Monday, January 4, 2016

"Mummy Fearest"


These punny titles will truly be the death of me. In theory, there's nothing wrong with them, but the problem is that they so often seem to privilege the bare existence of the pun over being anything more than very vaguely related to the story in question. Like they're just being mildly clever for their own sake. If someone asked you what this was about, you certainly wouldn't say, “oh, it's about the adventures of this cool, skateboarding mummy. He's wearing sunglasses, and he rocks out to surf music. It's great.” No, you would say “it's a story where Scrooge turns his Money Bin into a pyramid.” No question. Personally, I would've gone with the less-flashy but more to-the-point “The Pyramid Scheme,” and yes, I'm aware that that's the unofficial title of a Barks short, but that doesn't seem like a big problem. Maybe it was considered too obvious? Well, I like it. ANYWAY. Enough complaining.

(Ha—as if there can EVER be enough complaining!)


We can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the reason for this story's existence is that Scarpa thought the idea of the Money Bin as a pyramid was striking, and he worked backwards to come up with a story to bring this vision to life. And...he wasn't wrong, I'll give him that much. In fact, I'll go further and note that it's actually a very thematically suggestive idea, given that a pyramid is a giant, ostentatious grain silo mausoleum. It would be easy to argue that this is essentially what the Money Bin is as well. Mind you, there's no evidence to be found here that Scarpa was actually thinking about any of this. It's really all just surface-level “Egyptian imagery is fun” stuff. And, again, he's not wrong! But it does, perhaps, point to his limitations as a writer.

Surprisingly...sparse narration box up there. I'd bet money that it's a more or less direct translation of the Italian (but in fact, there's no need—the scan of the original title page on inducks makes it clear that this is in fact the case). So there you have it! I mean, it's okay, I guess—hell, I'm used to reading French-language stories that are similarly unadorned—but nothin' wrong with punching it up a bit, I say.



Right, so we open with the Woodchucks patrolling the Bin and doing maintenance. In a way, it's an interesting idea, and as Scarpa demonstrates, it's certainly possible to transfer the general Woodchuck aesthetic to Bin-level. They are nothing if not versatile. It sure doesn't have anything to do with anything, though. What's the purpose of them wasting their time like this? IT IS A MYSTERY!


...boy, how could anyone have seen THAT coming? The huge fucking box that's been there for like fifty years blocks the view of things on the other side? You'd have to be some kind of psychic to figure that out! Damn you, physical laws of the universe! This will never stand!

I like the way he helpfully identifies himself by name. I suppose he's not considered sufficiently well-known in the States that that could go unstated.


Look like just about everyone in the duckiverse is “emotionally reactive,” in that case. Still and all, though, that disguise is actually pretty good, as these things go.


So anyway, skipping a bit ahead, Rockerduck's dire warnings alarm Scrooge and dispose him poorly towards the Woodchucks. Breaking their banner in half really seems to be taking things to another level. If you ask me, the family drama is the most interesting thing in this story, though it's so underdeveloped that it never gets the chance to shine as it ought.


I also really like Donald in this story. He's not the butt of the joke that he often is in these seventies stories. Here we see him going to deal with Scrooge for being a huge asshole to HDL, as a good parent should.


GRRRR!


Some good yellin' here. Scrooge is angry about the potential loss of his past; Donald about that of his nephews' future.  There's a good contrast for you.


And the gears grind into motion! Awkwardly so, but it's hard to imagine a super-natural way of bringing this thoroughly ridiculous concept to fruition. Even granting that, though, it must be said that Donald's line that sparks the inspiration is notably non-responsive to Scrooge.


Dammit, Scarpa—you just had to undermine Donald's motive here, didn't you? Now he's not concerned with the kids; it's just that he likes getting outraged. “Why can't it be both?” you ask. Indeed, it can be and almost certainly is! But now he appears to have just forgotten that he was ever concerned with his nephews here, and this whole ark, such as it is, just peters out. It's things like this that forcibly remind you that for all his scattered virtues, Scarpa is NO BARKS.


Well, on with pyramid construction. Is “Handy Andrew” a reference to this Barks short? IT HAD BETTER BE!


Hell, I suppose if you're going to be this preposterous in the first place, you MIGHT AS WELL make Scrooge win a prize where he gets to dress as a pharaoh! Why the HECK not?!?


“McDuck Named Local Pharaoh” cracks me right up. But more importantly, this is really interesting because, look, it's some ten pages later, and HDL are still pissed off at Scrooge's behavior. And why shouldn't they? No reason, but it's so well-established, especially in Italian stories like this, that Scrooge can behave in the most outrageous ways and everyone will just forget about it almost immediately. The idea that dickish behavior could have long-term consequences cuts very much against the grain. Sure, you have the occasional Barks story centered around redemption, but that's not the norm, especially in a story where it's not really the central point. And that's why this is so effective.

