Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Chapter Twelve: "The Richest Duck in the World"

Hey everyone, Merry Christmas. Hard for me to believe that this is it, given how submerged in this stuff I've been for the last month or so, but it it is. Last installment of the series. This can't help but come across as a little anti-climactic given the last one, but it's mostly a fitting ending. If inducks is to be believed, an alternate title for this is "The Recluse of McDuck Manor;" per Rosa's expanded commentary, this was Byron Erickson's idea, but Rosa preferred the title that we have before us now. No ambiguity here: sorry, Byron, but Rosa was right and you were wrong. That's a terrible name for the last installment in the series. "The Richest Duck in the World" creates an obvious sense of the series' final culmination, whereas that other title just makes it seem like one more segment like all the rest. And in any case, doesn't it violate the dictum that each title is meant to be a "positive" reference to Scrooge?



We open with this Citizen Kane tribute, which seems appropriate, given the context. A poignant reminder of a lost past--though it would be hard to deny that those glasses look sort of odd perched there like that in the last panel.



There's also some newsreel footage, including this. I'm not totally sure what "foreclosed on the chicken coop" means, but Grandma's gotta be pretty rich, if she sold all that land to him. Sure, he would've tried to pay as little as possible, but why would she have sold at all if she were getting a bad deal? I don't get the impression that she's meant to be any sort of pushover.



The idea is that this takes place after the main action of "Night on Bear Mountain" but before Scrooge meets up with them (there's no indication in that story that they'd never met him before, but nothing that proves they had, either). This is clever; it's a slightly bumpy insertion--the depiction of Scrooge here clashes with how delighted he is to be meeting up with them in the Barks story--but it's certainly less of a contradiction than his Fond Memories of chasing Foola Zoola and company off their land, and I don't have a problem with that, so not with this either.

One thing I really don't like, though, is this running thing where Donald is constantly deprecating Scrooge's awesomeness. I realize that it's there play up the contrast between conception and reality--and because Rosa just likes portraying Donald as a buffoon--but it feels very forced. Why is he so convinced of all this, exactly?



Oh man, there's an obscure reference. Is that the only Barks story that, outside the two CBL's, has never been reprinted in the US?



Anyway, this. An extremely momentous meeting, no doubt. Very well-done.



And some fourth-wall-smashing, 'cause why not? Apparently, the original version of the story was only sixteen pages, but Rosa got the go-ahead to add three pages' worth of additional stuff after the fact, including this. Mmm…a li'l self-aggrandizing maybe, but still cute.



Here, we see Rosa trying to make sense of the idea that Scrooge has "sentimental" money that just sits there. He can't quite do it, of course; no surprise, since it's a nonsensical idea. But he does his best, dammit. Oh, and hey, Beagle Boys in Santa suits. That's how you know it's a Christmas story.



See what I mean about Donald? This is just perverse. This dialogue doesn't feel remotely natural; he's like a guy in an infomercial expressing incredulity that a product this amazing could really be yours for the low, low price of $39.95. I would almost think he was trying to goad Scrooge into challenging him, if not for the fact that he was the same way with the kids before even meeting the guy. And in any case, it makes no sense: Hortense is his mother, as you ought to recall, if only because the story explicitly notes it. And we're really supposed to believe that he would never have learned anything from her about his famous uncle? I suppose if we want to bend over really, really far backwards to try to rationalize this, we could posit that she was so pissed off at him that she instituted a policy of omertà on the subject that she never, ever deviated from and he was somehow never able to find anything out from anyone else. But really, now…



So in any case, he sorts out the Beagle Boys (the cop chasing the drummer in the background is in service to a pretty good "Twelve Days of Christmas" gag), and then it is necessary to convince him to return to his old self. It's not badly done, even if it's suddenness isn't exactly psychologically realistic.



Yay! Now on to the feast!



