"The Crewless Cruise"
MY GOODNESS, just when it seems like I have a certain amount of momentum going...bam. Brick wall. What excuse is there for this?!? Yes, I've kind of had a lot going on lately, and I've been a bit distracted by this and that, including a bit of romance. BUT WHAT KIND OF VAGUE, HALF-ASSED EXCUSE IS THAT?!? Surely blogging about cartoon ducks HAS to be priority number one. Sheesh!
We are covering this story not because we think it's of any especial import, but simply because we remember liking it as a kid and we want to revisit it. Self-indulgent? Hey, welcome to Duck Comics Revue! Glad to have you here!
First, let's look at the cover. It wasn't usual at the time for Disney comics to have story-related covers, but this one does. The other notable thing is that it's pretty inscrutable to me. The nephews are progressively more amused from top to bottom, and Donald finds this...strange? Troubling? Difficult to say. Granted, it's visually kind of strange, but I dunno. I mean, really, that's probably all there is to it: this increasing amusement is weird to Donald, end of story. No use thinking about it any more deeply than that. But still...huh.
As I've mentioned earlier, often the dialogue in these old non-Barks stories can feel sort of indefinably off. That's the case here, but credit where credit's due: the whole "who was that" sequence is kinda clever/funny. It's also a bit undermined by Strobl's art, alas: having them violently rolling their eyes like that, lest anyone should miss the fact that they're BEING SARCASTIC suggests a belief that readers were a bit slow on the uptake. Also, I kinda just noticed here how dead-eyed Strobl's HDL can look when they have their pupils in the middle of their eyes like that.
I find it a little alarming that "this is finally different" on the basis that Donald's allowed to quit if he doesn't like it. Are we to imagine that he's heretofore always been some sort of indentured servant in his jobs for Scrooge? Maybe!
"One of those electronic brains." You know--one of them! This is a mid-century preoccupation that no doubt reflects cultural ambivalences about "progress." How many "dream house" stories do we see--in old Disney comics and elsewhere--where someone gets a super-slick automated house that does everything until, inevitably, it goes haywire? I'm sure there must be a Daisy Duck's Diary to this effect somewhere, though I can't find it offhand. Anyway, this is a similar deal, only transferred to a ship.
I was definitely first introduced to the concept of "fine print" by Disney comics--probably by this very story, in fact. HDL's skepticism is justified, even if it doesn't prove necessary in this particular case. Given all the times he has dicked them over (especially in this writer's conception), Scrooge really has no justification for being miffed.
"A bit of all right." An American character out of nowhere coming out with this extremely British colloquialism--it doesn't get much more jarring than that. I can't tell whether that's accidental, or whether Huey is meant to be using foreign slang, just for kicks--this goes back to what I said about the dialogue in old non-Barks stories.
What do you suppose their favorite comic books are? Super Snooper! Though, let's face it, unless there's a huge stack of those things, they're gonna be doing a lot of rereading over the course of a month. This business of Huey's skepticism seems like it's going somewhere, but then it doesn't.
It's only a very small portion of the story, but I distinctly remember that when I was small, the thing I really liked in this story was the ducks just chilling out in the ship with no one else around. Fun, but also sort of eerie--as though there's a hidden dark side. Ooh! Still, I wanna do it too! Good ol' Braino.
Fuckin' Braino...I ask you. Programming a computer to get seasick seems like a dubious prospect at best under any circumstances, but one in a ship? That's just perverse.
"Calling Uncle Scrooge." "Mr. Scrooge does not answer." Let it be noted that this story presents no evidence that Carl Fallberg knows the character's last name.
So anyway, they get blown off-course and wind up here. Now listen, I can see how you'd be miffed by the storm and the computer malfunctioning and all this, and given Scrooge's reputation it makes sense that you'd be primed to expect the worst, and YES, the computer does sound kind of sarcastic there.
Still. A remote Alaskan ghost town in the middle of nowhere isn't even a tiny bit interesting to you? Really? Not an iota? No, fine, really. I'm not judging you. I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin'.
...just including this for later context.
And even with a tame bear, it's still not interesting? Jeez, people. You really are impossible to please.
Also, I find it highly disturbing that the ducks are only capable of thinking about the commercial possibilities of this bear. I mean, okay, so they're talking here about what Scrooge wants, in theory, but they're sure not suggesting that they would prefer anything else, and as we'll see later, Donald thinks selling the bear is just a swell idea. Wouldn't it be better for him to join the panoply of one-shot duck family pets? I submit that it would. I'd leave the money-money-money thinking to Scrooge, if I were Fallberg. Which I'm not. Good lord it would be weird if I were.
What a swell fella! Scrooge can kind of come across as an insane person in these stories, violently lunging back and forth between horrible monster and great guy with no warning.
See what I was saying earlier? Heh heh! Money! Bwahaha!
...yes. "Stooge." That's the ticket. I will not dignify that with further comment. Except to ask, how old must that bear be, if he dates from Scrooge's prospector days? Older than any bear could plausibly be, that's for sure! Man, why does everyone just want to sell Bertram? I am truly not down with that. I don't recall even thinking about this aspect of the story when I was small, but these days, it irks me. IRKS, I say!
So, uh, I guess that's about all. It's not a brilliant story, I wouldn't say there's any need for anyone to reprint it, but it played a part--however small--in my childhood, and in the relentlessly self-indulgent world of this blog, ain't that enough?