Master McDucato, Chapter VII: "Dawn of the New World"
As our final installment opens, we see that Charles VIII of France has occupied Florence. Reading up on the man, it's kind of hilariously pathetic how useless he was as a king: his main thing was these Italian wars, which accomplished nothing and got France big into debt, and then he died at the age of twenty-seven after whacking his head on a lintel (I'll bet that's why this story's never been published in France--they don't want to be reminded of the guy). You may note that the individual we see in this story sure doesn't look like he's in his twenties, but, well, never mind.
Yes! It's the very exchange to which there was an allusion that I cut out in the French version of "Dr. Faustus!" Well, if you were mourning that omission, now you get to enjoy it in all its glory! Seriously, Italian people, is this event some sort of major cultural touchstone to you, or what? I mean, it's appeared in two Disney stories…
Interestingly enough (or not), this guy is not identified in the German as Piero Capponi (again, I ask: if you're Italian, do you just automatically know him?). I include his name in my version, but I never, ever would have known who he was supposed to be if I hadn't read that there "Faustus." I probably would've thought that all this talk about trumpets and bells was some sort of idiomatic German thing that wasn't coming across.
And the story just mentions Savonarola here without then ever bringing the guy in or doing anything further with this. More evidence that Carpi and Martina had a quota to meet, and even just mentioning a historical personage was enough to "count."
Another thing: I complained, of Rosa's "Prisoner of White Agony Creek," that the long, duck-free segment with a bunch of historical figures shoehorned in broke the story's momentum a little. Looks like Rosa did not himself pioneer that particular technique.
…an' if you think Donald's line in the first panel there is kind of nonsensical, perhaps YOU would like to come up with a line that expresses the idea of "contemptuous hilarity at the mention of Benvenuto Cellini" while still making sense.
More ridiculousness--Scrooge's high opinion of his own cleverness/deviousness at avoiding having to read brief character blurbs out of the book is just beneath contempt.
Gawd, don't even get me started about the problems with this New-World-exploration stuff. There's just nothing about it that accords with any kind of historical record. Never mind that it's VERY doubtful that anyone was actually under the impression that Columbus had gone to India at this point; what's absolutely certain is that he did not come back with potatoes. And even if he had, the idea that they would instantly have become available any old place…yeah, pull the other one.
However, this DOES lead to the most surreal "inappropriate reaction" bit in the whole dern story. I mean, look okay, Scrooge is sometimes an asshole; got it--but when you find yourself exploding in rage at the very notion that someone would import a vegetable that you don't like, you've clearly long since moved from "generic assholishness" to "genuine mental illness."
…and this part is only marginally less ridiculous. Note that "visiting the new world" becoming Scroogio's consuming obsession was triggered by some guy's off-hand mention of gold nuggets being there. There was never any indication that they'd be super-easy to find or way more common than they are in Europe. The whole thing is on very shaky narrative ground.
…but off we go to Spain, and as we go, we experience our final dang ol' anecdote. Note that this one is unique inasmuch as it's precipitated by nothing; all the other ones are being told to them by someone to explain something about where they are. Here--nothin'. Unless those cities in the background are meant to be Empoli and San Miniato. Hard to say, really.
I suppose at least in part, this bit was included so Gyro and Gladstone could be worked in, albeit in a wildly out-of-character way.
I must say, though, from this climax, it seems like this was the most good-natured war ever, which is rather nice. Now, this flying donkey business is a real thing, and apparently it's quite a popular tradition; there's even some sort of hockey team named after it:
Why is "Flying Donkey" in English? I could not tell you. This place more or less confirms the story, though it doesn't seem to be all that well-known; wikipedia does not mention it. Also, if this "Eugenio Machiavelli" character--an ancestor of Niccolò, I assume?--was a real person, he sure doesn't seem to exist on the internet.
Anyway. That's that. Now, some more sea-voyage stuff, featuring Pete! Is his partner there actually perennial Paul-Murry-Pete-partner (coincidentally, The Paul Murry Pete Partners is the name of my new band) Scuttle? Extremely unlikely, but hey--let's just roll with it (actually, if anything, he looks more like an older version of Yardarm from the Ducktales episode "Pearl of Wisdom," but we're going old-school). Strange fact I discovered on inducks: Scuttle is by far more widely published in France than anywhere else. No idea why, but he's appeared there three hundred fifty-seven times, whereas in second-place Brazil, he's only appeared two hundred forty-three. The French are gripped with a mad, insatiable, Scuttle-mania! And I ask you: who can blame them?
Unsurprisingly, but still somewhat disappointingly, we are given absolutely no indication of what Pete's smuggling activities actually entail. Insert snide comment about MBAs here.
Seriously, I know I've said it before, but whatta dick. That shit-eating grin there is just the worst. Can't we at least try to avoid having our heroes violate their fundamental natures left and right?
…but then, abruptly, we swerve into implausible generosity. This whole thing, I just don't know…
I suppose this is meant to be some sort of great epiphany about Scroogio's psychology, but it does not come across as hugely plausible. I mean, I guess it's sort of interesting, but the idea that he was actually lugging this thing around for reasons other than a love of money is pretty hard to buy.
On the other hand, warning his nephew to shut up because he'd rather drown than be taken back in by Pete & Co and lose his florins? Wholly in-character.
This whole hyper-confidence on Scroogio's part about how easily he'll be able to get rich in America surely plays on the American-dream theme, and this is not the only story that's ended with Old-World characters emigrating to the New: Ducktargnan used it, and "War and Peace" indicates the possibility. No point in complaining that the only characteristically American name at this point would have to be a Native-American name; that's surely the joke, and not a bad one either. Is this playing on the Scots-are-misers business?
Well, the conclusion's not bad for what it is, anyway. I kind of like it.
But then we return to this, and a somewhat predictable denouement. In the German version, Donald was unambiguously taking the blame here; he forgot to load a tape. Eh…maybe, but I think it's at least as likely that Scrooge, cheap bastard that he is, forgot to buy one in the first place, and it was just assumed to be there by everyone.
Last-second Fethry cameo!
In the German, the kid just has a big question mark in his speech bubble, but when you think about it, all the narrative problems here are instantly solved if you assume the whole thing was a dream. Consider: this kid is sitting in his history class, bored out of his mind. Finally, he dozes off, and finds himself roaming the streets of his hometown, where, in a surprising turn of events that seems completely normal to him, he meets his favorite comic-book characters, who proceed to tell him a rambling, frequently pointless story about Tuscany. Thought of like this, all the historical inaccuracies are the kid's own, and the weird lapses in character seem perfectly normal because, hey, dream logic. And then the two of them fly away! Whoosh!
So, well…there you have it. It's hard to know what to say; as I've shown, there's a quite large extent to which this whole story just defies analysis. But I hope you've enjoyed this little trawl through Tuscan history and extreme Disney weirdness. At such time as I tackle another translation project (probably not for some time--this stuff is more consuming than is maybe wholly healthy for me), it'll probably be something at least somewhat less out there (okay, so it would be hard for it to be otherwise if I tried). But for now, I do take a perverse pleasure in
inflicting providing a story like this to an English-speaking audience.