Thursday, November 19, 2015

"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.

Labels: , ,

23 Comments:

OpenID reviewordie said...

Happy birthday!

I've heard about the origin of The Duck Avenger repeatedly, along with his general MO. Actually seeing it in action... well, I guess the point about it all being in the execution rings true. Hopefully the followups to it serve more interesting, which I suspect they must since people keep making them.

I look forward to seeing your thoughts on Mouseton.

November 19, 2015 at 11:50 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

As far I'm aware of Papiernik/Duck Avanger thing started of as a parody of Italian anti-hero Diabolik (sort of master thief who stills from criminals) before the character slowly develop into Batman/proto-Darwking Duck character.

Some elements of Diabolic - like using "realistic looking" masks are present here, so my guess would be that this story has more meaning for Italian readers who grow-up knowing the character and will recognize all the tropes.

There is ongoing Italian series that is set in the past and centers around the original Duck Avanger master-thief (the one of who Donald found the costume) :
http://coa.inducks.org/story.php?c=I+TL+2974-2

November 20, 2015 at 5:43 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

As far Gladstone acting nice goes...

Funny.. I actually remember decade ago having a long conversation with my fellow Disney-fans about difference between "Duck Universe" in the pocket-books (Italian stories) and normal-size Disney magazines (Barks included)


One thing we all notice is that while in "Barks universe" Gladstone is usually a total jerk ("dick" if you like) who is only looking for occasion to rub his Luck into poor Donald's face and is type of nasty character you just pray to see his ass be whooped, in lion share of Italian stories, while Gladstone still enjoys getting on Donald's nerves, is a pretty pleasant guy on his own. Yes, he's still over-confident and likes to show off but not in a way that's mean spirited and in fact I recall some Donald/Gladstone stories that felt more like Homer Simpson/Ned Flanders relation, with Gladstone being totally nice towards Donald, while Donald would get into out-of proportion fits over lucky things happening to Gladstone [I notice similar dynamic in Barks "Gladstone terrible secret", where Gladstone spends entire story minding his own businesses, while Donald spends entire stories just looking for ways to humiliate the guy] Not to mention many solo Gladstone stories that center on him and gave some deep to his character (like http://coa.inducks.org/story.php?c=I+TL+2865-1 in which Gladstone get tired of his luck, asks Gyro suck away his luck and starts enjoying "normal" life and actually finds a girlfriend who likes him for who he is) This might me the reason I never had problem with DuckTales version of the character since he acted pretty much how I known him in Italian stories.


As was mention in the comments in your last review, Italian stories tend to humanize the characters - Magica still plots to steal Scrooge first dime but in here every-day life is shown spending time hanging out with her witch friends (shopping and stuff) and genuinely cares and loves her pet raven and Rockerduck can be pretty nice and ethical businessman when Scrooge rivalry is not involve. There are still plenty of Italian stories that have these characters act nasty and unlikeable but I prefer more "human touch". It's just fells more 3-Dimentional, and same applies to Gladstone.

November 20, 2015 at 6:45 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Good review, as usual, though I definitely prefer Phantom Duck to Duck Avenger as an english name for Paperinik. I must admit that despite my fondness of Paperinik/Phantom Duck/the Duck Avenger, I never really liked this debut appearance. Later developments of the characters were far better that that, and the stories about the "original master thief" mentioned by someone else in the comments are really very good (they're more a parody of Arsène Lupin with pieces of Agatha Christie).

About the origin… I read in a "documentation" part of one of our French comic books that this first version of Paperinik was created as an answer to readers who had written to Topolino, saying: "Enough of our hero getting stepped on all the time ! For once, we want to see him win ! We want to see Gladstone and Scrooge suffer !".

November 20, 2015 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

I'm keen on seeing Gladstone and Scrooge suffer too, when it's merited! It's just that a) it doesn't seem notably merited here; and b) if Donald himself is a huge dick about it, the appeal vanishes pretty quickly.

November 20, 2015 at 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

The Italian original calls the book "Le metamorfosi", which is plural, so the fan translation was wrong there. The text Scrooge is reading however is translated correctly and like you said has no connection to Ovid's Metamorphoses. Maybe it's meant as a joke: the reader is first made to think Scrooge is reading Ovid, but then it turns out to be a book on transforming worthless things into something sellable (Gentina's Scrooge never made anything square, as you know).

I read two of the "Fantomallard" stories mentioned by Pan Miluś: "L'evasione di Fantômius", which was pretty good, in a Doubleduck way of being good, and "L'ottava meraviglia del mondo" which was really bad.

November 21, 2015 at 6:18 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Or perhaps the Duck universe-Ovid was much greedier than his real-life counterpart.

