Friday, July 15, 2016

"The Saga of Sourdough Sam"

And now, as promised, or at least hinted at, here we have a Paul Murry effort. This is one that a fair few people may be familiar with, as it's one of the rare non-Barks Western stories to have been reprinted in recent years, in this case by Gladstone II in Donald Duck Adventures.

So was this merely drawn by Murry, or was it written by him as well? Sources differ. The inducks entry judiciously lists a question mark as the writer, but the Gladstone reprinting attributes both story and art to Murry. On what evidence? Difficult to say. To me, it sort of feels like it ought to be written by him, but on reflection, I'm not really sure what that means in concrete terms. Just a general Murryish kind of feel. Who can say.

I must say, roasting hotdogs in front of the ol' fireplace seems like a fairly eccentric thing to do. I don't know; maybe such behavior is widespread in families that are not my own. At any rate, as in "Rattled Railroader," we open the with HDL doing food-related business, which I kind of like. A bit hard to believe Donald would be so complacent about a job like this, but IS IT POSSIBLE THAT TROUBLE MAY BE BREWING?!? THERE'S NO WAY TO KNOW!

Hoe. Lee. Shit.

As far as the art goes in this story...well, it's okay as far as it goes, but even though ducks aren't his normal stomping grounds, they nonetheless have a distinctly Murry-ish appearance about them. Probably the most irksome thing (though this is also reflected in the writing) is Donald's persistent distressed, self-pitying look. Sure, he's often put-upon in stories by any ol' writer, but this particular depiction feels--dare I say it--out of character.

Blah blah, a very typical set-up, but what's odd is that Murry draws such an old-fashioned-looking Scrooge. Those sideburns look much more characteristic of the character before Barks nailed down his final design. What reference was he working from, anyway?

Twenty-Three Skiddoo Street! Don't try to tell me Murry isn't down with the kidz and their crazy lingo!

Anyway, off to the Yukon.

I can't decide: do you think this art is ripping off "Lost in the Andes?"

I mean, there are plenty of differences, but it sure makes me think of the Barks scene whenever I see it.

Anyway, I really do like the "unexpected tropical paradise in the middle of the arctic" business. Anyone else remember the iteration of this in Secret of Mana? Man, what a great game that was. Is. Personally, in this situation, I would completely forget about my original task here and just spend all my time exploring and examining all this nature, 'cause this is biologically fascinating. Even if the climate's right, how the hell did all these tropical plants GET here? Are they indigenous to the area, or what? Think Murry spent much time pondering these questions?

Here's Sam. He's fine. Not anything powerfully special--not, indeed, on the level of Jeb'n'Zeb from last week's entry, but likable enough for the purpose, I suppose. The REAL question is: what exactly is he feeding those dogs? I can only assume that whatever it is, it must be made from the meat of the indigenous fauna, but what IS the indigenous fauna? We never see hide nor hair of it. This story is raising more questions than it's answering, I must say.

The thing I liked when I read this story as a child was this whole gold geyser thing. Maybe it's nothing all that special, but I really dug it.

...and I especially dug this whole business about molding it into bricks. Gold bricks! I suppose it appealed (and still, to an extent, does) for the same reason that a bin full o' money appeals. I could just picture the gold bricks. So smooth and shiny! They'd certainly be less so in reality, but let's face it, the Money Bin would also be pretty gross in reality. It doesn't pay much to think too hard along those lines.

And, OF COURSE, the thing that really sealed the deal on this as a story I liked was the crazy giant money-eating robot bug. Oh, I'm sorry, was calling it a robot a MAJOR SPOILER? Yeah, who could ever have predicted that, eh? And this has nothing to do with anything, but I want to point out that most native English-speakers have no idea that there are actually rules for adjective order, but there totally are. Try putting "crazy," "giant," "money-eating," and "robot" in any other order and it immediately sounds wrong. Go figure. Incidentally, here's what robobug looks like in the original 1958 printing: do publishers have committee meetings to determine what color robot bugs should be? I hope those don't get too acrimonious. And is painting polka dots on the thing supposed to make it look more natural? I suppose it's supposed to be along the lines of a giant lady bug, but to me, it's having the opposite effect.

