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
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.
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.
Labels: Romano Scarpa