"The Diabolical Duck Avenger"
Well, it's my birthday, so let's celebrate by not leaving this blog barren anymore, shall we? First of all, big fat credit goes to IDW for the fantastic covers they did for the two issues to feature this story. First, there's Marco Rota, from 1983:
Man, that's just THE BEST. Then there's the new art, by Dave Alvarez:
Not quite AS cool, but hey, who can match Rota at his best? It's still plenty good enough. And it's not just the art; it's also the logo and the use of those text boxes. The whole thing is a class act, I say! Let it be known far and wide!
No denying this story's historical significance. Those Italians are wild about Duck Avenger stories, and here's where it all started, in a 1969 story by the oft-baffling Guido Martina (with the “plot” credited on inducks to one Elisa Penna, who is thereby the ONLY woman to appear in the inducks top 100, which is certainly demonstrative of something).
And...as may have happened a time or two in the past, I find myself a li'l confused by the Italian sensibility. But, let's get into things and see how it shakes out.
So, this is the idea. This story is illustrated by good ol' Giovan Battista Carpi, who's done his share of brilliant work, but I can't say this story is one of his shining moments—it's mostly adequate at best.
As for the subject matter of the story itself...well, the whole thing is really, really slow-paced. I'm not too convinced it REALLY needed to be long enough to be broken into two parts. The first one is mostly taken up with these endless repetitions of some permutation of “you didn't win it!” “yes I did! And anyway, I deserved to win it!” It's really not that dynamic or interesting, to my sensibilities.
Generally, Donald is a huge dick in this story, as the above indicates. And not in a particularly fun or Donald-ish way. More like a “constant, barely-sublimated, seething resentment” kind of way. It reminds me of a less extreme version of that horrifying fucking Daan Jippes story “The Easter Basketcase.”
Note that, although later in the story we see some typical Gladstone obnoxiousness, here he's being totally nice just 'cause. No indication that he thinks helping the dog will end up helping him. This makes him, on balance, far more likable than Donald.
See what I mean? It just goes on and on and on in a decidedly non-enchanting way.
I'm skipping over a LOT in this story because there's just SO much superfluous dross here. But fair's fair: if nothing else, the first reveal of Donald as Duck Avenger is pretty cool-looking. Rrr!
Question: was Scrooge specifically reading Ovid in the original? To try to answer this question, I went back to the kinda wobbly English fan translation that I'd first read this story in. Unfortunately, the answer was inconclusive. He IS reading a book called “Metamorphosis” (confusing Ovid with Kafka?), but either the translator didn't get the Ovid reference, or it wasn't there to be gotten:
(Would it be pedantic of me to note that, while Midas is indeed in the Metamorphoses, this business about creating gold mines is not? Too late.)
Well, whoever came up with the idea, we have to ask, what thematic significance if any is it supposed to have? Is it just a matter of “look, Donald's own metamorphosis?” Well, probably. Okay, that was kind of anticlimactic. Still, it's an odd little detail to be included, for whatever reason.
So what's the Avenger's big scheme? To...steal Scrooge's mattress. Of course. It DOES turn out to be a mattress full of money, but the way he does it can't help seeming more like petty vandalism than a real heist, per se. You don't get the impression that the money is the point. I mean, I get that the goofiness is to a large extent intentional, as is the generally half-assedness of his superness. I just...don't feel like it's creating much of an effect, you know?
The second part of the story has another endless thing; namely, this stuff with masks. It, again, is not hugely interesting to me.
...and in the end, Donald WINS, sort of, which is something I would normally welcome, especially in a Martina story where such an outcome isn't too common, but here, bleh. It's not like Donald is toweringly awful; that might at least be interesting. Instead, he's just kind of pettily dickish. It's really difficult to know what we're even meant to feel about this. Are we supposed to be cheering Donald? He ain't much of an anti-hero, I'll tell you that much.
To perhaps gain some insight on why this story is so popular, we turn to the inducks reader reviews, and to one in particular. Okay, so some person writes “it's not how Donald steals and is a total asshole, it's how it's portrayed as the right thing to do. I've never read a duckstory before that left such a bitter aftertaste.” That's more strongly than I feel about it, but okay, I'm sympathetic. Then someone else writes, partially in response to this (in Italian; I've just run it through google translate and prettied up the grammar:
Revenge after years of suffering. Donald finally shows what he's capable of and we enjoy it a lot. The guy above is correct, and that's why the story is magnificent!
Out of all the reviews, this is the only one that actually gives a reason for liking the story, as opposed to just generic “great! The best ever!” kind of things. Obviously, it's not exactly scientific to take one opinion as being representative of the masses, but I think it's very plausible that this really could be what everyone likes about it. I mean, especially if you grow up on a regular diet of Martina stories, it's easy to see how you could really want to see Donald get his revenge.
However, if this is the case, it's completely alien to the way I read Disney comics. Because I like seeing Donald come out on top, sure, but not if he's a complete asshole about it. It has to seem merited. And even if Donald's just meant to seem good in comparison, Martina does a singularly bad job of bringing it off: in spite of what this narration box says,
his relatives don't seem all that awful in this story—certainly less so than Donald himself. Also, think back to Donald violently throwing away that dog—that doesn't have anything to do with getting revenge on anyone; it's just making him seem like a jerk for the hell of it. How is it supposed to be appealing to see this guy getting his revenge? And finally let's note that, even if this is your bag, he doesn't really get his revenge by anything other than sheer luck--that Gladstone got blamed has nothing to do with him.
I don't know! Any huge fans, particularly Italians, who want to weigh in here are more than welcome. But to be honest, I think a preponderance of stories like this are a big part of the reason we generally see so little non-Scarpa Italian stuff over here: a lot of them just have this really strange emotional logic that doesn't translate very well (notwithstanding the noble efforts of our scriptwriter here, Gary Leach).
COMING UP NEXT: more goddamn Mice, probably.