"A 'What-If' Love Story of Imaginary Proportions!"
Happy Valentine's Day! Want a little romance in your life? Well, too bad. All you get is this story. MAYBE it'll keep you warm at night, but I wouldn't bet on it.
It turns out, according to inducks, that there have been five Brazilian stories published in the US (eight, if you want to count (of all things) Mulan stories). This is by far the longest and most ambitious, though, and thus most worthy of consideration. For better and/or worse, it is certainly unlike anything that us Americans are used to reading!
The American title is a bit of a mouthful, but it gets at the idea, which is that this is MOMENTOUS! On the other hand, I do not get the impression that this was considered the case in Brazil. The original Brazilian title (which was maintained for the Portuguese reprint, natch) is simply "The Wedding of Donald Duck," which isn't much of anything. I suppose maybe understatement was the goal--you know what a big deal this is; no need to go overboard--but I feel like in this case, more would have been more. And to not even mention his intended? Gads (also, the story's only been reprinted once in Brazil). The French title is "Marriage of the Century," which is pretty good, but the Italians have called it, apparently, "Donald and the Bachelor Party," which, uh (let it be noted that one thing entirely absent from the story is any sort of bachelor party). And THAT'S IT! The ONLY places it's been published! You'd think a story like this would be of more general interest.
(Sidenote: A cursory googling reveals that Brazilian and Portuguese Portuguese have substantial differences--more so, I gather, than British vs. American English. This makes me curious: are the scripts of Brazilian stories revised when they're published in Portugal? Would they look weird if they went unchanged?)
So we open with Donald reminiscing about the past. Not eeeeeven gonna touch that line in the bottom left panel. Just gonna let it...sit there. Not calling attention to itself. One obvious thing you'll note about this story is that the characters are somewhat oddly-proportioned compared to what you'd tend to see in American or European stories. Female characters in particular tend to be excessively...shapely, which I have no doubt is of keen interest to someone. Ahem.
Anyway, from here we move into dream world, starting with Daisy here. Note that, partially due to the coloring, Clara Cluck appears to be wearing a Clara Cluck mask. Hopefully not in a Hannibal Lecter way. Sorry for inflicting that image on you.
So the thing about this story that really can't be stressed enough is: it has no plot. I mean, yes, things occur in a sequential fashion, but they don't make up a "story," per se. "Donald and Daisy get married; then they have kids." That's about how I'd sum this one up. Most of the space is taken up with little slice-of-life vignettes. That sounds exactly like something I'd dig, but the results are generally...not super overwhelming (the incidents are typically so short and inchoate that "vignette" almost seems like an overstatement). It has its moments, but the pleasures they offer are fairly modest.
I mean, that's pretty funny, even if the pre-wedding sections of the story pound a bit overly hard on the whole "Donald is clueless" business. I guess it's meant to be a "typical male!" kind of thing, but it really shades over into "weird, sexless man-child."
And right here, he's gotten all ripped, but if this is because it's his dream, you'd think we'd see more aspects of wish fulfillment. But we don't, and a fair chunk of it's not even from his perspective. So it just looks kind of odd.
Did I talk about characters being weirdly proportioned earlier? Here's something that illustrates that perfectly. Daisy towers over Gladstone, in contravention of everything we know about their appearance. The two of them do not appear to be of the same species there, I'll tell you that much.
Anyway, at a certain point it was apparently decided, okay, that's enough of that tomfoolery, and the wedding is on!
Now...for reasons not easily understood, this story has four different artists (in addition to two writers--too many cooks, people!), who trade off duties at irregular intervals throughout the story. Of the four, three of them have artistic styles that mesh fairly well, flowing seamlessly into one another. One of them--this would be a gentleman by the name of Luiz Podavin...doesn't. He only gets four pages, but he definitely makes an impact. In fact, I'd say his art is likely to be the thing that people remember most about the story as a whole, because good god is it weird. So, uh, behold:
I...don't know what to say about this. I guess I could say that this depiction of Scrooge evokes his Victorian namesake more than any other that I've seen. But really, all that's necessary is to BOGGLE.
For your benefit, here are a WHOLE BUNCH OF CHARCTERS--many of whom appear nowhere else in the story--as rendered by Podavin. Please enjoy them in good health. Note that either Mim is telling Magica or Magica is telling Mim. But in either case, who told the one who's doing the telling? It is a mystery.
An' who's that hillbilly-looking guy? Why, it's your friend and mine, Hard Haid Moe! This is a character created by Dick Kinney, who appeared in a number of the man's Fethry stories, becoming beloved by absolutely no one...except, of course, the Brazilians, who gave him his own long-running comic book series, which may be the weirdest damned fact in the history of the world. It's things like this that make the country's Disney-comic history so darn fascinating to me.
