Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Black Wednesday"

'CAUSE I'VE BEEN DOWN IN THIS WORLD, DOWN AND ALMOST BROKEN...too obscure? Well, I guess not in a world with google. Carry on.

OKAY, so my oath to write at least an entry a month died a laughably speedy death. Don't think it's because I don't care; I'm just busy, and also—this is probably the key point—my six-year-old Macbook abruptly gave up the ghost recently, meaning that for the time being I'm stuck on this cheap netbook, and seriously, preparing entries on this thing is NOT my idea of fun—it's like I'm trying to work while wearing mittens.

However, I really don't want to just let this blog lie fallow. Also, I received the following encouraging missive, courtesy of the stalwart Maciek Kur:


Like Wu-Tang, this blog is for the children, so I realized that the time had come for ACTION. What I really want to do is write about some of the new American comics, but it is NOT SO EASY for the overseas worker. We'll get there by and by, but for the time being, let us look at a story from 1959 that—I am pretty sure this is a true fact—is the only Barks story outside of some Woodchucks scripts to have NEVER been reprinted in comic-book form in the US.


Okay, first we have to establish the time here. “The third Wednesday after Red Monday?” What the heck is Red Monday? Googling reveals that this is how certain right-wing goons refer to Labor Day, but that is neither here nor there. If there's something really obvious it refers to, I'm not finding it, but according to wikipedia, the day of the outcome of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yates_v._United_States>this case was referred to by anti-communists as such. Does it seem like a stretch to think that Barks could actually have been referring to this? Yes, rather so, but hey, the timing works out—the case was decided in 1957, the year before this story was created, per inducks. It's a bizarre notion (and even more bizarre that Red Wednesday should be seen as some kind of yearly commemoration), but let's go with it. The Monday moves around by year, of course, so it won't always be on the seventeenth; let's just assume the closest Monday to that date. In 1959, that'll be the fifteenth. So: I can now tell you that the action in this story—the first part, at least—takes place on July first. Unless Barks was basing it in 1958, the year he wrote it, in which case, the sixteenth. I deeply apologize for this mind-bogglingly tedious and pointless paragraph, but what's done is done.


Donald's on the case! Just 'cuz.  Note that with all municipal authorities on the run, this would be an excellent opportunity for some enterprising individuals to go all The Purge, if they cared to hang around.

Ominous stuff, really.  Sour milk?  Cracked eggs?  Certainly sounds like witchcraft...


...though it also sounds a little like radiation poisoning.  That's the thing, isn't it: you can't see it.  There are overtones here that remind one of “Donald Duck's Atom Bomb,” not the least of which is the hair loss business.

I like how Scrooge, the hard-headed rationalist, is angry that anyone would even consider that this situation was caused by anything other than black magic.



...and a gun street girl was the cause of it all.

A part of Scrooge's history we do not see every day. I seem to recall that it was obliquely referenced in the last chapter of Rosa's L&T.


Very dubious overtones here, of European exploitation of Native Americans via poisons of various kinds. Let's just put whatever shit we have lying around in the tonic! We know they just like horrible-smelling things in general! What's the worst that could happen? And, I mean, could there possibly be any better colonial emblem than Scrooge trading them Industrial chemicals for a religious symbol? Crikey.



Counterpoint: the crazy story does not make sense.

As will be obvious by now, the depiction of the Chillyboots is really about as gruesome as these things get. Barks had his ups and downs with how he treated indigenous people, and this is a definite down. The worst thing about it is that it just seems so lazy--just all-in with the most obvious, lame stereotypes.

...in spite of which, however, I'm not sure it actually explains why the story hasn't seen more reprints. It's really hard to imagine that Western (or anyone) would've been alive to concerns of this nature, much less considered them ban-worthy. It's not like there isn't plenty of other questionable material that passed muster.



Gotta note that if this stuff grows hair on a turtle, it must be fucking around with it on a genetic level—ditto the old stuff that Scrooge sold, if there aren't currently kids who have hair. Once again, we're hitting (albeit inadvertently) some colonizer-vs-colonized stuff.



I mean jeez, man. The Chillyboots initially get fucked with by Scrooge, and now they're getting fucked with again. The fact that it was quasi-inadvertent in both cases doesn't seem super-relevant. It's just white people doing what white people do.

