like this: it very much is a gimmick. That's not a pejorative; it's a great gimmick, but, I mean, what can you say about it once you've pointed it out? This is the question that we must answer.
Really, I can't complain: it's right up my alley; I know I've written before, probably too many times, about postmodernism and metatextuality and stuff in these comics, but this is just begging for it: this whole jumble of comics and tropes and whatnot all coming together in this big ol' jumble.
And, you know, it's true that the gimmick is easily described, but it's certainly executed with panache.
No, really, the way captions go from being expository to diegetic within a few panels is just DARNED. COOL.
I also like her; not that the character is really much of a character, but Casty's art I think especially nails it, and makes her more entertaining to read than you might think.
Also, I like dopey jokes. So there you go. But my question is: what do we do when this text makes us trip?
...that's not my department, says Gerner von Dipp.
Had to get that out. I must admit, I do find the "in the comics, there's always..." stuff a little bit grating. I mean, granted, given the premise, it's thematically appropriate, but STILL. Yeah, yeah...
I'll admit, even, that the boxes can become a little ominous, a bit like a China Mieville sort of thing, though the story doesn't go too far with that. I don't suppose you could in a Disney comic.
But really: the idea of this text, not signifying anything, only existing for effect, constantly calling attention to its textuality: is this a Gilbert Sorrentino novel, or what?
You'd better do what you can with the concept here and now, because unless you come up with a truly substantial, novel idea, you're not going to be able to have a do-over. So this is fun. I want to know what the Italian version had here.
I've made fun of the Italian tendency towards gigantic recap boxes before, so this made me laugh out loud.
And it's visually cool; I just somehow wish there was more to it than just this one visual joke. There it is, that's all. No follow-through. I do feel, somehow, that there are places where more probably could have been done with the concept. But then again...maybe not? Maybe it's inherently pretty limited? Difficult to say.
Yes! I immediately identified that "summertime" box as coming from the beginning of the localization of "The Delta Dimension." I would enjoy more of that kind of thing. I must admit, that "Folkestone Coast" reference (I assume it's a reference) is lost on me, however.
Anyway, we are coming to the denouement, which at least features Pete looking goofy. Or is that Goofy looking...? Oh, forget it.
Although, to tell the truth, even if I like the visuals, I still find this conclusion somewhat lame. Does that make caption boxes go haywire? Does it really? I am not so sure about this. I do not think there is any rule that would make this seem like something that comesfrom somewhere as opposed to something that Casty whipped out because he needed to end this somehow.
Well all right then. Surely the final "The End" box had to have some role here, so that's all right. And I do like the fact that it isn't quite the end.
Aaaaaall a dream! The most exciting ending! Especially when you pair that with "...or IS it?!?"
Yes. Well. I'm surely being unfair here. It is what it is, and what it is is fine. But the real question remains: you already have ice cream cones. Why do you need to go to the "soda shoppe" as well? Crikey! I feel like people have trouble coming up with fun things for Mickey to do, so they just revert to this archaic nineteen-fifties stuff. Oh well! That's neither here nor there. Really, I feel like I've spent entirely too much time carping about this story, which is really quite good regardless of my ability to pick nits.
There's some uncertainty as to whether this should be considered an opera; it's more often performed just as a concert due to Staging Difficulties. But I dunno; it sure looked like an opera to me, and according to Wikipedia, Berlioz wanted it to be while conceding that, due to technological limits of the time, it didn't really work as such. But now we have no limits! We can do anything! ANYTHING!!! Except run a democratic society. Oh well.
It would probably be bootless to describe the plot: it's the Faust legend, basically. There are a few differences in how it shakes out that may be surprising, but that's basically it. But, I have to say--and this might be partially why people don't think of it as an opera--it does have significant story issues. A lot of the story just isn't there; you have to fill it in yourself. The relationship between Faust and Marguerite is never developed in any way. And the overall logic of salvation and damnation feels pretty arbitrary and illogical. Furthermore, even insofar as we overlook these things, it doesn't really tell a story so much as link together a series of very loose tableaux that sorta-kinda hover around the vicinity of a story.
But none of this matters, because Berlioz's music is sumptuous and ravishing and remarkably expressive and the vignettes, regardless of whether they add up to anything, are frequently really striking and dramatic, never more so--I should think--than in Robert Lepage's production. This was before his Rings, but it probably actually works better than those do: you have different levels and cubicles that characters can be standing in, like a cross-section of an apartment building, and you have video being projected onto the wall that--we are told--is interactive, reacting to the characters' singing and changing tone or pitch or whatnot, and yes, undeniably there are a few places where it's a little silly, but it mostly works remarkably well, and is a feast for both ears and eyes.