I also like the way Donald just laughs off Scrooge's ridiculousness rather than getting pissed off. That's a face of the character that I really like.


Of course, this doesn't make Rockerduck any too happy. But somebody explain to me, because I DO NOT understand: what is the purpose of his line here echoing Donald's, above? What kind of parallel are we trying to draw between the two characters? I guess they're both spendthrifts, but that is wholly irrelevant in this story. And other than that, I got nothin'.


WELL OF COURSE you're gonna want to get Rockerduck into a mummy get-up. If you're going to all this trouble to tell this specific story, it would be a big waste to not.


Right, so here are listed four out of the five branches of the US Army. All I'm saying is, it would be a lot funnier if ol' Andrew had included the poor neglected Coast Guard.


I mean, it may not amount to much story-wise, but you have to admit, it's fun. Entertaining, ridiculous (I feel like I'm over-using that word in this entry), fun.


Scrooge and Rockerduck trapped in the pyramid is cool (nice Lovecraftian geometries!), and it brings up potentially interesting story ideas. Unfortunately, since Scarpa took so long to reach this point, he was about out of space and we don't get any of them.


“Pyramid of Geezer” is amusing, for sure.


Granted, characterwise, it was necessary for HDL to play some role in the rescue, but did it have to be so terse and anti-climactic? Well, yes. Unless you want this to be a double-length story, and sixty-five-odd pages would probably be rather too much.


It's one of these irritating things, though: okay, so Scrooge might've apologized for having behaved so unacceptably earlier, but does it seem particularly likely? The clear indication is that HDL are back in his good graces just because they saved his ass. He's forgiven them,
which, you must agree, is a pretty fucked up dynamic. It reminds me of that four-part Ducktales episode. The “firefly fruit” one. I guess if you want to be generous, you could argue that this is his way of apologizing; that his pride prevents him from doing it directly, but everyone knows the score. Still, were that the case, I'd like to see Scarpa put at least a little effort into hinting at it. There's subtle, and then there's “I obviously haven't thought this through even a little.”

NONETHELESS, I actually quite like this story on balance. Seventies Scarpa is always a dicey prospect (okay, Scarpa in general is always a dicey prospect—but the seventies version in particular); his stories of the era can feel a little bland and/or perfunctory. This one is certainly neither of those things, and Joe Torcivia's lively script gives it that extra kick, my nitpicking notwithstanding.

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28 Comments:

Blogger Clapton said...

I pretty much agree with your opinion of this story. It's fun and has some interusting ideas but it dosen't make the best use of them.

"The Duckburg 100" is a Scarpa story IDW published that I think displays Barks-esque mastery. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on that story.

January 5, 2016 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo:

Thanks for reviewing “Mummy Fearest”. I really enjoyed it.

Can’t speak for anyone else but, for me, the “punny titles” date back to Mark Evanier’s work on ‘70s Gold Key comics – and my admiration for that work standing-out, as it did, amid a morass of mediocrity.

For what it’s worth, my original proposal for a title was “Pyramid Scheme” or “Mummy Fearest”… as in the way the Narrator of Rocky and Bullwinkle would say: “Tune in again next time for ‘Pyramid Scheme’ or ‘Mummy Fearest’”, before cutting to a commercial and moving on to Fractured Fairy Tales.

I do those now and again such as “The Perfect Calm” or “Are We There Yeti?”, or the upcoming “Tycoonraker” or “From Zantaf with Lumps”. I suppose it was too close on the heels of “The Perfect Calm” or “Are We There Yeti?” to do another one so soon, so “Mummy Fearest” it became.

The opening narration was longer and more elaborate in my original draft, but was scaled back in greater service to the original. Just think of all the puns you were spared! I almost cried over sacrificing: (Read in the voice of BATMAN ‘66 TV Narrator William Dozier) “Has Scrooge gone from making it square-o, to making it pharaoh?” Ultimately, I think it came out great anyway!

And, “Handy Andrew” was indeed a reference to the story you cite. Nice Catch!

If you or any of your readers have any questions about this story that I can answer, please ask them here. I’ll be happy to respond. Just know that I speak for myself, and not IDW.

January 5, 2016 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Two things.