Stupid "scientists," always walking around like they're all smart and not believing climate change is a liberal conspiracy!  What jerks!  That mold must be vicious stuff if it's to blame for all this! The obvious question arises, however: if it was just Scrooge's money fumes all along (and doesn't he do his best to keep his money nice and clean?), then how did the Black Wednesday tradition get started in the first place? He wouldn't have opened up his bin if the people hadn't left town, and they wouldn't have left town if he hadn't opened up his bin. I'm trying to think of a logical solution, but it's not coming. Let's say he warned everybody of the alleged curse in advance, and that made them leave town (which he wouldn't have, because he gave the totem pole to the town, and he says that no one will listen to him when he says it's the cause of the problems): in that case, they wouldn't have observed the curse first-hand, so how would they know? And if they didn't all leave town, why would he have done it? Do we REALLY have to just assume that they're so unbelievably credulous that they assume this curse is a real thing without anyone having personally experienced it? Also, how come the fumes never seem to effect Scrooge himself, on Wednesday or any other day, which they really should, since he's breathing them all the time?

NITPICK NITPICK NITPICK. Yeah, well, it's what I do. In any event, though I don't think it is or should be a banning offense, this is certainly one of the weaker entries in the Barks canon. No one was missing much by not having it reprinted.

Labels:

22 Comments:

Anonymous Gregory said...

Oh man, I was *super* not impressed with the first issue of the new Uncle Scrooge. The first three review sites that pop up on Google are all pretty laudatory, though, so maybe I'm just being curmudgeonly.

May 25, 2015 at 1:36 AM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

Maybe, maybe not. I will say that Italian Disney stories may be something of an acquired taste that you have not acquired.

May 25, 2015 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I've got a logical solution for the Black Wednesday tradition to come up: when he returned to Dukburg after the Chillyboot Chief had casted his "spell", Scrooge thought FIRST that he should protect his money. Then, to be sure that nothing happens to it on the day of the Curse, he started airing it every year… Which he didn't do before !

May 25, 2015 at 6:40 AM  
Anonymous Clapton said...

When will you be able to read the new IDW comics?

May 27, 2015 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

I'll be able to read what's available when I return to the states in September. 'Course, then a few months later, I'm leaving again. Tough life for the perpetual expat worker! I'm well aware that there are probably ways I could read them illicitly, but dammit, I am REALLY keen to experience them in physical form, at least for the first time.

May 27, 2015 at 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

So, you respond to a request for more Disney comic reviews from the children of the world with a review of a story which one wouldn't actually want any child to read? Sheesh! Often when one of Barks' stories has problematic aspects (negative stereotypes of an ethnic group or of women, for instance), I can still find some worthy elements in it that reward an occasional re-read. Not here! So, it's racist and it's nonsensical, but at least it's...not funny at all. Maybe the flashbacks were funny to those who found the ethnic stereotypes funny? But I find the Duckburg Black Wednesday events creepy, not funny, and the story never made me laugh once.

I suppose it's telling, in a Marxist sort of way, that the source of the invisible "black cloud" that brings on the curse is revealed to be (as it says in the famous engineers' diagram) "TOO MANY TONS OF MONEY." Honestly, if Scrooge knows this is all his doing, couldn't he even find a way to get the poor zoo animals out of harm's way for a day?

May 30, 2015 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

To tell the truth, those children of the world are nothing but trouble. We've got to keep them in line somehow.

May 31, 2015 at 6:18 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Funny, I was just about to write you and suggest that you do more of your zany Disney comic reviews!

I figger, if I can do one American English script a month for the new IDW comics, you can at least pace me in zany review posts!

Say what you will about “Black Wednesday”, it was the SECOND EVER Carl Barks Duck story I was ever exposed to – read to “under-age-5” me by my grandmother. The untitled Floating Island story of some months earlier was the actual first. So, you all may have those two stories (and Strobl’s great “Paper Route Panic”, that came between them) to thank – or BLAME – for whatever it is I’m doing today!

I wish “Gregory” were a little more specific as to the reason for his views on UNCLE SCROOGE # 1. It’s not as if we can learn or correct anything merely by his being “*super* not impressed”. Particularly, as he notes, other independent reviewers did not seem to share his view.

