"The Bleep-Bleep 15"
I have a very important question for you: why the hell has "The Bleep-Bleep 15" only ever been published outside of Italy once--in the edition I read? When all the stories surrounding it have been widely published everywhere? WHY?!?!? TELL ME!!! This goes deep, people. VERY deep. If you look on inducks, you'll see that even the Italian publication history is suspicious: it was first printed in 1960, reprinted in 1964, and then not published again until 1994, even though the surrounding stories were mostly reprinted in the early eighties (the case is the same for the story Dave Gerstein mentioned in comments last time that's never been printed outside of Italy). Is there some sort of censorship involved here? According to the accompanying essay, one of the stories we'll be looking at a bit later was explicitly suppressed for a while--but there the reasons are obvious, if (inevitably) uncompelling; here I just don't know. VERY, VERY SUSPICIOUS.
This state of affairs is especially unfortunate because "The Bleep-Bleep 15" is fucking delightful--one of the best stories we'll be looking at, if not the best. It feels very much like a Bill-Walsh-era Gottfredson story, in a good way.
It is, of course, the fourth Atomo Bleep-Bleep story. The idea here is that, just on a lark, Atomo invents this little mini-satellite thing (which is ultimately named after him; hence, the title) that attaches to things in the air and prevents them from falling. Eventually, people find out and start going crazy about this; everyone wants the technology for themselves. Atomo is kidnapped by Pete and company to manufacture for them larger versions of the device (though not, apparently, for any world-conquering reasons--he just wants to sell them to governments and get rich), and when Mickey figures out what happens, it's necessary to rescue him.
There's a certain thematic commonality with Gottfredson's original "Sky Island," in which Mickey's like, hey, give us your technology; we're responsible!; and Einmug's like, nope, don't trust ya. We can see that the good doctor was quite justified in his distrust.
(Apologies for those craptastic-looking text balloons--the digest is such that if I wanted to get good-looking ones without shadows wrecking things, I'd need to pretty much break its spine. If I were doing a translation project, I suppose I'd have to get an extra copy of the book and cut the pages out with an exacto knife to scan them optimally.)
Sound like a simple plot, and it is, in outline. For the most part, it moves at a rather stately pace, with lots of great individual moments. I really like how feisty Mickey is here, harkening back to the really old-school stories. F'rinstance, this bit where he uses the device plays a trick on Goofy:
That shit is old-school.
Or stuff like this. The idea here is that Pete forces Atomo to work for him by deploying this Japanese henchman here, Kamura, to constantly survey Mickey and kill him if Atomo disobeys. Which, ultimately, leads to a fun fight scene involving the above. I actually laughed out loud at the bottom left panel there.
According to the introduction I read, when this story was reprinted to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, it was revised (by Scarpa himself with Giorgio Cavazzano) to create a "more Japanese ambiance," although I have literally no idea of what that could possibly entail.
We also have Pete being classically murderous. Trudy does not appear in this story, but at one point (unless this is just an embellishment by the French translator, which I doubt), he does mention her by name, indicating that Scarpa already thought of her as a regular. Also, we see here and in the next story that Atomo is rapidly becoming some sort of invincible superhero. Not only can he not be hurt by anything less than an atom smasher…
…but he's also some kind of crazy martial arts master.
The way Mickey and Atomo ultimately figure out what's what and thereby overcome Pete is also clever, albeit a bit overly convenient (I won't spoil it). I don't think I can quite convey how fun the whole thing is here, but believe me, the answer is very. I recommend that all countries get on the ball with it, and that it be printed in the US just as soon as there's a publisher (aaaaany day now…).
Labels: Romano Scarpa