There are only three significant characters (or, you could argue, only two; Marguerite really amounts to little more than a glorified cameo--the fact that she appears in the curtain call after Mephistopheles feels totally unjustified--is Susan Graham some sorta prima donna who would've demanded it?), and only four period, along with a large chorus, which is great, as one would anticipate. I feel like in a Faust story, Mephistopheles is always going to be the most striking character (as well as, almost certainly, the most fun to play), so it's maybe not really fair to say that John Relya actually does the best job, per se: he's elevated by the role and also his costume, and especially his ostentatiously-feathered hat--but he sure is great, regardless. Honestly, Faust and Marguerite don't really get that much to do, but Marcello Giordani and Susan Graham are plenty solid, and I also really liked Patrick Carfizzi in a small role as a random dude in a tavern who sings a drinking song.
Okay! Time to talk about a fellow you may know called Ringtail! Or, you may not. But you probably do! What am I even saying? I don't know. I'm starting here because, let's face it, it's easy. Here's an easily-accessible story that I've read a few times before and is also kind of short. This had actually been on my radar to write about for some time, but obviously, I never did. Was that because I couldn't really come up with enough worthwhile to say about it? Well, we'll do our best here and now.
Well, you know. Here's how it starts. The most important thing to note off the bat is that, while this is drawn by Ben Verhagen, it's a Ben Verhagen who had learned how not to make his ducklings look cross-eyed all the time, thankfully. So we can enjoy the good aspects of his art while not having to deal with the worst. Hurrah!
The "omg the money bin is low" thing may not excite you, but the idea that there's an old door to an old room down there is pretty interesting, even if it seems kind of pointless to just stick records down there, as opposed to something REALLY special. But: you DID TOO know there were pirates in the family! "Back to Long Ago!" "Night of the Saracen!" Others that I'm forgetting! Come on, man!
We can probably all agree: the past stuff here is the best part of the story. And not just because of the awesome art, although it is pretty awesome, as you can see from that ship on the bottom right. A lot of this stuff reminds me of the best of Rota, which is definitely saying something.
I also just like how blatantly murderous these pirates are. It's "just" a Disney comic, so it's the sort of thing that one might perceive as less violent than it actually is, but man, Ringtail & Co kill a LOT of people. Go on, then, tell me how that guy walking the plank is not imminently dead. The fact that he has a look of goofy, cartoonish fear does not obviate this. I don't know; it's just fun to see a Disney comic really cut loose every now and then. All due credit to writer Evert Geradts, but probably even more so to Verhagen. It's easy to imagine how this could have significantly less impact in the hands of a less gung-ho artist.
And on that note, clearly, the murdernephews are the best thing here. I feel like it's something that under other circumstances I might complain about--them being so totally egregiously out-of-character as they are--but I can't not love it. They are somehow lovable in their bloodthirstiness. What do you think their body count is? Certainly not trivial, I would say. But racked up with such joie de vivre.
You know, this points to a serious issue of ex-cons unable to find legitimate work, causing the recidivism rate to skyrocket. Though I will say, maybe it would've been a good idea to not wear your pirate costumes to job interviews? That's a useful tip for jobseekers everywhere.
Just re Ringtail's pegleg, here's an interesting thing I read about peglegs--I don't knowif it's true, but it certainly sounds logical: why do you think they're associated with sailors and pirates as opposed to soldiers or highwaymen or any land-dwellers? It's because with the preponderance of saltwater to disinfect wounds, the seafarers would be much less likely to die of infections upon amputation. So there you go.
I will definitely talk more about this later, but this "I WILL NEVER REST UNTIL I RESTORE YOUR MONEY" stuff reeeeaally rubs me the wrong way. The story certainly isn't flawless.
Anyway. Beagle pirates. The usual thing. Though granted, as Beagles go, they seem fairly chill.
And I do love the fact that the murdernephews are so keen to torture them. The idea that, sure, they'll be able to overpower the Beagles, why not, is not something you see often, or really ever, but I don't think they're wrong. And, indeed...
Seriously, I love how obvious it is that the Beagles are taking the worst of this. Thump! Biff! Whack!
So...AS I WAS SAYING. It's cool to be a cursed pirate damned to eternally sail the seven seas? That, I approve of. Try it, kids! The idea of being thus cursed because you're obsessed with the idea that you have to be in servitude to some rich fucker? Sorry, Ringtail. Lamest Cursed Pirate Ever.
What happens to the murdernephews? I certainly hope they're not forced to adopt a lifestyle which doesn't allow them to engage in their one true passion, murder. That would just be brutal.
Anyway, that was just the first part of the story, and the shorter one. We go into the present, and I'm sorry to say that I find this part significantly less interesting. I mean, I like to see them having fun here, sure, but...
And, I mean, obviously the art is strong throughout.
Well...did I say "throughout?" Mostly throughout. I feel ungracious complaining after Verhagen took the trouble to get the eyes basically right, but those lamprey-like mouths? Not a good look for anyone.
So I almost don't want to talk about this, given how uninteresting I find it, but there's this whole sitcom-y thing where Donald switches back and forth between being himself and Ringtail upon being bashed on the head. Granted, some of the piratey dialogue is nice (all credit to Dwight Decker), but for the most part...eh.
