Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Fantasy Scenario

Have I mentioned lately how much I loveloveLOVE the duck stories of Don Rosa? 'Cause I do. It's not that other contemporary duck writers aren't in the same league as him so much as it is that they're not playing the same game. Nobody else even tries to do stories as insanely ambitious as Rosa does. Certainly no one else is as respectful of Barks' legacy.

I just read "The Quest for Kalevala," and seriously, a long story centered around Finnish mythology? What more could you ask for? It's about as epic as these things get, featuring Finnish heroes and monsters and even a trip to the underworld. The parts that narrate the myth themselves are drawn in a super-cool, stylized way.

It's also clearly a duck comic, however, and the ways that Rosa connects the story to the duckiverse are very clever without seeming forced. We see Gyro Gearloose as the reincarnation of a mythic blacksmith, and Magica de Spell as the champion of evil witch Louhi. It doesn't come across as being at all gimmicky.

The most interesting part is the ending, however. The hero Väinämöinen (töö mänÿ ümläüts!), sensing a kindred spirit in Scrooge, offers to take him along with him as he returns to eternity. But he asks (all the mythological character speak in verse) "Are you ready to come with me? - Have prosperity eternal? - Forsake your own Kalevala - Where a lost love still awaits you?" Scrooge, of course, is not. "Lost love" refers to Goldie, obviously, and refers to the story with which Rosa--definitely more of a romantic than Barks ever was!--would undoubtedly like the cap his career (no time soon, god willing!), but almost certainly won't be able to. I had assumed that Goldie was out considered of sight out of mind, not particularly because there's any logical REASON for her to be, but simply because the nature of duck comics means there isn't much that can realistically be done. In this interview, Rosa states that "I NEVER want a story where they have any further contact; That would ruin the magnitude of the three times they did meet." But seriously, WHAT could possibly the point of this bit of "Kalevala" if he wasn't thinking otherwise? Quit playing games with my heart, Rosa! If I can put my own spin on this: I would agree that it wouldn't be a good idea to have them meet during the time of the comics. Redundant at best. But if it was a later story, that could never ever happen, that might be a different thing; might, indeed, be the ONLY thing.

Obviously, given the nature of the medium in which Rosa is writing, the characters have to remain more or less static, but one can clearly see him straining against this. In most of Barks' treasure hunts, Scrooge either gets the treasure, or doesn't get it and is irked about it. Rosa's earlier (inferior) stories tend to follow this template, but in his later work, Scrooge is much more likely to gain no tangible treasure, but something more in the way of moral improvement. In "Return to Xanadu" he actually LOSES a previously-obtained treasure--but, we are given to believe, his appreciation for natural beauty is subtly rekindled. "War of the Wendigo" is pure environmental consciousness-raising (but not in a didactic way). In "The Old Castle's Other Secret" he finds the treasures of the Knights Templar, but not to keep--the real treasure (yeah yeah...) is his reconciliation with his sister Matilda. And in "Kalevala," he clarifies his sense of what it is he REALLY wants in life. The rewards have, to a great extent, become less concrete and more humanistic. The framework--rich duck looking to get richer--is still in place, but Rosa subtly subverts it. One would almost think that he was building up to something...

With all this in mind, I think it makes a lot of sense to see these stories as being kind of redemptive--Scrooge, consciously or not, making up for his failings in the penultimate chapter of the Life & Times, "The Empire-Builder from Calisota." What's the endpoint to all of this--the obvious, ineluctable conclusion? Having in some way made himself "worthy," he returns to the Yukon and lives out his last days with Goldie. Come on--you could even have a hokey but poignant line like "All these years I've been searching for gold, but, whether I knew it or not, you were the only gold I REALLY wanted." Rosa has stated that he thinks of his stories as taking place in the early fifties; according to his unofficial timeline, Scrooge dies in 1967, at the age of a hundred. So, then: he forsakes his fortune for her sometimes 1960-ish, they build a new, idyllic life at White Agony Creek and have some years of connubial bliss together before he dies in her arms. Then a few years later, when her time comes, we see him appearing to escort her to the hereafter, somewhat in the manner of Scrooge's parents (but gender-reversed) in "The Billionaire of Dismal Downs." Bam--not a dry eye in the house. Given the way Rosa's set up the duckiverse, I honestly don't think there's any other possible conclusion.

It is possible, of course, that Disney might have something to say about their most famous living artist killing off their biggest character. Can you imagine? The natural solution is for him to write the story anyway--ganbare! He wouldn't try to publish it right away; he wouldn't WANT to, since presumably he wants to keep writing Scrooge stories as much as I want to keep reading them. But in the far-flung future, when he retires, he could try to get it published. And when that inevitably fails, he could spread the word of its existence in interviews and whatnot, causing huge public demand. Given that Rosa is their marquee duck writer, they might cave in to pressure and do it while stipulating "this is not an official ending; it's just one man's idea," to let them keep pumping out mediocrity. But even if they didn't, it could still circulate underground, right? Right. The point is, it needs to happen. If it could be capped in such a way, the Barks/Rosa Scrooge would be, by rather a wide margin, the greatest cartoon narrative ever told.

