Musings on Classic (and not-so-classic) Duck Comics
posted by GeoX's Nemesis, the Mysterious XoeG at
Thanks a bunch, this is seriously awesome - and very appropriate as the bicentenary of the Battle of Borodino is just around the corner. I have to note that at least at one point the translator has committed a minor error or inconsistency - normally I wouldn't bring up such a trifle, but here it's most interesting. I find it fun that the comic includes some sound effects and interjections written in Cyrillic. But on page 18, last panel, we find Donald... I mean Count Duckzukov crying for help. Now, his cry, albeit in Cyrillic, is evidently not the appropriate Russian Помогите, but instead a Cyrillic transliteration of the Italian "Aiuto", which of course means "Help". This obviously must derive from the original Italian (and thus this whole cleverish idea must be theirs and not the translator's) and has been left untouched by the translator for some reason. It kind of ruins the joke if you know any Russian, but on the other hand it just makes the whole thing even more enjoyably absurd and gives an unusual example of problems pertaining to translation. So here we have it: an anthropomorphic duck, the victim of attempted murder by cannon, speaking Cyrillic Italian in an English-language publication. It, and this nit-picking, quite frankly made my day. As far as my very limited command of Russian is concerned, the other Cyrillic jokes seem to be in order (apart from the random assortment of letters spouted by the enraged Tsar Alexander on page 23), and like I said, I quite like the idea of using this alphabet as a joke. I think it somehow highlights the high literary source of this greatly enjoyable duckification while simultaneously calling attention to the fact that this whole thing is a mere parody played for laughs.Also, this is a war-themed comic and as such, I think, quite unusual for the Disney Ducks. War is handled humorously here, and there's an abundance of Mad Magazine-esque absurdist visual jokes. Much darker humour than this would hardly be appropriate, but there's a pretty subtle example of comedy in a darker vein on page 19, where we meet the beaten Pyotr Bagration getting hit by a cheeky French cannonball. This is all pretty hilarious bearing in mind that Bagration was mortally wounded at Borodino and died of his injuries about a fortnight later. I like how these guys have chosen to go the extra mile and make the reference here - since the guy could just as well be a nameless Russian aide-de-camp. But no! Let us reference some real person who acutally lost his life as a direct result of the battle we're spoofing! That's the spirit.Thanks for this, and keep up your excellent work! -Long time reader, first time commenter
Oh, and Bagration appears on page 46, not on page 19 as I claimed in my previous post. Peace.
Thanks--that's insightful, and of course I never would've gotten the Russian-language-related issues on my own. You should comment more often.
I actually might start commenting more often, and just for that, I might as well be logged in when commenting - that way it'll be easier to identify and refer to a particular comment. Anyhow, this story is one I fondly remember from my childhood, so I was delighted to read your review of it earlier. Up to this point, I was only familiar with the Finnish translation. That version was first published here in Finland in the early 1990s, unfortunately in a format where every other spread is black & white - and that's why it's so cool to see all of it in great colour. (The colouring is quite successful - although I've noticed that globes are for some reason very hard for colourists to get right: eg. page 21 where, in the very last panel, in the lower left corner beside the imperial negotiation table, we have a classical case of land-water inversion. You can clearly make out the Italian peninsula and something resembeling the Balkan peninsula, but it's all blue, whereas the Mediterranean shines in brown. Also, pinning all those little flags on ocean might not make a whole lot of sense. This is something that tends to happen a lot in comics, and it doesn't really bother me, but I just... can't... help... but notice.)I remember reading this story over and over again, not perhaps so much for the plot but for the brilliant, action-packed panels bursting all kinds of unnecessary visual insanity. A more high-minded and pretentious way of putting it might be that Carpi seeks to convey the vast, inticate panorama of Tolstoy's epic novel and of the unstoppable drive of History with these fascinatingly detailed panels depicting a Russia inhabited by nameless characters who appear to lead really interesting if copletely absurd lives. In short, people and situations you might actually want to read about. I'm an unbearable sucker for all kinds of useless detail, so I just adore Carpi's bold and brilliant visual execution here and elsewhere.
Also, I just had to dig up my own rather worn-out copy of the comic book containing this story, just to check how the Finnish translation dealt with these bizarre Cyrillic jokes. And I'm proud to say that they did get AND translate the joke of the HELP! speech bubble. In the Finnish version, Donald cries "AПУA!", a Cyrillic transliteration of the appropriate Finnish cry "APUA!" So they have successfully duplicated the aburd original joke that just writing something in Cyrillic 'makes it Russian'. I don't know if sheer geographical proximity might have made the Finnish translator more alert to this detail.(Previously I had been under the impression that perhaps all this fooling around with the Cyrillic alphabet was an additional comedic touch by the Finnish translator, but reading this version today proved that it's already present in the original Italian. It is, however, an unusual feature in a Disney comic: I'm used to Oriental characters sometimes spouting squiggles that the artist thinks will pass for Mandarin or Japanese, but the kind of writing system jokes we get here are really rare. I'm reminded of Asterix comics. In the Adventures of Asterix the Gaul, we get Goths speaking in Gothic script, Greeks talking in mock-Greek letters - and Egyptians have their speech bubbles filled with descriptive hieroglyphics. I wonder if Carpi got the idea from there.)But really, the English translation here works quite well despite my tireless nitpicking, and it does seem that both Finnish and English versions, being very similar, follow the Italian original very closely - and consequently, the original Italian must be quite funny vocabulary-wise as well. The insults the Emperor and the Tsar hurl at each other are, as you previously stated, an obvious verbal high point, especially the witty "Emperor of light opera" putdown that also appears (in an exact translation) in the Finnish. This particular insult is also funny because it actually encapsulates quite neatly some of the animosity that the established crowned heads of Europe felt towards the suspicious Corsican upstart. So, nice historical localization there. And yadda yadda yadda, I could jabber on and on about other silly and boring tidbits that interest me about this great story. Yeah, a great story it is. Perfect with a cup of Russian caravan tea fresh from the samovar with a slice of lemon - and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture creating an appropriately rambunctios audial atmosphere in the background.
AHA! So this guy is to big of a pussy to review NINE Gottfredson stories! I knew it, nobody has the balls to do it!
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