Somehow, this part where they end up on a cruise ship and everyone thinks they're part of the entertainment just feels so boilerplate to me. Maybe it just comes of reading too many of these stories, but I was just intensely bored by the whole episode.
Okay okay, except for Suspicious Steward here. He is suspicious.
VERY, VERY SUSPICIOUS.
I know I've beaten this drum a lot, but really, even when the plot isn't super engaging, it really is nice to look at. Another similarity with certain Rota stories.
Just presenting this image because it's nice to look at. That is all.
I mean...just in case you were worried that Scrooge wouldn't get more money for no reason...here you are.
Boilerplate Beagle thing, &c.
Does the logic here work? Not even slightly. We very clearly see him switching between Donald and Ringtail with no absences. The idea that Donald was actually absent and unconscious the whole time Ringtail was around...nope. Not havin' it. Nice try. Not that nice. Whatever.
I like that skeleton, he noted irrelevantly. Anyway, the end. I know it seems kind of abrupt, but that's the end of the story. Honestly, I like it, but what I really like is most of the flashback section and the art. The rest of it is pretty middling. However, it's a testament to how good the good stuff is that that's really what tends to stick in one's mind when one thinks of it.
I know I haven't been posting much lately. You know how it goes. Also, it "goes" especially right now, what with me having recently gotten a teaching job in China, and been rather stressed out lately about this that and the other. Still, I did not let this anniversary go by unremarked, notwithstanding the fact that, as I've noted more than once, I actually started writing about ducks on my regular blog somewhat before I started this one (I believe this post is where it all started--it's sort of surprising to me that it took me less than a month to decided to devote a whole blog to it), but...still. Here we are. That's a dang long time. And, I mean, I'm not planning on giving it up, even if I'm becoming a bit more sporadic. It's still fun to write about anthropomorphic waterfowl now and again.
So we're going to do something a little bit special on this anniversary: I may regret this, but here it is: I'll write about whatever stories the first five commenters tell me about. Can't guarantee a timeframe, but I'll do my best. And if you choose something super-obscure that I can't call to hand, I will laugh at you (but whom am I kidding, you're all just going to choose Barks and Rosa. Prove me wrong!). Void where prohibited; prohibited where void.
So, no joke: I actually wasplanning on writing this entry--I had the panels to use all chosen and everything--when friend-of-the-blog Debbie Anne posted a panel from it on facebook, and said that she didn't remember the story itself. So, that gave me an incentive to get it done.
The story here is pretty standard stuff: Donald starts this new enterprise that provides opportunities for misadventures to occur. And then...they do. But it's Barks, so you can be pretty sure it'll be worth reading anyway.
As we like to do, let's take a survey of the art in Donald's house. First, that odd thing in the upper right of the first panel, that looks like it might be some kind of negative. Are those minarets? Is this a cityscape from some Islamic country? Or are they just smokestacks? Interesting choice in any event. And then let's not overlook the other picture, with its unsettling cluster of duck heads that may or may not be silently passing judgment on the characters. Sometimes I feel like the Duck house would be a creepy place to live.
Finally, note that this originally appeared in WDC 200. Barks celebrated the occasion by doing...the usual thing. And why not? I don't know what that 575 next to the 200 in the bottom of the last panel signifies.
We begin, as well we should, with the most "normal" item on the list, A Large Dog. THIRTY POUNDS OF DOG FOOD. For that, I'm expecting some sort of Clifford-esque monstrosity.
Yup, it's a pretty big dog. BUUUUT...for comparison purposes, my parents have two dogs. They're nothing like the one here, but they're large-ish beasts. Maybe half the size of this unnamed (unless "Puppy" is meant to be its name) animal. And they get three cups of dog food a day (plus miscellaneous biscuits). Whereas, if the internet can be trusted, thirty pounds would be about sixty cups. You thought you'd get away with this flagrant error, Barks?!? Not while I'm on the case!
Anyway, the main thing Louie suffers here (yes, it's Louie; as you know, the hat colors had not been standardized at this time) is a log falling on him. He really shouldn't complain. It seems like pretty minor stuff in the long or short or medium run.
Next one is these Hummingbirds of Doom. I've long had this idea for a horror movie where woodpeckers develop a taste for HUMAN BRAINS and start pecking on people's heads instead of wood. So, you know. Okay, it's silly, but I feel this is sillier still; hummingbirds are such fragile little creatures that this idea comes off as even goofier. Sad to say, I think the real-world result of this ZOW behavior would be...all of them collapsing, dead. Not a very edifying conclusion for the episode, admittedly.
And for this one, of course, there's no danger at all, just annoyance. But man, what annoyance. Because, I mean, if there are flies there are flies, but often there simply AREN'T, and then what do you do? Maybe these people maintain a fly-heavy environment, but in that case you'd expect him to be able to find more.
