Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Southern Hospitality"

As you know, the great majority of Barks' long-form Donald adventures were not printed in the regular, bimonthly Donald Duck book, which wasn't established until 1952, at which point he was too busy with Uncle Scrooge to contribute much; instead, they were printed as part of the Four Color Comics/One-Shots series, along with gallons of other Disney and non-Disney material.

For a long time, I was under the impression that all the DD one-shots were Barks' work.  It makes sense, doesn't it?  Ideally, you would want each issue to be perceived as special, and given that there was no regimented, set schedule by which they had to be published, there's no reason the series couldn't set its best foot forward every time.  And besides, given Barks' high standards (surely his editors were aware that he was the best guy they had, even if the public didn't know his name), why would you want to dilute the brand by mixing in lesser material?

Well, that's probably me overthinking it; more likely, this stuff was so popular at the time that it didn't matter overly much if there were quality dips: and so, Dell did publish a handful of non-Barks DD one-shots: here, here, here, here, and here.  Note that all of these were published late in the DD FCC run; perhaps this was part of their effort to transition Barks out of doing stories like these.

Anyway, I felt I had to read all these.  I suppose I had the vague impression that, in this instance, they would want a level of quality kind of uniform with the Barks, and so would go above and beyond the call of duty.  Not so much, it turns out!  Obviously.  The most notable one is "The Crocodile Collector," and that only because, as you know, it had a Barks cover that Gladstone commissioned a new story from Don Rosa to go with (quick review: Rosa's story is better).  None of them are good, but at least "Southern Hospitality" here is interesting.  I say, if a story's not going to be good, it should at least do me the courtesy of being completely unhinged.  Nothing worse than going through the motions.

Unusually, we actually have a known author here, if inducks is to be believed, and that's Del Connell--not the most notable writer around, but he is the creator of Super Goof, so if you're a big Super Goof fan…well, then that's definitely something you're a big fan of.  I wouldn't put this among his most notable efforts, however.

The idea of this story is that Donald, unsatisfied with the lack of neighborly feeling in Calisota, decides to move south, where everyone's super-hospitable.


The story really pushes this point hard, over and over and over: those southerners are just the most hospitable motherfuckers there are.  It sets you all up to think: really?  Is this going to be some kind of crazy cultural critique?  Because it really seems like there are only two ways this could go: either Donald's just flat-out wrong and the southerners are assholes, or else they are hospitable, but Donald quickly alienates them in some way.


The above is as far as the story goes in that direction, though, as Donald illustrates the no-true-Scotsman fallacy to amusing effect.  The title seems to promise that it's going to say something on the subject, and the set-up confirms that…but then, it doesn't do much at all.  At this point, this blog entry is going to forget about the whole "southern hospitality" thing.  That might seem kind of clumsy and maladroit--but in that, it closely matches the story itself.


Note a more concrete sense of geography than the average vintage duck story; that's something you see throughout, and I find it kind of interesting.


An' look at this: at least on occasion, there are real bits of clever groundedness: a writer of this sort of thing might easily decide, sure, we can make the thing fly, no problem--but here, the idea is presented as evidence of Donald's excessively grandiose thinking.  The other stuff is fine--but this is just a BRIDGE TOO FAR.  This is pretty okay, but it makes the story's failings less understandable.


Note "duh, duh, duh."  That's all I have to say about that.


Finally, they reach The South, where Scrooge has taken up residence, and I'm vacillating on whether or not I should be offended by his incongruous new accent.  I suppose for the time being, I'll just go with "deeply bemused."


This is an early Scrooge, who will rip you off as soon as look at you, so he cheats them by paying them in fake money for their work picking cotton.  But that is not the worst problem here.


Eye on the ball, here: Donald passes the fake money off to the kids for no reason other than, sigh, whatareyagonnado?


KARMIC FAILURE.  Not that this isn't probably obvious, but when the kids pull one over on Donald, there has to be some sense that it's earned.  That doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be entirely fair, but there's gotta be something.  Otherwise, they just look like huge dicks, as they do here.  If Donald has, like, ripped them off by paying them for services rendered with money that turned out to be fake, that would be one thing.  But this…is another.

