"Pawns of the Loup Garou"
This isn't strictly speaking a Halloween story, but it feels appropriately seasonal, does it not? I say yes, you say no, but you may change your mind.
Now, as you are doubtless aware, this is one of Barks' script-only exercises--the first one, if you don't count "King Scrooge the First." I can't lie: it's never really been a favorite of mine. It feels kind of sketchy and disjointed, like Barks wasn't exactly putting his all into it. However, it does have a thing or two to recommend it.
As you are doubtless further aware, this, like all of Barks' script-only stories, was later redrawn by Daan Jippes. I am on record as believing that his version of "A Day in a Duck's Life" does the unthinkable, making one of Barks' weakest efforts actually enjoyable, if not exactly "good" per se. So I'm certainly not totally opposed to this project. But here…man. The original art for "Pawns of the Loup Garou," by Tony Strobl, actually is one of T-Strob's stronger efforts. Sure, there's a certain amount of characteristic Strobl stiffness, but I really have no problem with it. There are bits here and there that Jippes improves, sure, but there are also some parts that I like better in Strobl, and on the whole, the new version really struggles to justify its existence. It may be that Jippes himself wasn't always certain why he was doing this; there are more than a few parts where he pretty much just exactly copies Strobl without even trying to improve things in any way:
There's nothing wrong with Jippes, particularly, but it just seems unfair to try to completely write Strobl out of the picture like this. It's pretty hard to justify retaining lousy Kay Wright art purely for historical value, but Strobl at his best was pretty good, dammit. Redrawing his stuff seems to be saying, sorry--we Europeans own Barks' legacy now, and we have no use for the likes of you. I'm about the furthest thing from a nationalist you can get, but man…respect, people! Have some!
Here are the openings. As you can see, Gladstone did that dumb thing they occasionally did where they changed the marquee character. At least the Jippes version fixes that. On the other hand…I don't know whether Jippes did this, or whether Gemstone's to blame, but people--"Voyageurs" was not a typo! "Voyageurs." Come on, man!
Anyway, the idea here is that Donald has a job as a pilot and he has to deliver a package to northern Canada. A good set-up for a horror story, no doubt, although this is only intermittently that.
…and Scrooge gets all curious and sneaks on the plane. It's prickish in a kind of uncharacteristic way, which is one thing that I'm not a big fan.
The other thing is, we all want there to be a single, definitive version of this or any Barks story, but that's really not possible, because anyone who's drawing it is just interpreting Barks' writing; there's no way to get at an absolute, platonic ideal. It's one reason that I find arguments that writing is "more important" than art so misguided: the latter is an extension of the former and can affect it in unexpected ways. So: would you prefer that Donald be enraged when he finds HDL on board the plane (as Jippes would have it), or merely bemused (Strobl's interpretation)? Personally, I'm inclined to go with Strobl here. Jippes sometimes goes overboard, for my money, with the emotions. And the way he draws the kids--the thing is, he's able to draw more in the way of extreme expressiveness, and I feel like he has this idea that because he can, he should; that it's always the best way to go. I don't agree! To me, his versions of HDL there just look dumb. TRYING TOO HARD.
…not to say, however, that Jippes does nothing that improves the story. His version of the above is clearly substantially more spooky and atmospheric. I feel like what he does here is kind of what the whole story is trying, but more often than not failing, to do.
Of course, the big difference between the two stories is Miss Minemore here, and it's another great example of how the art can make a much bigger difference than you'd think. I suppose which version you like better is up to personal preference, but to me, Strobl's version, though certainly concerned about what's going on, still basically has it together, whereas Jippes' looks like she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown throughout. I much prefer the former, I have to say--and frankly, I think if Barks had drawn the story himself, she would look a lot more like that. Hmph.
One highlight of either version of the story is Donald's dedication to the job at hand. He's really determined to do what he's been assigned, and if that involves kicking the ass of a terrifying wolf creature, so be it. In this instance, Jippes wins out: extremity of emotion and regular motion is appropriate here, and Donald's wolf-bashing activities look weirdly low-impact in Strobl's rendtion.
The real question: why the heck don't we ever get to meet this "Count Drakula?" It just seems like such an odd lacuna to just mention the guy and then not feature him or resolve this conflict in any way.
I'm irritated by the ending, in which, in spite of having dragooned his way into the story and then been basically useless all the way through, Scrooge is still able to cash out and everyone else is all jolly about it. I suppose it would've been possible to depict Donald and the kids as being less jovial here, but neither artist did.
I guess I don't have anything profound to say here. Neither artist's take on the story is perfect (if there could be such a thing), but I still pretty strongly prefer Strobl. Seventy-three years from now, when Fantagraphics gets around to printing the script-only stories, I wish that, at least in this instance, they would defer to Western history when they choose which one to use. Or at least, I wish it weren't such a totally foregone conclusion that they'd go with Jippes. But alas! Sorry, Tony. I still like you, at least. *Glares around defensively*