"The Eternal Flame of Kalhoa"
The intro to this French edition tells us that in the thirties, Topolino ran non-Disney stories along with Mickey stuff; one of these was the adventure serial Tim Tyler's Luck. The backstory here, we're told, is inspired by a story arc in that strip (which in turn comes, allegedly, from an H. Rider Haggard novel, though I'm not able to verify that this is a real thing. Much later, there was an Umberto Eco novel taking the name, but that, of course, is something entirely different.
ANYWAY. What IS this backstory? Well, in Scarpa's telling it involves a Mayan queen whom everyone hated because she was cruel and vain, so they exiled her to a secluded island, where she also took her jewels. Sometime later, the people needed money, apparently (this part is kind of vague), so they went back to the island looking for said jewels, but…
An' that's that! It's certainly notable that--as in "Calidornia"--Scarpa is not afraid to include these fairly lengthy, involved backstories. His work may often be problematic, but that's a sign of artistic effort, at least. It's more than a lot of Disney writers bother with.
The non-back-story is that these two shipwrecked sailors, called O'Gally and O'Bully in French, stumble onto this island; later, when they've gotten back to the mainland, they rent a room from Mickey; later still, when he connects the story he'd just read with their experience (yeah, a super-convenient coincidence, but hey--it could be, and often is, much worse), they sail off in search of the island, pursued by the evil ship's captain who had overheard O'Gally and O'Bully talking about it and wants the treasure for himself. Suffice to say, the mystery is solved (in a way that may or may not have anything to do with the way thinks shook out in the Tim Tyler serial--who can say? Unlike many classic serials, there's no contemporary reprinting of the strip underway at the moment).
So then we have the real question: is this story any good? And the answer is an emphatic yes, thanks in large part to our pals O'Gally and O'Bully. They're extremely appealing, exuberantly childlike characters. They quickly adopt Mickey as their "captain," and their understanding of non-shipboard life is extremely shaky.
…but they also have this hurt puppy-dog aspect when they've done something wrong:
Basically--as some Simpsons writer or other once described writing Homer--they're big, dumb, lovable golden retrievers. You can't dislike them.
And, indeed, I don't. However, the story does become somewhat less interesting in the second half, when they're sailing after the treasure with Mickey. Mostly what happens is that they run into obstacles from which the evil captain surreptitiously saves them so they'll lead him to the treasure.
He kinda has a point. All of this is sort of amusing, but certainly not as exciting as it could be if they were actually accomplishing stuff by themselves. Also, there are everyone's favorite: Hostile Natives!™
They actually play a very small role, but this could be problematic for US-release-type stuff. Or then again, maybe not; our pals at Boom somewhat inexplicably chose to reprint this little number, after all.
Still, the climax is good, the solution to the mystery of the flame is clever, and the ending, which I will decline to spoil here, is genuinely sweet. There's far more to recommend about this one than otherwise--so get goin,' Mr. or Ms. Hypothetical Publisher!
Labels: Romano Scarpa