I must apologize in advance for the fact that our Mystery Halloween Climax kinda bites. But hey--you can't win 'em all, can you?
At any rate, this story may be of interest simply because it's the most obscure thing I've ever covered on this blog: a 3-D Cheerios giveaway from 1954 that has never been reprinted anywhere ever. Unlike most Western Disney comics, you can't find these things online, but I bought a copy of this on ebay and scanned it for The Masses. Here! Enjoy! I can verify that if you can rustle up a pair of old-school red/blue 3-D glasses, you can indeed see the 3-D effect, even on a screen (pro-tip: view the images at a fairly small size; blowing them up makes it harder to see properly). In fact, if you don't have the glasses…well, as you can see from the images in this entry, they're not literally illegible, but they sure don't look too great. If you're desperate, you can try painting one of your eyes red and the other blue, but I will not be held responsible for the consequences.
Now, primitive and gimmicky though it may be, I nonetheless find the 3-D effect quite cool. Which is good, because…well, I seem to have an irrational tendency to assume that because a story is rare, it's also going to be good. That assumption, to put it mildly, does not hold up in this case. The story is by those stalwart workhorses Strobl and Fallberg, but neither of them were particularly on their game in this instance. Apart from the 3-D, this thing is really Historical Interest Only.
I have a strong tendency to want to think of this story as being entitled "Donald Duck and Witch Hazel," but ultimately, I think it works on the same principle as "Donald Duck in X," in which "X" is the only part that we generally assume counts as being THE title.
Anyway, it's not even a Halloween story in any but the broadest sense. Really, the only connection to our holiday theme is the second-ever appearance of Witch Hazel. What's especially interesting about this is that this is--as far as I know--the only other Western comic in which she's actually referred to as "Witch Hazel." Dave Gerstein notes this peculiarity of Western's way back here, and theorizes that it may be because the company didn't want to mess up name recognition for Little Lulu's Witch Hazel. That seems plausible, but if so, this one slipped through the cracks, or else just appeared before there was any official policy. Who knows--maybe it was only with this story that it occurred to the powers that be that Hazel could be a recurring Disney character and thus instituted said policy in the first place.
As you will see if you download the comic, the word "spelunking" comes up a lot here.
Yup--looks like someone had a word-a-day calendar.
So what's wrong with this story in particular? Well, it's one of these things: there's nothing glaringly egregious; it's just that it essentially goes nowhere and features very thin, unconvincing, and generally unlikable characterizations of everyone involved. And it doesn't do at all well by Hazel.
Caaaaave exploraaaaaation. That's what takes up most of this story, with minor mishaps like this, which are really, really none too interesting.
And…here's Hazel herself. She's doing "experiments." What kind of experiments? Shut up, that's what kind.
She tries to pull a trick or two, but it's all feeble, uninteresting stuff like this; there's none of the energy and brio of "Trick or Treat"--cartoon or comic.
And then, HDL take her wand and we get the deeply unappealing image of her breaking down and begging for mercy. Nobody needed to see that. Note that there's no indication in the story that the ducks remember knew her from their previous meeting.
And then, after she agrees to help them out, Donald is a major dick about it. Of course, he was also a major dick in "Trick or Treat," but there are different kinds of dickdom, some of which fit the character, some not so much. This clearly falls in the latter category.
More begging. This whole thing is just such a train wreck.
And I would like to think that this was intentional trickery on Hazel's part, but given the overall tenor of the story, I very much doubt that that was the intent.
So there you have it! Boy, that was anti-climactic, wasn't it? Let's take a brief look at the weird little Cheerios ad that accompanies this thing:
Not that all of those "our cereal will make you into a great athlete!" ads aren't pretty ridiculous, but at least if you're talking about baseball or football, you can see how the process would theoretically work--but the idea that Cheerios are somehow going to help you shoot straight? Um…you'll need to show you're work on that one, guys. Maybe they're implying (shades of Metal Gear Solid) that they're laced with diazepam. Sure, that'll hunt.
Here's the sort of thing sure to induce groans among collectors: back in the day, you coulda had a complete set of twenty-four of these 3-D comics for the price of seventy-five cents and three boxtops. Even adjusting for inflation, that's dirt-cheap. Whereas these days, if you can find such a set, it'll run you hundreds of dollars. Yowch.
(Seriously, if you, by hook or by crook, obtain complete scans of this series and send them to me, I will kiss you on the mouth. Tongue optional. This is a standing offer.)
As you may recall, during Disney's publishing days, they made a brief--very brief--foray into publishing 3-D comics. That resulted in this (also some Roger Rabbit thing, but I can't bring myself to care about that), which printed 3-D versions of a few Barks/Rosa/Van Horn/Gottfredson things--a sort of greatest-hits medley. Given that it's numbered, I can only assume that it was meant to be a continuing series, and given that no further numbers were forthcoming, I can only assume that it was a dismal failure. It's still pretty cool, though, and this presumed failure too bad--if the series had continued, they could mayhap have reprinted some of these old stories. No, this one isn't very good, and my confidence regarding the quality of the others is not high, but it would still have been a really historically nifty thing to do. Oh what might have been.
I'm out! Happy Halloween, everyone!