November 21, 2015 at 6:32 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Belated happy birthday, GeoX!

Did love the covers. Didn't so much love the story...but I'm willing to give IDW Disney a pass on characters' origin stories in general, since I think it's a good strategy to give us the origin story for an unfamiliar-in-the-USA character such as Belle Duck or Ellsworth, rather than jumping into a story where the character is already taken for granted. So if we're going to see more Duck Avenger stories in time, I think it was worthwhile printing this one, even if it's far from the best.

And it's satisfying that Achille Talon gives further evidence backing up your single-Inducks-review-based guess as to the reason why Italian readers responded well to this story. Maybe Donald as he appears in this story doesn't deserve to win, but the Donald readers knew and loved did. Maybe Gladstone as he appears in this story doesn't deserve to lose, but the Gladstone readers knew and resented did.

November 22, 2015 at 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Salimbeti said...

As was mention in the comments the first adventures of Duck Avenger were made as a parody of the black thief Diabolik who was very popular in Italy during the 60s 70s, even today. Furthermore Duck Avenger also takes reference to some famous dark characters mainly those coming from French literature (Rocambolè, Arsène Lupin, Fantomas), but also from oversea figure as the masked avenger Zorro. For instance also Fantomas was also very popular in Europe in that period because of some famous French movies played by Louis De Funés. Carpi had said about this character:" In the begining he was an interesting double identity case, he was the expression of Donald's frustations which were relieved through this new identity..." Mostly of the Italian Readers who read these adventures during their yought still like better the original Paperinik mainly because he was not a super hero, he did not have any kind of super power or super training, he was just a masked avenger for himself. Furthermore he was created as a parody to famous literary classics thus with much more "human being behaviour" and cultural background reference than the oversea exagerate super heroes also on fashion in the same period. Also for these reason the fans of the original Duck Avenger (The translation as Phantom Duck could have been better...but at least he has not called Super Duck!)don't like his further evolution who changed him in a "prosy hero" Batman style. I also would like to point out that in Italy there are not difference between the Disney "Universe" published on the "normal size" comic book and the pocket comics. During the 50s 60s 70s...basically all the Disney story in Italy were published in the pocket format comic book TOPOLINO also the Carl Barks and Gottfredson adventures and of course the ones created by the Italian Disney authors like Martina, Carpi, Scarpa, Cavazzano ec... So for the Italian readers all these stories belong to the same "universe" it is not a matter of the size of the book on which they are printed. The Donald and Scrooge by Martina are sometime different in behaviour respect to the Barks ones...but not always, Mickey from Scarpa is very similar to the one of Gottfredson...but not always. The difference are often simply different aspect and shades of their temper.
If someone want to know much more details about Duck Avenger and to better undertand why he is so loved in Italy but also in mostly of the European country (France, Germany, Spain...) and Brasil were the Disney comics are still very popular, look at this site (Mostly of the pages are also translated in a "not perfect" english). http://www.salimbeti.com/paperinik/

November 23, 2015 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

BTW -> I have large sentiment for this old Papiernik fan site :
http://www.salimbeti.com/paperinik

Check out the Italian version. Some nice trivia :)

November 23, 2015 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger Domenico Ruoppolo said...

Attention to the words, the Yankees may confuse the word "universe" with the word "continuity".

From the perspective of both Italian disney comics creators and readers there is no continuity between stories, except if the writer has explicitly decided it (and communicates it to the reader in some way). So yes, one may state that for Italian readers there is one only "universe", but in a very lax meaning: since there is in general no notion of "continuity", the one "universe" is only the bag of characters and places to take as components when building a story.

To exemplify this: when Martina wrote the script for a story of Donald Duck (even after 1969), this Donald Duck had NOT his secret "Paperinik" identity. Except if the story was a Paperinik one, of course. Readers hold the same attitude: when I read an Italian story with Donald, even by Martina and/or Carpi, well, automatically I set that in a word where there is no Paperinik. And I do not do that by choice. It is like that, I do not know why. Well, I could say because it works like that, you inject that when reading those comics as a kid.

November 25, 2015 at 2:25 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Interesting point of view… However, my case is slightly different; being a French comic reader who grew up with digest that mixed both Italian, Don Rosa, Barks, Brazilian and French stories, I tend to still think of a continuity between ALL the Disney stories. When I read any story, even a non-Italian one with Donald, I still "know" that behind the scenes he's Paperinik. I know that the creators don't put references to that, but rarely do they joss it; I simply choose to consider they're all in the same continuity, but that as part of their artistic license some of the artists choose not to refer to some facts of the canon. And if they do make a thing that is problematic with the continuity, I try to find myself a satisfying head canon to explain the apparent inconsistency.