"Who, I suspect, is a horse." There's that odd Barks diction popping up again. This is one thing about Barks that no one would imitate, but you see it all the time. Is it part of his inimitable charm, or is he great in spite of it? Difficult to say.
...but I do have to say, that bottom right panel is one of Donald's most dickish moments. The kid just saved you shitloads of work; you could at least display a little gratitude? Maybe?
"Who, no doubt, is a cat." There it is again! The sort of thing you'd see more often in writing than you would in speech. Is there some cultural reason that I don't get why you'd automatically assume that "Annie" would be a cat's name?
You know...when I was in Borneo (god, this makes me sound so much more cosmopolitan than I actually am), we went on a night hike in the jungle, we came across some fire ants doing their thing--marching en masse across the path--and the guide hurried us by, because it would've been possibly dangerous and certainly unpleasant. But Barks seems to have this idea that all kinds of ants will fuck your shit up--see the earlier story now known as "Donald Duck Rants About Ants." They're not that dangerous, dude! Or dangerous at all.
...and, I mean, if the only problem is that they tickle... really, now. What would it be like to have an anteater as a pet? Well, it's probably not a good idea, as these things so rarely are. This gal's kinda cute, though, I suppose.
Now we get to the somewhat terrifying part. That is some ominous foreshadowing right there.
Yay! This image is cool, yet kind of alarming. I like. But--I mean, I don't want to get too graphic here, but it's hard not to--if they're being fed whole friggin' goats, isn't the pool going to quickly become a horrific mess of blood and bone fragments? Well, I guess maybe not if they're prepared properly. But I still can't help but think that this pool would need VERY regular cleaning.
For no particular reason, here we have two nephews being clumsy. It does kind of crack me up.
Well, in fairness, now that you know what you're up against, it shouldn't be as bad. You can prepare for at least some of the stuff, and as long as you're careful, most of the animals shouldn't be a problem. But granted, Donald is surely the Most Dangerous Game here. Gripe! Gripe! Gripe! indeed.
Okay, I don't like having the Christmas thing stay at the top of the page indefinitely, so here's this. Oh yeah, happy 2019 and stuff. Well, here's this in any case, but let's say here's this because of that.
ONE HALF OF HIS ENTIRE FORTUNE! GOOD LORD! I feel like there ought to be, I don't know, repercussions from this. Like, it seems like a bit flippin' deal. I know you have to just sort of let it wash over you, but WOW. Somehow, it never really struck me when reading this story, but HALF HIS FORTUNE. For a set-up you'll never see again after this story! Bad investment, Scroogie! Or such is my opinion.
I think I talked about this a little re the Ducktales episode based on this story, but it does seem kind of hilariously narcissistic of him to have a statue of himself here. Still, when you think about it, you have to ask yourself: okay, but what else could it be a statue of? Yes, in the cartoon it's Goldie, which Rosa himself would also have done, but obviously it can't be that in a Barks story, nor any other kind of call-back. So...what are you left with? I guess it could be some sort of McDuck ancestor or whatnot (whom Rosa would later have immortalized), or maybe a bit of civic pride with Cornelius Coot, but beyond that, I dunno, man. It seems like it really IS pretty slim pickings. Incidentally, look how this statue was colored in Disney's republication:
I mean...I suppose there's nothing wrong, in theory, with the statue being colored, but it looks awfully weird to me, like some kind of action figure. And why is it wearing a blue hat? Where does thatcome from?
The fact that Donald and HDL like this imported cheese is really just a mechanism to drive the plot along, and yet it's also delightful in itself. Do you usually picture them as being, like, gourmands? Probably not, but here we are. There's also just something about that old-fashioned-sounding "we like so well." Good stuff.
Seems a little eccentric for them to just dump a rodent on Scrooge's desk, but I guess it makes sense, at least in theory. I also like that Scrooge doesn't actually have an answer beyond freaking out. Sure, he can be depicted differently in different stories by different writers and there's nothing wrong with that, but I find an omnicompetent Scrooge kinda boring.
One thing that always dissatisfies me a little about this story: that title. "The Lemming with the Locket." It is a good title. I approve. AND YET, we don't actually find out that it's a lemming we're dealing with until halfway through, or we wouldn't if the title didn't give it away. It just seems like it oughtn't to be thus. I don't know what solution there could be, though.
It's not anything all that amazing as set-ups go; anyone could do it, or something like it. But somehow--and this is one of those things where it's hard to articulate what it is--it's better when Barks does it. It may be silly, but it still feels weighty and consequential, somehow.