...what I said earlier about Donald's characterization being a bit off. It's the MOST DEPRESSING PROSPECT IMAGINABLE, but we have to have a dumb ol' adventure. Pity us. Not that he'd probably be excited about it, but also probably not this whiney. Just saying.





...really, whaddaya want I should say? These guys might as well be Pete and Scuttle from any random Murry/Fallberg story, and they're every bit as interesting.

...and then, of course, they're a captured almost instantaneously. Please try to control your excitement.

(Note that Sam's HEH! HEH! clearly differentiates him from those fiendish HAW! HAW!ers)

I find myself wondering: how does ol' Sam avoid becoming desperately bored here, if not literally going insane? What does he DO all day when he's not messing around with gold bricks or feeding the pooches? Maybe he has an extensive library packed away somewhere to wile away the hours, but it's hard to imagine how, and in any case, we certainly never see any such thing.  And if he's somehow able to keep body and soul together now, I still have my doubts that he'll be able to when he's living in a building that's just non-stop, blinding gold.  I'm not convinced that these alleged fairy tale books actually exist.

Welp, say goodbye to Sourdough Sam! We'll not be seeing his like again! Okay, we'll totally be seeing his like again. But not him personally. Keep this in mind.


Right, a "collector's item." What a twist. Even though I generally like when Scrooge evinces a bit of niceness, I can't help thinking that this is a bit overdone. A bonus! Yay! Still, it's okay. The whole "here's a pillow to faint" business is pretty lame, but I think it appealed to me as a kid. This story isn't anything all that special, but I think it's adequate. I'd give it a solid C+, which is high praise under the circumstances. There are just so many of these old things that just fill me with soul-crushing ennui that it's nice whenever you come across one that does the job, however imperfectly. Certainly, I'll take it over any of Murry's MM stories seven times out of seven.

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot to mention this, but I want to note here and now for the record that whenever I see that title I can't help but think WELL YOU SHOULD SEE SOURDOUGH SAM.  SHE'S SO GOOD-LOOKING BUT SHE LOOKS LIKE A MAN.  Right, as you were.



Anonymous Jannes said...

Yes, perfect! I just stumbled across this story in one of my old books a few weeks ago and the lost-in-the-andes-rip-off seemed so obvious to me- just the thing that makes you wanna start a duck-centric blog, so thanks for doing the lord's work... for me there's no question about it, but opinions may differ.
Reading it I was sure that I once read a Murry-Mickey-Story with the same plot, but now I think that´s just because it feels more like one of his Mickey Adventures than any of his Duck stuff I've read, which is mostly a handful of gag stories.
The Murry story that I've read after that was a duck/mouse-crossover with the Beagle Boys and the Phantom Blot traveling back in time to steal money-seeds from Scrooge... may have been a fever dream now that I think about it.

July 15, 2016 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

It's entirely possible that there's a mouse story with the same/a very similar plot--Western Publishing was a very incestuous affair, with sundry "borrowings" of this sort. The duck/mouse crossover story to which you refer is surely this, which was likewise reprinted by those madmen and women at Gladstone II.

July 15, 2016 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I do think Murry was borrowing from "Lost in the Andes" for the fall in the fog… but mark that I said "borrow", not "rip off". Barks also did this sort of thing often with his own stories, after all. What does strike me as odd, though, is that this is the second time we've encountered something like this (remember the square bubble-gum in "Still the champion"), and both times it was from "Lost in the Andes" in particular. Was it such a classic even at the time?

And I am, actually very interested in this story with the Beagle Boys and the Phantom Blot. I like mad weirdness like that money-tree plot thing, and I like Duck/Mouse crossovers, so this is a story I'll definitely check out if I get the chance.