(for instance, Don Rosa's Donald doesn't seem to have ever gotten the "unwinding" of getting his revenge as Paperinik, but Don Rosa stories have a built-in explanation of why: his stories take place before 1967, while the first Paperinik story takes place when it was published — 1969.)

November 25, 2015 at 7:05 AM  
Anonymous salimbeti said...

Yes for “same universe” I mean no conceptual difference between the Disney stories published on Italian “pocket book” size comics and the ones published in USA in their larger format comic albums.
In Italy there is not a typical standard format for the comics like in USA . Thus the Disney adventures both coming from USA (or other countries) and the ones made in Italy are all published on several kind of albums in different size and shapes (pocket, large, hard cover ec..) .
So there are no a kind of Disney adventures or “universe” specifically made in Italy for pocket book which must be considered “different” from the ones created in USA for the larger comics album.
The differences are of course related to the artist/writers personal choice and taste.
I agree with Achille Talon I also would not say Donald NOT has his secret identity in the other Martina stories except when the stories are specifically related to Duck Avenger. Rather I would say that of course is not necessary to show or make reference to his secret identity in all his adventures.
The same for other secret identity like Super Goofy, Fethry Bat, Marvel Daisy ec… or for instance about Donald’s nephews duty in the Junior Woodchucks group which is not mentioned in all their adventures, but this do not means that this fact is “not existing” when not specifically show.
It is normal that in a such huge and variegated “universe” some incongruousness between mentioned remarkable facts or situations are often present also in adventures made by the same author.
About Duck Avenger as soon was clear, after his second and third stories published in 1970, (I really hope that also these ones drawn by Romano Scarpa will be published by IDW) that his secret identity was not only an occasional “one shot” situation I have always considered this like a new “matter of fact” related to Donald life and time even when in mostly of the other stories Paperinik was not mentioned at all or when clearly incongruousness were present.
For instance it is the same for the Barks (and other authors) fact about the presence of Scrooge in the famous gold rush in Klondike (1897-1899) I would not say that this situation does NOT exist when not mentioned in other stories also by Barks or when there are clearly reference that some today adventures by other artist are placed during the modern time period (2015).
Instead for what concern the Don Rosa personal "universe" it is mainly based on Carl Barks reference so he did not considered (and basically he did not know) any other informations/fact (except very few ones) coming from other authors. Apart the Uncle Scrooge saga all the adventures of Don Rosa are more or less placed during the 50s being his characters aged through the time. So if we would like to considered other later characters or informations as part of this specific "continuty" (Scrooge born in the 1862, Klondike in 1898, Duckburg in 1902, Donald born in 1922, re-joint with Scrooge in 1948, ec...) we have to ignore the real years of publication of the adventures but considered them all placed during the 50s when Donald was about 30 years old. So if I like for my personal point of view to image the Duck Avenger Donald secret identity also part of this "continuity" he must be considering also acting in that period and not during the 1969, in the same way the Don Rosa adventures are placed during the 50s even if published in the 2000

November 25, 2015 at 5:36 PM  
Anonymous salimbeti said...

Sorry typo error, as for Don Rosa "universe" Scrooge born in 1867

November 25, 2015 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

salimbetti: my persona opinion is that the stories take place the year the story says it takes place, when a specific date is mentioned, like is the case for Rosa, and takes place in the year of its publication when no date, even vague, is stated. I take in Don Rosa's dates; the only fact I don't take in is the "death in 1967" thing, for the sake of later stories. In my mind, the Scrooge of modern stories obviously set in the present day (using cell phones and the like) WAS born in 1967, the Donald of those stories (yes, even the one from PKNA, though I know it's an alternate universe) WAS born around 1920 and has lived with his nephews for many decades. Why exactly they don't age I don't know, but I think that if a writer finds a good explanation it'd make a cool story (my current headcanon is either some weird spell by Hazel, or a backfiring of one of Gyro's experiments, but I'm open about it).

November 26, 2015 at 12:42 PM  
Anonymous salimbeti said...