1° "it must be said that Donald's line that sparks the inspiration is notably non-responsive to Scrooge." —> I do think it is responsive: Scrooge brings up that he'll be broke "in a thousand years", and Donald answers by telling him that he has to turn into a mummy if he wants to still be around by that time (it's actually an interesting concept for two reasons: first, it implies some kind of acknowledgement of Scrooge's mortality, a thing you have said in the past that you like, and second, it is a very often seen gag that Scrooge mentions that "he'll be broke in 500 years" or some other long length when something causes him to loose money, and most of the time nobody calls Scrooge back on the implausibility of him still being around in 500 years).


2° “Tycoonraker” or “From Zantaf with Lumps”, you say, Mr Torvicia ? I take it that it is a Professor Zantaf story (is it the first one, which I think is the best out of the ones I've read ?), and as far as I know only Bottaro drew stories about him. So… does that mean GeoX is finally getting his wish of seeing Bottaro stories published in the USA ?

January 5, 2016 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

GeoX: "What is the purpose of [Rockerduck's] line here echoing Donald's, above? What kind of parallel are we trying to draw between the two characters?"

Look closely and you'll see that not just Johnny D. and Donald, but also Scrooge have variations on the "pile of white-hot duck dust" line in the story.

I'll let Joe have the last word, but I interpreted the repeated line as implying that it's just the nature of Ducks to be consumed with the same over-the-top wrath. (Except Rockerduck's version differs slightly to show us he's that proud of being a spendthrift where everyone else isn't.) (-:

January 5, 2016 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Achille:

As far as I know, “Tycoonraker” or “From Zantaf with Lumps” (Coming in IDW’s DONALD DUCK # 9) is the first Zantaf story – Donald infiltrates Zantaf’s island, generosity ray, etc. I hope you all enjoy it.

It wasn’t particularly easy to “direct” the argument between Scrooge and Donald to end with Scrooge getting the inspiration to create a great pyramid for his money but, ultimately, I think it worked. Sometimes, I find I have vast gaps to bridge with exposition and dialogue – and must do so within the constraints of the existing panels and balloons. Linking the Yeti’s with the inner peace of “The Perfect Calm” (a story Geo has already reviewed BEFORE its US publication – but would be fun to see him follow-up on) was another such instance.

And, David perfectly describes the working of that whole Donald, Scrooge, and Rockerduck “white hot duck dust” thing, so take it from him.

The only thing I’ll add to that is (for some reason) I find the idea of two characters saying the exact same thing, while in two completely different places – and for two completely different reasons – to be funny. And, I just “upped that” by later tacking Rockerduck onto Scrooge and Donald’s parallel dialogue, but with the particular Rockerduck “character-distinction” that separates him from Scrooge.

January 5, 2016 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Yup. It's the first of Zantaf—with more (eventually) to come, if I have anything to say about it. There are other Zantafs by Bottaro and Chendi, and more recently Lars Jensen at Egmont has written some great ones.

January 5, 2016 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Lucky you americans ! I really, really like this first "Zantaf" story. With a Daisy that does something, excellent art and a fun villain, among other things.

January 5, 2016 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

:-D

January 5, 2016 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger Clapton said...

Geo:
Just wondering... While I think it's safe to say that IDW is doing a great job is there any specific direction you'd like the titles to go in this next year (well, current year but January is still young folks)

January 5, 2016 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Achille: allow me to note that our Zantaf debut will be published with some absolutely eye-popping color from Manik Tilekar and his team at Digikore—some of the best I've ever seen from them, for a really impressive presentation of this story!

January 5, 2016 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

WOW! So all these years Rockerducks motivation for hating Scrooge was that the money bin was blocking his view? How could I not see that!? That's like the missing peace of the puzzle that ties everything together!

January 6, 2016 at 5:23 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Pan:

To be fair to Rockerduck (though I can’t imagine why I should), it was the view of his “lavish new dockfront condos” that was being blocked by Scrooge’s bin. Presumably, before the condos went up, Rocky didn’t much care one way or the other.

At least that was the way it was presented in the original story. I thought that was a little odd too, and proposed that Rockerduck had just built a new bin in Duckburg, on an adjoining hill to Scrooge’s bin, and objected to the sight of Scrooge’s bin on pure aesthetics. An appreciation of aesthetics, combined with free-spending, were the qualities that I thought to differentiate Rockerduck from both Scrooge and Flintheart Glomgold – the latter of whom just wants to be “Number One”, but is just as thrifty and utilitarian as Scrooge! I’m not saying my proposal was all that better, but it did seem a little less capricious and served to establish that key difference between Rockerduck and Glomgold.

I leave it to all of you to decide.