I’ll met him this far, and say that I felt that UNCLE SCROOGE # 2 was far better than UNCLE SCROOGE # 1. I’m not a big fan of the exaggerated “Bowling Pin Beagle” art style of the lead story, and my (dialoged) backup was completely lacking in any sort of climax, just kinda stopping when the page-count ran out. Knowing that, I *did* push to make it as *funny* a read as possible. How’s THAT fer honesty!

Gregory is invited to join any of the IDW discussions I hold at my Blog, where all praise and any valid criticisms are always welcome – and the tone is always cordial. The link is on GeoX’s right sidebar. I’d like to see him – and all of you – there! We’ll be discussing most of the issues as they come out.

I’d like to think that much or all of this was addressed and / or corrected in the second issue.

You can decide when you read – and review – both of them. I hope you’ll do a “zany” job of it!

May 31, 2015 at 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

OK, Joe, if "Black Wednesday" helped lay the early groundwork for your lifelong Disney-comics-fan calling, then I'll allow that it *did* contribute to a better world in at least one way! Even if that still leaves it at a net loss, judging its effects on the world overall.

I personally agree that U$ 2 was significantly more enjoyable than U$ 1. Stories that I liked more for many reasons, and more laughs throughout. And a cover to die for.

May 31, 2015 at 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Gregory said...

If it had occurred to me that that would be read by someone involved in the creation of the issue, I might have been less emphatic. But, since you asked, here is why I did not like "Uncle Scrooge vs Gigabeagle."

1. I am not a fan of the art, which might, as Geo suggests, be an acquired taste. I did like some individual panels, e.g. Donald venturing outside the tent with an axe.

2. What would have happened if you'd cut out the ducks entirely? The beagles would have stolen the bin; exactly as they did; the robot would have malfunctioned, exactly as it did; and the bin would have wound up back where it started, exactly as it did. I'm not saying you can't tell a story where the heroes are on the periphery, but to my tastes, this story took that to an undesirable extreme. It's especially weird that the first Uncle Scrooge comic to be published by IDW features the title character in such a completely irrelevant role.

3. Pacing. A great deal of build-up as first Donald spends three pages wandering about at night and having his story disbelieved; then the kids spend two page looking at giant footsteps. Then three pages of the Beagles expositing. One and a half pages of Scrooge beating his head on things. But the actual attack on the Money Bin, which all this seems to be building up to, is cursory and uninteresting. One panel to hop over the minefield; one panel to pick up the bin. The following joke sequence where people stumble around the minefield is longer and more dynamic and visually interesting then a giant robot tearing stuff up.

4. Maybe this just represents unfamiliarity with the source material, but I'd never thought of the Beagle Boys as being primarily glutinous. Having the robot, which was programmed with their personality, steal the bin from the Beagle Boys was expected. Having it be destroyed by its compulsion to eat random building parts? Kind of out of left field, at least for me. But it's central to how the story ends, and so should have been established.

I'd probably name (3) as my biggest problem; it's a ten-page comic that got dragged out to twent-six, or at least that's how it feels to me.

Still, no need to end this on a negative note. I liked Uncle Scrooge#2 and Donald Duck#1 a lot more.

May 31, 2015 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Gregory:

Glad you responded, and equally happy to address your concerns. As I say at my own Blog, I do not speak for IDW or anyone in its employ. Just as a freelance writer and long-time fan.

1: As mentioned above, I’m not a huge fan of that style of art either. I prefer art that looks more like Barks. We got that in Issue # 2, and the art in my backup story in Issue # 1 was fine too. Issue 3 will be by Scarpa, but without the exaggeration seen in “Gigabeagle”. I know that *I* like it much more.

2: That’s an interesting, and not invalid, way of looking at it. I’ve read the same complaint – only worse, as MAGIC got the Ducks out of trouble and not their own actions or heroics – about Carl Barks’ original UNCLE SCROOGE # 4 (“Menehunes”). Probably right here at this Blog! I’d chalk this up to differing opinion, but add that one thing that makes these comics great is that they don’t always follow a predetermined formula – in this case with heroics.

