"The Seven Dwarfs and the Enchanted Faerie"
"Hey!" you indignantly shout. "I come here for ducks and occasional mice; I don't want this Snow White idiocy! That's it! I'm boycotting your sponsors!"
And I hear you, I really do. But if I can convince you to put aside your righteous rage for just a minute, I think you may be entertained in spite of yourself.
Anyway, it's not like this is without precedent; you may recall that a few years back, I wrote about a Gottfredson-penned Seven Dwarfs story. At that time, I said that I was planning on looking into the world of Italian 7D stories, and if you think that was a mere idle fancy, I'm here to prove you wrong!
This here story is by the venerable Scarpa/Martina team, and seeing what they do with atypical characters should at least hold a bit of interest, I think. I went into this story with absolutely no preconceived ideas about what it would be like. I came out of it thinking "good lord, Martina. Where the hell did this come from?" Just try to compare this to Western-published 7D stories--I dare you. These aren't just from different worlds; they're from different universes. Different sets of parallel universes, I should say. Many dimensions separate them! I mean jeez, Italian stories may not always be good, but their scope and ambition compared to their non-Barks American counterparts is astounding, and that is never more the case than here.
Yes, the main word I would use to characterize "The Seven Dwarfs and the Enchanted Faerie" is "dumbfounding," and oh come on you know where this is going. Download my English version here (my eleventh translation! Whaddaya know about that?). I sure as heck didn't expect to be translating a Seven Dwarfs story, of all things, but needs must. I know I may possibly have suggested that I was giving up that little hobby as long as IDW was around, but what can I say? Sometimes you read a story and think "this really, really needs to be in English, and if I don't take things into my own hands, it is never, ever going to be." I am super damn psyched to be able to share this with all y'all.
(Okay, so technically, there was already an English version, published in many installments in an old British magazine--but good luck finding them, and if you somehow do, don't expect much from the translation, given that it's entitled "Seven Keys of Danger," in spite of there only being four keys.)
Anyway, instead of trying to go through this story beat by beat, I'm going to just list some things about it--like a Cracked article. "Five insane facts about an obscure Italian comic!" This will likely come across as somewhat disjointed if you don't read the story itself first, but hey, you should be doing that ANYWAY. I know I ALWAYS say "read the story before reading my commentary!" but I really mean it this time. There's a lot of rather incredible stuff here, and it would be a shame to blunt the experience by not going in blind. BUT IF YOU MUST...
1. It makes no sense.
Let's face it: if your standards for a story's quality have anything to do with whether or not said story makes any damn sense, you're sure not gonna like this one. It would be super-easy to spend a whole entry doing nothing but pointing out nonsensical things here, but it probably wouldn't be very interesting. And besides, it would be kind of beside the point.
(but seriously, how the HELL is he narrowing the choices down like that IT MAKES NO SENSE)
Now, I'll grant you that Martina is Martina, and some percentage of this surely comes from the same sensibility that caused a lot of vintage Italian duck/mouse stories to contain nonsensical elements (certainly, I'd say that about the above). However, in this particular instance, I think there's more to it than that. Does this story really "make no sense?" Well, yes, in the conventional sense of "making sense." But that's not really the right sense with which to approach it. I mean, look at this part where Doc is turned to stone:
Questions abound: why the heck does this guy have a gun that petrifies the shooter? Is he supposed to be a minion of the Evil Queen, and if so, why is he--apparently--so sincerely warning Doc that this is a bad idea?
...and then why, when he IS petrified, does his bag o' diamonds magically turn into a bag of what, were this a role-playing game, we'd call Quest Items?
BUT, I do tend to think this is missing the point. There's a delirious dream logic to this that you don't see in stories with just an illogical bit or plot hole or two. This is the logic--appropriately enough--of faerie tales. Indeed, I'd go further, and say that there are places where the story very much resembles some sort of abstruse mystical allegory about the transmigration of the soul or some such.