January 6, 2016 at 8:16 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I'm going to repeat myself a bit from my comments on Joe's blogpost on this story: I really liked the stairway labyrinth between the outer shell of the pyramid and the inner core of the bin, and the fun visuals that provided. As with other elements of the story, I think the fun visuals were their own sufficient raison d'être. I enjoyed the role of the HDL-as-JWs in the plot. And I enjoyed Joe's puns, especially "pyramid of Geezer" (which is an insult I can imagine the boys coming up with) and "honor among Thebes". Also liked the byplay about royalties coming right after "honor among Thebes."

A couple of us mentioned on Joe's blog that (like you) we really liked how Donald stood up to Scrooge on behalf of the boys. Yes, I agree that the "master of rage" line undermines that motivation a bit.

The three-times-repetition of the "pile of white-hot duck dust" made me laugh--partly the inherent funniness of the phrase, partly its use by three different characters.

On the bin blocking Rockerduck's view: it seems to me that Joe was stuck with a reason for R's anger that made absolutely no sense: wouldn't Rockerduck have realized before building his new condos that they would be on the other side of the money bin from his office? So Joe had to try to come up with some slightly more reasonable irritant, and decided on the aesthetic one of objecting to the ugly bin (presumably, more now that his eyes are drawn in the direction of his new condos and thus constantly getting reminded of how ugly the bin is). Joe made this one of the distinguishing characteristics of Rockerduck (who needs to be distinguished from Glomgold). He's a big spender, and he's an aesthete. The anger at the bin blocking his view still doesn't make all that much sense, but it makes more sense than it did in the original.

Achille Talon, I really appreciate your explanation of how Donald's mummy comment can be seen as a direct response to Scrooge's lament about going broke. I think that deepens the meaning of Donald's comment considerably, and connects the whole mummy/pyramid imagery directly with Scrooge's obsessive money-collection, and I'm going with it!

January 6, 2016 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Great observations, Elaine!

The eternal dilemma for we who have the honor of scripting stories such as this in American English for an audience steeped in American culture, is that not everything we receive in its “raw form” makes perfect sense – or makes perfect sense for our audience - or is acceptable to an ever-changing set of standards or taboos.

The greatest example of this, to my recollection, was the concept that ALL the Disney Comics Gang were celebrities in Italy, because they appear weekly in TOPOLINO – as seen in “The Treasure of Marco Topo”, the last such story published by Boom! That’s not something we could simply let pass for the American audience.

Thus, we ponder and strive to achieve the best possible balance between “what is”, and “what needs to be”. It’s a fun part of the process, actually, and all the more so when readers enjoy the result.

Sometimes, it changes, as with “The Treasure of Marco Topo”, and sometimes it does not, as with Rockerduck’s reason for upset, in “Mummy Fearest”. Things rarely, if ever, go “as-submitted”. I’m just happy to make a lasting contribution to these wonderful comics!

January 6, 2016 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

You know my positions on translations, so I won't repeat myself about that, but since you bring it up it gives me a chance to talk about that: this business in "Treasure of Marco Topo" with the characters being celebrities. Well, I think it was a great fourth-wall gag. The average American Disney comic reader might not be familiar with the "Topolino" magazine itself, but the spirit of this gag could have been kept by replacing "Topolino" with "Mickey Mouse cartoons", or with a generic mention of "Disney comics", or even with "Walt Disney's Comics and Stories" (the last option is what the french translators do most of the time: they replace "Topolino" with "Mickey Parade Géant", the name of the digest in which the comics are published).

January 6, 2016 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you, Achille! Please, let’s not go back to that old argument ever again. It’s all been said, and said well and thoroughly on both sides. And both sides have their merits, depending on the individual story being translated.

All I will say is, in the particular case of “The Treasure of Marco Topo”, it was the common decision among those involved that such an outrageous concept would not fly with the American audience. Those who know me know that I love “fourth-wall breaking”, (I had Scrooge sing the theme from DuckTales in one story!) but that would totally take the characters out of their “reality” – the “reality” American readers had known since the 1940s, and so we published it the way we did.

These days, more changes are probably made in concession to acceptable current standards than anything else. Things are simply viewed differently today, than they were in the ‘40s thru ‘70s. Sometimes I agree with such changes, and sometimes I do not. At least that is my experience – and there’s little anyone can say or do about that when working with corporately owned properties.