Yes right! This is the beautiful of the Disney fantasy "Universe" that everybody can image a continuity and free interpretation which comply with own personal mental map, thus considering only the story or situations that we like better and do not considering other adventures and situations that for various reason we don't like. Even Don Rosa in his saga not always had follow the Barks reference, in some case he strictly follow the Barks "fact" in other case he just made a personal interpretation of some Barks references and in other case he just decide to ignore them.
I personaly do not care about the date of publishing or if a story could be placed today , in the past or in the future or the potential incongruousness ec.. being these comics just made for fun. Indeed sometime I decided (always for fun) to image the Disney characters like a sort of "real person" thus with a logical evolution and continuity of a potentail "real life and time". In this case I have decided to considered mostly of the above mentined fact from Don Rosa adventures (but not all). Mostly of Barks references, some from Gottfredson, some from Taliafero ec.. and of course several elements from Italian authors. In this case of course it is not relevant for me when the adventures are published or if indications of period are present or not in the story. I have just taken some significative fixing point (Always based on some adventures) like for instance major characters birth date, major real historical facts, as well as( if some reference have been made)the death period of some characters like for instance the Scrooge parents or even his death in 1967 at age of 100, which for my point of view is fully logical and reasonable and thus in accordance with my personal vision of a potentail "real life" of the character. Based on this personal logic any adventures of fact or characters (for instance Duck Avenger) that in my immagination fit well with this "continuity" are considered in the frame of the time period compatible with this choice. In my web site page dedicated to Donald Duck both these visions are present. Thus Donald evolution as a Disney character in the comics, movie cartoon ec. And a possible continuty of an immaginary but logical "real time life" Don Rosa "style" but based on my personal point of view.

November 26, 2015 at 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Chris Chan said...

Happy belated birthday!

November 27, 2015 at 2:33 AM  
Blogger Domenico Ruoppolo said...

This attitude that Salimberti described - giving each character a past and a kind of psychology based only on one's personal favorite stories or moments coming from different authors - occurs to me too. And I suspect that it happens also to authors and most readers. Eventually, everyone builds up his own universe. Better said, his own "continuity" from pieces of Disney comics' multiverse (i.e., unique but multiforme and incoherent universe). Also, this sort of attitude of "completion" is what I think distinguishes disney comics fans from occasional readers (I don't know in the US, but in Europe Mickey's and ducks' comics are so widespread that maybe most users are not real fans, and often not even regular readers of comics of any kind...and that's the notion of "occasional readers" I mean here).

November 29, 2015 at 4:47 AM  
Blogger Lieju said...

The reason I liked this story as a kid (and do even now) is because of how it fit (for me) in the grander character development of Duck Avenger.

He starts out as doing it for petty revenge, and in general acts nasty, but ends up becoming a real hero little by little. So him being a dick in this works to the story's favour for me in the grander scheme of things.

I always loved the Duck avenger stories that were kinda parody or reconstruction of superhero genre. Like a story that tackled the issue of how expensive being a superhero must be and how he needs to get money to do this job.

Or one where the police decided they'd rather have him train more heroes.

November 29, 2015 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger TheKKM said...

I remember a joke in the Portuguese version of this, that I've not seen here- I refuse to believe the Brazillian editors added it, as translations tended to be kind of faithful, so I'm assuming it just wouldn't translate, which is sad as it was great.

When Donald throws the puppy away, it whines, which in Portuguese is normally written "caim", as far as a dog whine goes. Caim is also Cain, IE the brother of Abel in the Bible. So you'd get the dog going "CAIIIIIN" and the nephews, outraged, going "You hear that, Unca Donald? He called you Cain! And HE'S RIGHT!"

Not much else to add, just always loved that joke.

January 22, 2016 at 9:41 PM  
Blogger Domenico Ruoppolo said...

Yes TheKKM, that "Cain" joke was also in the original version.
I also confirm the Ovid stuff: it was just a "panel-to-panel" kind of joke. In one panel the reader is supposed to think "hey, Scrooge is reading Ovid! Cool!", and in the following one he discovers that the bastard is reading a book on how to trick the weaker.
I do agree with the general review of Geox, this story has a too much slow rhythm, and the ending is not satisfactory EVEN from a Martinian perspective (i.e. accepting the idea that Donald is a son of a bitch). But I must admit - and this could be one more possible reason for the success of the story among Italian fans, even non Martinian ones** - the story is kind of pleasant when read in Italian. Mainly because Martina's lines are here very good. Martina had usually much fun with puns, logical inversions and so on. And in this story he had a couple of good ones.


** one should understand that Italian disney comics readers are not that insensitive (way the opposite, most of them prefer the sometimes too much mawkish approach of Cimino), and most of them are perfectly able to recognize the pure craziness of most scripts by Martina :) .

February 14, 2016 at 6:07 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

About the anticlimaticness of Phantom Du… (grmblgrmbl okay, the Duck Avenger) stealing a mattress: later stories featuring Ph… the Duck Avenger had his enemies try to humiliate him by calling him a "mattress-stealer" or other such things; it HAS been retconned as really a petty act that Donald would later go on to be ashamed of.

March 12, 2016 at 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Huwey said...

Just wanna say; Elisa Penna was chiefdirector at Topolino in the 1960s!

November 11, 2016 at 3:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home