And now, to think waytoo hard about this. I mean, okay, fishing schooners go everywhere. Fine. But you gotta wonder about that "Tokyo or Casablanca." Okay, so take it as a given that Duckburg is on the west coast. Japan would be a straight, if long, shot. Morocco, not so much. There are a bunch of big ol' land masses in the way. And how does he know where to go? Is it just, AH HA, FISH! Let' follow them! And sometimes they lead to relatively straightforward destinations, and sometimes they require brutally complicated, epic sea voyages to get there? And what do these destinations even mean? Do the fish they find, like, lead them to breeding grounds, that may be in the north Pacific and may be in the midAtlantic there's no way to tell? I mean okay, maybe they're in communication by radio, so it's not a matter of finding fish, just of learning where they are and going there. But still. Seems like a logistical nightmare to me.
Okay, obviously I'm skipping ahead. You know this story; you don't need me to cover it beat for beat. So now we're in Norway! Good for us. And, indifferent coloring notwithstanding, that is some NICE scenery. Gives Rota a run for his money, no question.
It's silly, but I like this, and I like Scrooge's reaction to it. That is all.
You really expect a "rat"--or any animal--to just scurry into the middle of buncha dudes with nets? I think this scheme needs rethinking, and I must take exception to the notion that it's in any way "smart."
...Carl. You know I love you, but here's a hard truth: your Nordic children are terrifying. They look like dolls that have come to life to murder you in your sleep. Crikey.
Nice. Reminds me of the part in Horton Hears a Who where the fascist vulture drops the flower in the giant flower field.
The question of where this idea of suicidal lemmings came from is an interesting one. This story was released years before the award-winning Disney documentary in which they slaughtered thousands of them to trick their audience, and GOOD GOD what kind of sociopaths WERE these people? The mind boggles. But anyway, I think people have always had weird ideas about them, and this is an excuse to quote one of my favorite things ever, from the Wikipedia article:
Misconceptions about lemmings go back many centuries. In the 1530s, geographer Zeigler of Strasbourg proposed the theory that the creatures fell out of the sky during stormy weather and then died suddenly when the grass grew in spring. This description was contradicted by natural historian Ole Worm, who accepted that lemmings could fall out of the sky, but claimed that they had been brought over by the wind rather than created by spontaneous generation.
Science back in the day was hella weird.
I dig the kids' sticktoitiveness in the face of Scrooge's whining. I know it's totally unfair and uncalled-for and probably nonsensical to make this comparison, but I wish Rosa's Scrooge had sometimes acted like this.
I like how, in spite of the fact that this is kinda gruesome when you think about it, the story sorta skims over that with "none ever goes back to the mountains," the reasons for this remaining unexplained. I also really like the ducks' defiance and its total futility.
Bye! Welp, that's that. I just like this picture. Anyway, Scrooge is poor now, so I guess we're done here.
Well, maybe not. Gotta say, "there's only ONE lemming smart enough..." is a pretty massive logical leap. How do YOU know? What's your sample size? Maybe ALL lemmings are that smart, djaever think of that? Hmm.
I dunno, you can't complain too much, given how much you're supposed to love that cheese. But was Scrooge paying them thirty cents an hour here? I certainly hope they weren't working for free, entertaining as it may have been. I actually think this is one of Barks' better endings. Whereas the ending to this blog entry is...not my best work.
Merry Christmas, with this appropriately-titled story, from 1961's Donald Duck Merry Christmas! Although, again, this is, like the last one, really more just the name of the book it appeared in than the title of the story per se. Who cares! Because, yes, a realChristmas miracle, behold: a genuinely good story! Seriously! The sort of thing you hope to find when reading these old Western things but rarely do. I mean, no, not perfect, perhaps not likely to change your life, but one about which I can say that, with very few qualifications, I like it. It's well-written and executed and it very much deserves to be reprinted. So there! I have the feeling that, as so often with stories that I actually like, I'll have less to say about this than some others. But that's okay, hopefully! Silence is golden. Well, obviously not "silence," as such. But...oh, come ON. Let's just GO.
Donald can't sing: it's a fairly normal-looking kind of thing to start with; it's fine, but it probably doesn't make you think it's going to be anything special.
Really, it seems like an extremely normal sort of plot, and I guess it is, really. But bide a while. I do like the glee club's interest in Christmas music.
Say what you will, but "like a rusty gate echoing through a drainpipe" is a more colorful simile than you'd typically find in a story like this.
Timbuktu is an ancient city with a lot of history, and I do think it would be an interesting place to visit. But...would it really ever have been such a host tourist destination? Couldn't these guys have found somewhere more enticing to offer?
I really like Donald's emotional reaction in this story. They're atypical yet real-feeling, to me. Look how he decorates the tree with a fatalistic attitude that nonetheless doesn't involve lashing out at anyone. Why would we think Scrooge could help, exactly? Is it just because, being old, he's presumed to have greater perspective? Difficult to say.
But the story doesn't really pick up until these guys appear. Sure, the demon-and-angel-on-your-shoulders thing is a hoary old cliche, but it's handled with a lot of panache and vigor here, making for some genuinely entertaining stuff. This story has a kind of energy that, for my money, we really haven't seen elsewhere.