…and it's actually pretty near impossible to imagine this scene of bonhomie in a Rosa story. To be fair, it's difficult to imagine it in a later Barks story too, but Rosa? Fergeddaboutit (okay, come to think of it, I guess the ending of "The Duck Who Never Was" is pretty close).



…man, do we have to get another dig in at Donald at the very last? Yes, we do. I like this regardless, but it's definitely suffused with melancholy--all these memories, gone gone gone. I think Rosa would probably agree that given this conception, there's a somewhat unhappy subtext underlying Scrooge's later exploits.

And…we're done. I hope you've liked reading it as much as I've liked writing it. While I've leveled plenty of criticisms Rosa's way over the course of this project, I hope my deep affection for his work is also apparent. Let me say this: I like a lot of different duck comics by a lot of different people. However, of Rosa, it must be said: there has never been anyone else whose work in the form has been even remotely similar to his. I don't think you can say that for anyone else. Sure, we can whine complain kvetch bitch about this and that (that's what this blog's more or less for, after all), but a duckiverse that did not include his work would be much, much poorer. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Rosa.

(And hey, if you ever decide that you're sick and tired of not being exploited by publishers and wanna get back in the game, I have some great sequel ideas, yours free of charge. You have only to ask.)

Some final thoughts probably tomorrow, though I can't guarantee it. In the next few days, at any rate.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Christopher said...

One way to view Donald's opinions is to note that at this point, he hasn't achieved anything comparable to Scrooge's adventures, so he sees the need to cut Scrooge down. I don't like this idea much, but there it is.

Also, we need to remember that this is a defining moment for Donald and HDL- this is when their worldwide adventures start.

Merry Christmas!

December 26, 2011 at 4:17 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

I dunno if the “worldwide adventures” *started* here. Yellow Beak, mummy cases, and some frozen gold, etc. factored into things somewhat.

What DID start here was the CONSISTANCY of adventures in the service of their rich uncle. Probably the best excuse for adventures outside of the donning of a mask, cowl, or cape.

GREAT series, Geo!

December 26, 2011 at 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I have (regrettably) read "Black Wednesday," but I don't have a copy, and I don't get the reference. Is it the 1908 painting?

Thanks, Geo, for the BEST ADVENT CALENDAR EVER!

December 27, 2011 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Yeah, there's the year on the painting, and also the totem pole motif.

I'm glad that you both liked it. Seriously, I'm terrible at taking compliments, but I still very much appreciate them.

December 28, 2011 at 3:16 AM  
OpenID reviewordie said...

I think Donald's in this actions tie in to how you have mentioned Barks' cynicism about some of his earlier works, and the idea that adventure is fading. You just can't go around finding hidden ruins anymore! And how could the world be as exciting as all that when the world is as you see it today?

Here's why I think Donald might bother you. I frequently read Rosa's stories to my little cousins, and the dialogue ISN'T natural (but the funny voices and accents help!) because Rosa is kind of in love with words. It works beautifully for print, but read aloud... not so much. This is largely because it so complements the work he does with Duck faces and bodies. But... as mentioned here, regarding the Donald sequence...

http://stp.ling.uu.se/~starback/dcml/creators/rosa-on-himself.html#D92380 Quote:

"When I started writing & drawing Duck stories in 1987, I learned by copying Barks poses, as is or with any changes as suited my needs. As time went on, I relied on them less... and while doing the Lo$ for the past 2 1/2 years, I haven't used my clip-files at all. However, as a result of a Danish newspaper article about me that, though being generally very favorable, claimed I draw Donald so poorly as to be unrecognizeable, I have gone BACK to using my clip-file for the "60th Birthday" story I'm currently drawing."

I think with typical Rosa art, you might have had a gripe still, but it would have felt more natural. Barks' work in comics was mentioned in one of the Mickey Mouse trades as being like a series of still paintings, with expert composition. Rosa's composition is more filmic and based around the character's emotions. It looks more like a single frame of a movie. But of course, that's just my interpretation. I never had a problem with it myself, but maybe the sequence would be just as grumble-worthy with new art!