July 15, 2016 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Also, there is a very strange thing: S 76123 , "The Search for Sourdough Sam", appears to be operating on the same premise, Scrooge sending Donald and the nephews to look for Sourdogdh Sam in the North to get an old debt back, except apparently Soapy Slick (yes, Barks's Soapy Slick) is somehow involved. And W US 78-01, by Lockman, also involves Scrooge sending Donald and the nephews to look for debtor Sourdough Sam. Gee.

July 15, 2016 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Barks also did this sort of thing often with his own stories, after all.

Did he? Apart from occasionally recycling his own material? Citation needed.

July 15, 2016 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Interesting point regarding the reemergence of Sourdough Sam, though. The US story is "IOU...but Who?" another Gladstone II reprint, but the story and character are both wholly unlike this one. As for the other one, I couldn't say, as it's a Disney Studio Program story that's never seen US publication. I'm slightly curious, though!

July 15, 2016 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

[I can't decide: do you think this art is ripping off "Lost in the Andes?"]

I think it is a reference, or maybe even a tribute.
Mh...maybe not really a tribute, because in such a case Murry should have put more similarities with that famous Barks' page.
But a reference surely yes.
Which in the end means "ripping", in a way. But with less negative connotation : )

July 16, 2016 at 5:27 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I think that comics stories definitely deserve points for introducing Indelible Ideas/Images, even when the narrative is less than stellar. And this one has at least two: the gold geyser flowing into the brick molds, and the crazy money-eating giant robot bug (I think that adjectival order works, too). So, I'd give it a 7/10, for that alone. Plus the tropics tucked away in the frozen northland, though Murry/? didn't make that one up. (Reminds me--that element also shows up in Scarpa's trippy "Amundsen's Talismen"!)

Similarly, a fond childhood memory of mine is "The Fantastic Flying Goat" (Fallberg/Strobl), where the narrative lacks something, but the I I/I is that flying carpets are woven of the hair of flying goats.

July 16, 2016 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Jannes said...

Ok, maybe "Rip Off" sounds too harsh, but the similarities are distinct enough for me to be sure that Murry was looking at Barks way of drawing the ducks in fog and swiped it for his own. It may even have been a complimentary nod, since he clearly liked what Barks did. I'm not mad at it at all. Barks' sequence is not only inspired cartooning (well, if he didn't swipe the idea himself from a non-Duck-artist, who knows, wouldn't change a lot) but in itself the far superior one; it's also longer and has greater impact- but that doesn't make the Murry sequence bad, it´s pretty neat. It´s just fun to find this things and speculate... And it's not like any of these guys felt like they were producing high art. Basically, it was work for hire and after they were paid they didn't own any of it. Doesn't mean that one couldn't feel artistic ownership of some sort, but who knows.
Generally, I like Murry actually quite a bit. Could be a bit of nostalgia, but I still never skip a Murry story, unlike a Strobl or Hubbard. I could do without those... Murry may not be the most exciting artist either, but there is a lot of life to his thick brush strokes and a certain level of competence in almost all of his work. His Duck stuff is a bit less polished and on-character than his Mickey work(whatever you may think of it otherwise...), but I mostly enjoy it. Except for that last story I read, which Geox posted the inducks link to... Holy crap. The plot is actually stupid enough (my god is it stupid) too potentially make an enjoyable read, and there is this one totally weird scene with four beagle boys, all disguised as the mother of the Phantom Blot, coming into his prison cell like a bunch of clones. Strangest prison escape ever, makes no sense at all. But overall, it´s pretty bland. And some surprisingly bad cartooning by Murry.
I don't know if that's of any interest to anyone, but in Germany, Murry stuff gets printed at least bi-monthly these days. This book is Duck-exclusive, so naturally there's a lot more Strobl and Hubbard- I don't know why, but they keep printing it... But this book is actually named after Mickey, so they have to put at least one Mouse story in there- and for the most part, it has been one Murry-Mouse in each book and that´s it. Duck Stories are much more popular here, like everywhere I guess. And I kind of like to read one of his Mickey stories every now and then, although they certainly don't raise my pulse... I'm perhaps more focused on the art than most readers are, so if I find something in it that I like it goes a long way...

July 16, 2016 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

What do you think should be considered the boundary line between "rip-off" and "homage?"