3: Pacing. Italian stories are paced differently than American, Danish, and Dutch stories. Note the difference between SCROOGE # 1 and # 2. Italian stories DO meander, and go off into different directions. Perhaps they're richer for it. Greater page counts, to fill “Topolino type digests” might be a reason for this. This should not be all that strange for readers of the Italian stories that appeared in Gladstone Series II, and especially the Gemstone issues – not to mention some issues from Boom!, including a few I worked on there! The story I dialogued for UNCLE SCROOGE # 3 goes off into a number of directions – but is very nicely tied together in the end. Hopefully, you’ll see that for yourself.

4: The Beagle Boys have exhibited gluttony as far back as Barks. It may be secondary to their dogged persistence, and maybe even their inventiveness, but it is there nonetheless. It’s possible, however, that, as with much else in the story, said gluttony was subject to some exaggeration.

Finally, I see no “negative note” here. Just elaboration on why your opinions on the issue are what they are. Glad you enjoyed the subsequent issues. And, do feel free to offer opinions and comments on the IDW posts on my own Blog. The discussions there are interesting, and I’d welcome your participation.

June 1, 2015 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

Let it be noted that “Gregory” (with or without scare quotes) is the blogger’s brother and likewise an avid childhood reader of old Western comics; although he hasn’t kept up with the genre in the way that I have, his is certainly a keen critical mind, and I’m definitely feeling a bit left out of what is surely a good discussion. ALAS!

THAT’S JUST HOW IT GOES, however. I’ll try to continue writing blog entries of varying levels of zaniness whilst biding my time.

June 1, 2015 at 7:12 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo:

If that’s the case, I can see how going from (presumably) ‘40s thru ‘60s Western Publishing material – and running full-tilt into something like “Gigabeagle” would be a bewildering experience!

Indeed, if I turned the page directly from my sainted “Twenty-Four Carat Moon” , or to be more closely analogous “The Giant Robot Robbers” (of which “Gigabeagle” was to be a sequel of sorts), to “Gigabeagle”, I’d very likely have similar reactions.

And, because it’s your bro, you’d have this key piece of information that *does* alter the discussion somewhat.

I wonder, however, if there are very many folks who have taken such a “five-to-six-decade thrust forward in time”, without the gradually-unfolding intervening knowledge of Gladstone Series I thru Boom! to help form their views. I’d suppose it’s a very unique situation to be in.

Anyway, always glad to help clarify things. …Even if I occasionally leave the waters “muddier” than I found them!

June 1, 2015 at 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Clapton said...

Even though the stories in U$#1 may be flawed I still found their localizations enjoyable and overall liked the issue. Now my opinion would be different if the stories published in U$#2 and DD#1 were not more creative and show a better understanding of plotting and pacing than Gigabeagle.
The days before DD#1 came out I was worried that “Shellfish Motives” would be bad simply because it was an early Scarpa Duck story but I was pleasantly surprised by its greatness. And with that my fear that IDW would localize mediocre stories like Gigabeagle melted away.
I have a request for a future blog entry. I would love it if you reviewed Kali’s Nail which is in my opinion the 2nd worse Scarpa story after The Last Balaboo.

June 1, 2015 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

Man, from reading a French edition, I could've told you that "Shellfish Motives" was great--I am REALLY looking forward to reading the English. As I recall, it feels like a MM story that happens to feature ducks instead, in a good way. As for "Kali's Fingernail"--maybe, though you might be disappointed; although I don't remember loving it (it's been a while), and certainly would never have counted it among Scarpa's all-time classics, I don't think I actually *hated* it, or even particularly disliked it.

June 2, 2015 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger Mesterius said...

Clapton: Just curious, what's so terrible about "Kali's Fingernail"? I remember enjoying it a lot when I read it years back. It feels to me like a classic Scarpa Mickey mystery with strong Gottfredson influences.

June 2, 2015 at 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Clapton said...