The big day! Is that a reference to Notre Duck Cathedral in the original? Do the Brazilians actually do explicit Barks references, in a way that the Italians don't? Well, probably not, I suppose. But it sure is pretty to think so!
Yeah, I won't deny it, the Vaudeville routine here is pretty funny, even if none of this shows much respect for Donald. That seems to be kind of a universal thing, doesn't it? Stories allegedly celebrating Donald tend to be less than flattering to his character. See "From Egg to Duck," for the obvious example. I guess Rosa's "Duck Who Never Was" does okay by him. Well, okay, maybe it's not a rule. But...okay, this is a complete tangent, but the fact that Donald can contain multitudes often means that, when in doubt, he gets reduced to his worst elements. Look at just about any story where Donald and Mickey team up: Mickey's gonna be the competent one, and Donald's gonna be the fuck-up. This is because there's not really any other way for Mickey to be. Donald can be competent himself, but he can also be a fuck-up, so that's how he gets dragooned into use. Mickey certainly can't step in in that role, and you don't want two capable, competent characters! God forbid! Sorry, I know this paragraph is kind of stream-of-conscious-y and not very useful; I should probably just delete it. But I'm not going to! I've written it, and in it goes! Please enjoy it! And please enjoy how that "please enjoy..." thing is apparently a weird writing tic I have! One among many.
Yeah, and apparently they stay at Woodchuck Camp for the rest of the story, or at least for the rest of the dream sequence. Here's the reason: because the author(s) wanted to show Donald and Daisy as a newlywed couple who don't have kids, and then, later, have kids. If there are already kids hanging around, it's just gonna complicate the whole thing. So get outta here, you!
Here's an example of what I mean when I say the little vignettes never really amount to anything. You'd think the honeymoon would be a great opportunity for all kinds of incident, wouldn't you? And indeed: tempting fate! Ooh! Cue ominous music! What incident awaits them next?!?
But it's not. This is seriously all you get. I mean, I guess the talking mosquitos are sort of amusing, but one could reasonably expect something a little more.
So they went on their honeymoon, and they thought everything would be fine, but then they were bitten by mosquitos. I do not know if my heart can take this level of pulse-pounding excitement. Really. There aren't even any visual cues that this alleged bite fest actually happened.
(UPDATE: Okay, looking at Daisy in the second panel, I see that there clearly ARE. It ain't much, though.)
(UPDATE: Okay, looking at Daisy in the second panel, I see that there clearly ARE. It ain't much, though.)
In any case, we move on to Donald's and Daisy's married life. And...it turns out it's pretty incoherent. The above is, let's face it, pretty friggin' awful, the misogynistic hack's classic portrayal of married life. Women be henpeckin'!
...and yet, that is immediately followed up by this, which suggests that their married life is actually pretty okay.
...but then, we're straight back to this! Hair curlers: classic lazy-ass shorthand for frigid, sexless women! What fun. I seriously cannot tell you how whiplash-inducing this is. Okay, actually, I can: very whiplash-inducing, is how whiplash-inducing it is.
And so it goes. The authors really were determined that every single tired trope of married life be included here.
Until we get to this inevitable part. "Imagine this," the authors ask you: "Donald Duck as a father!" The problem, of course, is that the obvious response is, "uh, he's kinda already a father." Hence, as mentioned above, the convenient total absence of HDL.
The real what if-here is "what if Donald had children of other ages than HDL?" A somewhat more modest proposition, but at least it's something. So, yup, a bunch of kids. How's this gonna turn out?!?
Well, here they are as little kids, and I'm sorry to disappoint you, but this is the only bit where you're gonna see them in this guise. For all that the authors set up this "what-if" scenario, they seem awfully uninterested in actually doing much with it.
The most interesting thing here for my money is "older Donald with glasses." His kids are teenagers. They want various things. And, uh, that's about all there is to it. Um. The end.
...no, seriously, the end. No denouement; Donald just wakes up and that is basically it. We are left waiting for a punchline that never comes. "A 'What-If' Love Story" is an interesting novelty, and an interesting glimpse at a Disney-comics culture that's largely invisible to most of us, but I'm afraid that as a story, it's largely a missed opportunity.
And there are still SO MANY QUESTIONS I have: is there someone in Brazilian comics considered equivalent to Barks in the US and Scarpa in Italy? Are there any legendary/especially beloved stories of Brazilian extraction (not according to inducks, but that doesn't mean much, since I don't think many Brazilians are voting there). I know there are at least a few Brazilians reading this, so any kind of insight you'd care to give me would be much appreciated!