"Christmas in Duckburg"
The time has come for a little thing I like to call A VERY BOB GREGORY CHRISTMAS, where we look at the Barks/Gregory Christmas stories. Yeah, okay, so as holiday specials go, it's kind of skimpy. I was hoping that, in looking through Gregory's substantial output on inducks, I would be able to find that he did some lesser-known, Barks-less Christmas stories that I'd be able to use. Given the number of stories he did, it almost seemed like a statistical inevitability that there would be a few--and then we could've highlighted some obscure work and compared it to the Barks stuff and noted the way the art influenced the feel of the story. Woulda been fun. But, as far as I can tell from some fairly careful sifting through inducks, the Barks stories were IT, as far as Christmas material goes. If you know otherwise, clue me in and I'll find the story and read it and have an entry about it up on Christmas Day. That's the Duck Comics Revue Guarantee.
So, only two entries. But that's okay! Both "Christmas in Duckburg" (1958) and "The Christmas Cha Cha" (1959) demonstrate that Gregory had skillz, notwithstanding the somewhat wobbly art in his self-drawn efforts.
We see some parallels in this story with Barks' deathless "Letter to Santa." There, Donald was all, no sweat, I'll just have Santa deal with Christmas presents for me; here, he's all, no sweat, I'll just use catalogues (something something late capitalism)--though of course, here, he still has to pay. Note also no mention of ol' Claus himself, either here or in "The Christmas Cha-Cha" (update: on rereading "The Christmas Cha Cha," I see that that's not technically true. But he's not considered a figure the existence of whom is in any way up for debate). On the one hand, this kind of consistency is unsurprising; on the other, it's still kind of weird when you have a story with small children getting presents and Santa goes unmentioned.
Another similarity to "Letter to Santa:" the kids ask for an insane, manifestly infeasible thing (well, not actually in "Letter to Santa," but per Donald's perception--I clarified that exclusively to head nit-pickers off at the pass), and instead of just noting that this isn't gonna work, Donald feels honorbound to try to fulfill the request. Crazy, yet honorable.
As I believe I've mentioned before, I like when Barks creates whole new, distinctive-looking characters like ol' Jolly Ollie here (one presumes the particular character designs are all his doing). Okay okay, so he's not the world's most memorable character, but still. I like how enraged Scrooge is by this fairly harmless roasting, and how amused Donald is thinking about it. It must be said, though, Gregory sorta botches it by having the pig dude spell things out exactly. Eiderduck's line and Scrooge's look of disgust are plenty sufficient to make everything clear.
The above lack of subtlety is strange, given that this, one of the most delightful bits in the story, revolves around Donald himself spelling out a joke. I just love how goshdarned enthused he is about it. These are sorts of things that demonstrate a different style than Barks himself would be likely to use as a writer. In a good way!
Another such thing is this pair of Beagles disguised as French Canadians. I had never heard the expression "by gar," but I am told it comes from a French character in "The Merry Wives of Windsor."
I also love how bad they are at being French Canadians. I don't think just saying "by gar" a lot is really cutting it.
Now, this moose/meese thing--Scrooge wants them to bring home animals to help his reputation, but the first letter gets effaced--could easily be construed as basically just making time. You could also argue, perhaps, that it's unlikely that the ducks would be quite that dopey. But I don't do either of those things, because I find it juuuuust delightful. The way they keep belaboring the word. Also, "meese aren't mice, you know."
Also, Scrooge's line cracks me up every time.
Also, the ending ties the plot strands together rather nicely. And the moose are named "Gretel" and "Ingaborg." Not that they get all that much face-time in the story, but as a general rule, you definitely want to name your animals, to make them more relateable/endearing. That's my handy hint for you, the reader.
People being compelled to follow through with the figurative "I'll eat my [article of clothing]" bit: of course, we also see it in "The Money Champ," but has it ever happened in real life? Well, yes, there was that one time when Werner Herzog ate his shoe. So, question answered. But nobody was forcing him or expecting him to fulfill this promise; he just did it because he's a madman. And a genius. In any case, though, I'm glad we can count on duck comics to keep this more-or-less non-existent tradition alive.
Man, I just like this story. It leaves me in a good, festive mood. Let us find out tomorrow whether the other Barks/Gregory Christmas story does the same.