I mean, this is nuts in a sense, but it sure doesn't feel like a half-assed sort of nuts. Just TRY to tell me that the above is not, in its own way, pretty flippin' amazing. The thing that shocked me most upon initially reading this was how little, tonally, it's even trying to have in common with the movie, as exemplified by things like this. Martina is bending the 7D milieu in unnatural ways that are nonetheless pretty mesmerizing. And hell, when you think about it, it's only fair: as much as I enjoy Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it's undeniable that the company has always sanitized their faerie tales--made them less gnarled and weird--for popular public consumption. This story pushes in the other way, with amazing results.
2. It's frequently incredibly macabre and/or gruesome.
So there are basically three parts to this story: 1. The dwarfs make their way to where the faerie is imprisoned and vow to rescue her; 2. They head off on their quest to do this and are one by one incapacitated; and 3. Dopey saves the day with his indomitable fortitude. And GOOD GOLLY, if this had been an actual Disney movie, that second part would be giving kids hella nightmares. Because the ways some of the dwarfs are dispatched, JEEZ. Again, this is par for the course in unsanitized faerie tales, but it's pretty doggone heavy stuff for a Disney movie.
Okay, so an old woman demanding Grumpy give her his eyes and then turning him into a scarecrow is only a little eyebrow-raising, relatively speaking...
...but how about Bashful getting fucking CONSUMED BY FLAMES? If you've ever seen anything more horrific in a Disney comic, please to be telling me what it is.
Still an' all, though, it may be that the Evil Queen gouging out Happy's eyes and making him into a fountain of tears wins the day. It's both gruesome AND macabre! No need to choose! This is what we in the biz call KID TESTED, MOTHER APPROVED.
3. It demonstrates the limits of these characters as protagonists.
So translating this thing was, I would say, a more constrained experience than most of the stuff I've done. 'Cause in a story like this, you basically need to just follow it. Sure, make it sound as good as possible, but there's really no room for pop culture references or the kinds of show-off-y gestures that one is tempted to include in a duck story. Gotta maintain the tone.
So that's good for discipline, I guess. BUT, it must be said: as much as I like the movie, the fact is, the dwarfs do not talk that much, and to the extent that they do, it's impossible to glean much of an idea of how they'd speak in an adventure scenario like this one. This is somewhat less the case for Grumpy and Doc, but only somewhat, and you will note, in any case, that those two are the first and second to be eliminated from contention. So...it's pretty tough to do much in the dialogue to characterize them, particularly since it's ofttimes impossible to tell which dwarf a given speech balloon is supposed to come from. So...there's undeniably a certainly loss of fidelity to the original story in terms of character. Note particularly that at no point does Bashful appear notably bashful (least of all when he's just attacking the shit out of a dragon).
Yup! Sure, he *yawn*s occasionally (and a lot of those were added by me, just to make him seem at least a little sleepy), but what else can you SAY about him? NOT MUCH! Nothing to be done about it, really. It's not exactly a complaint; I think the story's great anyway--but given the things Martina was trying to do with the characters, it shouldn't be a great surprise that it wasn't exactly a perfect fit.
4. Who knew Guido Martina was such a sentimentalist?
I mean, GOOD GRAVY. The man's full of surprises, given how merciless he generally is towards are duck characters.
Whether you think this ending counts as "sweet" or "barf-inducingly saccharine" is really up to you. Me, I'm undecided, but I've got to admit, giving Dopey a line at the end is pretty effective. 'Course, it's effective exactly ONE (1) time. Martina makes the most of it, though!
5. You should read it.
Look you have EYES, don't you? As long as you're not giving them to a witch, ya might as well take advantage! Also, I didn't even mention all the different crazy forms that the Evil Queen takes throughout. Those are PROTEAN AS FUCK, and likewise cool. Read it an' see for yourself!
There are several more Martina/Scarpa 7D stories, as well as some by each of them with others. Alas, these have not been widely published outside of Italy. Perhaps someone in the know can tell me if any of the others are as cool and crazy as this.
Welp, back to ducks! Got several stories I'm planning to write about the near future, so BUCKLE THE HECK IN.