This chapter becomes significantly creepier (regarding the 1947 date and Scrooge's 20 good years line) once you remember the one-panel comic Don Rosa drew about 'the final adventure of Scrooge McDuck'.

http://duckman.pettho.com/history/hd19xx_c.gif

Notice the date on the gravestone?

*shudders*

My personal interpretation of Hortense can be read that she is, in fact, dead. Donald's overjoyed reaction to seeing her in a dream in Dream of a Lifetime makes me think that she passed on early, at least before he struck out on his own. Quackmore, I am sure, passed on later, and I am ABSOLUTELY OKAY with the idea of Della and *Daisy's Brother* being lost in a jungle somewhere, to be reunited with the nephews when they get older, because otherwise Donald's family is pretty creepy.

I know I keep sounding like a Rosa apologist and barging in, and I apologize for THAT. I do love his stories, but I really enjoyed your critiques, which mentioned numerous things that intrigued me and ended up being extremely insightful. I love this kind of review, and I hope you intend to do more of these for Rosa 'sagas' (like the Black Knight, which is about 8-10 parts when you break it down) or the Templars!

Or whatever else. I'll still keep checking daily. :) Can't wait to see your wrap-up!

December 28, 2011 at 3:58 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Personally, I agree with reviewordie that Hortense died when Donald was on the verge of adulthood, and that Quackmore died since, before Donald got the boys. And I'm also OK with Della and her husband (no, I don't think he's Daisy's brother--I'm firmly of the "HD&L call her Aunt Daisy as a generic honorific used for friend-of-the-family adults" school*) being lost in the vicinity of Tralla La. That does indeed leave open the possibility that they will be reunited with HD&L before they grow up. My godson, a huge Scrooge fan (thanks to me!), has always believed that the boys' parents had to undertake a diplomatic mission to an alien race in outer space (for which they were for some reason uniquely qualified), but when I suggested that to Rosa, he rejected it as being too much a "silly superhero" plot! :-) He told me he thinks that Della & husband went to the vicinity of Tralla La as some version of Peace Corps workers. My friend Lowell Handy, also a big Scrooge fan, has since childhood believed that HD&L's parents died in WW2 (since he knew kids in the 50's who had lost a parent in the war).

*I'm old enough that I called non-related adults "aunt" and "uncle" in just this way. People who think she's HD&L's biological aunt because they call her "Aunt Daisy" may not have grown up in the 50's or early 60's, when American children generally did not call adults by their first names. HD&L would have had two choices: to call her "Miss Duck" or to call her "Aunt Daisy."

December 28, 2011 at 10:42 AM  
OpenID reviewordie said...

I do get a little rankled at the idea of Rosa dismissing the fantastic in his Duck world when, you know, he wrote stories about the Ducks flying in outer space and accepts all of Barks (except, according to SDL, the space stories! I guess! For some reason! Probably because having a gold moon would mean Scrooge won everything forever) as canon. A part of me quite likes your godson's plot more than Rosa's anyhow, just because of that sense of fantastic!

Rosa made comments about Daisy's relationship to the boys in things that weren't actually, officially published, so they're of no real canonicity. Personally I just have more than a few Disney stories I'd like to write, and one of my favorite plots is one that relies on that assumption... :)

December 28, 2011 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

My godson, a huge Scrooge fan (thanks to me!), has always believed that the boys' parents had to undertake a diplomatic mission to an alien race in outer space (for which they were for some reason uniquely qualified), but when I suggested that to Rosa, he rejected it as being too much a "silly superhero" plot!

Oh that's funny. Yeah, way too silly, Mr. Hideous Space Varmints!

December 28, 2011 at 12:51 PM  
OpenID reviewordie said...

You know, that one goofy story is probably the most Barksian thing he's ever done.

December 28, 2011 at 1:42 PM  

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