You probably don't have to think too hard to realize what the result of this shock was. The nagging question I have is: have I seen this plot device in another duck story? I mean, I'm sure I haven't seen it in a plot that's anything like this, but "Donald is bad at singing, becomes good at singing" seems familiar. Or, I suppose, I could just be thinking of a more generic "Donald is bad at X, becomes good at X." Whatever!
If you have a criticism of this story, it could be that Donald is portrayed as too nice. But once again, this doesn't bother me. I think it's within normal parameters for the character, albeit a bit of an outlier, and it's just appealingly, well, nice.
I like to picture the devil with a thick New York accent. It's really a lot of fun.
And now, this: for my money, "Do you think the big stars work for peanuts, Gertrude?" is the best line in any of these things, even if I'm not sure why "Gertrude" specifically. Great stuff.
But who wrote it? you wonder. Well, maybe you don't. BUT I'LL TELL YOU ANYWAY. Inducks is silent as to the authorship, but it's definitely Bob Gregory. The man was inconsistent, sure, but when he was on, he was able to write stories of a caliber that his fellow non-Barkses simply couldn't, and this totally feels like his style. The only other possible answer is Don Christensen, but he actually did very few duck stories. Anyway, Gregory had written the Barks-drawn "Christmas in Duckburg" and "Christmas Cha Cha" in 1958 and 59 respectively, so it makes sense that he'd've been given another one to do (having been passed over with 1960's "Tick Tripe Tip." And a good job he does, too. My only regret is that I missed this when I was doing A VERY BOB GREGORY CHRISTMAS a few years ago. Or maybe not, since now I can go out on a high point this year. It's all good.
Scrooge is fine here. Of course, he's not being asked for money, so he doesn't have any reason to freak out, but he still idly muses about creating this prize.
I just love everyone spontaneously bursting into song 'cause why the hell NOT? It's just HELLA festive.
Awww. Of course, we are compelled to note that, if we take this logic seriously, he's gonna foreclose on them as soon as the holiday's over, but let's not think that far. Here, have Maddy Prior singing "I Saw Three Ships." One of my Christmas favorites.
Well...the angel kind of has a point, and yet it's a thorny philosophical question: some people are just naturally better at some things than others. Does that mean...what does that mean? Of course, the question is kind of short-circuited by cartoonish situations like this one. This story handles the question better than The Incredibles, I'll say that for it.
I mean, it's still a non-Barks Western story, and it's still gonna have some nonsensical stuff in it, so I'm forced to point out that there's nothing illegal or unethical about the Beagles entering this contest. As far as I'm able to infer, the idea has to be that they're wanted fugitives and therefore can't be doing law-abiding things like entering singing contests. But it's kind of dumb however you slice it.
Once again, you could easily think that Donald is too good here, and behaving like kind of a tool. And once again, I would reply that I just. Don't. Care.
Donald teaching Scrooge to sing is fun. Note that in "The Christmas Cha Cha," he likewise wants to learn a skill at the last minute so he can compete in a performing arts contest.
The only actually criminal activity the Beagles engage in the whole thing. If they hadn't made this ill-advised move, they'd totally be able to maintain the moral high ground when they get dragged away from the contest. But their inner natures just can't help coming out. Gotta love Scrooge's acquiescence: "they insist that we do nothing! Hurry! Let's do nothing!"
Yeah, the nerve of them, thinking they can enter the singing contest just because they can sing. I feel like Gregory ought to have thought of a way to fill the story out that didn't involve this dopey subplot.
Good lord, man, he's been thrashing around for the better part of a full day? That's...probably a bit more unpleasant that the story wanted to get, really.
GO AHEAD and tell me this isn't great! JUST TRY IT! I need a good contemptuous laugh! Rargh!
Anyway, they fall down the stairs so, yeah. Hurrah. One might think they'd know their own safehouse(?) better than that, but apparently not, to their detriment.
Again, I love Donald running in singing. But then the inevitable happens. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted...
But even so, everyone's basically cool with it; not the sort of sour ending you might expect from "character loses special ability." I like it. Hurrah!
SO ANYWAY. This entry turned out to be long enough, but I won't claim it's the most insightful; a li'l too "I liked this, I liked that"-heavy. Nonetheless! I hope you have enjoyed this crash course in Western Christmas! Try to keep the spirit of Western alive in your heart the whole year 'round! Or something.
You know, I just realized that I'm writing more Christmas entries here (thirteen, not counting the intro post) than I have other entries period for the whole rest of the year (eleven, not counting a hit-and-run anti-IDW post). I should up my output, probably--though I suppose, all things considered, an average of one a month isn't that bad.
