Sunday, August 15, 2010

"An Easter Basketcase"

I like Daan Jippes; I really do. I haven't read him as comprehensively as I have some duckfoax, but I've certainly enjoyed a lot of his material, and his redrawings of Barks' Junior Woodchuck scripts are good, even if I'm still not totally sold on the need for their existence.
But here's this story, "An Easter Basketcase." Obviously, this entry is not appropriately seasonal, but it just struck me so hard I had to write about it now. It's, uh...well, it demonstrates something important about the nature of comic characters, at any rate.

We begin with Donald being sort of marginally dickish; nothing all that unusual, if a bit pointed.



Well, okay, maybe a bit unusual. He seems to have even less reason than usual to be annoyed, given that Daisy's going into ecstasies about how awesome he is, and even from a cynical, purely pragmatic level, dude, youweretotallygoingtogetlaidlater, so your motivations here seem somewhat murky. But, you know, whatever; this isn't so remarkable on its own--just as a harbinger of things to come.



...like this, where Donald shows that he quite clearly has serious unresolved issues that have nothing to do with baseball games or poetry books. At this point, he really is being a pretty full-on asshole. But YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET. B-b-b-baby…

Turns out he DID have the book:



If you don't think there are ulterior motives at play here, you are an extremely naïve individual, and that is all I have to say about that.

The kids suss out Donald's real motivation:



They try to foil his plans, but he locks them in the basement.



Um? If YOU'VE ever seen Donald ranting like a supervillain to anything like this extent, you've seen more than I have. That's bad enough. But check out the climax of this little tale, and the impetus for this entry:



...Jesus Christ.

So here's the thing: it is in the nature of comic book characters that they frequently exhibit exaggerated emotional reactions. There's nothing at all wrong with that. But--at least in a light-comic genre like Disney comics--these reactions have to be different in KIND from real-world reactions. Even when--as they frequently did--a Barks story ended with Scrooge chasing Donald with his cane, or Donald chasing the boys with a switch, it's not disturbing, because it's instinctively understood that this isn't meant to be "realistic" in any sense. Same principle with Donald's interactions with Daisy. Here's a Barks story (anachronistically called "Dodging Miss Daisy" by Inducks) where he is desperate to avoid helping with spring cleaning:



His aversion is comically exaggerated, which makes the story. In real life, the lengths that he goes to to avoid helping Daisy would be kind of pathological, but we accept that this is not real life, and we read the story on its own terms. Whereas in Jippes, his behavior is frighteningly reminiscent of that of an actual, real-world crazy person. It's less "comical exaggeration" and more "scary misogyny" and "probable murder-suicide in the very near future." There is simply no justification for that kind of ranting combined with those grotesque facial expressions. It's not funny (it's genuinely disturbing, is what it is), it doesn't illustrate anything about anyone's personality (because all of this is so far, far removed from the way Donald habitually behaves), and it doesn't result in a good story. Seriously, Jippes, what the hell?

In the end, Donald gets his comeuppance, sure, but that really just compounds the problem:



No, see, the proper response to behavior this unstable is at the very least a permanent breakup and a restraining order. Obviously, that can't happen in a Disney comic, but that just shows why you shouldn't have a character display such behavior in the first place. There's no way to make the story coherent. Broad slapstick--the default mode for a duck comic ending--just doesn't signify here. Seeing Donald get egged doesn't make anything better; it just makes you think, oh man, now he's gonna be really pissed. I'd really like to know whether Jippes was actually trying to write such a dissonant story, or whether he just drastically miscalculated the effect that this portrayal of Donald would have. I suppose if it's the former, the comic (maybe? sort of?) succeeds on its own terms. I don't know--maybe Jippes is concerned with the issue of domestic violence and wanted to highlight it in a comic. If so: your concerns are laudable, Daan, but this ain't an appropriate venue, for reasons that I think I have articulated.

Whatever the case, I can't say I'm a fan. This is something that I hope doesn't happen again.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Chris Barat said...

Geo,

There's a very fine line between cynicism and out-and-out nihilism, and Jippes definitely crossed it here. Jippes may simply have misunderstood Barks' approach. Lightness of touch (and a reminder that Barks' Daisy CAN be a pushy pain at times) can make what seems on the surface to be self-centered behavior just a little more palatable.

Chris

August 16, 2010 at 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Kevin Johnson said...

Am I reading Donald Duck or watching an episode of Breaking Bad? To say that the rant is grossly out of character is a huge understatement. Donald is an exaggerated hot-tempered spoiled child, not a borderline socio-psychopath.

Which is a shame, because the art is so bright and lovely, and Donald's expression in the first panel of the final screenshot is great.

August 17, 2010 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...

Kevin,

The best I can say about Don's behavior here is that a lot of people may FEEL that way at times. The difference is, they don't show it openly.

Chris

August 17, 2010 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

Yikes

August 19, 2010 at 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Richie said...

The effin' Duck!?

Duuuuuude.

And people thought that comic with Donald casually drowning Goofy after he laughed at him was bad...

October 21, 2010 at 5:54 PM  
Anonymous ThePaganSun said...

Hey,

I know this post is from like ages ago, but since Donald is my favorite character and since I'm semi-familar with Duck comics, I just had to say something.

It always surprises me when people somehow think that Donald can't be vengeful or malicious in canon when in fact, in Al Taliaferro's comics (before Barks and Don Rosa) and even in many of his cartoons, Donald's also shown to have psychotic, unstable and extremely violent! Part of the reason (especially in regards to Taliaferro) is that unlike Mickey and Goofy and the gang, Donald was originally shown to be a child (both in comics and in cartoons). Many of Taliaferro's earlier comics had Clarabelle try to reform/tame him, only for him to at one point give her a black eye! http://coa.inducks.org/story.php?c=ZS+37-08-15 Luckily, she manages to slightly reform him eventually.
There's another one where he violently slams a rifle on Horace's head after the horse's advice leads him to miss a kill! http://coa.inducks.org/story.php?c=ZS+36-10-11

And lol...the above comic is hardly upsetting. You want disturbing? Look up some newer Italian Ducks stories where Scrooge constantly tries to take away Donald's house, leaving him and the three nephews living on the street! Or in one story, he cuts off a Beagle Boy's nose!

So seriously, guys...Donald's character doesn't begin and end with Carl Barks or Don Rosa (the latter who I actually dislike most of his stories abot Donald since he portrayed him as a usually more submissive loser). He's existed before them and although those two are great story-tellers, other writers had a right to also play with other parts of the duck's personality that had always been a part of him. So yeah...just because Barks and Rosa don't usually portray Donald like that doesn't mean that behavior isn't canon for him. : /

March 10, 2015 at 2:46 AM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

You say that, but I've read a lot of the material you mention, and there's a very wide gulf between the kind of cartoon violence you see in Taliaferro--however extreme--and the disconcertingly *realistically* disturbing behavior you see here.

I'll readily admit that a lot of the Italians regularly portray Scrooge as a psychopath; I'm not a big fan of that either, but it's neither here nor there as far as this story goes.

March 10, 2015 at 5:53 AM  

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