January 6, 2016 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

@Clapton

Good question. I certainly HAVE enjoyed the material thusfar. I particularly like the fact that they've focused mainly on Italian material; I know that's at least in part because they were trying to get licensing agreements sorted out, but I hope Italian stories continues to predominate, even if it's to a slightly lesser extent (if you look through my archives, you will surely note that these make up the vast majority of European stories I've written about; nothing against the Dutch and Danish, but I always feel like there's just more to dig into with the Italian stuff, as disorienting and maddening as it can sometimes be). And the one particular story I'd like to see localized more than ANYTHING is this one. Come on, people, do me a solid here! You know you want to. In general, though, the weirder it is, the better. I'd like to see some of the “historical” stuff and literary adaptations translated, but...I know that might be a bridge too far.

In other areas, I sure wouldn't mind seeing some more Western non-Barks duck stuff. I say SOME; I'm under no illusions that most of it is any good, but a carefully-curated selection of Strobl material (and there IS some pretty okay stuff! I plan on writing about some of it in the near future!) would make me happy.

January 6, 2016 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

...oh, and also, I'd love to see some Brazilian material. That really is the undiscovered country as far as US Disney fans are concerned.

January 6, 2016 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

We've got Strobl's "Planet X Mystery" in this month's WDCS, and a fairly long Brazilian story in an upcoming Mickey. Admittedly, that's just one serving of each, but we'll see what the future can bring.

January 6, 2016 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Regular GeoX said...

Neat!

January 6, 2016 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Let me add, on Tony Strobl’s “Planet X Mystery” that it was written by the great veteran animation writer Bob Ogle, features both Ludwig Von Drake and Gyro Gearloose in the same story, and gets the distinction between them right! I can’t wait to see this reprinted!

January 6, 2016 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Clapton said...

GeoX:
Thanks for the interusting/informative response. I'm looking forward to reading some of those future reviews on non-Barks Western Duck stories. (That was a mouthfull) My favorite blogpost of yours is your review of "Having a Panic", which I hope is eventually reprinted by IDW.

January 6, 2016 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Clapton said...

Ramapith:
Been looking forward to "Planet X Mystery" since Previewsworld teased it. The Brazilian Mickey story is a legitamite surprise to me though. If you are currently at liberty to provide the link to the Brazilian Mickey story's inducks page I would love to check it out but I totally understand if you can't provide that info at this juncture.
As always thanks for your insider insight :)

January 6, 2016 at 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Ooh, a Brazilian Mickey! Cool! I've only read a few Brazilian stories (in French), and I've long been interested in seeing some of the "best of" from Brazil.

Joe, I also remember "Planet X Mystery" fondly from childhood...one of the dozen or so Duck stories by someone other than Barks which I *do* remember. Also, the other Bob Ogle/Tony Strobl story in Donald Duck 102: "Bush Pilot," which is the story that established in my child-mind that the JW Guidebook enabled you to talk the languages of all the animals!

January 6, 2016 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Elaine:

Bob Ogle holds another special place for me, as he wrote several of the earliest (and best) Super Goof tales. The ones that (for better or for worse) made me such a huge fan of Super Goof for life.

You’re all still living with the fallout from that! :-) 

January 6, 2016 at 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooph. I hate to be the sourpuss, but have to say, being a native lusophone, I'm dreading the upcoming Mickey story considering the localizing attitude IDW is taking. Please be gentle and don't sillyfy it too much, the Brazilian comics are already silly enough as is. Also please don't kill the deadpan humour they tend to have :(

January 20, 2016 at 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Thad Komorowski said...

Anonymous—As the translator of the Brazilian Mickey story coming soon, I can't guarantee you'll like it. But I didn't stray far from the Portuguese original, because as you said, the story is quite silly to begin with. I will, though, guarantee the story has never seen a better quality printing. I like the end result quite a bit!

February 13, 2016 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"It sure doesn't have anything to do with anything, though. What's the purpose of them wasting their time like this? IT IS A MYSTERY!"

I have developed the feeling that a lot of things in Italian stories DON'T happen for a narrative reason, or for a "Rule Of Funny" reason, but for "pseudo-authentic" reason. Donald getting fired and looking for a job and having problems with his heating (see: the Voluntary Castaway) and the nephews doing JW-stuff unrelated to the plot isn't supposed to be related to the plot, but Italians seem (seemed?) to have the idea that this was just what the characters' daily lives are. Every minute of every day of every week, the Ducks get into wacky shenanigans, and the fact that one of the shenanigans is of bigger scale than the rest and that the story is named after this one doesn't change the fact that at every turn of the road, they can still get into other wacky messes unrelatedly. Every story could virtually be named "A day in the life of Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck", because that's what all of them are -- none are especially remarkable adventures like you get the sense with Don Rosa, it's Donald and Scrooge's daily businesses which are remarkable in general.

June 4, 2016 at 12:12 PM  

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