Thursday, October 4, 2012

Master McDucato, Chapter IV: "The Pirates of Montecristo"

So who doesn't like pirates?  Eh?  Eh?  Well, actually, I feel like they're a bit played out.  You really have to do something special with them to make 'em register.  Regardless, though, here it is: another chapter, another historically dubious moment:

Italian Wikipedia makes it pretty darn clear that this Morosini guy did not, in fact, settle in Livorno.  It's a lie!

And seriously, stuff like this just makes you question the story all over again: so now we're all super-concerned about accuracy?  And how the heck does Donald know about the Battle of Meloria, anyway?  I am skeptical!  Skeptical, I tell you!

I also want to note that according to here, the Tower of Meloria was destroyed in the battle, and not rebuilt until the eighteenth century.  What the heck ever!

And here, we see Donald and the kid getting annoyed at this cavalcade of factoids, suggesting that Martina and Carpi were at least somewhat self-aware about what they were doing, and how it can come across.  And yet…they keep doing it.  I'm not gonna deny it: this is all very mystifying.

Here's a little thing I did change: in the German version, Scrooge is worrying about hiding the barrel o' florins as though it's a thing that had been his goal throughout the story, as opposed to something that he just brought up for the first time here.  That seemed a bit maladroit, somehow.

(I would also like to note that, in spite of what Dumas might have you believe, the primary spelling of "Montecristo" is one word.  That's not just sheer idiocy on my part.)

Note that Martina and Carpi appear not to have had much to say about Livorno, as Scroogio and Naldo are shunted off to this island in short order.  That IS a pretty nice image; I especially like Tillino glaring at the fish.

And here's a peculiar bit: you would think that Scrooge would have to just be fucking with Donald here, since it certainly is made to seem as though something is genuinely wrong with Tillino.  And yet…I'm not at all convinced that that's supposed to be what's going on.  Certainly if it is, Scrooge is being one hundred percent deadpan about it.  I have the feeling it's something that just doesn't make sense, and nobody ever really seriously considered this.  At any rate, here you get once again a little bit of ambiguity about who's in the story and who's out of it.  The German version actually refers to Donald as "Naldo" a few times--or possibly vice versa--but I think that's just down to sloppy editing.


I find this subgenre of children's books about beloved animals dying morbidly amusing.  There's this sense that since they're super-depressing, they must be all mature, and "good" for kids; they're always winning Caldecott Medals and things.  You can find many examples on the wikipedia entry for "Children's Books About Death."  Apparently, "everything you have ever loved is going to die" is considered an important message for children.  Only here's the thing: I'm not at all convinced that kids actually internalize these things in the way that adults think they do.  When I was small, I got a book which was a collection of stories written by children that had won some sort of award.  And both first and second place stories were on this very theme: in the second-place story, this kid worked super-hard so he could get a horse, and this was great, but then the horse broke its leg and had to be put down, and the kid reflected--I am not making this up even a tiny bit--about how this must be God's way of punishing him for neglecting his chores for the horse.  The first-place story wasn't about an animal, per se; it was about a classmate of the narrator's, but it was clearly of the same type.  This classmate was a girl who was all sweet and everybody loved, but oh shit, she either was hit by a vehicle or developed some disease; I don't remember, but anyway, she was dying in the hospital, and everyone was sad, but she imparted Words Of Wisdom which were--yes, I'm paraphrasing, obviously, but I swear this was the exact sense--"this is lucky in some ways.  You'll be entering seventh grade, and I hear that the seventh grade teacher is really tough.  I won't have to deal with that" (I should emphasize that this was all in deadly earnest; there was nothing satirical about it).  Can you imagine that the authors of the books that clearly influenced these children to write these stories had morals in mind anything like these?  I cannot.  And yet, not only did these kids write what they wrote, but the adult judges of the contest thought, yes.  This is weighty, mature writing that we should recognize.  Yes, death is serious business, but I can't help laughing thinking about this ridiculousness.


Time for the important personages section!  Note that, for all that the city has allegedly produced so damn many important figures, the story comes up with all of two, neither of whom lived even remotely close to the time of the events being depicted.  And if there's one thing that baffles me more than anything else in all seven chapters, it's the way Scrooge is visibly annoyed that Donald and the kid are engaging in this weird activity that was his idea in the first place.

