Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Toyland"

Well, if your goal in reading these Firestone stories is to examine Barks’ progress as a storyteller, it sure isn’t helpful that this fourth one had him just reworking someone else’s script.  Well, apparently—my understanding of just how this worked is a little hazy, but it’s hard not to think that if he’d been working on his own, he’d have felt compelled to come up with a narrative that was at least a little more sophisticated.  Though I suppose it would’ve been a welcome respite for him not to have to, for once. 


If nothing else, it’s interesting for how enthusiastically it throws over any notion of a realistic mimesis.  Sure, Santa may be real in “Letter to Santa,” but at least in that story he’s kind of magical and mysterious.  Whereas here, sure, fine, great, Santa sent us a letter!  Okay!  Why not!  This is the sort of thing that might happen!



As you can see, the story is really the most rudimentary sort of wish fulfillment.  Kids like toys.  What if they got to test a bunch of toys?  Well all right then.  I can certainly see the appeal for someone of a certain age, in spite of the fact that, pace Santa’s assertion here, toy taste has changed rather dramatically between then and now. 



The whole thing is plotless; just a bunch of somewhat anemic toy-based gags that, however, are at least somewhat enlivened by Barks’ visual panache.  I daresay there wouldn’t be much interest in this story as drawn by Dick Moores, say.



I mean…you can’t not like bits like this.  Just lookit that enthusiasm!


And then there’s this part, about which I just have no idea what to say.  Clearly, there’s SOMETHING going on about gender roles and assumptions, and that something could even be quite interesting from a gender-theory perspective, but it remains elusive to me.  Is it really nothing more than “ha ha, you’re a BOY but the GIRL’S toy spoke to you!?  Seems like a remarkably feeble joke.


I do like this li’l denouement, though.  It manages to be silly and somewhat sweet at once.  Makes me think of this Achewood.


And then there’s the ending, which, more than anything else in the story, you can easily imagine Barks having added on himself (I’ve no idea if it’s true—but you can easily imagine it).  The irony in the last panel may be heavy-handed, but the art largely redeems it.  That’s just a funny image, in the way it might not be as drawn by a lesser light.  A trivial story, but, thanks to that Barksian magic, far better than it might’ve been.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Chris Barat said...

Geo,

"Look out kids, here I come" looks to have been relettered, for some reason. Wonder what got the editorial staff's candy canes in a twist?

Chris

December 24, 2014 at 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Deb said...

The editor's fingerprints are all over this story. Look at some of the obviously redrawn expressions in some of the panels here, like Donald's embarrassed look putting the doll on the shelf and those very peculiar (for Barks) beaks on the ducks in the car sequence.

December 25, 2014 at 4:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dear GeoX

I Need you at the North Pole! If you can come, let me know by e-mial

SANTA CLAUS!"

December 25, 2014 at 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

Here's something about the redrawn facial expressions: http://www.seriesam.com/barks/detc_ccus_gw_fgw1948-01.html

December 25, 2014 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

"Is it really nothing more than “ha ha, you’re a BOY but the GIRL’S toy spoke to you!? Seems like a remarkably feeble joke."

In the 1920s and into the 1940s, besides its obvious meaning as father, "papa" was sort of comedic sexual come-on, as used by a young woman on an older guy—a little like Tex Avery's Red calling the Wolf "daddy."
The phrase "sweet papa" often meant a boyfriend or something like a player.
The girl doll is quite clearly giving Donald a romantic gaze as it calls him "papa," so that's the joke: the doll is hitting on Donald, and he knows it.

December 29, 2014 at 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Now, *that* is really interesting, David! That certainly would help explain both Donald's level of embarrassment and HDL's level of hilarity.

December 29, 2014 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

Flippin' eh. That went so far over my head it was not visible to the naked eye. Surprisingly risque, especially for such a corporate story!

December 30, 2014 at 3:45 AM  

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