"Donald Duck and the Count of Monte Cristo"
There was a little talk about this story here, so I thought I'd give it a look. I had read it before and objected pretty strongly to it; on rereading, I still object pretty strongly to it, while also recognizing to a greater degree its merits.
Now, this Disney Literature Classics English script clearly represents the nadir of translations, and possibly of the Western literary tradition in general, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time harping on this. The story would be a LOT better with improved writing, but that's about all I have to say about it at this time. However, I can't resist pointing out that second panel up there, because it really cracks me up. Way to lay out Donald's motivations for us, Ms. or Mr. Translator Person!
But let's get down to tass bracks: the major stumbling block to enjoying this story is the way that Scrooge and Gladstone are portrayed. As you can see, Gladstone is a pure, wholly unscrupulous criminal--a reductive interpretation of his character if ever there was one.
…and Scrooge is no better. The idea here is that he wants to build this railroad, Gladstone having coerced his way into a partnership in the enterprise; the only problem is that the thing goes through Donald's house. What to do? Well, Scrooge trying to trick Donald into selling his property has Barksian precedent, but here we're going a few dozen steps further: they decide to plant this stolen money in Donald's house, framing him as part of a criminal gang and getting him thrown in jail (apparently when you go to jail, random people are totally free to just take all your stuff. DON'T QUESTION IT). Neither Scrooge nor Gladstone ever display a single qualm about this.
Now seriously, what the fuck? Let's be clear: in spite of taking occasional jabs at him, I don't really hate Guido Martina, our writer here. I've read quite a few Martina stories I've enjoyed. Three of the four stories I've localized are Martina joints (as are my currently-stalled fifth effort and the purely notional sixth one--some day, people!). I'm not his implacable foe. He sometimes did extremely interesting and enjoyable stuff. Nonetheless, when he portrays Scrooge in particular (Gladstone's portrayal is silly, but I don't feel that strongly about it) as this vicious sociopath, which he does with some frequency, things get bad. In this particular instance, one could say in his partial defense that the only reason Scrooge and Gladstone are like this is because he needed a way to parallel the Dumas novel, but that's not much of an excuse, to me: part of the challenge of doing these literary adaptations is finding a way to make the familiar characters fit naturally into the new contexts. If you're just going to deform said characters willy nilly, I don't know why you'd even bother.
Now, there are those who don't have the same problems I do with Martina's Scrooge. Allow me to quote Kurt Appel in the afore-linked thread:
Guido Martina […] is a kind of second father of the Ducks who also had his own ideas about their characters. Martina's Scrooge is, at least in the 50s - as the first Bark´s Scrooge - very cruel, a person who wouldn't even hesitate to murder; Gladstone is - as the first Bark´s Gladstone - a crook. I think that for some fans it´s hard to imagine that the Disney cosmos is much larger than the Barks' cosmos but only reading Barks (and Rosa) would mean to renounce of some of the most poetic and fascinating Disney stories ever written.
Obviously, it's true that there are great stories not by Barks (or Rosa!). That should go without saying. But as for the rest of this--I could not disagree more. It seems to be implying that Martina's portraying the characters in wildly non-Barksian ways is evidence of an artistic vision consciously different from Barks'. But I don't believe this for a minute; I think that Martina was trying to mimic Barks and failing. Plenty of writers have fallen victim to this: emphasizing Scrooge's less admirable qualities while losing track of the nuance that made him a great character in the first place. Martina just does this more…spectacularly...than most. Even if I'm wrong, though--even if Martina was intentionally striking out in a new direction--I don't care. It was a bad direction. I think this is to a large extent why his work is largely unknown in the US. He was more prolific than Romano Scarpa (though, to be fair, he wasn't an artist), but Scarpa's stories, for all their faults, are on the whole much more humanistic, and thus more appealing.
If you can get past that, there's certainly some enjoyable stuff in this story. I'll skip past the part leading up to Donald finding the treasure: he escapes from prison, gets captured by Pete & Co, winds up marooned on this island, and bam, treasure. As in the novel, there is a fellow prisoner who tells him about it, but in this version that's pointless, as he just finds it via random luck.
The best part of the story comes when he returns to the mainland seeking revenge. First, I really like the way he deals with the guy using HDL as virtually-slave labor. Way to exercise that paternal instinct!
…and I know I wasn't going to say much about this script, but seriously, does that announcement there not read like something from an indifferently-translated SNES game? YES. IT DOES.
The idea is that for some reason there's no one there to ride their railway, and when they go to investigate why, it turns out the destination is no longer available, because…
…Donald has purchased it and founded an independent country for disadvantaged children. This shit is completely bonkers, but I can't help finding it totally charming.
FUCK YES! That's the kind of class warfare I can get behind wholeheartedly.
So Scrooge and Gladstone have to completely disassemble the railroad by hand and rebuild Donald's house. And I kind of have a dilemma here, because on the one hand, I really, really like their comeuppance; on the other, I really, really think that they shouldn't have gotten into a situation in the first place where such payback was warranted. I feel like there has to have been a way to tell a story very much like this, only with a slightly less amoral Scrooge. No way Martina was ever gonna bother looking for any such thing, though!
Check out how Gladstone's able to just bend the hell out of those iron rails like it weren't no thang. Now that's scary (unless they're made of plastic, or possibly rubber, as some sort of cost-saving measure--you don't encounter iron that's bright blue too often).
It actually is a very solid ending, and it's a case where it could really kick ass with better writing. Ah, well. Enough Martina-bashing for me. If you're a publisher and you wanna know some good stories of his you could bring to the States, drop me a line.