…and ya know, as I was writing this entry, I realized that I had totally neglected the actual "pirates" part of the story.  Well…they're just not that interesting, is the thing.  Note that the pirates Dragut and Sulayman (I didn't add those names; they were in the German) were not contemporaries, and neither of them lived at the time of the story.  If we want to roll with my hypothesis that Carpi and Martina were just feeling pressure to cram in as many historical figures as possible, here's a data point for that.

And…I feel like that pirate's line should at least put me in the running in the World's Lamest Pun Contest.  Note that it just abruptly became nighttime and stormy in the last panel, for drama purposes.  Is the twist in the next chapter REALLY that weird?  Mmm…it's pretty weird.  But judge for yourself.

<-Chapter III Chapter V->

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Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Boy! Those new reviews are coming out so fast I bearly can find time to read them all and respond :)

October 5, 2012 at 2:29 PM  
Blogger Napoleon said...

Although I dislike this modern-era frame story, I'm kind of fascinated by its apparent tendency to get progressively stranger. When we start up it's pretty straightforward even though Scrooge's schemes make little sense, but now we're really tearing the fabric of the entire combination of narratives, with characters deliberately pointing out inconsistencies in the story and pondering about the most efficient way of furthering the plot or lack thereof. It's fascinating and weirdly amusing. The writer is a darn good sport for voluntarily calling attention to flaws and inconsistencies in his story. Keeping the reader alert.

I'm reminded here of a reasonably funny sub-genre of Italian Disney comics. They have this kind of a loose series where the setup is that Goofy is an aspiring author and Mickey has to come to his place every week to hear him read his latest manuscript for a bestseller novel, starring fictionalized versions of himself and Mickey. These stories are interesting for deliberately calling attention to inconsistencies and contrivances in Goofy's attempted plot and for sometimes bringing various narrative tools and functions to the fore. (I imagine that writing these might be therapeutic for comics writers.) Goofy's novel itself is always a genre parody - legal thriller, fantasy adventure, whodunnit etc. In these stories Mickey's frustration grows as he is forced to listen to Goofy's nonsensical and clichéd fiction and he will interrupt the "story" with repeated objections. But as I said, I usually find those stories genuinely fun. What we have here is just plain bizarre.

Anyway, once again the translation shines with humour and wit. Some of the humour is admittedly of the meta kind, but it's most appropriate here. Good show.

October 7, 2012 at 4:57 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

My guess with Donald and the boy's sudden obsession with accuracy is that that part from Scrooge was getting so wrong it violated even the standards of an average Italian kid's history knowledge from school. As for Martina's constant bare-bone factoids and name-dropping, I'm guessing they had been given something like a definite quota or list of people that should be in the series, but only a very finite amount of pages, so all they could do is mention stuff in passing.

When Donald is reminding Scrooge of the keg, it's not because he's worried about narrative structure, I think it's because he just wants Scrooge to "go on with the story". Oh, now I see, you were worrying about Scroogio's aptness at a coherent strategy.

Whatever happened to the gag that Scroogio was referring to "our plights so far", and Donald is correcting him that he's the one doing the rowing?

I don't think Scrooge was making a point that Tillino was feeling bad because of the water. Naldo's worried lines are actually Donald, still caught in his role as Naldo, before switching into his role as the critic of Scrooge's story. Scrooge musta went something like, "Tillino drank from the water and moaned...", and the next lines spoken by Naldo actually came from Donald, before snapping back into his role as a critic. If this was a cartoon, we'd see the panel of Naldo holding Tillino's head, and that scene would quickly fade into Donald holding nothing but thin air, as he is sobbing those lines, and then lash out at Scrooge for being so mean. Even Walt Disney himself did stuff like this in his classic cartoons. As for the actual point behind this, it's supposed to be "funny for Italians" because Donald is getting it wrong.

My guess is that Scrooge is slightly annoyed because all that Donald and the kid came up with were *MODERN* Livornians rather than contemporary ones. He's not being as irate as calling it "nonsense" in German, what he's saying there is more like, "Enough now", but I can see how you've adapted the words to his body language there.

It's not just *SUDDEN* drama for the last panel to become as stormy as this, after all the pirates are talking a bit more about the incoming thunderstorm in German.

February 2, 2014 at 3:16 PM  

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