But never mind that, because now, Duck Comics Revue is proud to bring you: a basically pretty okay story! Turns out Western's non-Barkses were capable of producing these on occasion! Yes, I know, that Barks story kind of wrecked the curve, but pretend that never happened and appreciate it for what it is! It's called, kind of, called "Christmas Parade," apparently, but I don't think that really applies to the story in any particular way. It's more a thing they would sometimes do when the title of the Giant would double as the title for the first story, even when it's not all that apropos (there are zero parades here, Christmas or otherwise). We'll see that done again next time. This was published in 1962, in the first Gold Key issue of CP; it's also the last original marquee story that the series would feature. After this it would be Barks covers along with a few lesser reprints--including, in the last issue, in 1971, "The Big Switcheroo." Dammit, Western, it really wasn't enough to drive one generation of comic-loving kids the brink of madness. Impossible to imagine why it was the last issue. Anyway.
We start like this, and it's fairly silly, but still kind of amusingly Christmas-y. The Christmas tumult, that is. Along with the plot, Strobl's art is really pretty okay. Dig those square text bubbles that Western was trying out at the time, for reasons that are not entirely clear.
Yeah, so that was just his silly way of trying to find a gift for Scrooge. But, it's hopeless. Better to just sort of spy on him.
The idea that Scrooge would have these crazily eccentric demands, like Van Halen wanting only Brown M&Ms, is so crazily out-of-character, especially at this late date when it had been pretty firmly established, is definitely notable. A lot of writers just didn't make even the most token effort in that direction. They'd do "rich guy" the way they wanted to do "rich guy," dammit! Which, I suppose, is okay if it results in a truly compelling, original version of the character, but mostly it just comes off as artless cluelessness, as here.
Anyway, they get this idea from this statue. La.
Von Drake cameo, which is always fun. This having been published shortly after the character's introduction. Shouldn't "duck psychologist" just be "psychologist" in this world? Isn't the whole point that they're all ducks in appearance only? Does this mean that he won't treat dogfaces? What's happening here?!?
You might be wondering who wrote this, as inducks declines to speculate. There's no absolutely dispositive evidence, but based on "why ducks act quacky...I mean whacky," along with the way the eventual moral is somewhat didactically spelt out (as well as--sorry Vic--the sexist bullshit), I think we can say that Lockman is the most probably candidate. In which case, hey, this is certainly one of the best Lockman stories I've read, so cheers to that!
"Don't you dare give me Ludwig for a Christmas present!" is funny. Scrooge sure would like to find contentment. This seems to suggest inner depths in a way that, naturally, is not explored.
Psychology or mind control? Are we getting into conspiracy-theory territory here, or what?
Let's give Italian Stereotype a sack o' cash? What could go wrong?
Well, you can perhaps figure out where this is going. I like the way Ludwig just washes his hands of the whole thing. CYA.
Yeah, so now...this part. This stands out rather obviously as the one really notably, obviously bad part of this story.
I want to know what the fuck the deal is with these "town wolves." Is there some stereotype of louche characters like this hijacking women's cars? I am unaware of it. But really, this sudden, violent spasm of sexism really mars the story. It can't help but be one of the things about it that stands out the most in your memory.
So yeah, this, which again fails to make the desired impression.
I really, really like the idea of him firing them from being his relatives. That's good, and worth a few points for sure.
And now, we move on to the heartwarming portion of this story. And, you know, credit where due, it is indeed at least moderately heartwarming.
Here is the lesson for you, if you missed it. They were just waiting in the wings with that spiel all prepared, weren't they? Now, there's definitely something to this. Anyone who's seen The Wire undoubtedly remembers the part in season four where the underprivileged kids win the debate contest and get taken to a super-high-end restaurant as a reward, only to be thoroughly alienated and freaked out by the whole thing until they make their chaperone take them to McDonald's instead. I definitely think of that, especially as regards the organ grinder. It's certainly a real phenomenon. That said, there's also the seed of a kind of malignant "it's only natural and right that the commoners know their place" message here. I'm not saying it spoils the story; it doesn't. But it remains in the back of my mind. It also doesn't help that Daisy's "inappropriate gift" is only "inappropriate" due to the writer being a sexist ass. There's nothing inherent in the fancy car that she would object to.
Notably absent: a more appropriate present for Grandma. One strongly suspects that presumed-Lockman just couldn't think of anything, but, as fun as this is--and it is reasonably fun--that stands out as quite the lacuna. Couldn't she just have been given a less ostentatious new farm tool or something?
The story definitely sticks the ending, though; that's nice. One can't help thinking though (okay, one easily can, but I've trained my brain not to be able to not): how does this work? How massive does that spool of tinsel have to be to be that visible on a mountain? And one's mind boggles thinking about the star. It's gonna be hell to clean up come the new year; I hope Scrooge's spirit of generosity persists 'til then. BUT. One shouldn't think of that. One should just be thankful for a Christmas story that--to repeat myself--is NOT TOO BAD. Thanks, Vic.