July 16, 2016 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

About the mickey/donald crossover, recently Glénat asked to a bunch of famous (non-Disney related) French famous authors (mainly coming from the "independent scene" of French comics) to make some graphic novels on Mickey Mouse.

The first two have already appeared.

One is a story settled in 1928, where Mickey Mouse is a cartoons's scriptwriter working for a certain Walt Disney on the script of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit's cartoons:

The second one is a crazy Mickey/Donald crossover, more comic than the previous one, but also a bit more "experimental" in the form:

I am waiting for the upcoming third one, where the great artist Régis Loisel will pay a direct tribute to the Gottfredson's Mickey&Horace strip adventures from the early 30's! Here's a preview:

(maybe you guys already know all of this, sorry in such a case)

July 17, 2016 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

As far as I know, it's the other way around. "Mickey's Craziest Adventures" was the first one, the 1928 Mickey/Minnie story the second.

July 17, 2016 at 7:47 AM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

They were released the same day, see the coa link ;)

July 17, 2016 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I DID know about these stories, but they bear mentioning many times! They're slated for US publication, and I am WELL CHUFFED. 'Course, with me living in Indonesia, god knows when I'll actually get to READ them, but still...

As far as Christopher's question goes: it's a good one. I get the impression that what word people use for Murry's alleged use of Barks is correlated with how "mean" they want to be to him. Personally, when I used "ripped off" in the entry, I wasn't particularly thinking along those lines, but "homage" definitely seems wrong--it's hard to imagine Murry *caring* enough about Barks to do any kind of tribute, especially since, as Jannes notes, there were not intended as any kind of enduring art form. Feel free to mentally substitute the more neutral "borrowed" if "ripped off" rubs you the wrong way! There are certainly much more egregious instances of this kind of thing.

July 17, 2016 at 8:24 AM  
Anonymous PL9 said...

I recognized the nod to “Lost in the Andes” in this story, but if you want a really egregious example of a story drawn by Murry that rips off Barks, try “The Rare Stamp Search,” a Mickey Mouse story that’s a complete rewrite of “The Gilded Man.” Except that it’s a lot more boring. Philo T. Ellic, the absent-minded stamp collector in Barks’ story, is replaced by “Dr. Phil Atelist,” one of those generic university professors who are always sending Mickey off on missions to find something or other. (Why?!?) The subplot featuring Gladstone is gone – and so is the Gilded Man himself, believe it or not. Many panels in the story simply repeat Barks’ dialogue verbatim and redraw his artwork.
I’m not sure if Murry deserves sole blame, though. I think Murry was strictly an artist, and didn’t write any of the stories he drew, but maybe I’m wrong.

July 17, 2016 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

Yep, those legendary "Disney Studios stories"! When in the 70's one of those scripts arrived at the Topolino's headquarters in Milan PANIC broke out. You can imagine Scarpa, Cavazzano and Rota playing the roulette russe (à la Cimino's The Deer Hunter) to decide who had to drawn that one.

(of course I am joking, do not ask for historical references please eheheheheh)

July 17, 2016 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

(even because only Rota was in Milan, the other two lived in Venice ;) )

July 17, 2016 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

This one swell revie! HAW, HAW!

July 17, 2016 at 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Bird of Paradise said...

Something right out of Scooby Doo a fake monster being operated by a pair of crooks

August 21, 2016 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 14, 2016 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

"Reading it I was sure that I once read a Murry-Mickey-Story with the same plot"

This Mickey story (designed by Paul Murry...) has also the tropical paradise in Alasca thing:

October 14, 2016 at 7:21 AM  
Blogger Lieju said...

We used to roast sausages in the fireplace all the time when i was a kid.

March 13, 2017 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Germund said...

Murry said explicitly in an interview that he never wrote any longer Disney stories, just onepagers for the inside covers of the books. Thus I doubt that he wrote "Sourdough", though he may well have looked at others' artwork. And, well, interviewed people have been known to state incorrect things.

October 7, 2017 at 9:39 AM  

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