11 Comments:

Blogger Christopher said...

I thought that reader response convinced Rosa to abandon his Scrooge-dies-at-100 timeline, because several impassioned fans convinced him that Scrooge shouldn't be beholden to mortal human life spans. After all, why shouldn't an anthropomorphic duck have a lifespan more comparable to a giant redwood than a long-living human?

July 27, 2010 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Ooh! I actually have relevant information here. The first time I met Rosa at a convention (this was just back in April, so this is current), I asked him about this very thing: whether he had a sort of fantasy ending in the back of his head (that he obviously wouldn't be allowed to actually realize). He told me that he did indeed, and that it resembled in outline Alan Moore's Superman story "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" Basically, Scrooge disposes of his money bin in the ocean or something, fakes his own death, and goes to live with Goldie. GODDAMN what I wouldn't give to read that story.

He's not dogmatic about it or anything, but I think he still holds to the idea that Scrooge is mortal. I can understand why that upsets some people, but I just think it makes the character seem more real.

July 27, 2010 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Wow! I definitely share your sentiments about reading that story. I hope that Mr. Rosa is doing all right– I heard that he had serious eye trouble. Incidentally, I thought that the first volume of the Complete Don Rosa series was supposed to come out last Christmas, but it seems to have disappeared. Do you know if it will ever get published?

The action scenes in the comics never really have an atmosphere of danger when you know that the heroes can never get seriously hurt. I guess for me, attempting to kill off Uncle Scrooge is like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle trying to kill Sherlock Holmes– killing him off would be emotionally powerful, but on a certain level it's never quite convincing because the character is so much larger than life.

July 28, 2010 at 2:12 AM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

I think it was some combination of eye trouble and the nature of the industry--I'm not sure in what ratio--that precipitated his retirement. As I understand it, you only get paid ONCE for each story you write--no royalties and no pay for reprints. Obviously, when you're as incredibly meticulous as Rosa, you can't produce stories at a fast rate, so you really can't make much money. Plus, publishers kept reprinting his stuff without even giving him credit, which would rub anyone the wrong way. Bad deal all around.

Would he come out of retirement for a blank check? No idea.

Sad to say, but as for the complete Don Rosa, that, along with the new CBL in color that was going to come out, was a Gemstone initiative, and thus is no more. Boom! appears to lack the initiative to even try to do anything that ambitious.

July 28, 2010 at 3:10 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

That's a shame about the complete Don Rosa– I was really looking forward to that. Thanks for answering my questions.

July 30, 2010 at 2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"he dies in her arms. Then a few years later, when her time comes, we see him appearing to escort her to the hereafter" How did you conclude Scrooge would die before Goldie? Because he was older?
Even if he did, she wouldn't live much longer with pain of loss...What purpose would that have? Wouldn't it be better if they would both die together?(...)

And, if I may ask, why do you think Rosa would have Scrooge throw away his money bin, (which aktually represents all his memories), instead of inheriting it to Donald and the boys, who really earned it in a way?
They were his only family and rescued him, when he had no more will to live(the first meeting in the mansion). They were always there for him, loved him and helped him so many times. I think it's the only logical solution.
Perhaps they said don't need the money...I think it would be difficult for Donald an the boys to let go of Scrooge. And perhaps the money inherit would make it even harder, knowing it represents all his momories. And end-up dumping it in the ocean to give themselves the peace and get rid of the reminder of loss.

But why schould Scrooge fake his on death? Why is this neccessary? Wouldn't that upset Donald and the boys. Or would they know about it, and keep it a secret?

May 25, 2011 at 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In this interview, Rosa states that "I NEVER want a story where they have any further contact; That would ruin the magnitude of the three times they did meet." "

Rosa seems to contradict himself though because they do meet again in "A Little Something Special".

October 14, 2011 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

I like to pretend the ending to "A Little Something Special" never happened, frankly. That's always struck me as really, really tonally weird.

October 14, 2011 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"He's not dogmatic about it or anything, but I think he still holds to the idea that Scrooge is mortal. I can understand why that upsets some people, but I just think it makes the character seem more real." and "The action scenes in the comics never really have an atmosphere of danger when you know that the heroes can never get seriously hurt." —> Since I agree with the second point but think that modern stories taking place in modern times, I tend to believe that Scrooge has "biological immortality": he isn't aging anymore since the fifties, but he could still die of disease or injury.

July 15, 2015 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Important stuff:

Rereading the post and its comment, but having retrospectively read the Don Rosa interview where the "having them meet more would ruin the magnitude", I see that you misunderstood the quote. It originates in his commentary on "Prisoner of White Agony Creek", and he isn't speaking of the possibilty of modern-day stories with Scrooge and Goldie: he's speaking of new "Life and Times" stories set during the gold rush. Hence, "Prisoner", which is a development of the original meeting and subsequently allows him to write a full-blown young Scrooge/young Goldie without adding to this original meeting.

December 30, 2015 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Imzo Bud said...

Because he consider his ducks more like humans than trees.

January 30, 2017 at 5:52 PM  

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