"Hey! You got your Barks in my non-Barks Christmas!" Well...yes. It's true. I came upon this in a Christmas Parade and realized, WHOA, Barks Christmas story I haven't done, and it kind of seemed unavoidable, especially when I realized I'd miscounted and had an extra day open in the schedule. Anyway, this is really your fault: when I was doing the last of Barks' holiday output last year, I specifically asked you people to point out any I'd missed, but did any of you point to this one? Like fun you did! Therefore, you must suffer, by reading about a good story.
Well, maybe that's needlessly jaundiced. But I've been reading a lot of these non-Barks things and thinking about the things about them that work and (more often) don't work, and sticking a Barks story in the middle of that really underlines what we does right that other people don't. So, let's check it out!
There's just so much to like right from the start. Gyro using an ear trumpet to try to hear the silent rocket launch chained to the ground? That's a level of sophisticated absurdity that others could only dream of. And "I should be thrilled about having mastered these problems [like hairless doorknobs] that have baffled mankind for years?" Hilarious. This is the kind of stuff that Barks just casually throws out there. It's not, by his standards, a particularly notable story; it probably wouldn't be in anyone's top ten. But holy crud, it's still just so effortlessly great.
Also, look at the art here. In a way, I wonder what exactly I'm saying when I call Barks' art "better" than his contemporaries,' because it's all anthropomorphic waterfowl. None of it's "realistic," so what does "better" mean? Well, the draughtsmanship is clearly better, with characters very rarely looking unintentionally malformed or otherwise unappealing. And then there are just the extra details. Look at a lot of the previous stories we've looked at here, and you'll notice that the background are kind of barren and uninteresting. Sure, the Strobl art is okay, but there's clearly a significant difference. Just check out those machines in the above: no other duck artist would've been able to manage them, and they make the admittedly fairly trivial story a lot more interesting to look at.
This Gemstone reprint kept the year of the ship sinking, I'm glad to see. A 1987 Gladstone version said--surprise--2007. I've said this before, but it's always annoying and momentarily confusing to me when the publisher tries to pretend that stories like this are being published for the first time.
And, I mean, just the way Barks characterizes Gyro. As you know, there's a strong tendency among a lot of your more hackish sorts of writers to really just use him as an invention piñata: you need some sort of magic gizmo to move your story alone, so you take a whack at him, and BAM, instant plot device. But here...I mean, as I said, this is nothing groundbreaking or particularly amazing. But this inner conflict of him trying not to think about inventing, harkening back to his childhood, but then not being able to avoid it--it's just low-key good. They don't all need to be towering epics.
See, this idea is totally absurd, but it's not absurd in the dubious, "you have no idea what you're doing, do you?" way that we've been seeing. It's gleefully, hilariously so. A winner is Carl.
And I'm not even saying anything about the Helper portion of this story, which predominantly consists of his ongoing battle with a duck. You could easily read the whole story and miss it altogether--which, I have to admit, I've done myself. But there it is. Just being in the background and being delightful. Barks didn't have to include this stuff to get paid. He didn't even have to do it to be head and shoulders above his fellow artists. But he did it anyway, a strong indication--it any more were needed--that this was not, in fact, just a job for Barks; that, probably unique among his peers, he actually was creating l'art pour l'art, at least in part.
I wonder, with a story like this: it first appeared in 1956, in CP 8 (which was headlined by "Reindeer Roundup"). It's the only Barks in the issue. Just eight out of a hundred pages. So if you read that issue, was it glaringly obvious to you that one of the artists here was substantially better than the others? I know when I was a kid, I was much less critical: I realized on some level that the stuff appearing in Uncle Scrooge and the ten-pagers in WDCwere indeed better than the rest, but I still read the rest with a fair amount of enthusiasm. But still...I feel like, if anything, Barks's work could've hurt the brand: "hey!" The Plain People of Comics Fandom might shout. "We can see what you're capable of, so why are you giving us the rest of this dross? Up your standards!" But clearly, it never happened. So much for The Magic of the Free Market.
Look at Gyro's conspiratorial look there, and imagine anyone else getting that right. Once again, Barks FTW.
So when one criticizes a story like this, it should be understood that these criticisms exist on a higher level than criticism of, like, "The Big Switcheroo" or some such shit. But: you know, stories that center around cartoon farms tend to carefully tiptoe around the question of slaughtering animals, whether by explicitly stating that that doesn't happen here, or just by never bringing it up. Because, you know, we're talking about cute cartoon animals. Thinking about killing them is just morbid. So all I'm saying is, not doing that probably would've been preferable here.
Like I said: I'm fairlysure the pigs, at least, would be okay with having nothing to do, if "something" means being slaughtered for their meat. Really now.
Aside from that, though, it's all good. Not a complicated message, and not one we'd be likely to agree with in the so-called real world, but well-executed and fun.
We can also take a moment to look at the denouement of Helper's story. Just look how smug that duck looks there! Pretty amazing, given how little detail there is.
But now, Helper is become Death, destroyer of worlds. So fun. And Gyro's rueful amusement and Grandma's acceptance of his eccentricities makes for an extremely agreeable Christmas trifle.