Alright these are my problems with Kali’s Nail. Geo, fiction doesn’t usually irk me the way this story does, so sorry for this large negative comment but since Mesterius asked I’ll reply.
1. It’s attempts at humor come off as either cliché (Mickey and Goofy don’t have refined taste, hahaha) or stupidly weird(Professor Hito’s game of tiddlywinks)
2. Minnie acts like a spoiled brat the whole story. (I know she did in some Gottfredson serials but I didn’t like it in those and I don’t like it here)
3. Numerous Logical Gaps such as: Why would Minnie bring Goofy, the biggest klutz/idiot she knows to a mansion full of expensive artifacts? Even worse than that is when Hogg calls the police saying there’s been a theft in his house. The police, instead of asking what’s been stolen immediately send the entire police force including the chief of police to Hogg Mansion, just for them all to leave because somehow the nail, despite being made of an unknown mineral which happens to be the hardest thing in the world, is somehow not worth the police’s time.
4. Hogg’s Hindu servant is pretty stereotypical.
5. It has in my opinion the worst Mickey moment in Disney comic history. So Mickey meets O’Hara at a house where there’s been a break in related to the case. O’Hara tells Mickey that the house’s tennet heard frightening noises that were “Neither Human or Mechanical” and that he refuses to come downstairs. Mickey than says “Is he a weakling…A Scardy-Cat?” This comes off as pretty insensitive since this man’s was waken up from his sleep in a terrifying manner to find out that his home has been violated. Not only does this make Mickey look like an asshole it’s also bad storytelling because when the tennet does come downstairs we find out he’s in pristine physical shape which is supposed to create build up for the story’s antagonist but instead comes off as being a lazy way to create suspense.
6. Scarpa’s homage to “Phantom Blot” is less of a homage and more of a rip off.
Again Sorry for the negative comment. On the bright side we have a lifetime off good comics ahead of us since I honestly believe that IDW is Disney Comics permanent home.

June 2, 2015 at 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Oom Paspasu said...

The main logical gap in "Kali's Nail" is the fact that there is absolutely no reason for this Hogg to stage the theft of the nail, nor for dressing up like Kali while doing his burglaries. However, when reading it as a kid I didn't even notice, and I found this the most exciting story I had ever read. I read this before "Phantom Blot" though, I guess that makes all the difference.

Sorry for returning on-topic: I don't really get the lazy stereotype here. Barks is actually depicting Northwestern Natives that did make totem poles. He also portrays their clothes and houses correctly. Becoming angry after being betrayed sounds quite reasonable to me.

In Holland the editors added some speech balloons to this story (which is always a very bad thing) actually improving it. I don't have access to the original, but in the Dutch version panel 5.1 Scrooge tries to convince Donald not to do something about the pole, because of his use of Black Wednesday, and the city counsel wouldn't believe a story like that. In 10.5-6 he says "Because I expected you would go to the city counsel anyway, I looked for a different way to air my money! The scientist I hired discovered ... (same as in English)!" This links the action to the solution. Even though an improvement to the story it hurts the art badly. Judge for yourself:
http://i995.photobucket.com/albums/af71/OomPaspasu/Zwarte%20Woensdag_zpspdr1obc6.png :$

June 2, 2015 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

Barks is actually depicting Northwestern Natives that did make totem poles. He also portrays their clothes and houses correctly. Becoming angry after being betrayed sounds quite reasonable to me.

Dude, look at their *accents.* If those don't instantly jump out at you, we must be talking about very large cultural differences here. Sure, being angry would be reasonable--but Barks doesn't portray them as such, does he?

June 3, 2015 at 4:27 AM  
Blogger Siiri L. said...

Hello there!

Just wanted to say that for the past month or so, I've read half of your blog archive starting from the oldest posts, and I fully intend to read the other half sometimes soon, too. I really enjoy your posts. I'm Finnish and have read Duck comics once a week ever since I was seven years old. It's really interesting reading insights such as yours – getting a new perspecive on these characters and stories that have always been there but that I haven't ever really thought about in critical or analytical sense.

So yeah, thank you so much for the blog! Have a nice summer! :)

June 22, 2015 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

You are quite welcome! I am always genuinely flattered when people tell me they enjoy this nonsense I write.

June 24, 2015 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

You're to shy, it makes admirably sense. Anyway, the focus of my comment is very simple:

WHEN SHALL WE HAVE THE PLEASURE TO ENJOY THE SIGHT OF A NEW REVIEW ?

September 9, 2015 at 9:50 AM  

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