I'm afraid I made this story sound somewhat more interesting than it is by just picking out the interesting parts.  Really, in spite of brief glimpses of inspiration, it's just The Usual Thing--or what would become the usual thing, at any rate.  It's too bad, in a way, if inevitable: while it remained in one-shot territory, comic books entitled Donald Duck maintained an extraordinarily high level of quality, thanks to Barks (occasional lame back-up stories from other artists notwithstanding).  But…before too long, the line would come to be dominated by things closer in quality to "Southern Hospitality."  What DD title came directly before this one?  The answer is "A Christmas for Shacktown."  Just think about that gulf in quality, and despair.

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10 Comments:

OpenID reviewordie said...

Well that's... something. Looking at it, the strangest part in this story is the stripe on the nephews' shirt.

It definitely seems like Del was, at least, trying to imitate some of what Barks was doing. Donald's character seems pretty solid, there's an effort to keep things grounded, satire about social expectations... but it's all about the execution, and this looks like a not particularly well drawn piece of "meh." I applaud the effort though.

From what I'm seeing here though, the biggest problem I could imagine is that I'm actually on Donald's side on in the climax, which is probably not what was intended. He didn't cheat the kids, didn't fool them, lie to them, or much of anything, really. No "Give me back ALL the money", just "Let's split it." That's not funny, that's just a dude getting screwed over.

April 23, 2013 at 2:20 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Almost all links to the stories on your page shows "Story not found" when I click them...


So did the ducks actually interact with any southerners outside of that guy the boys shown money on the boat? The whole "let's check out are the local people more plesant then those back home" appears to be pointles if their only wasted in on the joke about Donald having hard time stoping cars...



Note tat Dewey line "Unca Scrooge was propably been saving it since the cyvil war". So Scrooge was part of the cyvil war? I wonder on what side was he on...

April 23, 2013 at 6:45 AM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

Wak! Links fixorated.

Yeah, that's the thing, there ARE no southerners except the confederate money dude and Cosplaying-Scrooge. The only time the story even vaguely attempts to make the "southern hospitality" theme pay off is with the cars that don't stop. I mean, unless you think Scrooge's behavior should be meaningful in some way in this regard, but given that he's not a real southerner...

April 23, 2013 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous erico said...

This is the best blog ever.

April 23, 2013 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

Thanks! I keep accosting strangers on the street and telling them this, but I rarely get the desired results.

April 24, 2013 at 12:51 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Maybe if you forced them to eat a diet of pure cotton, they'd agree (...how did you not cover the fact that Scrooge actually expects the ducks to do this?)

April 24, 2013 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

I don’t think that stories like this were necessarily “bad”, the sheer idiocy of the (water-carrying) ending of “The Magic Fountain” aside. Perhaps a better word would be “insubstantial” – especially given the drop-off that occurs from the classic Barks FOUR COLOR tales.

Connell clearly tries (and, in my view, succeeds) in the type of “real events conflict with Donald’s steadfast worldview” humor and, as you rightly note, draws the line at a “flying boat” -- so give him some points for that… and, of course, for creating Super Goof! “Taa-Daah!”

If you’d like to contrast this “insubstantial” outing with a superior Dell Funny Animal story of the period, visit my Blog at or around May 01, for my long review post on “Porky Pig in Phantom of the Plains”. You’d think that kind of effort would have been put into the Non-Barks Donald books if only to uphold the Barks-established standards, but Don’s loss was Porky’s gain.

April 24, 2013 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

That's a fair assessment--they may each have their moments of dumbness, but on the whole, these are far from scraping the bottom of the barrel. Still, I find that a lot of the time, that actually makes them less interesting: there's comparatively little that's actively bad about them, but there also isn't that much that's actively good-- so they just end up being kind of dull. Perhaps I'll dig through the archive and find an old non-Barks Western story I generally like to look at in the near future, for comparison purposes.

Looking forward to your review.

April 25, 2013 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...

Pan,

"Note tat Dewey line "Unca Scrooge was propably been saving it since the cyvil war". So Scrooge was part of the cyvil war? I wonder on what side was he on..."

I smell a possible crossover between this story and the DUCKTALES episode "Launchpad's Civil War"! If only the Ducks had visited Duck Ridge during this Southern jaunt...

Chris

April 26, 2013 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo:

If you, or any of your readers, wished to contrast “Southern Hospitality” with an example of the Dell Non-Barks comics at their best, you can check out my review of “Porky Pig in Phantom of the Plains”.

http://tiahblog.blogspot.com/2013/05/comic-book-review-dell-four-color-271.html

May 3, 2013 at 7:52 AM  

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